Sometimes it’s the randomness of a place, the strange traditions it’s inspired, the sense of discovery when you stumble upon it without expecting it, that makes it great. For all intents and purposes there’s nothing special about the junction of Hidden Valley Road and Racetrack Valley Road in Death Valley National Park. Like much of the park, there’s a lot of dirt, some barren mountains, more dirt, some rocks, and a few scraggly desert bushes for texture, but not much else. Except for the sign, that is.
Teakettle Junction is the site of one of the strangest, and most fascinating traditions I’ve encountered in a National Park. At the sign marking the junction of these two windy dirt roads in the middle of the desert, dozens of travelers, over the course of several decades, have left their mark in the form of beaten up teakettles and pots. Each pot has its own message, some uplifting, some poetic, others just saying “hi.” Nobody knows the reasoning behind this tradition, though it’s believed it has its origins in pioneer culture pointing out nearby water sources, but it’s one of the most oddly intriguing sights I’ve come across in my travels.
If you decide to brave the roads out to Racetrack Playa, which I highly recommend, keep an eye out for Teakettle Junction, and make sure to bring a pot of your own to add to the collection. It’s a little slice of random in a National Park that seems to invite peculiarity.