The sky, painted a hue of pomegranate and mystic blue each evening, turned the playa ahead of me into a flat pink alabaster basin. I’ve learned there is a calm that falls over the Death Valley at the precise moment the sun leaves the western sky.
Within minutes it’s as dark as India ink and my camp site is lost to sight. I can understand how a person becomes lost in this changing landscape, so I feel for my flashlight and compass that rest in my backpack.
Devoid of most electronics, save a cell phone for that unexpected emergency like a fall or snake bite, I’m ill equipped by many adventurers’ standards. But then that was my point.
Armed with only the cloths on my back, a note pad, some ink pens, (both of which I neglected all week-long,) my pack filled with trail mix and Vienna sausages, my hiking stick, and two large canteens of water, I abandoned my truck to trek some distance eastward, so that I may find peace and quiet. I discovered everything but those two in the few days I’ve roughed it.
Death Valley’s filled with sounds, both familiar and unnerving. Unusual dragging noises, to a breathy huffing to the lone howl of a distant coyote kept my nerves on edge.
There were strange shadows that danced between my campfire and the earth. They always remained beyond my full sight, flickering in and out of my periphery only to disappear when looked upon.
But I never feared them or the sounds.
God is among the dunes, the sparse hillsides and His cloudless, star-filled heavens. He’s been with me the entire time — I feel His companionship – both of us enjoying His handiwork.
After seven days, my skin’s dried with dust, slightly burnt, and I’m exhausted. Part of me wished for a cool shower to drown the crusty sweat and dirt in, a soft bed with clean sheets and a greasy hamburger and a cold beer.
My wilder half decried the need for such luxuries as I slowly wandered back towards my truck.
This week has been without another human’s voice, so when I turned the key to my truck, a radio preacher’s voice, fading in and out, and shouting about the love of God and man’s sinful nature, seemed foreign to me. I turned the button to off and questioned aloud, “Has he ever spent a week alone in the Death Valley?”
“I bet not,” I concluded as my truck’s headlights sought out the nearest glow of civilization’s existence.