Laurel Dailey is a Long Beach based photographer who specializes in lifestyle portraiture and environmental studies. Join her on a trip to Death Valley National Park as she shares her images and words below…
There are a litany of superlatives California could lay claim to, and most of them are in Death Valley. Like a grammatical high five, adjectives such as large, hot, dry, high and low are smacked palm to palm with the suffix ‘est’ to boast of the desert’s staggering diversity. For the record (or your next pub quiz), Death Valley National Park is the largest in the contiguous states. It is both the hottest and the driest place in North America. From Dante’s View, one can see the lowest point in the lower 48 (Badwater Basin, 282 feet) and, 85 miles to the west, also the highest (Mt. Whitney, 14,496 feet).
All of this gloating belies the essential truth about Death Valley, though, which is this: the devil is in the details. Sure, at first you’ll find yourself humbled by the immensity of it all: The technicolor grandeur of a desert sunrise, or the serrated peaks of the Panamint Range spiking ten thousand feet from the valley floor. You’ll marvel at the curling quartz waves of the Mesquite dunes or the tenacity of Death Valley’s earliest settlers. But eventually that will wear off, and the real beauty will emerge: The pale color variations of oxidizing minerals. The intricate fissures on the ground beneath your feet. The silence. In the liminal space between subtlety and splendor, Death Valley reveals its very best. You just have to know where to look.
Badwater Basin sits 282 feet below sea level, making it the lowest point in North
America. Telescope Peak looms in the distance at 11,331 feet.
Despite arid conditions, an abundance of plant life can be found in Death Valley (23 species of which are not found anywhere else).
Washed cotton canvas and windblown boulders.
Graded sediment at Mosaic Canyon.
The dramatic shifts in color seen here are the result of oxidization.
Scaling Mosaic Canyon’s marble floor.
Desert dust and Herschel’s Settlement pack.
Only the bare essentials for desert camping.
Local wildlife stayed scarce during our stay, save for this raven.
The textures in Death Valley beg for a closer look.
Hiking the spine of a sinewy trail in Mosaic Canyon.
No shortage of views in Death Valley.
Even on overcast days, a hat is nonnegotiable.
The view from Zabriskie Point, part of the Amargosa Range in southeastern Death Valley.
Climb to highest peak and once there, make it taller.
Despite the sun, this February morning was fairly chilly.
Layers of marble at Mosaic Canyon.
A Death Valley sunrise.
You’ll need a good hat, a good guide, a good bottle of booze, and most importantly: A good bag.