Out of Las Vegas on I-15 South, you will hook up with 160 West. 160 West turns into 190 West, which will take you into Death Valley and Stovepipe Wells. From town, the dunes are easy to see
My first morning at Mesquite Dunes, I set up my gear along a beautiful little ridge line and watched as the sky started to turn from blue, to purple, to pink, with vast swaths of cloud burning with fiery reds. That is when things started to go horribly, horribly wrong. I was facing the wrong way. Looking a little further down my dune, I saw the ridge turning towards the sunrise, so I moved forward only to find that the line I envisioned was a total bust. I retreated back to my original composition, which I had now destroyed with footprints. I searched frantically for something to position in the foreground, but nothing was working. Behind me, my friend Steve was perched majestically on the highest dune, probably making photographic history. In a panic, I grabbed my gear, stuffed it in my bag, and took off in a full waddle to find a more appealing dune. It was not lost on me that a sunrise this epic is a rarity in Death Valley, and I was blowing it. Iâ€™m not sure I can adequately describe how exhausting it is scaling one dune, then another, then another in search of something that remains just out of reach. The color in the sky all but gone, I realized I had blown my one opportunity to get an iconic dunes shot, and slumped into a heap of sweat, camera gear, and sand. And then I saw him. A lone figure had scaled a dune behind me to watch the remaining minutes of the sunrise, and as luck would have it, I happened to notice that there was a pretty strong line in the sand leading up to the summit. In an absolute panic, I grabbed my camera, changed lenses, and sprinted to the top of the small ridge above me... only to discover that I had the wrong lens. I stumbled back down to my bag, grabbed a longer lens, dropping the one I had been using off the side of the camera bag and watched it roll across the sand and into a valley. Grabbing my water bottle (I was getting dangerously thirsty at this point), I ran back up the hill with my camera, appropriate lens, tripod, and water. The light was changing fast, and I figured my Dunes Savior was probably not going to be much longer on his perch, so I tossed the tripod aside and started shooting. In a perfectly choreographed ballet, my tripod rolled down one side of the ridge, and my water bottle rolled down the other. Steve estimates it took me 30 minutes to collect my randomly scattered gear, a processional he watched with amusement and probably pity. Exhausted, but exceptionally relieved and happy, I met up with my friend, and we made our way back to the car.