DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CALIF.
Silence and stillness settled over the deep, sunbaked gorge as a pair of photographers sat on a cliff, waiting.
Then the rumbling started. As it grew louder, they scrambled into position.
Within seconds, a thunderous roar reverberated from the steep, narrow canyon as an F-18 fighter jet streaked through it, passing beneath their feet. It came so close they could see the pilots' expressions.
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This deafening show that was over in a flash is a fairly common sight at Death Valley National Park, 260 miles (415 kilometers) east of Los Angeles, where U.S. and foreign militaries train pilots and test jets in the gorge nicknamed Star Wars Canyon.
Photographers — some capturing images for work, others for fun — along with aviation enthusiasts and others have been traipsing to the remote 4,688-square-mile (12,142-square-kilometer) park in growing numbers to see the jets soaring below the rim of what's officially called Rainbow Canyon, near the park's western entrance.
It earned its nickname because its mineral-rich soil and rocky walls in shades of red, gray and pink draw to mind a landscape in a galaxy far, far away — Tatooine, the home planet of "Star Wars" character Luke Skywalker.
The unusually close-up view of military planes zooming through the craggy gorge has become so popular the National Park Service is considering making it an attraction, with informational signs about the training that dates back to World War II.
Park Service officials recently discussed erecting signs and possibly paving a spot for cars because so many people are driving to the canyon to see the training, park spokeswoman Abby Wines said.