Star Wars Canyon Visit 2019
Star Wars Canyon
Death Valley, CA March 13th – 14th, 2019
While out at Red Flag we had planned to get a few days out at Star Wars Canyon. I had started seeing pictures more and more and couldn’t wait to get out there. It was a 3.5 hour drive from Las Vegas so we arrived right before noon. I decided to park and try out Saddles for a shooting location as the planes should be down pretty deep in the canyon.
Even in middle of March we were expecting it to be a little warmer than it was. It might have been in the low 50’s, but there was a good 10-15 mph breeze that was pretty constant. So glad I packed layers of sweatshirts, winter hats and gloves. Being from New England paid off!
Up on Saddles there were 3 photographers already there, 2 from England and 1 from Germany. They had said 5 Hornets had already come through. Right around 1pm my first hornet called in on frequency 315.9 that he was entering Jedi Transition. This was a F/A=18E from the VFA-113 Stingers based out of NAS Lemoore CA. Then we sat around for almost an hour before a 2 ship of Super Hornets called in saying they were over Panamint and entering the canyon. Night 31, two F/A-18E from the VFA-143 known as the Pukin Dogs which are based out of NAS Oceana, VA. They made 2 passes from East to West which isn’t the standard direction when flying the canyon.
It wasn’t until 3:30 till we saw out next visitor to the canyon, a Marine Hornet from VMFA-314 Black Nights based out of MCAS Miramar, CA. Then at 4:20 an E/A-18 Growler from the VX-31 Dust Devils based out of NAS China Lake, CA. That was a pretty exciting first day for me, I was like a kid in a candy store.
The next morning, I was getting a full day up there so I went to Father Crowley’s extension for 7am and did a lot of waiting around. It wasn’t until 10:07 did I hear Vampire 11 call in entering Jedi Transition. These were 2 Navy F-35C’s from the VX-9 Vampires which are based out of Edwards AFB, they are part of the F-35 Joint Operational Test Team. The first one dove over Panorama and down into the Canyon and then pulled up right in front of Father Crowley’s overlook, it was an epic flight! His wingman followed him over pano, but continued through the canyon.
At 11:30 a Growler from the Dust Devils came through the canyon. Had a big gap as they must have all been back at base for lunch as the next visitor didn’t call in till 1:10pm. This was an E Super Hornet from VFA-146 Blue Diamonds, based out of NAS Lemoore. Right behind him was 2 ship of Lemoore Echo Hornets from the VFA-113 Stingers.
At 1:50, Viper 11 called over the frequency that he was entering Jedi. This was an Aggressor from the 64th AGRS based at Nellis. I had moved over to panorama for the rest of the day and had a great view of him diving into the canyon. At 3:45, Vampire 11 called back in hot to the Canyon. Both of them came over a ridge behind Pano and then around us and into the canyon. A Super Hornet from VFA-87 Golden Warriors based out of NAS Lemoore followed the Vampire flight.
At 4:43 a F/A-18F from VFA-122 Flying Eagles came in high over pano and dove into the canyon from the North, and then came back around and came in from the South over pano and the RIO gave all the photographers a wave. Almost and hour later, at 5:30 Fury 51 flight called entering Jedi transition. This was a two ship of VFA-113 Stingers, with the flight lead being the CAG jet.
That was the end for me, a very long and fulfilling day. We stayed overnight at the Panamint Springs Resort Cabins. The food was good, but the cabins were pretty bare bones. But you were right at the foot of the canyon so when you woke up it was a 5 min trip to the top. 30 mins out there is Stovepipe Wells Hotel. This is the last place to get gas as you enter Death Valley. Place looked night and there were some awesome sand dunes across the street. That location used to be 100 ft UNDER sea level.
A sad story happened in Star Wars Canyon on Aug 1st, 2019 USN Lt Charles Z. Walker from the VFA-151 Vigilantes suffered a fatal crash just below Father Crowley overlook.