Call of the Valley

Call of the Valley

How could rocks and sand and silence make us afraid and yet be so wonderful?
— Edna Brush Perkins, ‘The White Heart of Mojave’

It’s amazing how the things we resist provide us with experiences that are unparalleled and once in a lifetime. Sometimes we need to just go with the flow and stop resisting. Who knows if what awaits us is better than anything we could have ever planned.

On the last day of our trip to Las Vegas, we decided to make a stop at Death Valley National Park that borders the states of California and Las Vegas. The name Death Valley did not evoke many welcoming images in our mind. All of us were hesitant to go, even my 9 year old daughter who had impressed upon her classmates that she was going to Death Valley for spring break. Not to Grand Canyon mind you, which to her seemed a little blase, but to the dramatic sounding Death Valley!

Since we had a little time on our hands, we put our misgivings aside and started on this exciting drive, thinking that if things got too hairy we will turn back.

Arriving closer to this hottest and driest place in North America, the unsurpassable beauty of this mountainous desert valley entranced us. There was no turning back. As vehicles on the road without the license plates made us nervous, a handful of other well plated vehicles coming and going on this deserted highway emboldened us to continue on. With no cell phone connection, outside temperature at 100 degree centigrade, and not many people in sight, we were on our own. The dependence on the reliable functioning of the car was never greater.

Stopping at Zabriskie Point was breathtaking. No modern toilets and none other than tourists taking pictures could be seen.

Driving down State Route 190 took us to the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, an oasis in the desert, with beautiful palm trees and all the amenities that one would expect at a tourist center.

Despite wanting to visit the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes and Badwater Basin, the lowest point below sea-level in North America, the realization that we were at the mercy of nature and our car, made us decide to skip them and start our journey home.

This time we drove back through the 9 mile one way Artists drive that meanders through the brilliantly hued rocky formations of Artists Palette.

As our car zigzagged up and down the valley, we saw some older people bicycling away. I wondered what must be going through their minds to be riding in such an isolated place and in such an intense heat. A location where an ambulance would not be able to reach them in time should something untoward happen.

Soon we breathed an almost subconscious sign of relief as we started seeing more of the civilization and came out of the National Park. We marveled at this terrifying and exhilarating adventure we had undertaken.

An adventure, in my opinion, to one of the wonders of the world, a heaven on this earth. A place that quenched the thirst of my soul and soaked me with peace and tranquility. A heavenly place I would gladly go again. With a smile on my face.

Death Valley received its name from a party of emigrants who tried to find a shortcut from Salt Lake Cityto California in 1849. Instead, they were attacked by Paiute Indians in the bottom of Death Valley. The emigrants killed their oxen, burned their wagons to cure the meat, and headed west on foot. Thirteen died in transit, though the rest succeeded in reaching California.

Death Valley was once famous for a series of now-lost mines, and later became known for its production of borax. In 1933 Death Valley was proclaimed a national monument—nearly 1.9 million acres in California and Nevada. In 1994, it became a national park. (1)



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