For me, it is a dream request to hit the road through desolate beautiful rural spaces where the journey is the destination. My only direction from the lovely folks at Medium’s GONE was a general route, a few points of interest along they way, and a directive to simply wander, and make the images I gravitated to in the style I saw fit along the way.
So I loaded up my VW Camper Van (#parkerposeythevwvan), printed a map (yes, on actual pieces of paper, no gps on this one), loaded up my digital gear and a pack of medium format film to drop in my Mamiya (still unprocessed), and hit the road. After the miles of highway from LA, I hit Baker and CA 127 greeted me with miles of lonely highway, and my stress began to melt away as the landscape built to a crescendo around me. By sunset I hit Zabriski Point, and stood in awe of the light as an evening storm rolled in and wind picked up, sun peaking it’s golden rays through while the dark clouds weren’t looking. As darkness fell and I made camp, the forceful gusts consumed by my fire as it danced spastically, roaring through my bundle of wood in record time as I enjoyed two fingers of whiskey and a roasted hotdog (soydog that is).
As they always does at a certain time of morning, my dreams attempted to envelope my 4am alarm into their tales, losing their grasps just in time as I slip back into consciousness, climb into the front seat and start the engine (yessss! 214,000 miles and it cranks again). I make it to Dante’s View, and scramble up the little rocky trail to the summit at the last moment of night’s grip as it gives way to the pink light of dawn. I could drink that pink light, bathe in it, drape myself in it and curl up before that beg eternal sleep. It is my White Whale, and one to be pursued but never caught.
As dawn gives way to day, I find breakfast at one of the few greasy spoons the park has to offer, and spend the bulk of the day driving down empty roads, and catching the sights like the great salt flats at Badwater Basin. Late afternoon comes and though I know I must visit the town of Pahrump before my trip is complete, and I have a decision to make. Unsurprisingly the park wins out over returning to civilization. I need one more night, one more hour of golden light, and chance to see the milky sky the prior night’s clouds stole from me, and more importantly, I think I’ve gone a little feral (man that happened quick).
I make my way down the road, and hike a mile or two out into the sand dunes to sit atop the crest of one, watching the rolling silica sea turn from white to burning amber before they fade to black. I get my night sky as I sit next to the warm glow of fire in my folding beach chair. As I slip off to sleep that night, I know that when morning comes my body will go to investigate the inherently suspicious town of Pahrump, Nevada, but my mind will lag behind in this magic place called Death Valley. Check out writer Jason H. Harper’s take on the drive in the article here.
And no, I did not eat the chicken fried steak – it was for photographic purposes only. But it sure did look good.