“What do you call the desert out yonder?” McTeague’s eyes wandered over the illimitable stretch of alkali that stretched out forever and forever to the east, to the north, and to the south.
“That,” said Cribbens, “that’s Death Valley.”
Backpacking in Death Valley seems like an odd idea, but it’s not so bad, if you pick the right time of the year, and the right people. I did so with members of the California Hiking and Outdoor Society (CHAOS) in December 1993.
The daytime temperatures were quite pleasant, but at night they would drop below freezing. So we had to pack warm gear, and in addition 2 gallons of water each. So I was bit worried about the weight of my camera, but I decided to pack it and to leave the bottle of wine at home instead.
One of the new people was Tuan, who had brought his large format camera (in addition to an SLR with several lenses).
I asked him politely whether this wouldn’t be too much to carry, and he responded equally politely that this would not be a problem.
I learned later that Tuan had worked as a mountain tour guide in the Alps, was an experienced ice climber, had climbed Denali (and many other peaks), and was in the process of documenting all National Parks of the US in large format. Tuan also taught me to value the 24mm and 85mm focal lengths for landscape photography. One certainly met interesting people at CHAOS.
So in many ways this trip had been an eye opener for me, for landscape, for people, and for photography.