Death Valley is truly the desert personified, an incomparable sense of space, quiet and solitude. The colors are nothing like the Utah or Arizona high desert landscape, they are there but much more muted and understated. And there are interesting things and people that are attracted to this true desert environment. I walked just a mile off the highway around some mining tailings and stopped to look and listen. The silence was complete, no cars, birds people or at that moment even the wind. It was interesting to contemplate how unusual this was and how much we are bombarded by sound in our daily lives.
“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” Aristotle
I can’t help but think that people are uncomfortable with the silence, the vast space and muted colors and feel the need to affect the environment. It is very obvious in some of the interesting things that you find in this space. People seem to want to add their own color, their own artistic style.
Everything from desert sculptures and shoe trees to a house made from bottles.
The desert attracts an interesting crowd. There is almost no middle ground, you either love it or you hate it. And there seems to be no one thing you can point to that can account for this vivid emotion. I remember years ago (before Matt was born in the early 90’s) when Calvin (my ex-husband) and I were still married and looking for a new place to land I considered applying for a transfer to Picacho State Recreation Area. We took a trip down to check out the park before applying. Picacho is located in extreme Southern California along the Colorado River accessible by a mostly unpaved 24 mile road near the Mexican border. I neglected to say that we made this trek in the middle of the summer and when we exited the truck the 120 degree heat hit like a brick wall. Picacho SRA is remote, at the time the parks electricity was proved with a large generator and the park staff lived on site in mostly mobile homes. Robin Greene was the other Ranger at the park and we spent the day touring the park with her including a boat ride down the Colorado in the Sheriff’s patrol boat. I have to admit, on arrival my first thought was “I don’t think so!”, but after spending a day and then overnight, upon waking the next morning I was officially a desert convert, even at 120 degrees it was an amazing place. Fate didn’t have the same thought back then and the seniority based transfer went to another Ranger with more seniority. I ended up later transferring as a Ranger to Millerton Lake and never got the opportunity to go back to Picacho but I firmly believe this was the beginning of my love for the desert and something that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams.” ANTOINE DE SAINT-EXUPÉRY
Death Valley is an amazing place and a place that everyone should experience in their lifetime. The unique environment is billed as the lowest, hottest and driest. In 1913 Death Valley experienced the highest temperature ever recorded on earth at 134 degrees Fahrenheit, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Death Valley was also that year at -15 degrees. Between 1931 and 1934 this area recorded only .64 inches of rain (in the entire 40 months). Truly a land of contrasts and extremes and yet a place that attracts visitors from all over the world as well as supports an incredible diversity of life and landscape.
More about Death Valley hikes in my next post!