Comfortly Uncomfortable: Part 2 of A Trip to Death Valley

It’s early and the light of the soon to be rising sun is beginning to breech the inside of the tent. The night was cold, and I can’t wait to greet the sun like a loved one that I haven’t seen in a long time. The agenda for today is a big one, and we will be making our way into the National Park, so sleeping in is not an option. I sit up still zipped up in my sleeping bag and take in a deep breath of the cold morning air. I struggle briefly trying to find the zipper that will set me free. I get out of my sleeping bag, and step out of the tent to get my boots on. I stand and marvel at the horizon to the east, as the deep blue night sky begins to lighten and be intruded on by orange, red and pinks. Soon we will be on our way.20141120_060159

I love traveling on dusty beat up roads. There is just something about them that makes the driving experience feel like, well an experience. The bumps and dips, the rattle of the vehicle as it moves over the rocks that have migrated onto the road. The trail of dust we leave in our wake acts as if it were masking our departure from the rest of the world; sort of like saying don’t follow me, find your own way. Yes dusty dirt roads are harsh and probably shouldn’t be driven on all the time, but you really need to do it once in awhile. Get out of your comfort zone as much as possible, and in the end you will find comfort at every turn.

20141122_095021We travel through through the desert making stops along the way and taking in the scenery that this beautiful desert has to offer. We make a stop at Badwater Basin and Devil’s Golf Course to see the salt flats and salt structures. Much to my surprise I seem to be able to meet new people whenever I travel. If anything I suspected that my rugged beard would drive people away. Yet I always seem to be approached by someone. Whether it is a kind elderly person or an enthusiastic college aged person I seem to attract them. I enjoy talking to strangers, and they seem to enjoy talking to me just as much, or even more. I meet a ready to retire Geology teacher and talked with him for a bit at Badwater and a group of college kids from USC at Devil’s Golf Course, and another Older gentleman and Lady at the Hot Springs in Tecopa the evening before. 20141122_105754Each one had something fascinating to share. For Instance the Tecopa people were big time rock hounds and talked about their extensive collection from all over. The Old Geologist in Badwater talked about his time being a teacher and how much he loved it. Two of the USC kids were from France and I talked briefly to them about the geology of the area and how it all formed. After all, even though I’m an adventurer I am still an amateur scientist.

20141122_161307As the afternoon came upon us we found ourselves in Mosaic Canyon. This place is absolutely fantastic! It’s one of my favorite places in Death Valley. As you walk into the mouth of the canyon you are greeted by magnificent sloping and narrow path. The marble is smooth and polished from years of flash flooding. The path meanders through the rock, with each turn revealing a beautiful story in front of your eyes. When you begin to enter the upper Canyon, your eyes will be in for a treat as there is a great view of the mountains ahead. I decided to make may up a small slope to get a better view of the canyon ahead. Once I was at the top I noticed my friend had climbed a steep slope up to a peak. I watched and hope I wouldn’t seem him fall. It wasn’t a designated trail and there didn’t appear to be an easy way up, but he reached the top fast and safely.

When he returned back to the bottom, I asked how was it, and he said it was pretty 20141122_141354easy. He showed me pictures of the view from up there and I knew I had to go up there and see it for myself. It’s one thing to enjoy another person’s beautiful pictures, it’s another thing to experience the view for yourself. Now, I’m afraid of heights and this trek was going to be walking straight up a steep slope with no room for error. I decided to leave my daypack so I would have a natural center of gravity, and once I filled my canteen we were off. This slope was comprised mainly of Noonday Dolomite and much to my surprise it was very easy to walk on. It was strenuous because you are walking straight up, but it’s easy because your not slipping and sliding, it’s like you are Spider-Man. It took me a bit to get comfortable while walking up. I kept wanting to get low to crawl, even though I didn’t need to. I didn’t even want to really take any pictures because I thought I would fall back and down.

Once near the top though, was a different story. The rock here was scree and it was 100 times harder to move through. You have to watch your footing on rock like this, because your not sure what is loose and what can really support you, and one wrong move and you will slip and tumble down the slope to the ground below. At the top I took a big sigh of relief as I had finally made it up safely. The view from the top was everything I expected and more. Every direction I looked was breathtaking. The colors of the rock sung as the sun’s light reflected off it. The blue sky stretched on and on beyond the mountains. It was incredible, I was overjoyed to be there at that moment. Images of incredible beauty and the serenity in the moment is what I love most about being on top of peaks. I love to sit there and look at that horizon, and dream of chasing it for the rest of my life.20141122_142219

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