This fall during a break in our wedding photography season, Monique and I took a road trip with the goal of visiting Saline Valley in Death Valley National Park for the first time. We started our trip with a couple of days stop over at Alabama Hills just outside of Lone Pine for some desert landscape photography. This dramatic landscape of the southern end of the High Sierra mountain range is always one of my favorites and one I will never tire off. We occupied ourselves by attempting to track down all of the arches in the area, with the exception of the well known Mobius Arch. I had already photographed that on a previous trip and was lucky enough to have it all to myself, so this time we aimed for more obscure fare. We ended up camping next to a couple of arches – Boot and Cyclops. When we first got there, the smoke from the Southern California wildfires added hazy beams and texture to the mountains, but that quickly blew out and the next day dawned a little stormy, then cleared up. The storm light and clouds made for some amazing landscape photography.
From the Alabama Hills, we decided to head into Death Valley to check out the Saline Valley hot springs. We took the southern route into Saline Valley from Lone Pine. You turn on CA136 from 395 just after Lone Pine, pass through the Salt Flats at Keeler, which used to be the western turminus for a turn of the century aerial salt tram – more on that later – and then head east on CA190. From CA190 you will turn off on the Saline Valley Rd. and then enjoy nearly 50 miles of dirt washboard driving before reaching the hotsprings. These hotsprings are bigger and more developed than your typical rustic desert hot springs. People seem to go here and stay for weeks at a time. We inadvertantly drove in on Labor Day and were met with a 300 vehicle jeep jamboree, a burning man style wedding celebration complete with fire spinners and who knows what else. Regardless, we managed to get a quiet soak after dark, and another at sunrise then we buggered out to check out the old salt mine. Can you believe someone actually built an aerial tram in the 1900’s to carry salt from Saline Valley over the mountain range to Keeler near Lone pine? All that’s left are the ruins, but they were way more interesting to photograph that way. From Saline Valley we decided to make a quick trip to the Racetrack Playa to see if we could get lucky with a good sunset to photograph the famous moving rocks. It is only 8 miles off Saline Valley road up and over Lippincott pass, but be sure you have a high clearance vehicle with good tires. The road is tight, steep, sandy and has one really tight spot going up. If you are coming down from the racetrack into Saline Valley, no worries.
Our final leg took us into Joshua Tree national park. We had never been and decided to check this one off our list. Joshua tree is a rock climbers paradise. Unfortunately, we are not rock climbers. But we did enjoy exploring all the interesting granite and sandstone and of course, the Joshua trees themselves.
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