|Badlands, Death Valley|
Sometimes, traveling in Death Valley National Park, a phrase comes into my head, “the memory of water.” The better part of a year can go by without significant precipitation. The average yearly rainfall in the Furnace Creek area is less than 2 inches. Wherever I look, though, is desiccated evidence of its effects; slot canyons, eroded washes, salt polygons and cracked mud flats.
I’ve even complained about endless stretches of days without photogenic clouds in the sky.
|Predawn Earth Shadow, Cottonball Basin, Death Valley|
This last trip, it rained. And rained. I was camping with friends and we had about 1 ½ days of lovely weather. There were also two full days of rain with the kind of socked-in overcast that sucks the color and texture right out of the landscape. Normally, I’d hit the canyons and shoot details there. I’m a desert girl, though, and I just can’t do that when there’s a flash flood risk. Even on clear days, I find myself looking for the nearest escape route in such places.
|Storm Over Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley|
Napping, reading, cleaning the camper, and working on the computer is good for a half day, but by then I was antsy; wandering (sloshing) around Stovepipe Wells in my rain gear. Here I heard the 20-something explaining to his dad about how he hydroplaned and totaled the car and watched ambulances screaming west toward snow-covered passes. There was one image opportunity, of the storm breaking up over Mosaic Canyon. Lovely, but perhaps not a full day’s work.
Water. Lots of water in real time.
Meanwhile my photo friends are making dazzling images in the snow at the Grand Canyon and Watson Lake (Prescott).
I remind myself of the privilege of spending time in this spectacular park. It heals me, and it’s showing me an unusual face.
|Sunrise at Badwater, Death Valley|
Violent winds woke me at 1:00 AM on my last day. I scrambled to bring down the camper top and ran around in my sheep jammies closing the external clips so it would stay down in the gale. The camper doesn’t move nearly as much in the wind this way, and I got back to sleep on the dinette bed just fine. We scooted over to Badwater Basin that morning. Hoping for reflected color in the puddles among the salt polygons kept us slogging against the wind, out a mile and a half or so to the relatively undisturbed parts of the basin. I might not see these rare conditions again; standing water, colorful clouds, and snow on the Panamint Mountains to the west.
These things are tough to predict, but perhaps we’ll have another impressive bloom this spring, thanks to all this rain, and the memory of water.