Four hours to the northeast of Los Angeles sits a national park the size of Connecticut. It is infamous for its summer temperatures which average 115 degrees Fahrenheit making November through April the prime time to visit. In an effort to take advantage of this hospitality, we set our eyes on the Gold Canyon Loop Trail in early December where the temperature was a much more manageable 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
As we did, we were treated to a trail that defied our expectations. The Gold Canyon Loop Trail carves its way through rock formations mirroring those found in South Dakota’s Badlands. For the first half of the hike, we carved our way through riverbeds where erosion was king as the remnants of water, rock, and wind came together to give this formation its unique features. In every direction you look, there are awe-inspiring vistas of multi-colored rock formations, mountain ranges, and the wide-open sky. This creek bed then opens up to something unexpected; a river bed of sorts. A landing spot for all that water to rest. This is where we took a break before conquering the backside of the trail which was a repeat of the first half of the hike except this time uphill with taller rock formations to pull you forward beckoning you higher and higher. Once you reach the tallest point on the trail, you are treated to a visual feast giving firm proof to why this place is important and worth protecting.
We drove out to Death Valley and back to Los Angeles in one day. This meant 8 hours in the car. For some people, I know this feels like a daunting and unwanted task, but not for me. I love the open road like some men love their wives. On those stretches where you can go long stints without seeing another car and you have nothing to entertain your senses except mountains and the soundtrack of your choosing, I find joy and comfort. I am myself fully in those moments and crave them like my next breath.
I didn’t know what to expect from Death Valley National Park. Of course, given its name, its reputation proceeds it. Coming from the Pacific Northwest and with the experience of hiking among the trees, mountains, and streams of Washington, I didn’t know how I would describe such a place. My expectations were low… I couldn’t have been more wrong. I found such comfort in the desolation. Community in the isolating, rough terrain. I found hospitality in the inhospitable environment. I found a piece of myself in places I didn’t expect.
I have said it before and I will say it again. These places important. One of the things that makes me proudest to be an American is our National Park System. I am proud that we have collectively agreed that these places are special and worth protecting. I find comfort knowing that we have decided to hold nature over profit when every other piece of our society demands differently.
Finally, one of my first dates with Brandon was a hike and he had a pretty miserable experience. After that trip, I was absolutely sure he would never go hiking with me again. Now that we have moved to California, he has joined me on trips to Sequoia and Death Valley. It is an absolute joy to watch him discover his own hike. He becomes 15 years younger as he plays in the dirt, climbs on rocks, and watches animals and insects alike at home. If I can keep discovering places like this with him for the rest of my life, I will consider myself the luckiest man alive.
Be good to each other,
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