Southern California/Nevada/Arizona '96

Night shot of eastern slope of Sierra Nevadas near Mount Whitney
Shot from Lonepine, CA (February 1996)

Index:
About the Trip
San Diego - Cabrillo National Monument
Lone Pine Area/Eastern Sierras
Death Valley
Hoover Dam/Lake Mead
Grand Canyon
Sunset Crater/Wupatki National Monuments

San Diego - Cabrillo National Monument

Lighthouse at Cabrillo National Monument

Lone Pine Area/Sierra Nevadas

Mt. Whitney and surrounding mountains

Night shot of eastern Sierras (same as picture at top of page)

Death Valley

A look at the valley from 5,000ft.

Devil's Golf Course

Sand dunes in the valley

Hoover Dam/Lake Mead

Hoover Dam from below

Hoover Dam at Night

Lake Mead just above the dam

Lake Mead at sunset

Grand Canyon

Grand Canyon at sunrise

Grand Canyon - my artsy picture through the trees

Grand Canyon - view of river

Grand Canyon - from 1000 ft below the rim

Grand Canyon - at first stopping point on South Kaibab Trail

Grand Canyon - more views from the trail

Grand Canyon - the steep climb back up the South Kaibab Trail

Sunset Crater/Wupatki National Monuments

Sunset Crater

San Francisco Peaks from Sunset Crater

About the Trip:
A research trip to San Diego with my advisor gave me the perfect excuse to take a mini vacation in Southern California and whereever I could drive to. San Diego wasn't all business as I got to spend some time at
Cabrillo National Monument which we just happened to stumble upon one afternoon after work (I had never heard of the place). I decided that I wanted to go to Nevada since I had never been there before and along the way I would hit Death Valley while the weather was cool enough. So I packed up my things, said goodbye to my advisor, rented a car and headed into the desert.

My first stop was the little town of Lone Pine, CA where I arrived late and crashed for the night. Lone Pine is just east of the eastern-most slopes of the Sierra Nevadas and in particular Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower 48 states. The next morning I got up early and drove up an access road towards Mt. Whitney into the Alabama Hills (which is where many early westerns, including the Lone Ranger, were filmed). Unfortunately, I could only go about half way up the portal road due to snow, but the views I got from there were still well worth the effort.

The rest of the day was dedicated to driving to and all over Death Valley (which was expanded and upgraded to a national park just last year). I must admit that I didn't really know what to expect at the park, and was pleasantly surprised. The park is mostly mountainous, which I didn't expect, and covers a number of different climates. I chose the pictures displayed here to try to show some of the different sights at the park, even though some of the pictures are not the most spectacular due to worsening weather during the afternoon. The day ended on an ironic note as I got caught in a rain shower in the valley - a rare occasion indeed as it is the driest spot in the country (about 2 inches/year). Overall Death Valley N.P. is well worth the trip. The park is huge (the largest in the states outside of Alaska) and there is lots to see. If you plan to go, leave plenty of time - at least a FULL day. I unfortunately did not know this and ended up skipping a few of the major attractions and rushing through others. Oh well.

I spent the next couple of days investigating Las Vegas and cruising the Strip. Las Vegas is pretty wild and lived up to all the advanced billing, but for the most part it's not particularly photogenic (in my humble opinion). I did escape the big city for part of one afternoon by going to Hoover Dam. Pretty amazing technological marvel. Took the tour, drove over it - all the standard tourist fare.

Next stop: Grand Canyon. I had seen the canyon once before from the North Rim, and frankly wasn't overly impressed (you have to factor in that I had just seen every form of geological hole known to man after visiting the Utah national parks - see my Utah trip in August of 94). I decided to give the canyon another shot. All I can say is WOW! The day was perfect, there was still snow lingering on the upper slopes, and it was simply breathtaking. I think the weather and the angle of the sun made all the difference. I ventured into the canyon for the first time, going down the South Kaibab trail which was bit treacherous at the top due to the snow. I started with about 5 layers of clothing at the top, and ended up wearing only a T-shirt by the time I hit my turnaround spot (about 3 miles and 2200 feet vertical). My appetite is definitely whetted to go all the way to the river on another trip.

For the final day of my journey, I went to Sunset Crater National Monument and Wupatki National Monument, both within a half hour or so of Flagstaff, AZ. Like everything else on this trip, I was pleasantly surprised by both places. Sunset Crater is the remaining cone from an old volcano (the entire Flagstaff area is littered with volcanic remains, the most prominent being the rather lofty San Francisco Peaks). Wupatki houses several remains of old Native American habitations. These were nice, but what I liked most were the great views of the high desert. I only have a few pictures developed (and none of Wupatki) so you will have to wait for the rest of the visual story.

Overall this particular trip was short but sweet. It was one of those rare trips where everything exceeds your expectations. I hope you enjoy the pix as much as I did taking them.

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Last modified: 15 April 1996, Karp@virginia.edu