Each year I trek into the desert with my partner, Loretta, and our kids for week and a half of eating, soaking, and star watching in a Northern portion of Death Valley National Park called Saline Valley. This year we decided to make the already adventurous trip an even greater adventure. We decided we would get married out there, and planned/ unplanned a free form campout wedding in one of the more difficult places to get to in California. I am going to break this personal blog post into three parts: before, the day of the wedding, and after.
On a particularly magnificent hike in Saline Valley in November of 2014, we decided that after two kids and and a several year engagement, that we would have a wedding celebration there in the desert. We would invite friends and family and let the event unfold in its own way. At the core, was a desire to share the beautiful place that we love with our friends and family and to publicly affirm and declare our love. We invited who we wanted and didn’t worry so much about numbers or shoulds. When you plan a wedding in far out destination, there is a certain degree of self selection that happens. While we were stoked to be doing things the way we wanted in the place that we loved, there was some sadness knowing that some of our family members would not be able to make the journey. Our farthest guest, my good friend Sam, flew out from New York, supplied up at Walmart, and arrived in a rented sedan. He had also made our wedding rings which makes them extra special. My buddy from high school flew into San Francisco from Colorado and drove in with his dad. The road into the valley is not an easy one, and nobody arrived without a story. When people ask how long it takes to get to Saline Valley, I often say, “we don’t count the hours.”
Loretta and I started thinking seriously about our wedding attire a couple months before the date. We made a very spur of the moment stop by the shop of the talented clothing designer, Cari Borja. I had done a trade with her some years before, and finally found the perfect moment to cash in. We ended up walking out with a hooded burgundy wedding dress (which I did the alterations on) and a fleece polka dotted coat. A few days before we left, I picked through my closet and found my finest polyester suit, vintage tuxedo shirt, bow tie, and well worn cowboy boots. Loretta outfitted the kids with some awesome hand-me-downs.
Flowers were put together by friends and family from borrowed and found botanicals.
Photography was pieced together from friends and family and myself. The majority of the wedding day images were created by my good friend and super talented photographer, Hardy Wilson. His buddy Noel Spirandelli got some great shots as well.
We sourced vintage cloth napkins from ebay and local thrift stores which we had screen printed with designs created by our kids. We gave these napkins out as gifts to our guests.
Cooking in two pressure cookers with a recipe I created from several different sources, I made 30 plus pounds of carnitas before we left Oakland. I packed the cooked meat in empty yogurt containers and froze it. Loretta’s sister and boyfriend brought the carnitas along with a fire pit, some boxes of wood, and a case of wine.
We got a late start on Sunday, November 15th. We had been packing, cooking, and preparing for our adventure for some time, but I had shot a wedding the day before and was moving slowly on Sunday morning, and it always takes longer than you think to get totally packed and out of the house for a big trip. We left in the late afternoon and I drove until about 2:30 in the morning. We talked about ideas of marriage, ceremony, and life, as our kids slept in the back of the van, lightning lit up the sky, and the wind howled outside. We stopped for a bit of sleep at a motel in Olancha, and met up with our friends Carli and Mark had left the Bay Area a few hours before us and were already there. We woke, ate some greasy diner food and began our journey into Saline Valley. It was windy and cold.
We arrived at the hot springs on Monday afternoon. I obsessed about where the van should be parked, where people would camp, and what the layout of the space should look like. The wind was still blowing which didn’t help things, but eventually we got situated and unpacked and set up camp. Thankfully the wind stopped within a day of our arrival and the weather stayed beautiful for nearly the entire remainder of our trip. We quickly settled into a routine of eating, soaking, and kid wrangling. A steady stream of friends and family trickled in each day. On Thursday night, my buddy Sam made an epic and bottomless pot of soup which fed everyone in camp and each new arrival. On Friday night we made 17 pizzas. Loretta’s sister, Julia, brought our dog Winnie. She is a desert veteran, but we have left her at home for the last couple of years because the terrain is so rough on her paws.