Death Valley

What’s up guys, we hope you all had an awesome New Years and are ready for some new travels, we’re excited to kick off 2018 with an introduction to our most recent adventure to Death Valley National Park! Scott and I had been thinking about making this trip all year long, waiting for the perfect time to visit. If you don’t know this already, Death Valley is the hottest & driest place in North America, so visiting during the cooler part of the year is crucial. We had done some research on what Death Valley has to offer and were eager to see what it would be like in person. To be honest, we were a little nervous that there wasn’t going to be that much stuff for us to see & do for the full 4 days we were staying there, but we were pleasantly surprised with just how BIG Death Valley is and we could have explored even more if we had the time 🙂 Please feel free to scroll down to the bottom of this post to check out the photos below all of the writing!
We left home at 2am on a Thursday for a 5 hour car ride driving straight to Death Valley. We only stopped for gas once in a city called Baker around 5am, about an hour from the park. We planned to be at Zabriskie Point, a somewhat popular viewpoint, for a beautiful sunrise. Once we entered the park, we noticed the winds had started to kick up just a little as the sun was starting to illuminate the dark sky. Driving in, it was still pretty dark so we didn’t know exactly what we were driving into until later in the day, when we saw just how gorgeous the scenery was. We got to Zabriskie Point right on time and got all of our camera equipment out of the car and walked up a long driveway to the lookout spot. From there, we could see mountains that were unlike any we had ever seen before, the layers of wavy rocks had different shades of beige and tan that were so unique and beautiful it looked like we were staring at an art exhibit. As the sun started to rise, the sunlight began cascading down the mountains causing a pink hue to form on the rocks, it was seriously a spectacular place to be for sunrise. Scott took lots of photos and videos here as I explored the area looking at the valley and its branching rock formations. We were pleased that not too many people were at this location with us, so we got to enjoy the atmosphere together peacefully. After our sunrise photo session, we hopped back in the car and decided to drive to the visitors center to get a map of the park and pay for our entry pass. Inside the visitors center, was a cute little museum explaining the wonders of Death Valley, so we took the liberty of spending some time there learning interesting information and watching a short documentary in their theater room. After we looked at the map and saw all the different spots we wanted to go to, we decided to make our way to Badwater Basin. The roads along the way are so photogenic that we stopped multiple times to get some cool shots. Arriving at Badwater Basin, we were eager to walk on the giant salt flat, which is the lowest point in North America at -282 feet below sea level. For as far out as we could see, the ground was covered in white salt. We walked out into the valley to a point where the salt looked untouched, to take some photos. We stayed out on the open salt flat for about 45 minutes before heading back to the car. As we were driving to Badwater Basin, we passed a road that lead to Artists Palette, a scenic drive that provides a good view of a section of the mountain that has strange colors of rock on it. As we were driving through the curvy road admiring all the different rocks and desert plants, I couldn’t help but think how cool this drive was, it was one of my favorite things we did on the trip. You could only go one direction on the road which was pretty narrow and very windy, so it felt like you were on a roller coaster the whole time. As we ended our scenic drive, we headed to find food and lucky for us there was a lodge with a restaurant very close to where our next stop would be, the Mesquite Sand Dunes. We drove for about an hour and stopped for lunch at the lodge in Stovepipe Wells Village, and the food was really good 🙂 After feeding our bellies, we drove to the Mesquite Dunes. From what we saw, this seemed to be the most popular attraction in the park, but because of how big the sand dunes are and just how many dunes there are, there was plenty of room for everyone. We planned on spending the next day at the Sand Dunes for sunrise, so we wanted to scout out a good spot. We brought a pillow and a blanket with us so we could lay down in the sun and rest (it had been 10 hours  since our departure, so we could use a cat nap). We slept in the sand like bums for an hour, before heading back to Artists Palette again for a sunset session. Unfortunately, we didn’t account for how large the mountains are, so the sun was hidden behind them earlier than we had planned, but we still did the scenic drive again because it’s so beautiful 🙂 After the sun had set, we decided to make our way to our to our hotel for check in. We were staying at a casino inn that was about 45 minutes outside the park just south of Amargosa Valley. We arrived around 6pm and were charmed with the casino inn, it had a lot of old relic items inside and wasn’t that bad at all! (You never know what your gonna get when you’re traveling on a budget). There was a restaurant inside the inn so after getting settled in our room, we grabbed some dinner before getting to bed. We were planning on waking up early in the morning, so we went to bed super early that night…
The next day we were up at 5am to make our way to the Sand Dunes for sunrise. We got there with plenty of time before the sun had started to rise, and because it was still a little dark outside, the sand was very cold, so wearing sandals wasn’t the best decision walking .5 mile onto the hilly sand dunes 😛 We wanted to make sure we walked far enough where not a lot of footsteps were pressed into the sand, and searching for the perfect dune was very comical for us since climbing up steep sand is actually pretty hard. Once we found the best dune we could find, we set down a blanket and laid out all our equipment, there wasn’t a lot of people there so it felt special being on top of a giant sand dune slowly watching the surrounding mountains catch the rising sunlight. As the sun started to peek out, we had lots of beautiful photo opportunities and were surrounded with beauty on all sides. We experimented with different video ideas and unique stylistic photos, and also had some fun jumping off and rolling around in the hills of sand. Once the sun had risen to its morning position, we packed up all our gear and made the hike back to the car. We were low on gas, so we stopped at the gas station in Stovepipe Wells Village to fill up the tank. As we were filling up, I had the urge to check out the general store attached to the gas station. We went inside and looked around and to my great surprise there was a section of the store that was selling rocks and crystals! I’m a crystal collector so this was quite the treat for myself, Scott and I picked a few crystals out and then headed back to the car. We didn’t have a game plan on what to do next, so we opened up our map to look for a road we could go down that we hadn’t explored yet. We decided to go south on the main road, going up into the mountains towards an area called Mahogany Flat. We believed that we would get a great view of some of the park that we hadn’t seen yet from this area and headed up the mountain. It was about an hour journey going from a paved road to a gravel road as we got closer to our destination. We finally saw some wildlife as we were driving, a small rabbit was being chased by 5 coyotes that had ran across the road right in front of us, we stopped the car and immediately to watch the action, Scott attempted to get some pictures of the coyotes but at that point they had run off too far. We then continued on, until we got to an area where there were about ten large Charcoal Kilns with an adjacent parking lot. We parked and got out of the car to explore and realized that we still had about another 45 minute drive up a somewhat sketchy gravel road before we reached where we had set out to see. So instead of continuing on nervously and risking a flat tire, we decided turn back down the mountain and head for some food. On our way back down, we had beautiful views of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance and I had my roller blades in the trunk, so we did some experimental shots with me roller blading down the hills :). We enjoyed our drive back to Stovepipe Wells, and were eager to eat some lunch. After our meal, it was about 2:30pm and since we knew the sun was setting at 4:30pm, we wanted to make sure we had plenty of time getting up to Dante’s View for sunset and to see the stars. Dante’s View was located way at the beginning of the park so it took us about an hour to make the whole drive to the top. There were lots of windy roads taking us up the mountain, but thats what I loved most about visiting here, the beautiful scenic drives. Once we had made it to the top, we got a really good spot with a perfect view of the sun going down behind the mountains. We got out of the car to look over the giant cliff to see the whole valley below. Seeing the Badwater Basin stretch out on the valley floor was so amazing, it looks like the amazon river or something, but instead of water its just rivers of white salt. There was a little section you could walk down to get farther along the cliff, so we grabbed all our equipment and walked towards the end. It was pretty windy and cold up at the top of the mountain, but we layered up our jackets to make sure we had enough warmth to keep going. We got lots of really beautiful shots and since the sun was getting lower and lower by the minute, Scott wanted to get back towards the car to set up a time lapse of the sunset. As the sun was going down, it got even colder so I enjoyed the sunset from the inside of the car 😉 We noticed that as soon as the sun was down a lot of clouds came rolling in which wasn’t good because we wanted to stay there for star photos. We kept watching the sky and the atmosphere around us, waiting to see if the clouds were going to interfere with the stars..unfortunately it did. We were super bummed that our plans got ruined but we didn’t let it get us down! It was now nighttime, so we headed back to the hotel to get some dinner and end the night watching the office 🙂
The next morning, we let ourselves sleep in because we hadn’t done that yet on this trip, so it was a treat for me 😉 We sat down at the restaurant in the casino for breakfast and got our energy for the adventure ahead. Scott wanted to check out a huge flat area that we had been passing everyday, it didn’t have a name but it was located between Furnace Creek and the Sand Dunes. We drove back into the park and got to the giant open area pretty fast. No other people were really stopping to make the trek out onto the open area, so it was a great spot to take pictures. We parked the car off the main road and continued on foot over a field of colorful loose rocks, once we had finished walking over the rocks the ground became loose and salty. There were tons of yellow, dry bushes spread out in patches all over the salty ground, as we got closer to the open basin area, we saw small pools of water on the ground and some spots became very muddy, so we had to watch out where we were stepping. Once we had finally got to the edge of the giant salty mud flat, the ground was untouched and stretched out as far as our eyes could see. Looking up from this spot the clouds were dappled and looked very beautiful which made for a compelling spot to take photos and videos. Scott really enjoyed this spot and we ended up staying here for about 45 minutes just exploring and taking pictures. Out in the distance we could see where the sand dunes were and couldn’t believe how windy it looked in that direction. Where we were, the winds had been kicking up, but down the road it looked like a tornado had hit. We were curious to see what it was like at the Sand Dunes, so as we were finished up we walked back to the car to check it out. As we were driving on the main road, the winds were hitting the car hard and the road was covered in streams of sand blowing by, it was very exciting to see how the desert life reacts to high winds. We pulled up to the sand dunes parking area, and were shocked to see people actually outside walking around in the powerful, sandy winds. We thought these people were crazy getting covered in sand and looking miserable haha. After seeing the disaster outside, we drove over to the gas station to grab some drinks. We didn’t have a plan on what to see, so we got out the map and looked for a cool place to check out. We wanted to find a lookout that had an awesome view, and it looked like the “Father Crowley Viewpoint” would be a perfect spot. We headed out towards the westside of the park, to an area we hadn’t explored yet. As we were driving, it had been about 20 minutes since we left the gas station, I was goofing around in the car with Scott vlogging him when he told me to stop because a park ranger had been behind us for a little while. I stopped and didn’t think anything of it because he wasn’t doing anything wrong i.e. speeding. But guess what! About 3 minutes later, the ranger’s lights went on and we were getting pulled over!! This is the first time Scott and I had ever gotten pulled over while in a National Park so we were so surprised and handled the situation in a calm manner. The officer explained that Scott was weaving over the yellow line while turning on sharp corners and luckily he let us go, Scott and I didn’t think he was driving over the line at all so we just made sure we were extra careful for the rest of the drive. We drove for another hour into the park seeing things we hadn’t seen before, and we were really taken back at just how huge this national park is. We did research in the car, and discovered it is the largest national park in the lower 48 states! As we were heading up the last part of our drive, we had gorgeous views of the Panamint Mountains that make up the Western side of Death Valley. As we got to the viewpoint, we noticed how incredible windy it was at  Father Crowley Viewpoint. We got out of the car and experienced wind gusts that were the strongest we’d seen in the park so far. The view from there wasn’t exactly what we expected, but it was cool being so high up into the mountains. After taking some video and no pictures haha we got back into the car and made our way back down to get some gas back at Stovepipe Wells. By the time we were back at the gas station, we had about an hour before the sun was going to set. We thought of taking another route we hadn’t ventured down yet, it was called Daylight Pass and would lead us out the park towards Beatty, Nevada. This road is also the way to “Scotty’s Castle”, which was closed because of renovations. The road takes up the gradual incline on the side of the valley, and about halfway up, we stopped to catch the sunset. It was a great view looking down on the Stovepipe Wells area and on the Mesquite Sand Dunes. Once the sun had set, we continued on taking a back way heading into Beatty, NV. We figured we could grab dinner in Beatty then make it back to the hotel, and lucky for us they had a Denny’s. It’s always interesting sitting down at a restaurant in the middle of nowhere to people watch while you wait for your food, you see the people from that town and then reflect on the people where you are from and see how different everyone is. We left Dennys and got back to the casino to prepare for our departure in the morning.
We woke up at a reasonable hour on our last day and gathered our things to check out of our hotel room. It had been a cool experience to stay in a old casino in the middle of nowhere, definitely a trip we won’t forget. We walked outside to discover it was still pretty windy that day. We knew our day was going to be short compared to the previous days spent in the park, so we chose spots that we really enjoyed to go back and view again. Since Artists Drive was one of my favorites, we headed there first. I wanted to take some film pictures at the actual Artist Palette because we hadn’t drove to the viewpoint yet. There wasn’t that much to see from the viewpoint, so we continued on with the drive taking pictures at various spots. Once we had completed the drive, we went to Scott’s favorite spot..can you guess? The Sand Dunes! There wasn’t too many people there and the wind had actually died down a lot so Scott was begging me to go back out into the hilly dunes. I wasn’t expecting too so he had to really convince me to get out of the car haha I finally caved and we walked about .3 miles into the dunes for our last photo shoot of the trip. We picked a spot again to lay out our stuff, and experimented with different shots of us with the sand. Scott was really happy to be out there again, because the wind from the night before had washed away all the footprints in the sand, giving the dunes a perfect, untouched look. We reflected on our trip in the sand and decided to vlog one last time before our 6 hour road trip back home. We were fully prepared for our drive and were so glad we made the decision to go to Death Valley. We hope you liked this post and love the pictures Scott took below! We had an awesome time and can’t wait to start editing our videos for you guys! Hope you’re excited for the New Year and are pumped for the new content ahead!
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Sunrise at Zabriskie Point
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The rock striations were insane here! Reminded us of Neapolitan ice cream 🙂
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A tight rope walker..
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We had a perfect view for sunrise
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Lots of photographers joined us in watching the sun creep over the mountain tops 🙂
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Looking East towards the sun, this rock formation was huge and sprawled out under Zabriskie Point
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Taking in the layers of rock ahead
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Looking back at the layers of rock behind us, the imagery of ocean waves resemble this image so much
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Leaving Zabriskie Point Scott pulled over to take this road pic
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Open roads..
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Courtney slowly making her way across the empty road
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This photo almost looks like an illusion
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Death Valley has roads like these for miles and miles, making it so photogenic
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Arriving at Bad Water Basin we were taken back by all the salt
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A lovely trail exploring the Bad Water Basin
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Courtney walking on salt
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An intimate shot of the salty ground
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Travelers on foot
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Courtney’s car keys giving us inspiration
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Early morning, others had traveled far into the Dunes for a sunrise photo op
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Watching the mountains in the distance turn from blue to pink was something to special to see
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The colors here really show just how beautiful it was in person
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As the sun came over the mountain, the sand dunes turned from a dark grey to a golden tone
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A beautiful shot where we camped out for sunrise
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As you can see the dune area was very huge and gave visitors many places to explore
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Courtney posing for a sand dune pic
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Taking in the sunrise
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A beautiful experience, waiting patiently for the best time for a dramatic photo
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Silhouette of Courtney
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Plants like this grow on the sand floors, making it an interesting place for nature to survive
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The sun had pretty much risen all the way at this point, so we got a whole different perspective on our surroundings

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The details in the sand looked like snakes had slither by

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A vast desert
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Courtney freezing waiting for the sun to warm up the sand
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Follow me
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Scott’s favorite picture of Courtney from the trip lol
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On the road again
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Heading up the mountain, Scott found another road he wanted to capture
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On top of Dante’s View
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A short walk from the parking lot, we stood on this rock cliff to admire the view
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Courtney in her denim attire
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Scott taking in the Valley floor
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A black and white dramatic shot of Dante’s View
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Checking out another salt flat along the valley floor
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This area stretched out so far and was easy for us to park and walk to from the main road
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A purple sunset behind Scott
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A sunset session from Daylight Pass
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Our last day in Death Valley, had to go back to the Dunes
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After the previous days wind storm the sand had finally settled and made for a untouched surface
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Following Scott’s footsteps..
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Towards the end of our journey, we came across this beautiful white horse, he looked happy and content

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