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Death valley preparation
  
 
docsmiles17
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · Death valley preparation


I took a "quick" daytrip to death valley yesterday, sept 10, and was pretty upset with myself for not being prepared and want to give some advice so that others do not repeat.

I traveled the highway from lone pine to enter DV from the west. My iPhone forecast was for a high of 88 and low of 63. Wow, nice temps for DV. Well, it was consistency 104 thru the park and max was 111. Whats up apple?? My plan was to shoot mesquite flat sand dune and then go to badwater basin for sunset. Sunset at 7:02pm. OK, mental thought to plan to get to basin at 6 and have time to set up, etc. NOT.....The sun "sets" behind the mountain range about 30 min prior to actual sunset. Tip #1--sunset time in basin is not actual sunset time.

Badwater--The walk to the "good" salt flats from the parking lot is far!!! That is if you want to reach flats that have no footprints. I don't know the distance but I walked about 35 minutes to where I could not see the parking lot anymore....and this was not far enough!! I was still searching for flats without footprint messings. (Others have posted on other spots to photograph at basin so do a search on FM) I was loosing light and "needed" to start shooting. Tip #2-be prepared to walk far and wear appropriate shoes (get lots salt on them) or rubber boots if wet conditions. Don't forget to bring water too (I did as I was rushing by realizing sun was going away soon)

Mesquite flat sand dune--The dunes are right in front of the parking lot. If you want to get to the dunes without footprints, plan to hike, as those are far away. Mark your location at parking lot as its easy to get lost in the dunes. I also noted the heading I wanted to go on a compass to help with my direction while out in the dunes returning. Most of the tourist stay close to the parking lot and the sand looks like a busy summer day at the beach. Don't hike straight up the steep part of the dune, its much harder (and messes up the untouched sand) so hike up the side or on the ridges. there were many dunes I could have photographed but footprints going straight in the center of the dune. Be prepared to get sandy. Whether kneeling to get a shot or falling from going down a dune (no, I didn't fall but was close a few times) but I did seem to have sand on my forearms, legs upon return. bring a towel to get the sand off you. Since it was 103 out there, the sand seemed extra sticky. Tip #3---mark your location prior to heading out, bring water and protect yourself from the sun. I brought a pair of binoculars with me to "search" for pristine dunes but never used them. It seemed to work better for me to get at top of dune and look out for other dunes. There were always better dunes, but it was farther.

In summary, there were other places I would like to photograph in the valley than the 2 that I did. It was my first trip there and did not know what to expect. Surprisingly, the places are literally right off the road, meaning that you don't have to hike just to get there from the parking lot. You do, however, have to hike/walk to get to the better shooting locations at that given place. I went on a sunday and being that school is back in session, I thought there would be very few people there. To the contrary, there were lots of people out.

I definitely will be back. I was impressed with what DV had to offer. Next time, I will be more prepared.



Sep 12, 2017 at 12:39 AM
Fred Amico
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · Death valley preparation


Thanks for the info. Like you, have been there and made my share of mistakes, so it's always good to read helpful information useful for my next visit.


Sep 12, 2017 at 01:21 AM
charles354
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · Death valley preparation


Your DV forecast was Beatty Nv.


Sep 12, 2017 at 01:40 AM
GroovyGeek
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · Death valley preparation


Places on the road - if you shoot Zabriskie, Badwater and Mesquite they are right off the road. Everything else requires hiking and/or some offroad driving. Expecting no footprints at a roadside location is unreasonable. That's where the herd drinks. This is a decent guide to start exploring some of the slightly less visited locations
https://www.naturephotoguides.com/e-books/death-valley

Weather forecast - get an app that allows you to drop a pin on a map and gives you a local forecast at the pin. There are plenty of apps that pull data straight from NOAA that do that. DV is a November to March location, with both the first and last month potentially exposing you to 90F+ temps. Below-freezing at night is not uncommon in Dec-Jan.

Preparedness - I never go anywhere in the desert, in any season, with less than 32 oz of water on me. In the hot season I would not stray away from the car with less than 3L of water. If you have enough water you are on good shape as long as you don't do something stupid.



Sep 14, 2017 at 03:32 AM
Greg Campbell
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · Death valley preparation


What Geek said....

No offence Doc, but it doesn't look like you made much of an effort to plan your visit. The easy, obvious destination will always be crowded and trampled by the Thundering Touron Hordes.

Here's a more realistic weather forecast.
http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?lon=-116.87221682680882&lat=36.45613160579872#.WbrO8bLfodV

Geek's water advice is absolutely spot-on. Half a gallon will - barely - get you safely out of sight of the car. And the car itself NEEDS to have ~5 gal as an emergency supply.

If you're a reader, I'll suggest (again - sorry!) the IMO excellent Digonnet book:
https://www.amazon.com/Hiking-Death-Valley-Natural-Wonders/dp/0965917800
There is no end to the pretty destinations in D.V. that are reachable with only a modest hike.

Also, search FM for previous DV posts. There are quite a few, and most of them are very informative.



Sep 14, 2017 at 06:56 PM
Camperjim
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · Death valley preparation


You are lucky it was only 103. I plan on visiting in November or even later.


Sep 15, 2017 at 03:41 AM
docsmiles17
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · Death valley preparation


GroovyGeek wrote:
Places on the road - if you shoot Zabriskie, Badwater and Mesquite they are right off the road. Everything else requires hiking and/or some offroad driving. Expecting no footprints at a roadside location is unreasonable. That's where the herd drinks. This is a decent guide to start exploring some of the slightly less visited locations
https://www.naturephotoguides.com/e-books/death-valley

Weather forecast - get an app that allows you to drop a pin on a map and gives you a local forecast at the pin. There are plenty of apps that pull data straight from NOAA that do that. DV is a November to March location,
...Show more

Thanks GGeek
I was not expecting no footprints at any roadside location but was unaware how far I needed to walk/hike once there. On that note:
how far is the hike to artist palette from the road?
Is a 4X4 needed to get to racetrack playa?



Sep 15, 2017 at 04:21 AM
Dustin Gent
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · Death valley preparation


all the info is on DV NPS site racetrack


Sep 15, 2017 at 11:55 PM
GroovyGeek
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · Death valley preparation


docsmiles17 wrote:
how far is the hike to artist palette from the road?
Is a 4X4 needed to get to racetrack playa?


Artist Palette is another heavily traveled drive-by location. Unless it has rained recently (and yes, DV experiences VIOLENT rainfall a few times a year) the Racetrack does not necessarily require 4x4, but it does require good ground clearance, decent tires, a full size spare, and knowledge how to change a tire. Given the nature of your first post and subsequent comments I would suggest that you do not attempt this alone. No offense intended, but unless you are ready to pay $2k+ for towing and expose yourself to a non-zero chance of serious injury (http://www.otherhand.org/home-page/search-and-rescue/the-hunt-for-the-death-valley-germans/) you should go out with someone else.



Sep 16, 2017 at 05:10 AM
Craig Gillette
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · Death valley preparation


"Death by GPS" is not unknown in Death Valley either.


Sep 16, 2017 at 06:59 PM
 

Search in Used Dept. 



Keith B.
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · Death valley preparation


docsmiles17 wrote:
My iPhone forecast was for a high of 88 and low of 63. Wow, nice temps for DV. Well, it was consistency 104 thru the park and max was 111. Whats up apple?? .


Add the location "Furnace Creek" to the iPhone weather app and you get realistic temperature forecasts.




Sep 19, 2017 at 08:12 AM
docsmiles17
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · Death valley preparation


Keith B. wrote:
Add the location "Furnace Creek" to the iPhone weather app and you get realistic temperature forecasts.



Yep, seems more realistic. Thanks!



Sep 19, 2017 at 04:44 PM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · Death valley preparation


docsmiles17 wrote:
Is a 4X4 needed to get to racetrack playa?


In good conditions you need decent clearance and good tires but not necessarily 4WD.

It is a long and very rough ride.



Sep 21, 2017 at 12:02 AM
docsmiles17
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · Death valley preparation


gdanmitchell wrote:
In good conditions you need decent clearance and good tires but not necessarily 4WD.

It is a long and very rough ride.


...But worth the effort?

I read somewhere that it takes about 3.5 hours from CA-190, correct?



Sep 21, 2017 at 10:27 PM
Greg Campbell
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · Death valley preparation


The drive is about 25 miles from the end of the pavement at Ubehebe.

How long it takes will depend on your driving and the road conditions, which can vary significantly. (Ask before you leave, and listen if the rangers say it's in bad shape.)
Last time I went, the road was 95% well graded gravel. There are always a few rough spots where the road crosses bedrock, etc. that are 'dangerous' to your tires. Let some air out of the tires and pick your path and, IMO, you'll be fine.

This is about what I remember... I didn't make formal notes, but I'm pretty sure the drive time was well under 2 hours.



Worth it? Who knows? That's your call to make.

Edited on Sep 25, 2017 at 03:08 AM · View previous versions



Sep 22, 2017 at 02:18 AM
gdanmitchell
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · Death valley preparation


docsmiles17 wrote:
...But worth the effort?

I read somewhere that it takes about 3.5 hours from CA-190, correct?








From CA 190? Do you mean in Death Valley, just to the east of Stovepipe Wells? That could be about right. (The reason I ask is that there is more than one way there from 190, though the others are almost certainly not routes that regular folks want to take. Seriously. One in particular. Consider yourself warned.)

The round trip on the dirt road from Ubehebe Crater is 54 miles. Typically the road is not in very good shape. The first section features some ugly loose gravel, and some later sections typically are badly rutted, to the point that you may find yourself steering around drop-offs. Most of the route as quite bad washboard surface — some of the worst in DEVA.

Most people are going to take about two hours each way, though some do it a bit faster. (Some of them go too much faster.)

Is it worth it? That is an interesting question, and for me the answer is not as simple as yes or no.

I've been there a number of times. I photograph frequently in the park — a week or more each year — and I've been doing so for about 15 years. I no longer go to the Racetrack.

There are things that are quite impressive about the place, for sure. The large, flat expanse of playa is impressive. The sliding stones are interesting, too. Unfortunately, the location became a "trophy" spot some years back, shortly after I first visited, and today you'll find too many people, signs of abuse on the playa, missing and moved rocks, and more.

In some ways, I suspect that quite a few people who drive out there during the midday hours, get out, and walk to the stones with lots of other people are missing out on the real experience of such places. And photographically, on most days the midday light is not so stunning. Sorry, but it is true. (There are exceptions, but most photographers typically don't photograph in such open desert places in the midday hours, preferring very early and late. Midday is a time for hiding from the sun, or perhaps photographing in canyons.)

On my first visit i went out in the afternoon, photographed until the light was gone — actually continued on into the dark to do some night photography. Then I camped near the playa and was there again before dawn, almost entirely alone — there was one other person in the distance on the playa. These edge of the day times are typically the most photographically interesting, with the best light.

As I mentioned, I no longer go there. I stopped going when I saw the crowds, the sometimes rowdy behavior, and the damage being done by too many visitors, including some who don't really care about the place.

Fortunately DEVA is a huge and remarkable place, full of immense silence and solitude, with places that range from intimate to gigantic — and I have no problem keeping myself fascinated and busy exploring the rest of the park.

So, yes or no? You'll have to decide.

Take care,

Dan



Sep 23, 2017 at 04:16 AM
Rajan Parrikar
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · Death valley preparation




...But worth the effort?


Questions about "worth" are almost always a personal determination.

Do you like the general feel of Death Valley? If yes, then you will love the Racetrack Playa. You can also hire a private guide to take you there. I have often used the services of one, an expert on Death Valley backcountry and experienced in the terrain (these professionals don't come cheap, but if photography in remote sections of the park is the chief goal, they add a great deal of value - to me anyway). If you want to know his contact details, PM me.



Sep 24, 2017 at 09:52 PM
Greg Campbell
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · Death valley preparation


As Dan suggests, if you're going to visit, pitch a tent, spend the night, and enjoy the night-time and sunrise view.


Sep 25, 2017 at 03:07 AM
docsmiles17
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · Death valley preparation




Questions about "worth" are almost always a personal determination..


Thanks Rajan and I do realize worth is a personal decision. I was directing the question at Dan, whom I know has photographed DV many times and with more recently reports of the playa being driven on, rocks being moved, grafitti on rocks, etc., what his take was or "worth the effort". His response was great but I kinda expected that from reading many of his other posts on various topics. Even with the recent shenanigans in the playa, it will be worth it for me as I have never been and want to experience it.

I did not think about the use of a guide. Thanks for mentioning!!.




Sep 25, 2017 at 04:20 PM
docsmiles17
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · Death valley preparation


gdanmitchell wrote:
http://gallery.gdanmitchell.com/gallery/var/resizes/NaturalWorld/TheLandscape/California/Desert/DeathValley/BlackAndWhite/PlayaTwoRocksBW_2.jpg

From CA 190? Do you mean in Death Valley, just to the east of Stovepipe Wells? That could be about right. (The reason I ask is that there is more than one way there from 190, though the others are almost certainly not routes that regular folks want to take. Seriously. One in particular. Consider yourself warned.)

The round trip on the dirt road from Ubehebe Crater is 54 miles. Typically the road is not in very good shape. The first section features some ugly loose gravel, and some later sections typically are badly rutted, to the point that you may
...Show more

Thanks Dan. Regarding routes:

I was looking at the route just East of panamint springs on the 190 taking saline valley rd to racetrack valley rd. Saline Valley rd is within the DV park and right on the eastern border or the park. It approaches the playa from the south vs thru ubehebe crater from the north that you spoke of. It also appears there may be another route farther to the East and just past the jct of where the 190 turns into the 136 at keeler town. Taking cerro gordo rd and going past the ghost town, to white mountain talc rd to saline valley rd.

Are either or both of these routes "not recommeded" ?

Actually I just did another map search and it looks like there might be 3-4 routes coming from south of the playa and near panamint springs. They are all modified versions of above.



Sep 25, 2017 at 05:30 PM
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