Tuesday, May 4, 2010
Death Valley National Park
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.