When one thinks of the deserts of Nevada, usually their head is filled with flat scenery covered in dry, drab rock. The sun beating overhead; scavengers from both the land and sky fight over whatever morsels they come across; the world seems more like a scene from Mad Max than from one in our current civilization. But right on the border of Nevada and California, right outside of Death Valley, the hottest place in the world, lies an oasis. A few thousand acres filled with biodiversity that will make one pause. This wonderland known as Ash Meadows Wildlife Refuge, offers a glimpse into a world like none other.
As usual, I headed into the day blind, completely ignorant on what to expect. It only seemed appropriate to explore the desert this way. I often hear about people planning every moment of their voyage out in advance; making sure that they are prepared for what ever obstacles the world might throw at them. As comforting as that method seems, it simultaneously takes out every element of surprise, and if there is one thing that I have discovered during my travels, it is how fueling that element can be. Today, I only had one hint on what the day would bring. I was in search of “The Devil’s Hole”, a cave shaped like an inverted funnel that contains the infamous pupfish, an endangered species that has survived in these desert waters for 25,000 years.
Immediately after entering the refuge, that wonderful feeling of surprise took over all of my senses. No amount of planning could have prepared me for the sheer sensory overload I was starting to experience, and I had only just arrived. Above me, the world was covered by a thick blanket of clouds, waiting to burst forth with the spring rains they had been holding in. Golden fields of dry grass covered the earth. Bits of green from new buds crept through, not prevalent enough to take over the scene, but a reminder that life finds a way no matter the conditions it has been given. Giant mountains rolled in the distance, seemingly forming a barrier around the land. I pulled off into the first area I could, eager to get out and explore.
I walked along a thin, overgrown path made of a mixture of rocks and sand. The sound of insects filled the air and for a moment, I thought about how loud the world can be even where there seems to be nothing there. I’d stop for a second to search for the culprit of whatever animal I heard rustling in the thick grasses and as soon as I had given up, a bird (or four) would explode forth from a hiding spot, their perfectly camouflaged nests hidden in a world that would seem more appropriate in a Dr. Suess book than here on Earth. I smiled as the thought of me being an alien to the area crossed my mind. Out of everything at Ash Meadows, my Tesla and I were probably the most foreign. Such a strange though with the prevalence of humans on the earth, that there are still wonderlands like this that a human would be out of the norm.
I eventually made it back to my car and headed down a pot hole filled dirt road, ready to see what the earth had in store for me. Works for me. The more rugged the better.
Not long into my search, I came upon a lake, perfectly still, glimpses of the blue sky that was beginning to break through the clouds danced off its mirror like surface. I stood for a second in awe of how something so beautiful could be hidden out here in what most humans would consider nothingness. Moments like these always fill me with a wave of humility, my mind bringing thanks to the world for showing me these wonders. For the longest time, I had always thought that cities like Los Angeles of New York were the wonders of the world. Wonders of humans maybe, but if given the opportunity, the earth will offer one wonders that humans could only dream of replicating.
I walked around the banks for hours, letting time fade into the illusion that it was. As I became lost in the world though, I knew I couldn’t let myself become too far gone. The search for the Devils Hole was still my primary goal.
Eventually, I came to a fully fenced in area, complete with security cameras fit for a military warehouse. At the moment, it all seemed comical, not a speck of human evidence over this whole area until one got to the famed hole. The ambience was more reminiscent of Area 51 than of the rest of the refuge. After further thought though, it made a little bit more sense as people are known to do dangerous things and the depths of this hole had lead to many deaths in the past. Also, let’s not forget about the pupfish that are endemic to the area. If not anything else, I can understand our want to protect them from the chaos humans can easily bring.
I walked through the narrow chain links to peer down into the darkness, wondering if anyone was watching the cameras that I was sure to be on. Smiling at that thought, I waved hello at the next one I saw and imagined someone on the other end waving back.
I spent the next hour sitting alongside the complex, thinking about how many people took the time to come out here. I had read that Charles Manson used to hang out here when he lived in Death Valley. Had he stood on this same spot? Maybe. Was his energy still here in this moment? Maybe that’s why they call it “Devils Hole”.
I laughed out loud at that revelation and decided it was fact, even if it was entirely fiction. Then I felt a raindrop hit my hand and a faint drizzle started. It was as if thinking about Manson, I had conjured the worlds tears at the horrors he had committed. How appropriate.
It was time to continue my voyage.
Closest Supercharger Beatty NV
900 US-95, Beatty, NV 89003
Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge
610 Spring Meadows Rd, Amargosa Valley, NV 89020