Giant Bunny Rabbits, Black Cats, & The Beatles – A Trip to Death Valley

June 01, 2010  •  Leave a Comment

 

Badwater, Death Valley CA, 2007

 

Since first reading about it when I was young, I’d always wanted to visit Death Valley. It’s one of those places that evokes a feeling of awe when you read about the searing hot temperatures, history, and varied landscape of the park. When I moved out here, I knew I’d finally make it to see this extraordinary place.

Anyone who knows me well knows that almost nothing I do is without some form of comedy or outright weirdness, and this trip was no exception. Occasionally people will wonder why I travel alone most of the time. While I love the freedom and solitude that solo travel can offer, I’m truly never quite alone. My good friend Murphy, whom you all may know from Murphy’s Law is always there with me, quietly waiting for his moment to make the trip more ‘interesting’.

For starters, Murphy made sure I visited Death Valley, one of the hottest places on earth, on the coldest weekend recorded in over a decade! Now, I’m from the midwest. I know cold. Cold isn’t a problem. Cold, combined with wind so strong you have to lean into it? Well, that’s another story. I was miserable! Taking the wind chill into account, it was in the mid 20′s most of the weekend. It did increase to a sweltering 32 degrees by Sunday as I was leaving the park though. Great.

Despite the cold, the shooting was excellent. But I guess the cold was bringing out Murphy’s most mischievous side. As I was preoccupied with framing a shot in the ghost town of Rhyolite, I met the Black Tailed Jackrabbit. Now, I pride myself on doing my homework before I visit a place, knowing what to expect and be careful of when it comes to local wildlife. But I’ll be man enough to admit that my earlier statement about “meeting” the jackrabbit isn’t completely honest. The rabbit jumped out of the bushes about ten yards away and absolutely scared the crap out of me. These guys can grow to about two feet tall, have seven inch ears, and can reach speeds of over forty miles an hour.

Yes, I had the crap scared out of me by a giant bunny rabbit. Thanks Murph. Jackass.

The shooting day finally finished, it was time to check into my hotel, grab some dinner, and get some much needed rest. I had a reservation at the Panamint Springs Resort. In order to use “resort” in the name, the owners had to take creative license to the extreme. I’d describe it as eerily reminiscent of the Bates Motel, maybe with better landscaping. After checking in and dropping my bags in the room, it was time for dinner. Upon leaving the room, I was greeted by a black cat at my door, just staring at me. I’m not one for superstition, but in retrospect the cat was a harbinger of what the rest of my trip might bring me.

I will give the Panamint Springs Resort some credit here. The steak I had for dinner ranks in the top 5 of greatest steaks I ever had. If you’re ever in the area, I’d highly recommend stopping for dinner.

Well fed, satisfied with my day of shooting, still laughing at myself over the bunny rabbit, it was time to get some sleep. Perhaps if I’d decided to stay up, the evening might have turned out differently. Because at this point I became aware of the fact that walls at the palatial Panamint Springs Resort are only about a quarter inch thick. And my neighbors were having the time of their lives, singing along to recordings of the Beatles from the Ed Sullivan Show.

After the show was over, they began a deep conversation about how in love they were with each other. I’m thinking to myself “Oh no…they’re gonna do it…..noooo!!!” Fortunately for me, they didn’t. But as the man fell asleep, he began snoring with the fury of a runaway freight train.

Off-key singing and sharing of intimate conversation by people who haven’t heard the term “inside voices”, followed by freight train snoring? Thanks Murph.

Finally, the snoring subsided enough for me to at least catnap. But now it was quiet enough for me to realize that the room heater, which only provided heat if you were six inches from it, popped rhythmically like a dripping faucet. And the light outside my room turned itself on and off every ten seconds or so.

Somewhere around 5 am….while still enjoying the snoring, popping heater, and possessed light outside, that oh-so-adorable black cat returned to my door, adding it’s own blood curdling meow to my sensory experience.

Again, thanks Murph. Really. I mean it. You really made this trip one of the most ‘interesting’ ever!

Jackass.

Murphy’s available if anyone would like a traveling companion. Just let me know.

 

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