The sun once more, with its luminous rays of light and heat, pounced on us like prey. No one was safe out here. No bird, no lizard, not even the rocks that lay the land. The Subaru once more made its way down the ever familiar lonely road, caressing the Earth and knocked here and there by its bumps and valleys. Peaks of brown and beige surrounded us, and a quiet came forward. We were in the Martian landscape of Death Valley. The only way I can really describe the landscape is quiet; the mundane strokes of color and the lack of any large foliage gave it a feeling of desolation and loneliness. We had left Zion early that morning, once more going through the ominous canyon overlook road, and flooring it all the way past Vegas. We stopped only for a few minutes in the city limits to experience the best delicacy the west coast provides; In-And-Out Burger. After that, we arrived here, in the throes of heat, dust, and mirages abound.
The heat was unbearable. A simple step into sunlight had one already contemplating the thoughts of cool air and wind, but neither would arrive. The air was simply hot, with humidity absent from the equation, and wind being a foreign thought in these lands. Regardless, we plundered on, heading off the road for a bit and taking advantage of the car’s all-wheel drive. Caking the car once more in another layer of familiar dirt, we drove on a path of our choosing, not knowing what was to be met at the trail’s end.
The music of rocks hitting the windows and the painting of dust behind us provided us an experience we were not used too. The alien landscape, with its dots of shrubbery, and the red rocks glistening in the sun, did not make us feel any closer to home. On our way down the beaten road, we stumbled across an old mine. We stopped for a little bit. It was so strange to see the engraving of human life still etched in the dunes of time on this forgetting plain. A small shack, with the refrigerator standing still, and the door banging in the wind, provided us with an eerie presence. Though there was no one around us for miles, we still felt the presence of something, sometimes, so long ago. A battered rusted car sat close, and a small makeshift garden provided only the fruits of rust and decay. We roamed for a little, speaking of how strange and how far it was for someone to have once lived here, tucked away in a long forgetting valley of time in the annals of Death Valley.
After realizing we couldn’t get into the mine after exploring the home nearby, we got back in the car and headed down the path once more. Eventually, the road rose to a lip of a cliff, to which I trudged on closely and slowly. We came to a point, Aguereberry point, as it was called. An overlook provided us with the thrill of another view. The haze obscured the horizon, but below it, miles and miles of landscape, not touched by the hands of man, and only by the sculptor of time. A bleak landscape, not filled with the movement of animals, let alone by the wind’s caress of trees, provided a unique view, unlike others. My eyes met the Earth’s, as I gazed into her endless void of red valley’s, dotted greens, and ominous tone. It was truly like we were sitting on another planet, one unlike ours and one void of life, except for the few lizards and insects that have come to call it home.
We left after a quick smoke on top of a questionably balanced rock. Once more we were on the road, booking it down the same dirt road we had come upon. Within a few minutes, we were back on smooth payment, and the music of pots and pans banging in the bag of the car ceased. We stopped for gas at the only gas station in the middle of this desolate plain, before heading to the infamous dunes of the desert. We parked, grabbed some beers, our camera, the ever essential herb, and walked with our bare feet. It was pleasant feeling the warm sand envelop my toes with each step as we stridden towards one of the many dunes in front of us. Eventually, a halt was made, and we sat down, and cracked open our beers as we watched the sun begin it’s ever-familiar dance toward the horizon. The sand provided a nice, cushy chair, as we enjoyed the herb we had been provided, and spent some time doing front flips into the soft sand. A truer bliss and feeling of freedom couldn’t be provided anywhere else.
The sun no longer beating us back, the walk back was more painless. The haze of purple and orange marked the rocks and valleys new colors, as we gazed in passive awe of the landscape shifting in front of us. Getting in the car, we now headed to where we were planning to camp tonight. It was all the way at the end of one of the paved roads provided to us, and then twenty-seven miles further into the desert. The night was quickly tightening its grip on the sun’s tirade as the car bounced its way into the plains. Satellite radio still provided to us the music, as we set it to 40’s music station to provide further the eeriness that had already been given to us. The excursion took us around an hour, as several stops were made to make sure we were still traveling on the beaten path. The Joshua tree’s, infamous in their odd ways and shapes their cactus’ form, provided an uncanny and somewhat disturbing movie as we were heading down the road. Their convoluted shapes made us uneasy, as it almost seemed like some of them were dancing in the desert.
We eventually reached the camp way out in the stretches and annals of the desert. Though there were several other families there, it was incredibly quiet, to the point of feeling one’s pulse if one sat still. We quickly set up camp and provided ourselves a late dinner. But we were distracted. How does one function when the galaxy is above you? The sky was almost painted white in its dazzling array of stars, a sky filled with the nightfall of diamonds blinking and winking at us with each glance upwards. The Milky Way was visible to us, a fascinating site. The womb of the galaxy was enclosed with a faint white glow that stretched across the sky, from one horizon to another. It was incredible to see the millions of stars dancing across the sky above us when we were only teased with the few we would see at home. It was unlike anything we saw.
Erich and I later made an excursion to what was called the ‘Racetrack.’ Unknown how it happens, rocks move across the desert without explanation, across the salt plain that was near our campsite. We quickly drove out there under the stars and walked out. The quiet made one uneasy, as was the void of black. We walked out maybe a few hundred feet before we stopped of fear not being able to find our way. Every way we looked was black, with no shapes or familiar ways to guide us back. We only walked forward, and smoked a quick bowl out there, under the glow of the stars and night. It was so quiet and so unnatural to be met with the loudness of silence and the view of absolutely nothing but the galaxy above. It almost gave me a sense of vertigo, as I felt my sense was being upended and turned away, but yet being used.
We made our way eventually back to the camp, deciding not to venture any further into the black void. We sat around a fire for a few minutes, contemplating the day’s venture’s, how we felt people were doing at home, and how far we were from home. We were just two kids really, out in the middle of a desert, thousands of miles from home, with no cell phone reception, with the galaxy painted above our heads. It’s an experience not many really get to feel, but more should poke at. The night ended for us quickly, as we were exhausted by the assault of the sun. The road once more laid ahead in our minds, as we attempted to sleep despite the rampant thoughts of tomorrow; Dead and Company at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.