Death Valley, California, is a desert as stark and intense as death itself. Vast and seemingly unending, it consists of earthy plains stretching out to meet sweeping mountains that are equally dry and stony (although wearing pretty snow caps in winter). “Beautiful” seems like the last word that might be considered on reading this description but it is the first word that pops up in one’s mind standing in the middle of Death Valley. However, one must not visit it in peak summer to avoid being barbequed since it boasts of the highest temperatures in the USA and for some years, even the world!
Death Valley entertains its visitors sufficiently, with many famous spots to see. Racetrack Playa is a sand-colored, dry, cracked lake-bed with large rocks on it that leave visible tracks making it seem that they are pushing forward through the earth when no one is looking! The way to Titus Canyon starts as every adventure lover’s dream by offering the chance to drive up its mountains in rattling jeeps over gravel complete with sharp turns, plunging deep rocky valleys and no protective road barriers at all. Then comes the fascinating ride through the actual Canyon, squeezing through extremely narrow rock walls rising on either side. Artist’s palette with reds, blues, greens, yellows, violets – all of them vibrant colors of just rocks – is visually stunning. Badwater Basin consists of a wide, flat expanse of salt residue and is the lowest place in North America. Dante’s view is the best view from very high up in the Black Mountains overlooking Death Valley. Badwater Basin looks like a gigantic white lake spread out below from this point.
A vast playground for nature’s elements of wind and water to play in, Death Valley’s simplistic beauty sets your sights free. People like us living in cities are used to having buildings, trees, hoardings, vehicles block their views constantly. The fact that there is nothing of those usual large objects between us and that natural landscape in Death Valley is liberating. Not even a normal green tree disturbs the raw, barren image in front of you. This contrasting huge, enveloping sense of space would make one claustrophobic on returning home to the city. All around is pure earth in its natural form proudly displaying different shapes and vivid colors. No lush greenery, no colorful flowers, no blue waters; Death Valley dazzles despite their absence.
And the silence. Ah, the silence. When you go there, take a moment and stand someplace where there are no human visitors and no tourist vehicles.
Listen to Death Valley.
What do you hear?
…what you usually expect to hear from nature: birds chirping? Water flowing? Tree branches rustling?
…the Sound of Silence!
It is calming and a bit unnerving at the same time. What an itty-bitty dot you are in this overwhelming universe around you, surrounded by people and noise in life but loneliness and silence in death!
Death Valley can be a spiritual experience indeed.
(For more beautiful photos from this place, please visit my husband’s post on Death Valley at ‘Myriad Moods’. )