Ruminations From the Western Slope

Ruminations From the Western Slope
Colorado River near Moab, Utah

Monday, April 5, 2010


March 20 - The older I get the harder it is for me to sleep on the ground, a sobering admission from an ex-park ranger who used to be able to sleep just about anywhere. But I’ve got the car camping thing down pretty well now. I’ve got a small foam pad, my sleeping bag, and a pillow. And with the back seats folded down, I can sleep comfortably in the back of the Subaru in a diagonal, moderately fetal position. I’ve got my reading light, my books, and a few extra odds and ends. And when I shut the car doors, I also have silence. In the full-to-the-max Texas Spring campground, where every manner of thoughtless camper was staying, this was a good thing. Once inside the car, I could not hear the barking dogs, the motorcycles, or the crying kids. I got out my portable dvd player and watched an old episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000, and I was a happy camper.

Determined to get the jump on said campers and tourists, I lit out the following day at the first light of dawn for the trail head at Golden Canyon. The place really lived up to its name too as the amber light of the first official day of spring seeped down its cream-colored slopes. It was an easy walk up a rocky, shaded wash. The hills above literally glowed in the morning sun. And there were numerous little side canyons to divert my attention as well. When I emerged from the canyon about 90 minutes later, the parking lot was already full....and I had had my fill of Golden Canyon.

I wanted to see the hills of Golden Canyon from above so I took the east road past Furnace Creek Resort on up to the overlook at Zabriskie Point. From there I could see Manly Beacon and the crinkled badlands below. There I met Debra, another photography addict, who was raised in Pahrump, Nevada and we talked about digital technology for awhile and I had her take my photo at the overlook.
Later that day I took on Mosaic Canyon, a similar but less visited area near Stovepipe Wells whose marble walls have been polished by eons of flash flooding, and where varied bits and pieces of colorful stone conglomerate have formed the “mosaic” designs. Death Valley is nothing if not colorful. True, there is a decided lack of the color green but, otherwise, the ocher, maroon, lavender, vermilion, umber, saffron landscape is in constant flux as light and shadow play across its creases and folds.

For true green, one can spend some time at Furnace Creek which is where I stopped on my way back from Mosaic Canyon. The stores, resort, golf course, gas station and other developments attract hordes of tourists and today was no exception. For awhile, I found a spot beneath some huge date palms where I tried reading more of The Big Sleep but the noise of traffic and humanity was more than I could bear and I returned to my campsite.

I knew that I would be leaving Death Valley the following day and I was determined to get on the road before dawn. My goal was to be at Badwater just at sunrise to get the classic view of the sunlit Panamint Range reflected in the salty pools at the lowest spot in the continental United States. So I retired early into my little car cubicle and made ready for the final leg of my trip home.

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