Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

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After the considerable amount of hiking I'd done the previous days (at least compared to how much I do in my day to day life) I decided that it was time for a break. Rather than doing more hiking in the Sierra, which had been my original plan, I instead drove east. Not even bothering to take any more pictures of the Alabama Hills (I felt I'd taken my share the previous morning) I left my primitive camp side, headed down to Lone Pine where I fueled up and then continued south on 395. Just a mile or two later I turned east on Highway 136, and joined Highway 190 after the desolate town of Keeler.

I didn't stop until I'd reached the boundary of Death Valley National Park. By now, after having driven this way a number of times, this road was very familiar to me and it seemed pointless to stop as often as I'd done on previous visits. Instead, I happily kept up a decent pace. After I had passed Stovepipe Wells, I stopped once to take a few shots of the Devil's Corn Field, a cluster of grassy bushes that are so regularly spaced apart every few meters that they look like they'd been planted that way.

My next stop was near Mushroom Rock along Furnace Creek Road. A few years ago, there used to be a sign and a small parking space next to it, but it seems the NPS has removed both. Maybe the rock - which may or may not look like a mushroom, depending on your imagination - or the surrounding area were damaged too much by passing tourists, or maybe it just wasn't a convenient place to have so many people slow down and park their cars... I don't know.

My next stop was at Badwater, which has also seen NPS intervention in the past years. Whereas it used to be quite undeveloped, they've now added a big parking lot and a ramp, making it impossible to take decent shots of Telescope Peak reflected in the salt pools that gave the place its name ("bad water"). One side of me would like to blame the NPS, but I can see their point that the place would otherwise have been loved to death - once a place gets a certain amount of visitors it's better to channel them down some paved path, rather than have them walk all over the place, including over spots that will get visibly scarred for many years to come. But still, it's a shame, especially since I took some shots in 2002 or 2003 that I would love to replicate with better camera gear, but they're impossible to take now without jumping fences... I suppose the lesson is to never delay getting better camera gear because you never know if the opportunity will still be there next time you visit.

The heat was quite oppressive at Badwater - the Jeep's temperature sensor jumped into three-digit values (100 degrees Fahrenheit and up - 38 Degrees Celsius). This would turn out to be my last stop in Death Valley, making this one of my shortest visits to the park. Instead, I headed south and after some more eventless driving reached Interstate 15. Interstate 15 took me past Primm at the California-Nevada border and of course I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do some shopping at the outlet centers.  After I left, I continued driving past Las Vegas; where I joined SR 176 to get nearer to the Lake Mead shore. I stopped a few times to take sunset shots, but hadn't really found any big sunset destination so the pictures were only so-so.

I knew that primitive camping was allowed near Overton, so that's where I headed after the sun had set. The heat was still quite oppressive, and in consequence it wasn't all that comfortable in the car. I did a little writing, listened to the radio, and then turned in.

Miles driven: 406mi (653km)

Campground Accommodation: Near Overton, NV (Primitive camping): $0.00

Written February 18th 2010 at Club La Santa, Lanzarote; while a big storm is blowing over the island and confining us to the inside.