Friday, June 21, 2024

Death Valley Adventure - Day 3 - Desolation Canyon, Bantha and a Thanksgiving Feast

[Composed 11/23/2023]

From Dante's View we made our way back to valley floor and ultimately to Desolation Canyon. Here, we hiked about about 1.25 miles in until we hit an obstacle we couldn't conquer. Compared to Sidewinder Canyon from the day before, Desolation Canyon starts off much narrower and very much lives up to its name.

The main obstacles in Desolation Canyon are a series of dryfalls. A dryfall is, as the name suggests, a waterfall minus the water. It's like someone has turned off the spigot to your favorite creek, revealing polished rock smoothed by years of running water. It's hard to imagine such an effect would be possible in the middle of the desert, but that's the contradiction that is Death Valley. There's both a lack of, and a landscape shaped by, water.

Continuing on the Star Wars theme from yesterday, Desolation Canyon was used to film scenes involving the Sandpeople and their Bantha. You can watch of these scenes here.

Apparently, these shots supplement scenes captured in Tunisia. Why not shoot the whole thing in Tunisia? One guess is that it was easier to schlep the star of the show, Mardji from her home in Redwood, California to Death Valley rather than to Africa. Mardji is the Asian Elephant who wore a furry costume and head piece to transform herself into a Bantha. In the scene linked above, there are two Bantha shown, but that was some special effects trickery: they only had a single elephant on site. Surely these days this effect would have been computer generated, but back in the 1970's an elephant in costume was how you made movie magic. Knowing how this effect was accomplished, has only increased my appreciation for that scene and the cleverness of those who worked on the original Star Wars.

After Desolation Canyon we made our way to Natural Bridge, a short hike that takes you under a massive rock formation. The hike starts as a slog up loose, rocky debris, but the pay off of the natural bridge is more than worth it. There also a number of obvious dryfalls here, an effect that continues to blow my mind.

At one point we saw a tiny song bird perched in the shade. I was so excited to see any sign of life that I shot photos of that bird like it was an exotic species.

After Natural Bridge, we turned our attention to dinner. Today was Thanksgiving, so naturally Shira and I were excited to celebrate. For most Americans, this means sitting around a large table with family and friends feasting on Turkey. Over the years, we've fine tuned our own alternative tradition. For us, Thanksgiving is punctuated by a romantic dinner for two, with the main course being hot dogs. Throughout the years it's a been a special pleasure to find hot dogs and romance in the most unlikely of locales. You can then imagine that for us, Death Valley is pretty much the perfect Thanksgiving location.

Prep for tonight's dinner started when we landed in Las Vegas at the start of our trip. Along with other food, we picked up hot dogs, buns, mustard and pickles. We also grabbed a couple cans of sterno and a metal cooling rack, hoping we could improvise a barbeque. We had success cooking over sterno in Puerto Rico, and have since experimented with cooking over tea lights (spoiler alert: this method works!). But wait, there's more: we also picked up a couple of shelf-stable boxed pies. I know what you're thinking, surely these pies were a bad idea. But in fact, they were perfect! Not only are they marked Kosher, but they are also pareve (meaning, they have no dairy in them and can be eaten with a meat meal, like hot dogs). And while it's true that their caloric density is insane (420 calories for a pie), given the amount of hiking we were doing this trip, this calorie count worked in our favor. Finally, there's the taste. I don't know what chemistry is used to create these pies; but they tasted delicious.

After hiking Natural Bridge, we cruised around a bit, looking for the perfect Thanksgiving picnic location. Once found, I grabbed some rocks to support the cooling rack and put a can of sterno underneath. I lit the sterno and we put the dogs on our make-shift grill. Shira carefully tended the hots until they were cooked to perfection. As I munched away on a perfectly topped hot dog, with apple pie queued up for desert, surrounded by stunning views, the setting sun, and an amazing life partner who I'm deeply in love with, I felt a resounding sense of gratitude. What a pleasure it was to be alive at that very moment. Thanksgiving was a success!

No comments:

Post a Comment