Death Valley… A Photographic Journey through America’s National Parks

Sand dunes in Death Valley. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Tall sand dunes with their graceful curves loom up near Stove Pipe Wells in Death Valley National Park. It is quite an experience to walk out and climb to the top of the dunes.

I rode through Death Valley on my bicycle once. It was part of the six-month 10,000-mile solo trip I made around the US and Canada in 1989.

I had started my adventure in the small town of Diamond Springs near Sacramento, California, bicycled down the Central Valley, climbed up and over the Sierra Nevada Mountains from Bakersfield and, dropped down into Panamint Valley.  The climb from Panamint Valley to Death Valley was the toughest of my whole trip. I was out of the saddle, standing on the pedals, and travelling at 2-3 miles per hour under a relentless sun.

Halfway up there was a large water tank for cars that overheated and couldn’t make it. There was nothing for bicyclists. I was on my own. The climb was burned into my memory banks. But I made it, crossed the valley, and biked on to Maine, where I turned around and started back.

I had been to Death Valley several times before I made the bike trip and have been back several times since. The National Park’s solitude, stark beauty, history and geology have brought me back, time and time again.

Photo of sand dunes and mountains near Stove Pipe Wells in Death Valley by Curtis Mekemson.

I like this photo because of the contrast between the golden dunes and purple mountains in evening sunlight.

Devil's Golf Course, Death Valley. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

They call this section of Death Valley the Devil’s Golf Course. It’s easy to see why. Salt deposits left behind by an evaporated lake go down several thousand feet. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Zabriskie Point, Death Valley. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

It is difficult to imagine the variety of landscapes in Death Valley unless you have been there. This photo was taken looking down from Zabriskie Point.

Photo of Zabriskie Point, Death Valley taken by Curtis Mekemson.

Another photo taken from Zabriskie Point. This one looks out across Death Valley.

Golden Canyon, Death Valley. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

You can hike up to Zabriskie Point following an old road that goes up through Golden Canyon. Part of the original Star Wars movie was filmed in this canyon. I kept a sharp lookout for Luke.

Here, Peggy caught a shot of me following the trail toward Zabriskie Point. The hiking was ever so much easier than my bicycling experience. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Here, Peggy caught a shot of me following the trail toward Zabriskie Point. The hiking was ever so much easier than my bicycling experience. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Golden Canyon, Death Valley. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Our view on the way down Golden Canyon.

Artist's Palette, Death Valley. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

The colors here are created by different minerals in the rocks. Because of the color, this site is known as Artist’s Palette.

Traveling north, we come to Ubehebe Volcanic Crater, another of Death Valley's geological wonders. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Traveling north, we come to Ubehebe Volcanic Crater, another of Death Valley’s geological wonders. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Warning sign at Ubehebe Crater, Death Valley. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

You are welcome to walk into the crater. Falling is not recommended, as demonstrated by Peggy.

Small crater next to Ubehebe Crater in Death Valley. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

A smaller crater next to Ubehebe.

Erosion patterns near Ubehebe crater. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

I think the erosion patterns near Ubehebe are fascinating.

Scotty's Castle, Death Valley. Photo by Curtis Mekemson.

Scotty’s Castle. The history of Death Valley is filled with characters and none was greater than Scotty. Born Walter Scott, Scotty was a first class con-man who persuaded Albert Johnson to build the castle and then claimed it was built with money from his own gold mine. Albert, who loved Death Valley and liked Scotty, went along with the tale.

Scotty's Castle at Death Valley. Photograph by Curtis Mekemson.

The clock tower at Scotty’s Castle.

NEXT BLOG: We will journey east to the Everglades and I will introduce you to my all-time favorite buzzard.

16 comments on “Death Valley… A Photographic Journey through America’s National Parks

    • The castle has quite a history as you might imagine. Today it belongs to the National Park Service and is open for tours. Park employees live on the grounds but not in the castle as far as I know. –Curt

    • Yeah, Alison, people just don’t get the desert in bloom until they have seen it. Peggy and I caught Death Valley once just a few days after a major rainstorm had shut down much of the park. It was already blooming like crazy. I am always amazed at how fast desert flowers take advantage of moisture. –Curt

    • I’ve always wondered how many people avoid it because of the name. As for the cycling, at the right time of the year it is a great place for a bike ride… if you don’t insist on bicycling over the mountain. 🙂 –Curt

  1. Death Valley is one of those places that’s been a bit of a blank for me. I never would have expected such variety, or such colors. Now it’s a tempting destination, although I confess I had to do a map search to figure out exactly where it is.

    Here’s the hoot – when I searched for “death valley map” I got a map for Powerhouse Lane, Louisiana, 70802. Hmmmmm…. Maybe it was your bike ride that brought it up.

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