For the rest of the week we will be bunking at The Hotel at Stovepipe Wells, Death Valley. This is not The Four Seasons Hotel, make no mistake! In fact, the movie “Mad Max” comes to mind. The rooms are clean, large and extremely basic. Wifi is spotty at best. Telephones are non-existent in the rooms and there is essentially no cell-phone coverage (calls must be made from the spare number of phone booths on site). There is a restaurant and bar. I will be polite about the food in the restaurant. The burgers and beer at the bar are just fine, especially if you want to shoot a game of 8-ball. Across the road is a general store and gas station where you can stock up on water, snacks, food and fuel. If you are truly looking for top-notch accommodations, consider The Furnace Creek Inn and Ranch Resort around 26 miles down the road. You will pay substantially for this luxury, however.
A brief thought on the issue of no phone or computer service: It can make you a little nervous at first, especially if you are addicted to these electronic toys, as I am. But after you get over the fear that the world will somehow come to an end if you are not tuned in, the world gets more serene and beautiful. You can see better. Your photography will soar, if you allow it to do so.
Just down the road is Mesquite Flat Dunes. These dunes are the best-known and easiest to visit in the national park. They are located in central Death Valley and accessed from Highway 190 or from the unpaved Sand Dunes Road. Although the highest dune rises only about 100 feet (compared to 680 feet at Eureka), the dunes actually cover a vast area and provide quite a different subject matter. Many first time visitors to Death Valley are surprised to find that it not covered with a sea of sand. Less than one percent of the desert is covered with dunes. It just so happens that the first two locations of our tour of Death Valley are duned areas. The benefit of Mesquite Flat over Eureka is its proximity to your room back at Stovepipe Wells. It allows you to make return visits to shoot based on your decisions over lighting, cloud-layer, etc. The remote location of Eureka Dunes pretty much kills off this flexibility, unless you are willing to set up camp. The suggestions I made about dune-shooting at Eureka in my prior post applies similarly to Mesquite.