Desert Life

Posted on June 1, 2011 by Tim 5 Comments

Soon, we were winding down into Death Valley. The hottest and lowest point in North America. The valley floor was once occupied by a large lake, Lake Manly, approximately 20,000 years ago. It left behind a long north-south salt pan bordered by the Panamint Range to the west and the Amargosa Range to the east. That first day found my friend and I occupied by our own thoughts. I remember sitting on one little hill looking over at my friend, flying a kite, on another. How strange. Symbols of my desert experiences to this day. I didn’t know much about desert herpetology then, and barely little more about photography – it only being a recent pursuit at the time. That night we realized we needed food. With barely any money, we entered the store in Furnace Creek and bought a couple cans of SpaghettiO’s and a votive candle to heat them. The candle didn’t work in the wind and we used a rock and a dull knife to punch open the cans. Good thing for the tequila. I returned to Death Valley a couple of times in the ensuing years. It became a hot barren place to escape. I reveled in going in mid July, where temperatures exceeded 120° F. Oddly, I always saw German tourists in white rental cars. I thought there must be some twisted travel agency in Germany that thought it funny to send people to Death Valley in July.


The tracks of a beetle meander over pockets of windblown sand at Kelso Dunes.


I believe this is the flower of the Pinyon Aster.

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One can not think of deserts and sand dunes without thinking of the desert sidewinder, Crotalus cerastes, and it’s specialized ability to crawl across hot shifting sands. These small rattlesnakes are frequently found (dead and alive) crossing asphalt roads at night. I’ve found them in the dunes, under creosote bushes, in rabbit burrows, and even climbing in small bushes. The first shot is a quick point and shoot image of one rescued from a future as roadkill. The second are two different filter treatments of the same shot. A little artistic experimentation.

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  • Cassandra says:

    Great shots – thanks for sharing. My Mojave “aha” moment came when listening to Peter Gabriel’s Passion and making eye contact with a large coyote. For moments we stood staring at each other until he ran off for the evening’s dinner. How exciting to hear his triumphant howls shortly after. I don’t share this story often as I feel it cheapens the experience.

  • Shirley says:

    I look forward to your updates, stories, photos, and information you provide us who don’t get to travel. You’re always informative, interesting and you get us thinking. Most importantly, is the knowledge you provide. We can tell your heart is in what you do. Keep up the good work.

  • Perry says:

    I loke your work.
    Unfortunately, I am not able to see the photos.
    Tried Chrome, IE8 both to no avail.
    any thoughts?

    I am building a cabin not far from Kelso Dunes ( as the bird flies).
    I also am intriguied by wild life especially that in the desert.

    Have you visited Afton Canyon? (south of Baker just off I15)
    Take care and keep up the “good” work ( the quality is great, but doing it for good is best.)


    • Tim says:

      Perry, thanks for the comments. The photos posted in the blog are embededd as Flash .swf files. It is a meager attempt at controlling image theft. It could be that you have a Flash blocker installed?

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