I'm currently in Death Valley National Park for the super bloom, and "super" doesn't even begin to describe what the landscape looks like right now. The stretch of road between the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and Furnace Creek is covered with a thick carpet of yellow, and if you pass through it at the right hour, the golden light on the flowers will stop you dead in your tracks.
I was expecting this to be a quiet solo road trip, but over the last few days I've met all sorts of amazing people. After a night in Tecopa hot springs and a failed mission to the Ibex dunes, I headed north to the Mesquite dunes to catch sunset. I always forget how long it takes to get out all the way out there (you know, to the untouched sand), and I didn't quite make it time. I set up on the highest dune I could find, and the two women who were already camped out there were nice enough to let me stand right next to them. While this seems like common courtesy, there's always a chance that someone will shoo you away from their spot, so this kindness was much appreciated.
When I returned to Stovepipe Wells to eat dinner and hop in my tent, I noticed an SUV with a rooftop setup parked in the other space at my site. I had forgotten to clip my campsite form on the post next to my spot, so I hoped that whoever was there wouldn't mind me being around. I mean, my tent was already set up, but you never know who you're going to be dealing with. Fortunately it was a lovely gal who, like me, is a writer currently embracing life on the road. After a long convo and a shared bag of gummy bears, we headed to our respective beds and called it a night. I left at 6am to shoot sunrise, and when I came back, her car was gone.
Later that morning I parked my car and prepared to upload photos to my computer, and I had a minor freak out when Lightroom couldn't find my camera. Umm...was this the camera or the USB cable? As it turns out, it was the cable, and when I asked a nice older man sitting outside the general store in Furnace Creek if I could borrow his to upload my photos, he smiled and told me I could keep it. After some crappy experiences with other photogs, I felt like everyone I've met so far has restored my faith in humanity.
After brunch at the 49er Cafe and a mini edit session, I headed towards Badwater Basin around 4pm. I nearly hit a coyote about four miles out, and after he ran a safe distance away from the road and settled into a sparse patch of flowers, I hopped out of my Jeep and started snapping away. A man pulled over next to me and we shared our astonishment over the sight before our eyes. "Hey, you shoot Canon too," he said. I smiled and nodded. The next words that came out of his mouth totally shocked me. "Why don't you pop your camera on my 600mm?" Um what?! It might have been because he was really an awesome dude or because I was wearing fairly short shorts (or perhaps a combination of the two), but either way, I couldn't believe it. I fired off a few shots on his massive zoom, and we spent a few more minutes watching the blissful coyote take a nap right smack in the middle of the purple and yellow blossoms.
It’s amazing what happens when you hit the road and completely wing it with your plans. Every "stranger" I met on this trip has made my day, and I'll think of them every time I look at these photos.