TREASURE IN THE DESERT... has long been a major theme of the American West, both in fiction and in real (or semi-tall-tale-y) life. The stories range from scrappy, foolhardy adventurers who headed into the hills only to find rich veins of ore to the miners who trotted into into town atop a mule laden with bags of shiny rocks. Movies have revisited this topic often, and the TV shows, too -- hello, "The Brady Bunch" -- but we all know that gold in the desert doesn't just have to be about mineral deposits found on the sides of mountains. Oftentimes that yellow-bright beauty comes from petals that pop up for a week or two, in the late winter or spring, before retreating back to the earth, and time. Nope, a golden flower doesn't last as long as a chunk of gold, but seeing a profusion of them, on an arid, water-free vista, is almost as rare and thrilling. February is the full-on and unofficial but well-acknowledged start to the desert wildflower season around Death Valley National Park, and over Presidents Day Weekend a particular bud made a stunning showing: You guessed it, the Desert Gold.
MONO COUNTY TOURISM... has vibrant video of the flowers waving in the warm wind, with blue mountain ranges in the background, and a wide sky. It's quintessential California goodness, winter-style and desert-style, and to see it in person is to see something that doesn't happen every day, or even every year. Is it as cool as taking a pick and a lantern and finding your own motherlode? Well, you can be the judge there, but ponder how often, at least in fiction, those who find fortune in the desert run into all kinds of obstacles. Best enjoy these oh-so-brief buds, while they last. You'll still be able to report back to people in the city that you discovered Desert Gold during your Death Valley idyll.