For me it was just noticing Warm Springs on a map.
The year before I first visited the springs my wife and I visited the racetrack via Lippincott Road. Unfortunately the Lippencott scared the crap out of her, she didn't say a word the entire time but apparently my strategy of hugging the hillside at the washouts didn't reassure her that I was avoiding the edge of the road, it only succeeded in tilting the jeep up enough to give her a much better view of the steep plunge to death just inches away. I was clueless until a couple of weeks later when I overheard her telling a friend that she had never been so scared in her life and that she was never going 4 wheeling again.
Bummer, cuz I had fallen in love with Death Valley.
I was especially intrigued with the Saline Valley after having viewed it from afar on the trip to the Race Track. The deep gorges in the Inyos, the long expanse of what looked like nothing through the valley. I couldn't imagine why anyone would want to keep going down there after the butt numbing rock cobble drive down from the South pass to the Lippencott turn off.
So I started Google Earthing it, checking out the slot canyons, the salt flats, the mines, but it still looked like a long way to go just for that, then I noticed that there were warm springs up that one valley. Cool, I like warm springs.
So I planned a trip, alone, to visit the Eureka Dunes then drive over Steel Pass and see what was up with warm springs out in the middle of nowhere. Dedeckera Canyon was fun the first time, and the folks in the Land Rovers that I encountered coming down Steel Pass thought I was nuts to be out there by myself (probably right but I've done it many times since) but nothing had prepared me for what I would find at the springs.
Imagine coming upon that special place totally unaware.