It’s a cold, wet day in East Tennessee. For several weeks, I had planned an overnight hike tonight with a group of guys to a shelter along the AT in the Smokies. I was looking forward to a good workout with a backpack as part of my preparation for my trip in a couple of months to Patagonia. As the weekend approached and the forecast looked more and more ominous, the trip was cancelled. The predicted rainfall along the AT was more than an inch with wind gusts over 60 mph. Perfect training for Patagonia, but instead, my pack and gear are strewn about my front room and I find myself with a perfect opportunity to write and process an image or two.
For weeks now, it seems that the skies have been overcast and it rains about every other day. The ground is completely saturated with moisture and a small stream runs along the edge of the normally dry woods in my backyard. So it is not surprising that I decided to process an image from my brief trip in December to the desert. Ah, the sweet arid dunes of Death Valley!
If you’re familiar with Death Valley, you’ll recognize that this image is from the Mesquite Dunes near Stovepipe Wells. This was the second morning of my trip. I had slept in the back of my SUV at a small campground about 10 miles from the dunes. After snagging a surprisingly good cup of coffee from the front desk at Stovepipe, I parked near the dunes at a location I had marked on my cell phone during my last visit. I was glad to have that geotag because I couldn’t see the dunes in the pre-dawn darkness. I finished my coffee and began walking toward the eastern edge of the dune field. I like this part of the dunes because it is away from the main parking area and typically has fewer footprints. In addition to the camera gear on my back, I carried some water and snacks that I planned for breakfast after the sunrise. The air was still and cool with a hint of moisture. Writing this now I vividly remember the smell of the desert air as I began my walk to the dunes. The first signs of twilight had just started to consume the stars. Jupiter, Venus, and Mercury blazed brightly near the constellation Scorpio. My eyes quickly adjusted to the darkness and I could easily walk without a headlamp. I was by myself and there were no sounds other than the crunching of the crusty earth under my hiking boots.
This photograph was about thirty or forty minutes after I began my walk. But I’m sorry, no photograph could ever capture my feelings and memories from that walk out to the dunes. That is why it is not about photography for me. It’s about the experience. Photographs are just a vain attempt to personally relive and then share the experience with others. Experience. Share. Repeat. That is my mantra, but to really know the feelings I had on the way out to the dunes, you’ll have to experience them yourself!