Photography . . . Travel . . .

Monday, May 21, 2018

Road Trip - Lone Pine, California - Part 5

We finished up our three-night trip to Lone Pine on Thursday morning, and decided to drive home through Death Valley.  More precisely, through the Panamint Valley and then south towards Searles Lake so that we could go by the Trona Pinnacles.  It was a little out of the way in terms of a direct route home, but then we rarely take the direct route anyway.

The weather was really nice on Thursday morning, with bright blue skies and almost no wind.  We walked out the door of our motel room to see the Moon setting over the Sierra Nevada Mountains.  

After another excellent breakfast at the Alabama Hills Cafe we stepped out of the restaurant and saw this.

Our first stop was another of the LA DWP's Owens Lake Trails, this one on the north side of the lake near Keeler.

Our next stop was supposed to be quick 5-minute stop at the scenic overlook at Painted Canyon.  It's marked on the Park Service maps as the Father Crowley Vista Point on CA-190.

There are two places to view the canyon from.  We stopped first at an unpaved parking area just a bit west of the official overlook spot.  We noticed a trail heading up a small hill in the volcanic soil, so we walked up to see what was there.

When I got the top and started talking to a few photographers, I suddenly realized where we were.

There is a canyon in Death Valley that I've been wanting to visit for years, but I was never quite sure where it was.  For some reason I thought that it was difficult and time consuming to get to.  Military aviation enthusiasts know it as Star Wars Canyon; the military's flight plans refer to it as the Jedi Transition.  It's a spot where the fighter planes (and sometimes even bigger planes) practice flying through the twisting canyon, below the rim.  Below where we were standing.  Ordinarily if I was photographing fast flying aircraft I would have the camera that was, at the time, sitting at home.  Instead I had a wide angle lens much more suitable for travel and landscape photos - but which would do little to show the details of a relatively small aircraft.  As I was standing there contemplating the concept of having "brought a knife to a gunfight" a pair of German Air Force Eurofighter Typhoon jets decided to come screaming past us.

The first one stayed above the rim of the canyon.  I suspect it was their first time there.

The second one was a bit more adventurous, dipping slightly below the rim as the canyon widened.  

From this spot we then moved on a short distance to the actual scenic overlook spot, which is a paved parking lot with a metal railing along the rim of the canyon.  

While we were there we heard some plane spotters (it was obvious who they were and what they were doing) mention that they heard on their scanners that there was a pair of F/A-18s flying south through Death Valley, likely on their way towards Star Wars Canyon.  So much for our planned "5-minute stop".  It was a long time before they arrived, and it was all over in about a minute, but it was worth it.

I had to take pictures of something while we waited.

Finally the F/A-18s arrived, and each in turn dipped down into Star Wars Canyon for their practice run.  As they turned onto their sides we could see they were loaded for bear.  The plane is a little hard to see in this first shot, but it does help put it into perspective.

I plan to head back there once the weather cools off in the fall.  I'll bring the right camera too.

By the time we finally got to the edge of Searles Dry Lake and the road to the Trona Pinnacles it was getting late, and we still had a long way through traffic to get home, so we only drove out part way, and then decided to save that for another time.

We made our way back to the pavement and headed south for San Diego and home.

Click here to see a gallery with more images from the first two days of our trip.

Click here to see a gallery with more images from the second two days of our trip.
All of the images in these posts were taken with a Fuji X-T2 and (mostly) the Fuji XF10-24mm lens, with a few being with the Fuji XF55-200mm lens.

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San Diego, California, United States
About me . . . When I'm not working I like to be out exploring and photographing. I do this blog just for fun, and to be able to share these images with friends. I hope you enjoy viewing these images as much as I enjoyed creating them.

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All of the content and images on this site (c) Frank B. Baiamonte. If you would like to use any of these images please contact me via email at to discuss terms of usage. Note that images from the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park are not available for commercial usage. You can also see more on my Instagram page @frankbaiamonte.

Header image: Cibola National Wildlife Refuge, Cibola, Arizona. End image: Downtown San Diego, California skyline from Coronado Island. Profile picture: Craters of the Moon National Monument, Idaho, by Heather Baiamonte.