When Tom does his underground tours, he asks his groups what they saw on the way to Scotty’s Castle. The most common answer, one he gets 80% of the time, is “nothing.” If he pushes them, then they might say that they saw rocks. I recently went through the Jr. Ranger activities with a little boy and we talked about the page where they do the “leave no trace” activity. It has three questions: “What would happen if everyone picked a flower?” The little boy told me all the flowers would be gone. “What would happen if everyone fed an animal?” The little boy told me the animals would still be dangerous but they wouldn’t be wild. “What would happen if everyone picked up a rock?” The little boy looked at me and said, “I know the answer is they would all be gone, but I think here there are enough rocks here for everyone!”
When people see Death Valley, especially if they are only staying a day or two, they might think they haven’t seen much of anything. Salt flats, mountains, and lots and lots of rocks.
Now that Tom and I have been in Death Valley for almost two months, we are amazed and surprised by the people who think there isn’t anything to see here. Sure, there are lots and lots of rocks, but did you notice they are twenty different colors? Yes there are miles of salt flats – did you see the patterns the salt crystals make in the different places depending on the type of soil? There is a long, deep valley – did you see all the tiny wildflowers giving everything a yellow or purple tint right now?
The beauty of Death Valley is in its vastness. When you look across the valley floor, you can see sixty to eighty miles in many places. Just by climbing to the top of any ridge or hill or mountain, you get a view that takes your breath away. Looking out from our front door, we can see the snow-covered mountains that are forty miles across the valley. I can’t count the number of times Tom has pulled the car over so we can look at the view. It changes around every corner and impresses us anew.
The beauty of Death Valley is also in the details. Fall Canyon is completely different from Titus Canyon even though it is the next canyon over and in the same mountain range. Tin Mountain looks completely different in the sunset than Telescope Mountain even though both are landmarks in the park. You have to get out of the car – get up close and personal – to see the delicate wildflowers that are blooming. You are just too far away on the road.
Death Valley is a place of great beauty and infinite contrasts. I am so glad that Tom and I have had the chance to sojourn here long enough to see the view and the details. There are plenty of rocks here – and so much more.