Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Leadfield, Death Valley, California


It is often hard to discern what is before you in the desert. There is so much light that the pupils constrict and your vision becomes unreliable. I luxuriated in the southern California desert for over two years and became a devotee. One of my most consistent yearnings each springtime is to return to Death Valley for a visit and a room at the Furnace Creek Inn.

The photo above was taken in April, 2001 on my first trip to Death Valley. The area pictured is Tyson's Pass, on the northeast side of the Valley. It is high desert, dry, but green. Off in the distance and around that mountain, the elevation drops drastically to the desert floor. When you reach the basin of Death Valley you are below sea level in a serious way. I put this picture up because it is one of the most hospitable areas of the Valley. People rarely see its green and "kinder" side. Yet, even here, survival was impossible.

Tyson's pass is drop dead beautiful. The problem with these big, beautiful spaces in our country is that in order to get a shot of them you need a six-trillion dollar lens. This I do not have. So the meager shot above must suffice. And it does. It yanks me right into a deep yearning for the place and the unending narrative of the desert.

The tale of Leadfield reveals a common desert failure; the inability to grasp the excruciating heat and terrible dust of the desert environs. Also, wrapped up in this Leadfield story is the cautionary narrative about trusting your future to winning the Lottery. One who came believing in stories of fortune was, well...toast. Blind to the desert's merciless environment, the adventurer is either found crawling out on his hands and knees or dead. The dead then become part of the blowing dust of the immense, lonely place.

Death Valley provides a glimpse of an astounding natural world. There is no other place like it. You may catch the sites and feel of the desert in other parts of the USA and other countries. You can see it in the Mojave, Gobi, Sahara. But the sheer freaky, beautiful variety of the landscape of Death Valley is like no other. Knowing that I could return to the Furnace Creek Inn at high, frigging, noon and jump in the pool, made it possible to explore the gorgeous place. To me it is similar to the surprise and grandeur of the Grand Canyon (The vertical drop from Telescope Peak, highest mountain in the Valley, to the Badwater Basin is twice the depth of the Grand Canyon). But Death Valley is different from the truly, grand, Grand Canyon. It has a startling variety of landscape and it is formidable and inhospitably treacherous. These qualities add a nice edge to a trip.

4 comments:

sheigh said...

sunscreen? water? critters?

Matt said...

I felt a wave of desert ratness wash over me when I read your post. Beautifull, pass the cabo-wabo.

jamm said...

Sheigh and Matt, you know your deserts. Thanks for visiting. We must do the Valley in the springtime one year soon. Cabo Wabo. Yes!!

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