Finding Beauty in Isolation on a Solo Road Trip From Los Angeles
Exploring California's desert landscapes and desolate backroads with 35mm film camera in hand and no set agenda
Canon 5d Mark III, Canon Elan II
Kodak Portra 400
words and photography by Madeline Tolle
I ended up out in LA with a few days to kill midweek a while back. Equipped with a tent, a couple of cameras, and a box of cliff bars, I set out on a solo road trip up Route 395. My route was determined as I went, popping about all the “green” map areas I could find. I was in search of some fresh air, and hopefully a hot spring or two, but no real plans beyond that. I’ve always found road trips with the loosest plans end up working out best.
As anyone out West this winter can attest, they’ve had some wild weather, and my trip certainly fell victim as well, as I caught a gnarly storm over the Sierras that dropped loads of snow in the mountains and tons of rain in the valley. The weather seemed to dictate the trip more than me. I was treated to a sunrise rainbow over the Alabama Hills, and snowed out roads at what seemed like every other turn.
Being alone, soaked by rain, and admittedly unprepared for anything that even resembled winter weather, I made it to Keough Hot Springs before deciding to reroute and head southeast to the one place where I knew it’d be dry—Death Valley. I spent the rest of the week zig zagging across the desert and hiking all the canyon trails I could find. I hadn’t necessarily started my adventure seeking isolation, but by the end I had certainly found it.
In just a few days on the road, I had experienced more geographical features and weather patterns than I ever could have imagined for such a small part of California. I left feeling like I had just barely scratched the surface, and now can’t wait to get back for more.