2009: Death Valley Book Of Knowledge

This is the definitive resource for Death Valley National Park knowledge, everything from 1.8 billion years ago to the future, at your fingertips. It’s the new authority!

720 page knowledge resource

From time immemorial to the  future ahead,  the eclectic cast of a sweeping Death Valley saga takes center stage. A widespread encyclopedia of 1,149 entries, and 28 collateral chapters, reveal countless distinctive aspects of this wild world that ever perpetuate Death Valley National Park’s inimitable legacy. Here is exposed the heart and soul of our lowest, hottest, driest, and most feared National Treasure!

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Prior to the existence of the human species, through periods of incomprehensible time, the stage was being sculpted from the raw materials of this fiery planet. As one might expect in preparation for a live theater performance, the scenery was being set, the props placed, and the lights prepared. As if directed by an unseen producer, multiple permutations were tried, adjustments made, and conditions perfected in readiness for the actors, or in this case, the creatures and people who were to eventually inherit the tormented landscape. Although popularly referred to as Death Valley, the human naming of this grand theater begins to pale and lose its sting as we lose ourselves in the magnificence of the setting. While still undergoing revision to suit the geologic forces at play in the wings, our stage now appears deceptively stable, enough so that we come here, contribute our own diminutive parts of the performance, and move on.

The human cast in this notable drama has been impressive, existing through several key scene changes that have occurred at a pace so leisurely as to be imperceptible by the players themselves. Only looking back on acts long since finished can we write of the dynamic setting. It is then that we realize the lakes of the valley have been replaced by an extensive desert expanse, the air of the sky has warmed, and the flowing rivers have moved underground. During this time, the troupe has grown in size, joined by new participants late in the performance. The original company spent thousands of years here, well versed in their roles with the land, and then when some wagons rolled in from stage left, with people reading from another script, the plot thickened and headed off in new directions.

The drama was entering a time of intense diversification, as the new actors, unfamiliar with the elements of the stage, often faltered. These troubles brought a state of disrepute upon the  theater, as the newcomers spoke of the heat from the severe overhead lighting that interfered with their intended goals. While the first inhabitants of this stage were content to work and play harmoniously within the parameters of the setting with modest demands, the greenhorns sought to receive hefty payments for their labors, and advertised heavily to attract large audiences. Their experiences were promoted and publicized so well that these more recent acts have often overshadowed the direction of the original presentation.

A tiny band of desperate and lost gold nugget seekers from the East are credited with initiating the conversion of script, followed by the likes of a visionary entrepreneur from the financial hub of San Francisco, a shifty and unprincipled conman from Kentucky, and a rugged sheriff who walked barefoot through broken whiskey bottles to capture a criminal. They played out portions of their life dramas in this unique region many now call Death Valley, and in so doing, unwittingly provided more legendary spark for the territory’s ambiance than anyone could ever foretell.

Hidden amongst these true accounts of this wild and woolly stage, we also stumble across incredulous dusty legends, those tall tales that serve to complete our expected visions of the Old West. Leading the pack is the legendary story of an intrepid man on stilts in a poisonous chasm of bleached bones, who single handedly cleared out stagnant lethal gases and opened up this supposedly deadly place for others to visit. Historical tales of all types provide a vast and fertile soil, in which we cultivate for future generations the seeds of a colossal enduring epic, saturated with enigmatic appeal.

This sweeping saga of the Death Valley frontier during times gone by has provided more curious exhilaration than even the finest of fiction novels could possibly dream, and true historical drama is one of the foremost draws to this alluring region. Even though the need to separate fact from fantasy becomes necessary at times, it only serves to whet our appetites further. While much of historical lore centers around the adventurous prospectors and promoters who sought riches here, earlier people have existed in this primordial territory up to ten thousand years prior, living on and with this natural world in ways far different than their commonly known followers. Clearly, how humans have interacted with this land has always provided a certain inescapable lure.

Yet of course, there is much more to the inimitable Death Valley territory than what we mere humans have done on this stage for a very short period of time. Geology and the peculiar landscapes are the backdrops, providing additional magnetism for the hundreds of thousands of yearly explorers who now travel the region. Moving boulders on a dry lakebed, huge holes in stone cliff spires, deep shaded canyons amid perpetual sunlit desert, beautiful waterfalls, colossal craters hidden until upon them, and ancient forests on soaring skybound peaks are among the appealing scenic enticements that beckon us. The multifaceted flavors of this wild place provide a virtual feast that is eagerly devoured by our caged urban minds, allowing us to relive the excitement of divergent nomads in a very wild world, while escaping the bonds of our own more mundane existence.

There are many reasons why folks continue to flock to Death Valley National Park, and the objective of the Death Valley Book Of Knowledge is to assist all who visit here with their understanding of what makes this an extraordinarily wild retreat, one worthy of its ample governmental shelter. Understanding the manifold geographic, climatic, and historic characteristics of this distinctive realm will undoubtedly assist in creating a dramatic vision in our mind’s eye. Consider the pages that follow as program notes.

During the course of creating this manuscript, the objective has been to examine as many diverse aspects of the vast Death Valley territory as could possibly be imagined. Thousands of pages have been written by numerous authors about this land and its history over the years, more than most folks would be inclined to read. By distilling the story into its essential elements, perhaps this volume will provide a ready access portal through which the curious may pass on their journey to greater enlightenment. The core focus remains on those characteristics that seem to present the greatest appeal to the majority of area enthusiasts.

Being a professional educator in a former life, I firmly believe that learning should be engaging and diverse. In addition to the basic pragmatism of science and history, there exists an affective tone on occasion, painting an ambiance of feeling that transcends the rudimentary interpretation of knowledge. These are not hard indisputable facts, but rather states of mind that flow from the drama of the stage. Consider this a new breed of encyclopedia and anthology, one where the customary rituals of staid formality have been dispatched, in exchange for a relaxing measure of personal service, where knowledge is supplemented with philosophy.

First and foremost, this is a broad-based resource book, one that can be read as personally desired, and need not be experienced sequentially. The encyclopedia section is alphabetized for easy reference as wanted, and the anthology portions consist of self-contained chapters, which may be read in any order. The manuscript is divided into the following five sections:

1) Wisdom Of The Sages

(six introductory chapters to set the scene)

2) Of Mountains, Mysteries, Mules & Men

(1149  alphabetized encyclopedia entries)

3) Journeys Through Time And Place

(fourteen chapters of diverse regional topics)

4) Poison Gas And Wagon Trains

(four chapters written from 1890 to 1939)

5) On Trails Of Legend & Adventure

(four guide chapters to assist territorial travelers)

The Death Valley Book Of Knowledge is essentially a plainspoken and unpretentious project, designed to offer area enthusiasts a convenient, straightforward, and easy means to access notably diverse information. This is a passionate endeavor to share a profound personal enthusiasm for this amazing and distinguished land, so that we may all begin, or continue renewed, a lifetime of exploration here.

The Death Valley territory defines an enormous world, both in geographical size and intellectual understanding. It clearly does not fit into one book. What we have in these pages is perhaps similar to a few flecks of intriguing surface ore, indicative of the greater bonanza that is ours for the taking. Consider this volume a catalyst, nuggets that lure us to prospect yet deeper into the vast historical gold mine of a truly legendary land.

Here the journey begins. Where it ends is up to you!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Steve Greene first ventured into Death Valley in 1955, at the young age of four, with his parents Bob and Joan, and his little sister Willow, who was only two. Prior to Steve’s birth, his father and mother visited Death Valley in 1947 on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, staying the first night in Death Valley Junction, where they were issued a candle at the motel due to an electrical outage in the tiny community.

A love affair with this strangely alluring land grew in Steve through the years of continued family visits, where camping outdoors at Furnace Creek was common. As happens with many who travel into the mysterious Death Valley region, Steve has repeatedly returned throughout his life, to a landscape that forever sings to his spirit. In elementary school, Steve did reports about the mining and geology of the area, and built a plastic scale model of the twenty mule team. In high school, his parents bought him a large painting of the team for his bedroom wall.

He is noted for his countless backcountry expeditions into the remote hinterlands of Death Valley National Monument and Park, beginning on his own in 1975 when he purchased a CJ-5 Jeep and would lead friends into the wild country. His groups would probe the most secret corners, always seeking out the areas rarely visited by the crowds, hiking when the roads stopped. In more recent times, Steve has been found on Death Valley’s dirt backroads in his Xterra backcountry exploration vehicle, blissfully roaming solo through the land that has become an inseparable part of his spirit. He always takes to foot travel whenever the opportunity presents itself, being a devoted long-distance hiker since his earliest years.

Ever continuing to define his environmental sustainability paradigm, Steve maintains a commitment to lessen his carbon footprint on the planet he loves to explore. A naturalist at heart, his current directions include the development of a unique human energy exploration vehicle that emits no pollutants and increases driver physical fitness levels, while allowing the practical mobility to move freely among the wild places.

Originally from southern California, on the cusp of the mighty Mojave Desert, he spent the first thirty-one years of his life in close proximity to the Death Valley territory. Later, he moved up to the towering San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado, living in small rural towns hidden in deep forests 9,000 feet above sea level. There, he continued his explorations on the historic mining roads and trails of majestic Rocky Mountain peaks. Currently, Steve finds his peace at home in the northwest rural setting of Oregon’s coastal woods. His yearly visits to his mother’s house near Death Valley keep him in touch with this piece of his past. He is a man forever wild.

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If you enjoy Death Valley National Park, you may also enjoy reading The Death Valley Journal website. Click HERE to visit it.

Steve’s Amazon Author’s Page – click HERE.

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