Friday, November 16, 2012

The Devil's Cornfield

Death Valley.

"The name itself evokes all that is harsh, hot and hellish in the deserts of the imagination, a punishing, barren and lifeless place of Old Testament severity. Yet it acts like a siren’s call on travelers, who find an endless geological wonderland to explore here" (

"Death Valley has an unnecessarily unsavory reputation in the United States and Canada. Fans of the valley often face laughter and derision when they mention a recent visit to their favorite place.

"Who would want to spend time in a location that has such landmarks as Badwater, the Devil's Golf Course, the Funeral Mountains, Furnace Creek, Devil's Corn Field and Dante's View?
"On the other hand, while many North Americans shun Death Valley, visitors from Europe and Asia flock to this huge national park in eastern California, because they have studied the place and have fallen in love with its other-worldly atmosphere.
"When one begins to understand the natural and human history of the place, it becomes obvious that this is indeed a gem of American geography, as well as a thoroughly weird but wonderful environment.
"Before the mid 1800s, there was no 'Dante's View,' nor was there a 'Devil's Corn Field.' These names were coined by the hustlers and con men who sought to attract visitors and investors to this burgeoning mining area.
"As little mining towns were built on the higher slopes of the Funeral, Black and Panamint mountains, the name-coiners were busy attracting rubes to invest in their low-grade and no-grade mines. Although several successful mining ventures were launched, much of the hype was bogus. And whereas a lot of Eastern and San Francisco investors lost money, this has become one of the enduring charms of Death Valley, adding a human dimension to the natural mystique" (
As the day wore on, the clouds gave way to blue sky, making the landscape seem more inviting than imposing.
When we reached The Devil's Cornfield, we first noticed the plants shown in the next two photos, which were more colorful and interesting than the main subjects of this location.

"There's not a stalk of corn in sight at this imaginatively-named spot, but we applaud the creative enthusiasm of whoever named it--and chuckle at how frequently The Devil seems to show up in a valley named death.

"The plant is called Arrowweed, even though it looks more like a small bush. This desert survivor has adapted to challenging conditions of blowing sand and soil erosion by growing in clumps. At some times of year, they look a little bit like corn shocks--or so some people say" (
I don't know if the names given to specific locations in Death Valley were meant to entice the early visitors or to challenge them, but today these names seem to be apply to different sections much like different rides in a theme park.
(But having easy the means to move out of the Valley quickly in the heat of a mid-summer's day certainly removes much of the threat of danger present in the name of Death Valley.)

No comments: