A Vivid Weekend Escape to Death Valley National Park

The largest national park in the lower 48 spans 3.4 million acres and two states, but might as well be Mars

A Vivid Weekend Escape to Death Valley National Park


Joanna Rentz


Joanna Rentz


Canon F-1 and AE-1


Kodak Portra 400 & 160

Joanna Rentz is a Los Angeles-based freelance travel, fashion, and lifestyle photographer and writer. Any time she can, she skips town to explore new terrain and camp under the stars.

We left at sunrise, the car packed with just the necessities: camping gear, cameras, coffee, and our six-month old pup, Ruby. One day prior, my partner and I realized that we hadn’t hit the road in over a month—three weeks longer than usual. The best thing about living in LA is being able to leave it often (go figure), but we had found ourselves neck deep in work, gasping for fresh air.

There are these distinctive moments when I find myself working at my computer, or mindlessly social media-ing, when an immediate need for spontaneity hits me right between the eyes—a call for nature so loud I can’t calm it. It’s in moments like these that I know I have to escape.

And so I do. There is no need for extensive planning or hauling along all of my gear. All I need is the bare minimum and the open road.

"Think of it as a little taste of Mars—desolate, vast, and dry as a bone."

Death Valley is brilliant. Beautiful. A place we escape to fromt time to time. It is a landscape so uniquely unusual that each time I visit, I experience something new. Death Valley is the largest national park in the contiguous United States, sprawled across 3.4 million acres and two states. Think of it as a little taste of Mars—desolate, vast, and dry as a bone.

On this trip our main goal was to try to catch those fleeting moments only made possible in this peculiar desert park; the way the dunes take on different forms as wind blasts endless amounts of sand; how warm orange hues beam off purple mountain ranges at sunset.

We let the wild winds push us around at the top of Ubehebe Crater, allowing our jaws to drop in awe at the purple, blue, orange, and green layers of Artist’s Drive, and savored every sip of cold beer after hiking the hot trails around Dante’s View.

I drove back that weekend tired, but also feeling accomplished, calm, and honestly happy, with a satisfied smile spread across my face. After all, my only need is the open road. And these days, there’s plenty to go around.  


Published 01-22-2019