27 December 2014

Scotty's Castle

Death Valley National Park

Locate the place.

After an unforced error resulted in a an unplanned night on Hunter Mountain and some extreme good luck fixed the problem before lunch, we stopped by Scotty's Castle to find a gas station. Unless the 1920s era tanks are still legal, there is no sign of such a thing anywhere and strong signs the old AAA map is wrong. Still, we are here and it is a very silly place so we cannot exactly leave it again without having a look around. The place seems designed to evoke the idea of a castle very strongly without in any way being anything like a castle.

Scotty's Castle
The main house and some of the auxiliary buildings at Scotty's Castle.

For instance, there is the swimming pool in its unusual position in front of the house. The fairy tale version of a castle always has a moat that wraps around and a drawbridge that can be brought up for defense. This pool stretches the entire length of the front of the house and has bulging ends in a way to evoke the idea of going around the house. To have an actual drawbridge would be unwelcoming, but to bring out the idea, there is a concrete bridge to span the center, and to be sure it is not unwelcoming, it is wide and even contains a small garden.

Scotty was the caretaker for the castle and his grave is high on a hill behind it. I decide to go up and take in "Scotty's view" and wind my way around the buildings to the path up the hill. It is a wide road that loops around the hill in a very lazy climb. Below are stacks and stacks of railroad ties purchased as firewood for the cold winters.

those stacks of railroad ties
The preservation methods for wood are generally highly flammable.

even more stacks of railroad ties
Even more firewood.

There is a moment when it seems the road is too lazy to actually complete the journey to the top of the hill and it starts to slide downward again, but there is one last burst of climbing and I am there. There is Scotty's grave, a dedicated monument, and a smaller grave marked "Windy" for his dog.

cross and a plaque to Death Valley Scotty
Death Valley Scotty, 1872-1934. Scotty's grave.

the 'castle' spread out below
Scotty's view and the grave of Windy.

After taking it in, I turn to follow the long road back down the hill in its delicate way. Below is the clock tower I want to look a little more closely at. A castle cannot be on its own, after all, it has to have a small village of people living nearby that serve it and that it serves to protect. One way to evoke this thought is to place buildings like those that would draw the eye when making up the skyline of a village. Churches and clock towers would serve the purpose, so there is a clock tower. It seems small for a clock tower, but consistently scaled so that it will feel further away from the house than it actually is. I wander around a little bit more before finishing.

solid bridge over the pool
Another look at the bridge in front of the main house. The center circle is planted with cholla and other cactus.

clock tower
The clock tower. The castle themed walls around it do not really support my theory that this is to evoke the idea of a surrounding village.

stable, perhaps
Another of the auxiliary buildings.

©2015 Valerie Norton
Posted 11 January 2015

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