Tim Cahill goes down Death Valley

If, in Tim Cahill’s words: “the sight of Death Valley National Park is something akin to scientific pornography for hard-rock geologists,” the piece he wrote on his travel there is soft-porn for the solitary adventure travel-writer.

Metamorphosis used to vaguely tickle my curiosity in geography class at school, but other than that, I have absolutely no interest in geology. I still managed to read Cahill’s detailed narration in National Geographic on Death Valley in one shot, without yawning.

For those of you who don’t know about Death Valley other than being a set for Star Wars, it’s a valley in California that is recognized as the lowest point of the Western Hemisphere and one of the hottest places on the planet; it covers an area of 3-million acres.

It’s called Death Valley after some explorers got lost there around 1845; although only one of them died, they all thought that it would be their grave.

What makes the place interesting other than it’s grim and forbidding name, is that it has sand-dunes as well as snow-capped mountains; multicolored rocks that move, and canyons. It is home to the Timbisha Shoshone tribe, and 1000 types of species and plants — 50 of which are not found anywhere in the world.

Cahill’s feature reads as if you were in an open museum of the Valley — he captures more than the essence of the place. So if you get a kick out of obscure geographical dwellings of our mother earth, you will love this article.

I suggest you start off by reading Cahill’s interview about the trip; then go on to the full article if it did something for you. The feature will be in print in National Geographic’s November issue.