High above the searing desert floor is utopia. Death Valley in the summer has been known to reach record highs of 134 degrees. Emigrants across the valley burned their wagons and butchered their oxen for the mere hope of surviving a traverse out of the valley. Although abundant water and food on the valley floor supported the Panamint Shoshone for a thousand years before Anglo occupation, they did not live in the valley year round. During the summer the tribe would move to higher elevation where weather was cool, water was plentiful, and wildlife abundant.
It is apparent, even today that the highlands of the Panamint Mountains are a summer paradise. Water abounds in small canyons and gulches. Driving through the meadows near Emigrant Pass in the evening is like playing Frogger with rabbits. They dart across the road, one after another, daring you to catch them. The green fields are full of small game.
The Emigrant Canyon petroglyphs are a beautiful large panel imposed on a unique white rock outcrop just alongside the road. My family and I stopped to look at them on a trip to Death Valley this spring. I observed that some of the images had been split due to erosion and many chunks of rock were lying near the wash below the panel. I had fun picking through the fallen debris trying to find the missing puzzle pieces. I found a few matches which was exciting. There is a unique thrill to sorting through a pile of random rocks and finding amongst them pieces of archaeology. I placed the fallen pieces of art on a ledge near the image they had fallen from and was gratified to see that upon my return, several months later, they were still sitting there. Thank you fellow travelers who love and respect history and responsibly respect and preserve it as our collective national heritage. “Take only pictures and leave only footprints,” as they say.