Getting ready for your trip into Death Valley is no simple matter. It requires careful thought and preparation. Our first stop will be to Eureka Dunes, but we need to be on top of our game. There are plenty of good reasons. Death Valley is no simple jaunt to your neighbor’s garden party!
Death Valley is located in Eastern California and situated within the Mojave Desert. It is the lowest and driest area in North America. It holds the record for the highest reliably recorded air temperature on earth (134 °F (56.7 °C) at Furnace Creek on July 10, 1913). The previously-claimed world record air temperature, 136 °F (57.8 °C) was in Libya. Badwater Basin, which will be another of our stops, is the point of the lowest elevation in North America at 282 feet (86 m) below sea level. This point is only 84.6 miles (136.2 km) east-southeast of Mt. Whitney (which was briefly mentioned in my previous post) and is the highest point in the contiguous United States with an elevation of 14,505 feet (4,421 m).
You may want to rent a high clearance vehicle. Be sure your rental car has a good spare tire. I know that when I first landed at the airport in Las Vegas and went to select my vehicle, I was so anxious to get on the road that I didn’t give as much thought to the process as I should have. Fortunately, my Jeep withstood the punishment meted out. The last 10 miles into Eureka Dunes are very rough; there is essentially no cell-phone service; no service stations for many many miles; you may drive for long stretches and never see another vehicle; you are pretty much on your own so give yourself the best chance to avoid chaos.
Camera Equipment you will need includes but is not limited to: a backup camera body (always a good idea, but a must if you intend to use a second lens), your camera manual, spare batteries, extra flash cards, a tripod and a polarizing filter. You may want a headlamp (exceptionally handy for your early morning shoots). I was introduced to a rubber eyepiece cup (only around $10) which clips over your LED and makes viewing under glare conditions so much more manageable. It has become an indispensible part of my travel pack.
Field Equipment suggested includes sunglasses, sunscreen, water bottles (2 quarts minimum; you should drink about 1 gallon/day to avoid dehydration), any food or meds that you might need that day (I always pack several energy bars and fruit for snacks), and extra layers of clothing. You will need a lightweight pack to hold your field gear.
Clothing. Typical temperatures will range from possibly below freezing (it can be as much as 25 degrees colder than the valley at 5500 feet in the early morning wind at Dante’s View, (another of our locations), to an average daily maximum of 72-80 F and an average daily minimum of 46-53 F in Death Valley in late February. Dressing in layers will allow you to adjust to a wide range of conditions. I suggest a fleece jacket (or two), a fleece vest, gloves (see prior post), a warm hat, a sun hat, lightweight, loose fitting long pants and long-sleeved shirt, light hiking boots and hiking socks, and a parka or windbreaker that can fit over all your layers. Long underwear for early morning and high altitudes is a good idea.
Some stray tips. The park service provides a helpful Morning Report which has the daily weather forecast, yesterday’s temperatures and current road conditions; Death Valley National Park’s seasonal newspaper will help you make the most of your visit, and if you are without prior knowledge of the area or are not travelling without someone familiar with Death Valley, you can enhance your experience of Death Valley by joining a ranger guided tour.
OK OK! I know you are anxious to get out there and burn some gigs, so saddle up pardner as we are pulling up to Eureka Dunes! Yeehah!