Wednesday, April 17, 2019

A Salty Sad Story and the Threat of Extinction

On our 4th and last day visiting Death Valley, CA our only goal was to drive the 27 mile one way trip through Titus Canyon and to visit the abandoned Ghost Town of Leadfield near the middle of the route.
We saw this beautiful rock formation
right before the heavy driving began
The sign at the beginning of Titus Canyon Road
Mostly scary warnings

If you find yourself in Death Valley you must do this drive. If you visit the canyon from the valley side you will miss the best part of it.

The drive that began with a winding road perched precariously on the ledges of steep mountains tested my driving skills but our trusty 2005 Jeep Wrangler who I lovingly call "Felipe the Jeep" did a great job. My husband in the passenger side faired well also even though it was hard for him to not be at the wheel and to trust his wife to stay on the narrow and rocky roads.
The Leadfield sign, a sad warning to the gullible,
who seeks fast and easy money.
The view of Leadfield from the opposing hillside

The colorful view west and just left of center is the slot
path out of the canyon
The colorful view east of the mountain ledges we had
arrived on

Looking through the canyon, this picture does
no justice, the walls were hundreds of feet high

Even though we took our time and enjoyed every minute of the drive it ended all too soon and we were left with several hours of daylight to burn up.

It was shortly after lunch time and we were hungry so we decided to find a place to eat some dehydrated food in our JetBoil. Remembering that Mesquite Springs was a dozen miles up the road to the right, we set our sights on lunch on a picnic table in this popular camp site.

Upon our arrival we discovered that this particular area of the park was closed for some unknown reason. We weren't sure if it was a result of the 2015 flood that nearly destroyed the area around Scotty's Castle or something else but there we were, hungry and looking for a place to cook in Death Valley.

There was a ranger station up the road a bit and even though there weren't any picnic tables, there was a nice cool ledge for me to cook on and to sit in the cool dry breeze and eat.
My husband Jim enjoying my cooking
At the ranger station we read how the flood closed the castle and the rules of the park which we probably should have read before we entered but more importantly I found a park guide book.

We were excited to see that we had checked off nearly every sightseeing location along the east side of Death Valley except a small attraction called "Salt Creek" which promises a 1/2 mile flat walk where you can witness the rare Pupfish that only exist in two locations in Death Valley and no other place on earth.

No other fish can live in the conditions that this eco system provides. Pupfish can live in water that is four times more salty than the ocean and can live in water up to 116 degrees Fahrenheit.

Here is a Wikipedia Link if you'd like to find out more about these rare little fish.

I was excited to go especially since I found out it was spawning season. The male Pupfish take on a blue and golden color during the season and it promised to be a sight to see.

The Pupfish are listed as ENDANGERED and if you combine the two areas of Death Valley that they live in, they would be considered CRITICALLY ENDANGERED.

Upon our arrival, we found several signs telling tourists to stay on the boardwalk and observe from a safe distance to not disturb the delicate ecosystem of the creek but only a few dozen feet onto the boardwalk we saw this sight.


I became more and more outraged as I neared this atrocity.

A family of five had decided to leave the boardwalk, remove their shoes and the parents allowed their children to wade, frolic and splash in this delicate ecosystem.

It was sad to watch as nearly a dozen other tourists simply walked by and said nothing while this family negligently harmed this area.

My husband knew I was outraged and my mind ticked as I wondered what to do about this situation.

From the distance you see in the picture above, I yelled out to the family, "We are expected to stay on the boardwalk for the protection of this ecosystem!"

Immediately, the father yelled back, "OK! Kids, get out of the water, come on, back to the boardwalk."

I took this picture and waited to make sure they left the water. As I walked by I thanked the father and he responded, "Sure, no problem."

We went on to enjoy the walk and since the family did not catch up to us on the walk, I assume that they left the area.

There were several things wrong with what happened here and I hope you will realize the damage we can do with our negligence and ego.

1.  Did these people have bug spray on their bodies that could have effected the water they entered?

2.  More than likely, these parents had applied sunscreen to their children or themselves that could have altered or poisoned the ecosystem.

3.  Even if you have soap film or lotion on your body, these toxins can seep into the ecosystem unknowingly.

4.  If you have walked in other areas of the park and picked up pollen, seeds, larvae, etc. you could unwittingly deposit them into this delicate system that has flora and fauna specifically adapted to the life that exists here now.

5.  No one said anything till I came along and told these people to comply with the rules. This does not have to lead to anger. If you simply state fact, without emotion, you will get a positive result.  We all have a responsibility to take care of our world and the risk is worth the reward.

6.  Leave No Trace does not just consider whether or not we are leaving trash or using trash receptacles.  There are 7 Leave No Trace Principles that include:
     a.  Don't make any new trails, stay on designated trails
     b.  Noise, keep your voice down so others may enjoy the silence of nature
     c.  Click for more information on the "7 Leave No Trace Principles" or visit

7.  Teach the children. What these parents were teaching their children was not the preservation of the environment but to be selfish and destroy. They taught them to disregard the well thought out rules of the area. They taught them that it's ok to go wherever you want without regard to it's effect.

8.  Now everyone who visits the area has to see the footprints of others who were here before and some may even feel that they are also allowed to leave the walkway.  This is a terrible legacy to leave behind.

I could go on for pages but I won't.

The moral of this story...

They tell us it takes a village to raise a child but it also takes a village to save a national treasure.

Don't be afraid to speak up when someone is harming our natural resources.

Speak kindly and use facts, not emotion. Imagine how differently this may have gone if I simply yelled, "Get your filthy kids out of the creek!" or "Hey stupid, you're killing the fish!" both of which are thoughts that crossed my outraged mind.

Teach the children and fellow adventurers how to be ethical and principled in nature so confrontations become unnecessary.

We went on to enjoy the Pupfish and I hope that the thoughtful presence of our generation and future generations to come will allow for the enjoyment of this treasured ecosystem and others like it.
Not good focus but here is a male and female in a spawning knot

A male Pupfish looking for a female to dart after

A lizard near the creek who was just as curious about me

One of the signs along the walk path
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Peace and Love,