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First Place in the Mary Austin Prize for Writing contest
Naiya Luna Warren
Bishop High School

Death Valley – full of gyrating heat waves, dusty landscapes that last an eternity contrasted with intermittent blips of apricot mallow and occasional swaths of desert gold, and at night the whole galaxy spills out into the sky. To be in a place where the quiet is so saturating that you can hear your own blood pulsing and the slightest breeze through the mesquite trees sounds like a symphony is a truly magical experience. I often find that I yearn for this desolate solitude; that it nurtures me in a way that is comparable to nothing else.

On January 3rd my stepdad, mom and I set out for Butte Valley; one of the more remote areas of Death Valley nestled in the far southeast corner. Following the narrow and rugged Warm Spring Canyon Road we passed stark talc mines, craggy canyons, and intensely compressed rock terrain marked sporadically by the tell-tale evidence that burros had been there. Even with my stepdad’s four-wheel drive, the rough road could only safely be traversed at times by a deliberate creeping rock crawl that caused the vehicle to buck, and it felt as though this was the longest drive I had ever experienced. Eventually, the road gave way to a vast brush-covered valley and rising magnificently was Striped Butte; our destination, the Geologist’s Cabin, was close.

Upon reaching the cabin, we raised the flag to signal to anyone who may be near that the camp spot was occupied. After helping unpack our gear, I trekked up a nearby hill and perched atop a boulder, in awe of the expansiveness of the surrounding desert. It’s often perceived as being plain brown, but it is deep purple and tan and sunny yellow and vibrant orange and chestnut with striations of silver. In the distance I noticed burros meandering along well-worn trails and overhead crows flew high. As the sun cast its evening rays of liquid gold, highlighting the collection of Striped Butte’s hues, we huddled up next to the fireplace and roasted marshmallows.

At this point, the main act of Butte Valley’s production was introduced: the night sky. The temperature had dropped significantly, so after covering in many layers I went outside and gazing up I fell deep into the glittering heavens. The Milky Way spilled its celestial contents across the hemisphere, and I had a revelation of just how strongly the stars affect me. I am captivated, and I am acutely aware in this moment that there is a distinct parallel between the broadness and infinite possibility of space and the remote expanse of Death Valley.

Jostling me from my trance I was alerted by the sound of a very heavy creature walking uncomfortably close by. My flashlight beam revealed a burro staring at me, dead in the eye. We remained in this position for only a second, but at that moment I wondered what that burro had seen. I wondered if it looked at the stars with the same mysterious elation that I felt; if it wandered aimlessly around Striped Butte without a care in the world, if it felt fear. As if to answer my question, the burro glanced upward towards the firmament, and trod away. I walked back into the cabin, pondering the events that had taken place, and was met with a wall of heat from the fireplace. I crashed nearly as soon as I nestled into my sleeping bag, a testament to the minuscule, yet profound experience that had just occurred.

At dawn, we trekked along the ridge of Striped Butte. Upon reaching the Butte’s summit, I located the hiker-log and memorialized my journey by signing the book. I considered the many pages of names and felt strongly that each person had experienced their own personal awakening. I gazed at the entirety of the valley with a wonderment reserved for gazing at the stars. Death Valley has always held a special place in my heart, and this trip to the Butte Valley, while short, will forever stay emblazoned in my memory.

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1 day ago

Sunsets around here never get old. 😍
#nofilter #visitbishop #bishopBIGbackyard
Photo by Betsy Johnson
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Sunsets around here never get old. 😍
#nofilter #visitbishop #bishopBIGbackyard
Photo by Betsy Johnson

Comment on Facebook

I've got a lot of nice trout up in Bishop I love it there

Beautiful picture

Love the sky's @ sunsets and sunrise. I have some beautiful pictures of the area. This looks to be below pleasant valley campground on the lower Owens. I fly fished all over the west, This is still my favorite water!!!

What a lovely picture of the beautiful, colorful ,peaceful sky it's so breathtaking. 💘

Classic Western Sky with cattle to add to the picture. Hearing some Western music in the back ground. Just need a windmill. <3

Those Happy Cows love the Bishop sunsets.


And I love Bishop!😊

I love it in the late afternoon when the Sierra's cast their shadow on the White Mountains

HOME ! !

These views never get old. MIss them.

Beautiful Sun 🌞set

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1 day ago

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Comment on Facebook

Snow in the mountains, but dry in the valley, that's why we love Bishop!


God I miss it!


Home sweet home beautiful

Ready to roll there!!!!


Every time I go south on 395 I'm amazed at the beauty of the eastern Sierra Nevada could spend a lifetime in the Mountains There

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1 day ago

Definitely feels and looks like winter around here these days.... this is a shot from yesterday.
📷 by Julie Faber
#visitbishop #bishopBIGbackyard
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Definitely feels and looks like winter around here these days.... this is a shot from yesterday. 
📷 by Julie Faber
#visitbishop #bishopBIGbackyard

Comment on Facebook

Wish you'd post what mountains we're looking at. Lovely photograph!

This is absolutely beautiful! 😊😀

wow, such a beautiful post, need long johns to stay longer then an hour in that snow ?

Awesome picture


... name of the "pyramid peak" please.....

Hello Tom!

Mt. Tom





I need to go fishing on the Owens or PVR, been a while.

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3 days ago

Who loves a little winter fishing???? We've got it year-round here!!Out side enjoying the lower Owens River. Snow storms are rare in the Owens Valley. Snow only lasts a few days at the most. Photo by @leviaguilera_photography ... See MoreSee Less

Who loves a little winter fishing???? Weve got it year-round here!!

Comment on Facebook

Glad to see L A didn’t get all the Owens valley water!

Beautiful background !

Looks cold, but what a great place.

plenty of brown trout,large trout at bridgport res

always did ice fishing onway to bridgport

He should wear one of those wrist bands or forehead bands which shows his temperature so he can regulate. Risky sports have science to make them safer.

Love to go fishing in this stream ! Look at the great snow.😁

Refreshing, stunning, incredibly beautiful and the bestest fishing ever ! I love Bishop !😲👍🇺🇸🦅🇺🇸🎅☃️🎄💥

Oh yea!! He’s gettin them native Browns right there!!

I have fished the Lower Owens for many years, winter is the best because of reduced flows. Great Blue wing olive hatches, and plenty of wild browns. I fished this same run pictured . Love this River and the town of Bishop.


Benton crossing?

That looks so amazing

Jo Nathan we need to go asap!

Do you know where your legs are?

Is that you Josh Beck?

Fred Powers



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