Owens Valley Overlook Pano
These dramatic clouds were taken as we descended the White Mountains, Hwy 168's 8% Grade, down to Big Pine in the Owens Valley.

This 4-week trip was special as we would venture to new places with such diverse landscapes, small towns and natural beauty. Starting off in Owens Valley for a 5-day photography workshop with 9 other photographers. Following a week in Owens Valley, we traveled down to Shoshone, CA which would be our base camp to explore Death Valley National Park and the surrounding areas for the very first time. From there, it was down to Joshua Tree National Park for a few days, also our first time to visit. On the return trip back to Texas, we stopped off in Williams, Arizona to see what birds were at a special lake I have visited two years before, and finally, Albuquerque, New Mexico for the 50th Anniversary Ballon Fiesta. 

Owens Valley, California and surrounding areas.

We arrived in Owens Valley a couple of days before my workshop kicked off via a route in Nevada Hwy’s 95 & 266, and into California on Hwy 168, crossing over the White Mountains, down to Big Pine, then up to Bishop. I have to say that driving down the steep, 8% grade in the Motorhome, towing our car, was an experience in unto itself, having to stop twice to let the 1900-degree F brakes cool off! But oh boy, what a spectacular drive descending down to Big Pine!

The City of Owens Valley is very quaint, with great restaurants and places to see. The surrounding towns such as Big Pine, Mammoth and Mono Lakes, are amazing. After setting up camp in a beautiful RV park on the north end of town, Gail, Bella & I ventured out the first two days to enjoy the landscape, exploring downtown Owens Valley and their restaurants, Big Pine, Big Pine Creek Campground, Mammoth Lake, Convict Lake, and Mono Lake.

5-Day Owens Valley Photography Workshop

Mono Lake Milky Way Composite

This workshop based in Bishop, California was led by Pro’s, Hudson Henry, Rick LePage, CJ Guinn & David Archer, included 11 other participants was fantastic. Meeting new people from all walks of life, with similar interests, is a joy as we spend a lot of time together, from dark-30 in the mornings to way beyond dark-30 at night shooting dawn/blue-hour sunrise to dusk/golden hour sunsets, Milky Way, scouting for new places to photograph, and everything in-between!

We would drive in two vans to: Alabama Hills, Bristlecone Pine Forest at 11,000 feet to see 4,700-year-old pine trees, Ansel Adams’s Mount Williamson image area, Convict Lake, and Mono Lake.

A roadside turnout photo opportunity on Hwy 395 between Convict Lake and Bishop.

Owens Valley-Hwy 395 Dramatic Clouds. Spot the Mad Cow?

Death Valley National Park

Due to the recent flooding in Death Valley, many roads were closed so we had to take a scenic route from Bishop , around the north end of the White Mountain range and into Nevada, then south to or base in Shoshone, CA. With the exception of Hwy 190 to Dante’s View, Zabriskie Point, Furnace Creek to the Mesquite Dunes on the northeast side of the park. Stovepipe Wells and all other roads were closed. Luckily, I checked the park’s web site on our last full day in the area, I was surprised to see that several roads had been opened including Artist’s Pallet and down to the Badlands, as well as west of the Mesquite Dunes to west of Stovepipe Wells, permitting me to drive to the remote Eureka Mine and Skidoo townsite south of Hwy 190, on Emigrant Canyon Road and up the 4×4 road to Aguereberry Point at 6,433 feet overlooking Devil’s Gold Coarse and Badwater Basin from the west. This day was a long one, driving 343 miles in the Crosstrek.

Auguereberry Point pano (6,433 Ft) on the west overlooking the Badwater Basin

Shashone, CA and surrounding area

Shoshone was our base camp for the Death Valley National Park experience. It is a very small village with a small museum, resturant & gas station, plus some great birding along the river bottom. Beautiful clear skies at night which inspired me to drive up into the BLM land overlooking the RV Park and town to take a few Milky Way photos enjoying a glass of vino or two.  We would also venture over to see the famous China Ranch Date Farm, down in a deep valley.  We would also drive up into Nevada to the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, where we were told there was a large heard of Big Horn Sheep. We found where they were hanging out, a long way off in the distance, but unfortunately, we did not see them.

Twenty Nine Palms and Joshua Tree National Park

The town of Twenty-Nine Palms, California, was our base to visit Joshua Tree National Park. Truely an amazing part of the country with great weather, amazing skies, and of course, Joshua Tree National Park itself. 

Sunrise @ Twenty Nine Palms, California RV Park , base to visit Joshua Tree National Park

Williams, Arizona

Homeward bound heading east on Route 66, we stopped at a KOA Campground in Williams, AZ, with a plan to revisit a lake I first learned of two years prior, where I was fortunate to have photographed a Bald Eagle, and a Golden Eagle, and other birds. Since the Lake is very remote, deep in the National Forest, I had hoped the two raptors would be there to photograph with my new Z9. It wasn’t meant to be, bad timing I suspect! However, we enjoyed the hike to the lake, and captured some nice photos of Gail and Bella at the water’s edge.

Route 66 in California pit stop

Albuquerque, New Mexico for the 50th Anniversary, annual Ballon Fiesta.

We have talked about coming to witness the annual balloon fiesta for years, but never had made it a priority. Our timing was perfect on this trip, which we had planned well in advance, permitting us to securing a RV campsite for a few days. The festival was an amazing experience, to witness the balloons light up the dark sky at dark-thirty, and then for several hours, over 500 balloons, of all shapes, colors, and sizes, were in the sky on a picture-perfect morning.

The Dawn Patrol inflating the balloons as the day began at 5am.

We hope you enjoyed our journey of photographs, of yet another awesome road trip. Until the next one, Cheers!