Darwin Falls, Followed By A Trip To Vegas and Some Good News (Part 1 of 2)

Panamint Springs in on the SouthWest corner of Death Valley, where it's much more mountainous. We arrived late in the evening, to Panamint Springs Resort and discovered immediately that the wi-fi was once again going to be spotty. To make matters worse, I was going to be waking RR up early the next morning for a trek to Darwin Falls.

(A quick aside - I want to be clear that spotty wi-fi in Death Valley is really an infrastructure issue - I cannot fault the lodgings, which were uniformly excellent. Panamint Springs Resort in particular had great food and a comfortable room, as well as efficient, courteous staff.)

We had to share a bed that night, unfortunately. Renee didn't seem too put out, but I was still self-conscious about the snoring. I hit the sheets as soon as supper was over, while Renee, once again, was forced to stay awake for hours working online, at the mercy of the wi-fi. 

As I drifted off to sleep, I felt a nudge. "You're snoring." Renee said. "Already? I thought I was still kind of awake!" "Nope."

I rolled only my side and tried again. Renee sat cross-legged on her side of the bed, with her back to me, anxiously rocking back and forth as she tapped away on her laptop. Every once in a while, the rocking would stop and I would snap awake to see Renee peering back at me. After about the third time she asked, "Are you staring at me?" 

"No!" I responded. "It's just that I wake up every time you stop rocking!"

I rolled on my other side to give her more privacy and fell asleep. A couple times in the night, I felt a tap on the palm of my hand and changed sleeping position.


Darwin Falls is the only waterfall in Death Valley. It's a small waterfall, only about twenty or thirty feet high, fed by a spring. There is a pool at the base of the rock face, which then becomes a small stream. A short drive from Panamint Springs hotel followed by a long drive on a miserably rocky secondary road takes you to the stream, and you follow it back a couple kilometres over unfriendly terrain until you reach the falls. 

Since I wanted to photograph RR nude under the falls, I decided the best thing to do would be to wake up at about 6AM and try to arrive there about 7, before other tourists arrived. 

After a couple wrong turns, we found the falls and were struck by their quiet beauty, so out of place with the surroundings. We were the only ones there and hadn't seen or heard anyone else behind us on the trail. The photos of the falls I'd seen online had nothing to give them scale, and I was worried they either be so big as to be dangerous, or so small as to have a 'Charlie Brown's Christmas tree' kind of droopy quality. l was pleased to see that the pool was about the perfect size for what I had in mind. 

2013 Feb 19 DMCPhoto 2294

I set up my tripod and placed a Promaster Variable Neutral Density filter on my lens so I could make exposures of a few seconds - I wanted to get a silky flowing quality in the water. The plan was to have Renee swim across the small pool to a rock where the falls fell and split. 

"That water looks cold," Renee said. I agreed that it would likely be pretty chilly, considering it was the 'cold' season in Death Valley and the sun had only just come up.

She continued to eye the pool with trepidation, so it seemed a gesture of some sort was warranted - I decided that after I was finished shooting her, I would get in for a swim. Then it occurred to me the idea was ridiculous - if the water was that cold, why should she have to stand around shivering while I proved a point? Instead, I would take a dip right away.

I told Renee what I had in mind and started stripping off. "If you want to have a good look at The L'il Wolfman, now's your chance," I said.

"No, that's all right," she replied as she turned away from me.

My first step into the pool brought home just how much I had overestimated the temperature. Knowing I couldn't back out, I plunged in and realized that the temperature went past 'brisk' and straight into 'holy fuck' and from there right into potentially lethal. 

"Haaaarent y-hhh gonna tay a pihhhhhchaaaa?" I asked in the voice of a medieval castrati. Renee popped out her smartphone and took a quick snap, which I've never actually seen. Probably in everyone's interest. She went back to not looking as I climbed out and towelled off. Thankfully, my body is a miracle of thermodynamics - I can roast a leg of lamb just by shoving it under my t-shirt on a good day. As soon as my clothes were back on, I warmed up quickly. However, I knew a long, playful session was out of the question. I had to get my shots quick. 

Renee stripped down to jean shorts and hopped in. For the sake of brevity, I present the following short video:

Ummm, she is a bit of a potty mouth.

After she hopped out, I wrapped a towel and a blanket around her, then gave her a bear hug for about a minute - not a gesture of affection (although I do certainly think RR is just the bee's knees) I just wanted to help her warm up. Even an hour later, she was shivery.

Unfortunately, Renee's veiled threats aside, I didn't get much useable from the expedition, although I take it as a given that if I were to return during a warmer time of the year, there is a lovely slice of photographic fried gold to be had at Darwin Falls.

All images under copyright.