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"Death Valley ... isn't a valley at all, but a graben - a depression that occurs between two parallel faults when the earth's convulsions force great blocks of tortured, twisted rock into mountains. Death Valley is bounded by the Amargosa and Panamint ranges, the peaks of which rise on the east to five and six thousand feet, and on the west as high as 11,000 feet. Between the two lies the collapsed sinkhole of salt, mud, gravel, sand and blast furnace temperatures that most people think is the major attraction of the California desert ..."

From "Outposts of Eden" by Page Stegner, cited in VOICES IN THE DESERT edited by Lawrence Cheek

You're looking at the foothills of the Amargosa range on the east side of Death Valley. We were perched on a vantage point just before sunrise, waiting for the sun behind us to illuminate the hills in our foreground. Just before the sun rose enough to do so, it peeked up with a pink preview and lit up the line of clouds above the mountaintops. Directly beyond the hills, and below that line of clouds, is the barren Death Valley that Stegner mentions.


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"Crumbling adobe walls and remnants of old cabins are the only remains of a town optimistically named after a famous gold center in Australia. Ballarat flourished between 1890 and the years preceding World War I as a lively supply town for prospectors working claims in the Panamint Valley region."

From the Death Valley National Park map published by the Automobile Club of Southern California

We were driving to Death Valley after having visited Joshua Tree National Park, and took a short detour to visit Ballarat. It is exactly as the map describes it - a ghost town with piles of broken-down, rusted machinery, tools, cabins, and the like. Sitting in the middle of the "town" was a rusted-out pickup truck, which I'd estimate to be late 1940's or early 1950's vintage - obviously left there after Ballarat's peak years. The driver's side window framed the nearby cabin and distant mountains in a way that captured the desolation of abandoned towns in the desert southwest.

If you are interested in excellent landscape photography, take a look at NATURE'S AMERICA which captures images from around the US, or PLATEAU LIGHT which contains images from the Arizona-Utah redrock canyon country, or ARIZONA: THE BEAUTY OF IT ALL. All are reasonably priced for photography books of this type, and you'll find them endlessly enjoyable.

Also, there are many resources on the Web concerning various aspects of landscape and environmental issues, and more. Among the more interesting ones I can suggest are the Bureau of Land Management's Visual Resource Management program, the National Park Service, and the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance.

If You'd Like To Explore Some More...

There are several nature writers whose work I really enjoy reading, including Edward Abbey, Barry Lopez, Joseph Wood Krutch, and Henry David Thoreau and Everett Ruess. To see a list of their writings, please visit the Natural Escape Writer's page, and spend some time browsing through the titles.

Entire contents of this website Copyright © 2007 Gil Gordon Associates