Driving from Mt Whitney to Death Valley, the road descends onto a godforsaken landscape. It is flat, barren- carrying a false sense that it is devoid of life. If a visitor is willing to continue past this point, the desolation eventually bursts into one of the most mesmerizing places on earth. We were willing.
I never dreamt I would fall prey to the rapture of the desert. I never imagined the dryness of this place would seep into my soul, wetting an appetite for the harsh, extreme, stark beauty that exists in a Valley of Death. The road plastered to the earth stretches for miles. The asphalt runs in dips and bumps.
At times the road is completely covered. Weather compels the desert to encroach, making travel difficult or impossible. The desert wants it’s solitude back. It wants to remove the passage that allows travelers to visit. Earth piles up all around. A larger than life bulldozer pushed and pushed until towers of etched hills formed. Water and wind work to break them down. The earth wants it’s earth back. Back to the valley floor it comes in the most interesting ways.
In this dry place, water is the driving force for change. The texture, colors and depth are a whirlpool of wonder swirling- asking me to stay for days, weeks, months. There is too much to see. Too much to experience. Looking closely, the details are here and there. They are everywhere. Particularly, in the Devil’s Golf Course. In each space, around every corner, there is a whole new world. A world teaming with life found nowhere else.
Artist’s Loop creeps up. The colors are powdery pastels. Mixed with water they will paint the landscape. The loop clearly shows how water can rush in every crack and crevice or wash over everything.
Heat is the core of this place. Temperatures cook in the summer months. Volcanoes played a part in its creation. Craters remain to tell the story.
We stumble upon an unexpected surprise. Although it doesn’t always appear so, water is ever present in the desert. A castle is a fitting symbol in an oasis that provides life for anyone daring enough to travel this landscape.
We long to go in. We will have to wait. Light and warmth diminish quickly in the winter desert. Driving through the dark looking for a campsite is a daunting task. At our last stop, Zabrieski Point, where the sunset is divine we meet a couple who tells us about Tecopa Hotsprings. Tecopa will be our resting place. Camping for the night, we meet another element that drives the desert.