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Death Valley

November 18, 2013

in Other Travel

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People will tell you that the desert is alive–the biological life of the “crust”, the reptiles birds insects, the essential scrub and cacti.

That’s true, and I appreciate the biodiversity, but Death Valley didn’t get its name from being abundant with life. It’s a whole lot of inhospitable nothingness, which is quite beautiful in its own way.

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Over the mountains, I drop down into the valley, and the road stretches endless in the early morning light. I am immediately smitten with the monochrome wonderland and its chiaroscuro intrigues. Pictures can’t capture (or at least, I, with my limited skills and equipment cannot capture in a photograph) the beauty in such expanse. There’s nothing to focus the lens on. It’s the breadth of view, the light and shadow, the colors. The earth is a series of desiccated hues and blurred edges–gold green yellow pink white, cast under a soft blue sky.

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Cracked mud turns into crusty white salt flats where I stand 282 feet below sea level. Golden earth sprawls into green on the flat base of the valley, even as the surrounding hills and mountains are tinged with pink. A roadway called the Artist’s Palette lives up to its moniker. Thick smears of color are arrayed on the mountains: Deep brick red. Sunswept gold. A pale foamy green. Magic.

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I drive and drive and drive, admiring the view every mile I cover. The sun grows high and harsh. Now the land looks baked and beaten. Thirsty. These magnificent expanses are manageable only because we’ve invented cars and trucks to cross them so quickly and with so many supplies. Would the place seem so imbued with beauty if I were on a horse with a canteen? I believe I’d have different eyes.

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