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Geology through Photography: Death Valley Ponderings

In 2018, I climbed the tallest peak in the contiguous USA, Mount Whitney. From the summit, I remember looking down (slightly dizzy from the thin atmosphere) and making a resolution to return to its sister site: Death Valley.

A seemingly endless expanse of forbidding landscapes, Death Valley is a place made magical because it sits at such extremes.

I’ve never been somewhere better accommodating such bewildering antonomies. Hottest recorded temperatures on earth, chasms shaped by water, magically moving rocks, frictionless surfaces, hurricane-speed winds, salt crystal shifts, and periodic floods. The landscape is…otherworldly. There’s no better way to put it. I felt I was in the Sahara Desert in one moment and then at the top of an ancient Hawaiian volcano the next.

And the beauty of this relatively modern (both in geological terms of its formation and human time scale as a national park) is that it is still evolving. The valley floor is being constantly pushed apart by the same continental stretching forces that created it.

With my camera, dust battered tent, and the assistance of an off-road-ready Jeep, I spent three days exploring the geological splendor of Badwater Basin, Zabriske Point, The Racetrack, Ubehebe Crater, Sand Dunes, and Twenty Mule Team Canyon.

closeup of death valley ubehebe crater sediment
dusk in death valley from twenty mule team canyon