Sharon's Summer

Sharon's Summer
Sharon Chooses High Elevation and High Temperature

Thursday, August 26, 2010


I walked into another canyon today, another mouth gaping open toward the great valley, another alluvial fan like an out-hanging tongue where deposits of river wash slope down and spread like the full skirt of a sitting woman.  But in the mouth of this canyon, I see not the dry rocks of yesterday, but rather some green things, alien to this unvegetated world.

On approach, these are not mirage, but truly green plants.  Could a summertime flow of water be feeding these trees?

Now I hear an unmistakable trickle, and soon a creek appears, water flowing in the hot, dry desert!  And to make the irony complete, I encounter a log crossing, the same kind that gave me so much trouble in the Sierras a few weeks ago.  Sorry, no ripped pants this time. 

And within this creek a strange purple growth, somehow not surprising in a creek that doesn’t belong, a creek that defies the nature of Death Valley

I follow upstream, and chuckle at calling it that, when “upstream” has always meant “up the dry, rocky bed of some past flow of water.”  And here along this creek, the lushest growth of water-loving plants imaginable.  The mesquite and cacti on these dry hills must place their faith in places like this, imagined, but never seen, a beautiful afterlife.

I come to a waterfall with a pool below it and can go upstream no further.  They call it Darwin Falls, and it’s not far from Panamint Springs—a restaurant and hotel on the west side of the valley.  It’s a rough three-mile road getting to the trailhead, and rough scramble up to the falls, but a unique place to visit if you like solitude and a break from dry desolation.

The near-full moon was high in the western sky this morning, two days after its fullness.  It brightened the drive in predawn as it will tomorrow when I drive home.  There, I will feel less aware of my own littleness, which stands out plain here where horizons spread out and roll back into enormous distance.  Here at noontime I have to go inside myself for shade, lacking any trees or even rocks to block the sun.  I could return here, to this place where people are few.  I’d come to smooth out the wrinkles in my mind created by too much civilization.  When I return home, the bright sun will brighten the tall grasses, standing upright where my feet had trodden them flat, and I’ll recover the friends I left there with an alien scent they will be curious about.

A little bit of the Grand Canyon graces the drive back to Beatty, and a lion perches on a hill; they will stay here. 

El Portal Motel in Beatty is as plush and homey as any five-star resort.  It provided for all my needs.


  1. Sharon, I am so jealous of all the things you have been seeing. Some of those places are familiar to me. I must see them again. Your prose is so clean and efficient, matched by superb photographs. Are you selling any of these to travel magazines? How do you fund your trips?
    Russell Salamon

  2. Sharon's Water

    What a thrill
    to feel the trill
    of water spill
    into the pool
    next to the hill
    I fill and fill
    my heart at will
    from your words
    and photographs until
    my dry imagining
    finds the still
    that springs
    into my mind and quill,
    quenching a desert wandering...

  3. What a delicious, and surprising ending to your journey... I love that you call it the "afterlife"... did you know this would be there... it seems a surprise to you too? What a wonderful relief... I read this one while drinking water. Your beautiful poetic prose has definitely been srongly influenced by the watery muses here, long past and present, maybe you'll smell like a sleeping lion when you're back... but we'll be so happy to see you!

  4. Russell, don’t be jealous; you have seen much and loved much; I sense it. I am not in contact with any travel magazines, but if you know any that pay big bucks, please refer them to the blog. I fund my trips with a little AutoCad work and a lot of frugal living.

    Susan, what a nice thoughtful rendering on a single rhyming. Thanks. Did you know that upon an anthill, an oil drill raised a duckbill who had freewill with all the dill and gill of krill, now quite ill upon the oil drill. I hope we have not started something.

    Kathabela, of course I read about Death Valley and all its side canyons. At least a dozen of them go unvisited. But it seems nice to end with this one, damp as it is, a kind of transition back to arid Pasadena. It was, until great flows of imported water dampened it, a very dry place. Thanks for all your comments and vivid insights.

  5. Ooo... I like the water. I would still be there soaking in it, refusing to leave!

  6. Are you a prophet? As I sit here in the motel, a strange event is taking place outside. Never in my ten days here has even a puff cloud ever come into the sky. Now, a storm cloud is dark in the east and appears to be dropping rain in the distance.

  7. I love the shot of your motel, thanks for sharing. It kind of looks like Buenos Aires :)

  8. Hehe... yes, loved that motel ending... it had a human, personal touch, the context that was the other side of the vast emtiness and occasional bloom, yet the scene of much of her everyday life, the refuge.

  9. Yes, that motel room was refuge from the afternoon heat. I could not have lived in Death Valley without such a refuge. Thank you both for granting me this little luxury.

  10. Aw.... we are so happy you had it. i think it was a necessity... more than a luxury!