Favorite Travel Quotes

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."
-- Mark Twain
Innocents Abroad

"Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey." -- Fitzhugh Mullan

"A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving." -- Lao Tzu

Death Valley Still Cures Cabin Fever


Several days ago just outside of Salt Lake City we were in the dead of winter, and even the mallards seem to be huddled for warmth

┬ęBert Gildart: Death Valley is a photographer’s paradise, and that is one of the reasons we have rendezvoused in this largest of all national parks in the Lower 48 with Rich, Eleanor and Emma Luhr. Rich produces Airstream Life Magazine, and not, surprisingly, Rich and I are both drawn to this desert park here for its photographic opportunities. In fact, Janie and I have been drawn here for years, once producing a Falcon Exploring Guide to Death Valley. Over the years, I’ve produced about half a dozen stories for several magazines on this park, my first entitled “Death Valley Cures Cabin Fever.”

The story was a tongue in check piece describing my consternation about a particularly severe Montana winter, and how I sought relieve from it by hopping in my Volkswagen camper (can’t remember, folks, whether or not it was a “Hippie Van”), and driving south. Twenty-four hours later, I reported in Chevy Outdoors, that I was in Death Valley, and from the blessed warmth provided at Stove Pipe Wells, I walked barefooted over the nearby sand dunes. So began the restoration of my soul, and my deliverance that winter from Cabin Fever.

Now, many years later, I’m still finding that Death Valley can work magic, though my accommodations are a bit different. Now I travel with Janie, and we’re in an Airstream Travel Trailer with slideout, and it has all the amenities. The only drawback of being in this immense valley flanked by many ranges of mountains is that we have no cell phone reception. However, we do have access to the Internet courtesy of Death Valley Visitor Center. From our location at Sunset Campground, we’re less than a five-minute bicycle ride to the blessedness of connectivity, and that’s how I’m able to create this post.


It is the austerity of the park that makes this such a joy to photograph and that initially began attracting photographers. Ansel Adams was lured here as well as the Muench family, and they set some pretty high standards. Adams created an entire book of black and white photography on this park, and to a large degree, it was his work that lured me into photography, and that helped me to begin developing a philosophy on photography…


Manley Beacon: A beacon for past immigrants traveling through Death Valley, today this promient landmark lures photographers

Once I met a man here who said he thought Death Valley was the most interesting mass of nothingness he’d ever seen. I considered his thought, but believe that the point of photography is to find organization when others see confusion. And that’s what we started working on yesterday, beginning at Badwater, lowest place in the northern hemisphere.


One of the main attractions in Death Valley is Bad Water, created by the evaporation of the Amargosa River, which starts outside of Death Valley in what can at times be a raging torrent. But all that changes when the river turns north at the southern end of this valley (where the mountain ranges dip) and then begins to flow north into the park, but all the while dropping, dropping. When at last the river reaches Badwater the air is so dry that the river completely evaporates, leaving in its wake the area known as Badwater; and then, just a little further north, an area that is appreciatively called the Devil’s Golf Course.


Zabriske Point still helps cure me of Cabin Fever

Back dropping this scene is Telescope Peak, which soars to an elevation of 11, 049 feet above sea level. Add to that a negative elevation of 282 feet and that is the relief you experience as your eyes rise from Badwater to snow-capped Telescope Peak. Both areas are white, but both areas represent decidedly different types of environments. In one you could expire from frost, the other from desiccation. And some, of course, have.


Zabriske Point is another of those areas with rampant lines of erosion, but these represent erosion at their most eloquent. For whatever reason many are drawn to Zabriske Point and we watched a number of couples as they began hiking down a wash we knew would terminate several miles later near Golden Canyon. They, too, had to have been drawn here by the austerity of the land-and by its enchanting beauty.

We plan to be here for another few days, revisiting this place in which Janie and I have spent so much time that it seems like an old home. We’re fortunate to be joined by friends with whom we can pool knowledge and can help us transform good times into memorable times.

And, yes, I’m still finding that Death Valley can cure cabin fever.


Last Year About this Time we were in Death Valley

*Death Valley


One Response to “Death Valley Still Cures Cabin Fever”

  1. Rich Charpentier Says:

    Bert, glad to see you made it to Death Valley. Tell everyone I said hello!

    Looking forward to meeting up with you in Borrego in a few weeks! The countdown is on. Of course, if you’re bored in the interim consider swinging by Prescott and spending some more time exploring Northern Arizona! :)