InterroLoop: Day 20 – Death Valley

This is the first time I’ve done two separate posts for the same day but I think it’s warranted.  The road from Joshua Tree to Death Valley went through church-stuffed satellite towns where I discovered $3.19 for gas was cheap.  This noisy nothingness gave way to a different type of nothingness in the form of the barren ride between the two parks.  The last town before Death Valley held a gas station selling fuel for $3.75 a gallon, I scoffed.

There was no ranger station in front of the park collecting fares, only a billpost with directions and an electronic ticket machine like one’d use to get on a subway.  30 feet from either side of the road was wire post fences that were either keeping drivers in or vainly keeping the park out as its giant blankness slammed against your car, whipping you with 30-40 MPH winds that seemed to scream “leave” in a timeworn and tired voice.  The first stop was at Zibrinski point, something I’ve spelled three or four ways across various media whose apex overlooked a canyon engraved with filigree carved by a mad spirit sibilant spirit.


Zibrinki Point Pano

The pattern spoke of enigma, a pattern that held nothing, like an empty lock box that beckoned to be picked despite holding nothing.  The canyons between the fingers of windblast rock held no visible macroscopic life and the hill pattern proved almost fractal.  The above picture could have been of a glacier carved mountain valley, hardened mud about a foot print after a rainstorm or in this case the ephemeral carcass of a now-defunct borax industry.  The next stop was almost over the top holding actual sand dunes.  The US is blessed in how “alive” its deserts are, while the Sahara does hold life its diversity and visual punch is nothing compared to the blooming desert that feels almost inspiring to or inspired by American ingenuity.  Death Valley held none of this and in its vastness, one could have thought oneself in some sort of purgatory with natural gravel that stretched to the horizon.



I stopped by the second lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, Bad Water Basin, and saw the elevation counter on my GPS go to the negative hundreds.  The park was a cool 82°F even at Furnace Creek as if it’d given up warding off the living for the day.  It was about 8 PM after I finished seeing the parade of despondent ranges and ventured towards the camping areas.  The first once was at 8200′ but was closed due to the constant 35 MPH wind which to understate it, makes putting up a tent somewhat difficult.  Driving through the wind generated enough noise that I had a ringing in my ears whenever I made a stop.  The wind was hard and constant to the point that any exposed skin felt sunburnt after leaving the buffeting of the wind.  I stopped at a restroom and my legs were reddened like they’d recovered from frostbite or a slight friction burn.  The second camping area wasn’t much better, no more a camping area than a 30 foot circle with some benches where other campers clung to a canyon hill top that’d been cleared of enough space to fit 10 tents and 10 cars.  The wind was hard even here so I again moved on.

The park swallows visitors with its size that includes a howling vastness measured in the hundreds of miles.  Between lunch and nearly exiting the park I had to get fuel from one of the stations within the park boundaries where gas was a mere $4.22 a gallon, slightly more expensive than the $4.10 I saw outside of Joshua Tree.  I needed gas and was unsure of how much more park and nocturnal waste I had to cover so I bit the bullet and had what is now my record for most expensive tank of gas.  A record I hope will stand for some time.

I finally made it out of the park after following a twisted path that made me feel like I was chasing the sun.  The horizon was such that the day star perpetually appeared beyond the next hill but this illusion faded as the moon ascended into the sky.  Beyond the park, many of the roadways around ravines had no railings and I was very happy that my GPS helped me approximate the sharpness of each blind turn.  Oddly, there were periodic signs indicating cattle grazed along the road despite being 6000′ above sea level on a terrain where I can’t imagine bovine wanderers would find anything but a death wish.  I drove on.