©Bert Gildart: Two days ago our crew joined a naturalist-conducted tour of the Furnace Creek Inn, learning about the far reaching benefits of a grand view. The view, of course, had always been a part of what is now Death Valley National Park, but shortly after one of the borax companies built a hotel located not far from Zabriske Point and from Furnace Creek, where we’re now camped, they realized that their grand effort would fail as a business if it could not preserve the incredible view. Imagine, they must have thought, what would happen if someone built a condo between the inn and the Panamint Mountains. Or imagine a clump of stores… or a mall!
They contacted Stephen Mather, Director of the National Park Service, and invited him to tour the area. Mather agreed: the area was worthy of National Park designation, but he believed he was the wrong person to push for establishment, for once he had been a spokesman for the borax company. But, still, he had a plan, and that was to invite writers with the WPA (this was the 1920s) to the area, and let them promote it. Well, promote it they did, and by the 1930s had convinced enough of the right political figures to insure designation of this vast expanse of land as Death Valley National Monument.
MARLON BRANDO’S ASHES
Soon, the area began attracting celebrities, and one of them was Marlon Brando, who directed and starred in the movie One Eyed Jack. Ironically, it’s a movie we carry with us, and it is certainly appropriate as many of the scenes were shot at Zabriske Point, one of the glorious badlands sections of this park. Brando, in fact, so loved Death Valley that he had arranged to have a portion of his ashes scattered in Death Valley after he died.
Today, the park, with its stunning scenery still serves as a magnet, particularly for those who love nature, and that certainly includes our group, which has now grown. We’ve been joined the past few days not only by the Luhrs, but by Don and Nancy Dennis, and in the past few days, have toured Ubehebe Crater and Scotty’s Castle.
PHOTOS L TO R: Exploring Golden Canyon; exploring Mosaic Canyon; Emma Luhr completing requirements for Junior Ranger Program backdropped by Scotty’s Castle. (Click on each image for larger view.)
Yesterday, we took our adventures together one step further and embarked on a hike, which started about five miles from our campground at Zabriske Point and terminated at the trailhead to Golden Canyon. The advantage of traveling with others is that we could spot vehicles at the beginning and end of the trail, which worked particularly well in our case, because our trail descended about a thousand feet. And being the smart people we all are, we naturally decided to hike down rather than up.
Golden Canyon is indeed remarkable, owing its beginning to the depositions of ancient seas. Because the Golden Canyon area is located along a fault, here, the land began to be uplifted. Subsequently, when the occasional torrents of rain fell, they began to flow, creating numerous alluvial fans we see here throughout Death Valley. But here at Golden Canyon the rains did more: they carved out several canyons and did so with spectacular results.
PHOTOS L TO R: Descending rugged slopes of Golden Canyon; descending marble crevasse in Mosaic Canyon; the raven, a constant companion in Mosaic Canyon. (Click on each image for larger view.)
One of those features is the beautiful Red Cathedral cliffs; another Manly Beacon. The Beacon is appropriately named and juts above the surrounding. Named for one of the original 49ers who helped bring assistance to his stranded group, Manly was a real hero, and deserves to be remembered in this land of grand views. But it also functions in the here and now, inspiring eight-year-old Emma Luhr to become a Junior Ranger in Death Valley.
JUNIOR RANGER PROGRAM
To do so, she has had to learn to differentiate various tracks, such as those of s raven; she’s had to learn about Scotty’s Castle. And she’s had to learn about the stars, one of the few places yet remaining in the United States in which the stars shine to brilliantly.
All this is just another component of the grand view, which farsighted people worked hard to preserve. Some may have done it more for the sake of the pragmatic than for the soul, but did it they did, and today, we are the beneficiaries. And all that because of a grand view.