“It’s fascinating to me how so much of an experience, ESPECIALLY in the parks, is colored by the company you keep. This drive was more boring than most I’ve had up the 14 and the 395. But, once Brian and I got into the park, he seemed to cheer up a bit, and we listened to Jonathan Van Ness’ audiobook as we cruised for an hour through the never-ending beginning section of the park.
Desolation and fabulous gay boys.”
“I realized that the Mosaic Canyon hike was on our way to the visitor center, so we took off down a washboard dirt road out of Stovepipe Wells, rattling the inside of the van so much that my cell phone went flying off its holder, and my anxiety spiked.
The hike itself was actually quite lovely, for Death Valley, that is. It starts off in a pretty narrow canyon, with breccia on one side and water-polished marble on the other. Then, the canyon opened up wide, revealing amber and umber colored mountains towering above us. It was a lot like the wide canyon Ben and I backpacked up in 2017.
Pretty soon, the canyon narrowed again, and we were scrambling up a series of small dryfalls until we reached the end at a massive, 30-foot dryfall that could not be climbed.”
“We took a series of silly, awkwardly choreographed shots of me with two balloons reading “62” and then sped off in the van down Badwater Road.
The sunset couldn’t have been more perfect. In the desert, it’s still in the 60s when the sun goes down, in the winter, so we were able to comfortably stop the car, take photos, and hike around.”
“We explored the nearby ghost town of Rhyolite, NV, which was once a booming gold town in 1906 until the claim quickly dried up. Then we went to this incredible outdoor art museum called the Goodwill Open Air Museum. I loved the walking meditation we did in the rock spiral, the creepy white shroud sculptures, and the pixelated woman. The man working the tiny museum store was diligently carving wooden Native American flutes and played a few of them for us. Brian wanted to buy one, but they were pricey, and he wasn’t sure if he would use it. I said he should focus more on guitar.
Our next adventure was the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes for sunset. We scampered as far as we could from the crowds, to the tip of the highest dune peak. There were teenage boys hurling themselves down the slopes in every direction, but once the sun got low, everyone scattered back to their cars. We sat for a short while in the hush of the desert and watched the sun paint the clouds like neon signs.”
“It was time for us to RUSH back to the opera house to catch the show. I sped the whole way there, down dusty desert highways, while Brian awkwardly made two backpacking meals I had at the ready. I spilled beans on myself while attempting to eat and drive, so I had to wait until we got to the theater to scarf it all down in 10 minutes.
The theater itself was stunning. Covered in old paintings that Marta, the woman who once owned and performed in it, did herself over the course of 6 years. They were all in the style of a Spanish aristocratic opera house, with the king and queen taking the best seats in the center of the balcony. So many fun details covered the place, like a cassanova throwing a rose to a young damsel down below, and a matador chatting up a gypsy with a cigarette. A truly special place, energetically.
The performance was so fun. Lauren has an incredible, vintage-style voice, and her partner, Vick, is a total one man band. He plays piano, harmonica, and guitar seamlessly, jumping from key to key and improvising fun riffs.”
“We woke up under the cover of night and drove to Zabriskie Point while Brian boiled water and helped make coffee/oatmeal as we drove. We hiked up the paved pathway leading to Zabriskie to find a score of other photographers already in place, tripods and huge lenses blazing.
It was a total tourist zoo, but a fun one. We skipped around, taking photographs as the light shifted. The colorful badlands are really incredible in the rose colored glasses of sunrise. Once the sun got higher, everyone scattered, and we headed back to the van to eat more oatmeal and drink more coffee.”
“The moment we had been waiting for: Badwater Basin. We took our time, reading about the geology of the area and waiting for the crowds to die down before strolling out onto the salt flats. I loved the way the crystals formed strange polygonal shapes along the surface of the now dry lake bed. We stayed until well after sunset, hoping the sun would illuminate the clouds high above, but they were too thick, so we were stuck with a soft, apocalyptic light hovering overhead for about an hour.”
“My body is a tired wreck. My head feels like an underwater balloon. This sickness is beginning to strangle my usually optimistic spirit.
I woke up at 5am today, a full 2 hours before the sun came up, even though I was supposed to sleep in as long as I could. This head cold is maddening. It makes me claustrophobic inside my own skull. I wake up in the night and cannot breathe. I don’t want to wake Brian up, so I quietly toss and turn in the pitch black tin can tomb of the van, praying for morning.
I finished Desert Solitaire this morning, reading in the darkness until it was a suitable hour to make breakfast.”
“Never in my life did I think I’d learn so much about Borax.”
“The main attraction for today was Sidewinder Canyon. We drove 30 miles south of Furnace Creek on Badwater Road and pulled into a little parking lot full of old VW vans. My instructions said go south, and we did.
The first canyon we entered quickly and abruptly ended. So, I guess that wasn’t it.
The second one, we walked about 1.5 miles uphill into, and it finally narrowed and had a few interesting twists and turns, but definitely no slots. We explored this drab, breccia-filled lumpy brown canyon for nearly 2 hours before growing disappointed enough to turn around. Ugh. Fucking Death Valley. I always get lost in this endless park of rock porn.”
“We began the long, slow drive home through the least populated section of Death Valley National Park, winding up and down Badwater Road heading south through the barren desert landscape. The mountains felt dark and vacant. Everything looked dead. No wild life. Few shrubs. Fewer cars.
By the time we finally got home, I was ready to collapse into the jacuzzi. Brian and I have agreed that tonight is a Xanax night just so I can sleep. God, I hope it works.”