Part two in my quest for nine blog posts. Who would’ve thought I would even get this far?
On a Wednesday my friends at The Good Light gave me a call and asked me if I was interested in flying out to Las Vegas to assist them with a shoot for a couple of days.
“And, after Las Vegas we’re hitting the road for a week to explore, have adventures, and see what kind of great images we can find along the way,” they added.
“Duh. I’m in.” I said to myself.
“Here’s the catch, though,” they said, “We need you on a plane tomorrow.”
After a three hour bus ride and a 40-minute flight and a 3 hour layover and a 3 hour flight I saw Lake Mead.
In the setting sun.
And it was so pretty.
And then I saw the area just outside of Las Vegas.
And then I saw Las Vegas. Also in the setting sun.
And, dare I say, it was also pretty.
Death Valley. California. 2:30am. Dante’s View- Elevation 5,476 feet.
After spending 3 days trapped in Caesar’s Palace, we made a break for it. There was at one point a plan to head to Zion and Bryce Canyon before turning left to head to the Eastern Sierra and Yosemite, but thankfully the first part of that plan was nixed. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Zion and Bryce. I’ve actually never been to either of them. It’s just that I know the beauty that the Eastern Sierra and Yosemite hold and I know my way around those places. I would basically serve as tour guide for this leg of the trip.
So, on Sunday night we left Las Vegas to head North and West. Or, at least we tried to.
Highway 95 was closed because of flash floods and we tried to take a detour but soon found ourselves driving through the desert on a deserted jeep trail that eventually ended at a ravine we couldn’t cross and couldn’t find a way around. So, we backtracked to the paved road and then to Las Vegas and found a new way out of that Hellhole of a city.
West and then North.
At 2:30 in the morning I finally pulled us into the parking lot at Dante’s View in Death Valley National Park. I was last in Death Valley in 2009 shooting some images for a magazine. That was one crazy trip that probably deserves a post all on its own.
When we reached Dante’s View we laid out our sleeping bags beneath the stars and were soon fast asleep.
Three hours later we were up for the sunrise. It was worth it.
We got out of Death Valley as fast as we could, making a beeline West on Highway 190.
Before the temperature got stupid.
Our efforts paid off, because by mid morning we were in the Eastern Sierra. If you know me at all, you know how I feel about the Eastern Sierra.
She has a special place in my heart.
Ever since I first visited in 2005 when I was hiking the John Muir Trail with Jerm, Cap’n, and Now Or Never.
Ever since I returned in 2009 with Shoeless Jon as we began our JMT adventure and followed it up with an extended vacation in what is one of my favorite towns in California, Mammoth Lakes.
Ever since I returned again in 2011 with Rawhide and Leader on my PCT adventure.
Ever since I passed through in 2012 on my way to and from the great state of Oregon.
So, how about brunch in Lone Pine, a nice visit to the Galen Rowell Gallery in Bishop, and dinner and camping in Mammoth Lakes?
That’s basically one of the best days a person could ask for.
Sunrise in the Eastern Sierra.
As we headed north from Mammoth Lakes toward the town of Lee Vining the air was hazy with smoke. The wind shifted in the afternoon and the smoke from the Rim Fire began to settle upon the Eastern Sierra.
After stopping in Lee Vining and talking with a few locals, we decided to stick with our original plan and head West into Yosemite National Park.
The smoke was thick in Tuolumne Meadows. It made for a nice sunset, but made it difficult to breathe.
We heard two things while watching the sunset across from the Tuolumne Meadows Store: Yosemite Valley was still free of smoke and the road to Yosemite Valley would be closing at noon tomorrow.
So, at dusk we headed down to Yosemite Valley. We decided to play the odds and hoped that because of the Rim Fire (which had already burned 244,000 acres when we were there at the end of August) people may have abandoned their plans to camp in the Valley.
We were mistaken.
All of the campgrounds in Yosemite Valley were full, leaving us with only one option- do what we came here to do.
We drove up to the
often over photographed Tunnel View to begin our night of photography.
If we couldn’t legally camp anywhere in the Valley, we may as well make the most of it.
A little whiskey. A little wine. A sky full of stars.
It was a perfect night.
A few other folks came and went but we were in it for the long haul.
A ranger eventually came and we told him what we were doing. We told him of our plans to next drive up to Glacier Point and shoot there until sunrise.
He told us to stay warm.
We arrived at Glacier Point around 1:00am and captured the magnificent Half Dome in the moonlight until 2:30.
Sleep was short lived because we were up for the sunrise three hours later.
WARNING: You are about to have a shitload of images of Half Dome shoved in your face.
And I don’t care.
We talked about paying a visit to the Giants in the North, but ran out of time.
Instead, we paid a visit to these guys in Big Basin State Park.
Granted, they weren’t quite as massive as the Redwoods that I was lucky enough to see last year, but they were still impressive.
If you ever get to see a Redwood, any Redwood, in person then it is a good day.