In preparation for our annual spring break trek to Death Valley National Park, I contacted explorer extraordinaire Guy Starbuck for hiking ideas. You can read his fantastic website here: Starbuck’s Exploring.
“I don’t know of anything in Death Valley Canyon,” Guy told me when I asked about the remote canyon. “Except the spring. Not sure if anything is at the spring besides water.”
He was right: a little water and a whole lot of nothing . . . and ideal conditions for a marijuana grow operation.
None of these were surprising finds, but what we found next we’ve never seen before.
We left this mysterious camp behind and headed higher up the canyon.
Perhaps stupidly, we continued further up the canyon until we reached springs that water a thicket of green shrubs growing on the canyon floor. No pot plants in sight.
At this point, we turned around, but Google Earth shows more water ahead.
Back at camp, we contacted the park rangers who said there have been marijuana grow sites in remote canyons of Death Valley National Park. They took our report and photos and said they’d look into it.
We had heard about illegal marijuana grow sites, but never imagined they’d be hiding in a national park that received 1.1 million visitors in 2014. From the Death Valley National Park website:
Apparently, these off-the-grid pot growing operations are a huge problem on public lands.
Read the full story here.
We were lucky enough not to encounter anyone in the canyon, but now I’m afraid to go back.
I’m also afraid not to go back. Someone should watch over places like these. There’s so little water, so few living things–everything is fragile in the desert. I don’t want these springs dammed and diverted. I don’t want plastic piping and garbage. I don’t want fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides creating an environmental disaster in miniature. Not here.
Solutions? Legalize marijuana and bring its cultivation into the open? Increase budgets for discovering and eliminating grow sites? I don’t have answers, but this is public land.
I want it back.