Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Death Valley National Park

At first glance, this one seemed a bit of a dud.  That's what second glances are for.  And third glances.  The harsh, desert landscape is foreboding.  Little lives here.  What does, struggles to survive.  "It must be," said Mrs. Sarcasm, "what it's like on the moon."

And that's when it hit me.  Death Valley is beautiful.  Vast.  Awesome.

The hottest temperatures on Earth were recorded in Death Valley.  Daytime highs can reach 120 degrees in summer.  Vast salt flat, coat the lowest parts of the park, some 285 feet below sea level.  And yet, some things thrive.  April brings out the wildflowers, coating the landscape in gold, purple and white.  There is an oasis of greenery in the middle of the park.  Okay, so it's a golf resort, and they probably have a pretty high water bill.  But it's there.  And it lives.

To the north, which I didn't visit, an array of ghost towns hearkens back to the days of the gold rush, when the first settlers heading west stumbled upon this place.  Wind eroded rock forms natural bridges over canyons only accessible by foot.  What water exists is so putrid it fouls the ground.  At Badwater, the lowest point, legend has it a man led his mule to the salt flat, but upon reaching the water, the mule refused to drink.  The man insisted it wasn't the stubborn mule, it was the bad water.  The name stuck.

The harshness of the valley contrasts greatly with the rising peaks that surround it.  Snow covered mountains, as high as 11,000 feet, offer stunning vistas that reach for the stars.  Indeed, few places on land provide such unobstructed views of the heavens.

Standing at the lowest point in North America, I was, of course, humbled by my surroundings.  A sign on the mountainside marked sea level.  Most anywhere else on earth, I would be smothered by ocean.  Not here.  I was inspired.  Herewith, I offer only the second poem ever posted on Pensive Sarcasm.

Yay, tho I walk through the valley of death
I feel no tax to take a breath

Golden desert scents abound
Yet no fauna can be found

Salt adorns the ground so thick
Someone drew a great big dick


Lt. Cccyxx said...

My wife and I loved it. We hiked out onto the salt pan and then just stopped and listened to the crystals popping in the sun.

Kate said...

I totally want to go to Death Valley. When planning the rout for the 6000+ mile road trip I’m taking this summer, I asked my husband “Should we swing through death valley?” He just laughed at me. I guess 120 degrees might not be all that fun. I’ll have to try and plan a trip there sometime in the winter. Still you are making me so JEALOUS.

Matt Ryan said...

Hey Matt -

I just drove this Death Valley a week and a half ago. We must have just missed each other. I was the guy walking his vulture along the side of the highway.

Did you see the world's largest thermometer? The only dick I saw was in my car's vanity mirror.

Julie Dao said...

WOW. These are amazing pictures! I could totally see a story being set in Death Valley. Your poem nearly made me spit my drink all over the screen - brilliant!

Kathy said...

Nice pics, Matt!

How is that book I sent you?