Death Valley Views

Ever since the days of my youth,  I used to imagine what the great open expanses of the wild west would look like.  (Some of my visions may have been a result of seeing too many Westerns!)  I felt the urge to visit those places some day.  I was not disappointed during the trip to Death Valley.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth

A visit to Death Valley reminds you of the complexity of the natural processes that form this Earth.  This picture of Artist’s Palette, taken as the sun was setting, shows what is possible.  You get a fusion of many different colors all in one place that is quite hard to imagine.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(According to the article in Wikipedia – These colors are caused by the oxidation of different metals (iron compounds produce red, pink and yellow, decomposition of tuff-derived mica produces green, and manganese produces purple).)

The Pleasures of Spring on the Towpath

Spring has returned with a vengeance to the C&O Canal towpath.  One’s spirits are lifted at the sight of a trail lined with flowers.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are so many different kinds spring flowers to be seen, some of which I still cannot identify in spite of all the years I have spent on the trail!

Suffice to say that a walk along the canal is the spring time can do wonders for you!

Death Valley, The White Man Cometh

Death Valley was the home to the Timbisha Shoshone group of Native Americans for a long time (about a thousand years) before the White Man made his appearance.  They called the land Tüpippüh.  It was not an easy place to live in, but the Timbisha did not think of it as a place of death.  They adapted to the region and found a way to live off the land using whatever natural resources were available in a sustainable manner.  Indeed, if you go to the desert, it is not really devoid of life.  There are hardy plants that have found a way to survive in the tough conditions, and even flowers during this spring season which has brought an excess of rain to California.

There is even flowing water in the desert (this picture is from Salt Creek)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand animal life that has found a way to survive.

One of the wonders of this desert is the endangered pupfish,

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa fish that can survive in the saline waters of Salt Creek.  You can see literally thousands of these tiny fish in the clear water.

The White Man was the one who named the place Death Valley.  Their initial passage through the desert on their way west in search of gold was not an easy one, and life in the desert has not become that much easier since then.

But the fact that the White People had such a negative impression of the place did not prevent them from eventually trying to exploit the resources of the area.  Borax, talc and silver were mined.  The Harmony Borax Works was known for their 20 mule teamsP3237975.jpgthat were used to transport the Borax out of the valley.  Development in the desert got to the point where they even built a resort (still in operation as a high-end hotel, The Inn at Furnace Creek), and a railroad line to bring people into the area.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut the only things that survive today in the desert from the non-Native American perspective are for the tourist, a tourist who is interested in experiencing the natural wonder of the place, and perhaps even learn something, while willing at the same time to tolerate the extreme weather conditions.

The only places of commercial operation remaining are at Panamint Springs, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStovepipe Wells,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA and Furnace Creek.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe once thriving mining towns are now ghost towns that are only visited by the tourists.  We went to the ghost town of Rhyolite just outside the park boundary across the state border in Nevada.

The National Park Service manages the park out of a location very close to Furnace Creek, with a Visitor Center at Furnace Creek itself.  It is good to note that the Visitor Center has been upgraded over the years to operate in an environmentally conscious manner.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Death Valley was declared a National Monument, i.e., a protected area, in 1933 and became a National Park only in 1994.  While the coming of the White Man and the mining operations in the 19th century began to change the Timbisha’s way of life, the designation of the place as a National Monument actually hastened the loss of their land.  The small numbers that remained finally ended up, unofficially, on a little patch of land near Furnace Creek for many years.  It was only in the 1980s that they finally were officially recognized as a tribe.  They continued to occupy the small space they had near Furnace Creek, but also continued to battle the federal government for more of their land in the courts. It was only in the late 1990s, well after the formation of the park, that they got additional land for their use in the park.  These days the park service has formed a partnership with the tribe when if comes to running of the park to ensure that resources within the park and the Timbisha’s traditional homeland are protected and enhanced.

You can read more about the history of the Timbisha Shoshone here or here.

The struggles of the Native Americans is an ongoing story.  Consider recent news from South Dakota.  I cannot help thinking that because of our greed we are not good at learning our lessons from history.

 

Death Valley – Shadows, Lights, Shapes and Colors

Death Valley, located in California, is the largest national park in the United States outside of the parks in Alaska.  It is an absolutely stunning place!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Atop

As a family that likes to spend time outdoors walking and hiking in the midst of nature, we frequently find ourselves atop different natural formations during many of our outings.  Here are some pictures taken during a  vacation in Scotland.  This first shot is atop a small hillock in Pentland Hills, just outside of Edinburgh.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA This cow was observing us from atop another of the hills in the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA climb up yet another of the hillsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfound us atop a peak with a cairn.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe following picture is of us atop Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASome of us feel the urge to explore any and all random hilltops that appear within our field of view. So it was that, while we were at Hushinish in the Outer Hebrides, and in the midst of gale force winds and pouring rain, the kids clambered atop a hillock that we sighted in the distance in order to see what lay beyond.  (Can you see them in the picture below?) The effort awarded them an unobstructed view of the Atlantic Ocean through the storm.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd this was the view of the North Sea from atop a cliff near the Butt of Lewis Lighthouse at the northern tip of the Outer Hebrides.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe climbed a hill behind the town of Ullapool on the western coast of mainland Scotland.  It was a long way to the top.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe got a view of Loch Achall (which had been hidden from view so far) from atop the hill.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of Loch Broom and the town of Ullapool from the hilltop.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe picture below includes The Minch, the strait that separates the mainland from the Outer Herbrides.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFinally, here is a picture of us atop a cliff at Durness, along the northern coast of mainland Scotland.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is almost always a thrill when one looks out over the distance from atop natural formations.

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Good Match

The outdoors and us!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made it to Sugarloaf Mountain once again this weekend and did roughly the same distance on the trails as last weekend.  It was quite cold this time, and quite a change after the balmy weather that we experienced during the previous hike.  Winter has returned!

See other interpretations of the theme here.