On Top Of The History Of The World

There’s no substitute for getting out of a car and sitting in the raw relative ‘cool’ of 88 degrees F and contemplating the awe-inspiring (in the true sense of the term) scenery of Death Valley National Park. Above is Rainbow Canyon in the Darwin Falls Wilderness area of the park.

The evident and colorful stratification of the rocks places life within the context of millenia.

Searing heat and dizzying heights prompt innumerable thoughts on how those early settlers and explorers of the nineteenth century travelled and survived. And on how the native peoples lived here – somehow – for thousands of years before 1849.

There’s a place in the park where, when conditions are right, you can see both the highest (Mount Whitney) and lowest (Badwater) altitude points of the contiguous US territory.

Having now driven along Owens Valley with the magnificence of the Sierra Nevada range on full display (rare I think for mountain ranges normally slightly obscured and encountered gradually through a series of foothills), I can sort of understand why the 49ers thought trailing through Death Valley during winter was a more appealing alternative to crossing the high peaks.

In this landscape of extremes, everything is relative.

Mount Whitney

Lone Pine main street

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