Thursday, November 3, 2011

Death Valley

After braving the narrow, winding side roads to get into Death Valley, I finally began a steep descent into Stovepipe Wells, a tiny community on approximately sea level. I believe the road (including side roads) begins at over 4,000 feet. It's not toe curling or dangerous in any way, it just goes down for a very long time. The scale of the landscape is such that the descent seems deceptively small, but by jolly you're going DOWN, boy.

I stopped at Stovepipe for a breather and to buy a sandwich. Sandwich purchased I went to the back of the building to stuff face in the shade, at one of the tables there. As I sat idly munching my roastbeef, two fuckin huge, black birds came swooping down. One of them gave me an interested look and began jumping straight towards me in that eerily determined way birds have. It stopped very close to the table and fixed me with a look that said "food or your eyeballs, please". I was almost finished with my sandwich, so I tore off a bit of crust and threw it on the floor. Gulp. Gone. I gave it another bit of crust. That too was gone almost before it hit the ground.

The bird then jumped up on the table. I looked into its dark eyes and saw only cold, lethal determination. The only other tourist in the place had gotten up and was taking fuckin' photos of the whole situation, probably hoping for blood. Headlines like "Local man takes pictures of birds devouring Norwegian tourist" began forming in my mind. I meekly surrendered the last of my roastbeef by throwing it on the ground and the bird, mercifully, jumped off the table and ate it.

Having established that I was no longer in possession of any food and probably calculating that its cholesterol levels would skyrocket if it ate me, the bird then did two amazing things. First, it seemed to share some of the slightly digested food with its mate - beak in beak. Then it proceeded to wipe its beak off against the edge of the table. Possibly it was sharpening the beak in preparation for the next tourist. It was a fascinating display of birdly cunning. By this time an elderly, American couple had arrived and was taking photos, so I took the opportunity to leave. I fully expect to read about their disappearance in the local newpaper Thursday.

All Death Valley pics here.

The birds. I dunno what type they are. Crows? Ravens? Mafia?

The Mesquite sand dunes lie just beyond Stovepipe.

In B & W.

A place on the way called Mustard Creek, probably on account of the color of the rock.

Badwater Basin is the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, at 85.5 meters below sea level. Also, I suspect, one of the most tourist-infected. I heard several languages spoken while there, but mercifully neither Kraut, nor Frog.

Flat, white, lonely and lifeless. Kinda like Paris Hilton.

In B & W. The highest of the mountains on the left is Telescope Peak, which rises over 11,000 feet. Contrasts!

There's a small pool by the shore, where tiny life forms exist, such as a snail. How thoroughly boring.

This small sign, hammered in way the fuck up on the mountainside says "sea level".

View from Artists Drive, a small one-way detour on the way back from Badwater.

Zabriskie Point, used as cover photo for U2's Joshua Tree. I just read the album entry on wiki and found out they were never IN Joshua Tree, the tree on the album cover was found in Mojave. I feel so cheated and dirty now.




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