Monday, April 07, 2008


It’s hard to get a feel for what Death Valley must have been like for pioneers. Today, we have reliable maps and roads and cars that keep us (as long as we use common sense) from putting our lives in danger. Even the die-hard runners of the Badwater 135, who rely on their feet instead of their vehicles to traverse the hostile landscape, know what they’re up against. Not so for William Lewis Manly, who instead of heading due west toward the Sierras (where he would have found plenty of water) turned southwest toward Antelope Valley. Along the way, he and his companion passed Searles Dry Lake and the Trona Pinnacles, crossed land that now belongs to the China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station, dipped into Last Chance Canyon in Red Rock park, and climbed the hills near Santa Clarita (west of Palmdale), where they finally found refuge. To be sure, this is all beautiful country – especially in the spring – but the journey was a true test of endurance. These places are constant reminders of Nature’s dominion over life – giving and taking away as she sees fit.

The Sierras (view from the east)

Lake Isabella (in the Sierras)

Searles (dry) Lake

Red Rock in spring

Joshua tree in bloom

Southern end of Last Chance Canyon

Last Chance

View from the Red Cliffs, looking south toward Antelope Valley

Antelope Valley Poppy Preserve

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