Posted by: George | July 21, 2010

Death Valley

July 19, 2010 (morning)

I left my hotel at about 7:20 and found a coffee shop in the next town. They had fresh pastries from a local bakery, so I bought a triple latte and two donuts and headed for Death Valley National Park.

I wasn’t prepared for the beauty of Death Valley. I thought it would be flat with nothing but sand, sage brush, and cacti.

From the west, I entered the park at about 5,000 feet. Hwy 190, the only road through the park west to east, twisted into a valley at sea level for about five miles, then it began to rise again. As the elevation increased, a sign said, “Avoid Overheated Engines/ Turn Off Air Conditioning.”

I followed instructions and was surprised that the heat was not too bad. As they say, it was a dry heat. (Huey, a friend and colleague, often says, “It’s hot in Arkansas, but it’s a wet heat.” I prefer the dry heat.) After a climb to about 5,000 feet, the road dropped into a larger valley, also at sea level. This, I believe, is the real Death Valley, the 20-mule-team Death Valley, pure desert for about 10 miles. The only animal I saw was a chipmunk (I think) that ran half way into the road, saw my car, turned around, and ran back. I thinnk I would have gone ahead and crossed the road at that point.

In the distance, I could see another mountain range, behind a heat mist. The heat flattened the mountains into light blue and grey silhouettes, one behind another, seemingly creating distance between each range. As I began to climb again and grew closer, I could see details in each mountain. Most had strata that formed when that piece of earth was flat on a sea bed. As the plates moved, pushing the rock up, the strata moved to the diagonal.

As I drove through the park, I was amazed at the variety of rocks. A geologist could probably spend an entire career studying a few hundred square yards of Death Valley.

It is a place of stark beauty. In that sense, not worthy of the name Death Valley, but it must have been a dangerous place for pioneers. The heat, the scarcity of water, the difficult of climbing out of the valley once you’re in it, all this must have made deadly.

Death Valley

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Categories

%d bloggers like this: