On my third day in Death Valley I hiked the Golden Canyon/Gower Gulch Loop. I had already hiked for 3 hours and it was the hottest part of the day when I came to the base of a steep climb against a chalk-white canyon wall. I almost turned back, but something clicked.
Full of anger, sadness, shame and fear I started climbing. I began at the beginning of the relationship and called up every memory from the big events to the most intimate details to the brutal ending… AND I kicked the ass of every last one of them! I was relentless, like the steep path in front of me. I cried. I climbed. I felt the bittersweet of each painful, fond memory and I let go, one-by-one, step-by-step. In my defiance, I felt great compassion for myself.
This was my reward. What a view. I felt strong and held at the top of that canyon.
Everything was silent. There was only the sun and the wind and the bare rock.
I didn’t see any other people. I was alone with Death Valley.
The experience was cathartic.
When I got back to my campsite I was feeling good. Over fifty teenagers had arrived while I was gone. They were preparing to leave on a three-week backpacking trip, in groups of ten, the next morning. There was a lot of buzzing youthful energy around the camp.
I grilled a small pork loin and my friend, John — who I had met on my first night in the desert just as the full moon was rising, joined me for dinner and brought whiskey.
We drank hot toddies, talked about relationships, and watched the beautiful high school fireflies packing their sacks, brushing their teeth, writing in their journals, preparing for sleep.