A visit to Death Valley this time of year had become a tradition of sorts with me. Well, if not a tradition then at least a streak, with last year’s Veterans Day weekend trip being the “three-peat.” But the string of consecutive November visits to one of my favorite places on earth was drawn to a close when I told Susan about a month ago I was of a mind to forego the annual trek.

Overall, I’ve been back to the magnificent place six additional times since my inaugural visit in February of 2002. And it’s my hope I’ll be back dozens of times to come, but at this time… nah. I’ll just have to live without it. Yes, I can point to our new pup and our trip to Myrtle Beach for Thanksgiving with Susan’s folks as contributing factors leading to the decision, but the truth is I don’t deserve the escape. There are more important matters to attend to. And frankly I’m not so sure how much of an escape it would be. For while the desert can certainly sooth you so can it amplify whatever frequency you’re modulating, and right now there’s no denying I’m broadcasting on a band that’s gotta lotta static.

The original plan had been to keep it simple. Spend today and tonight at Eureka Dunes then pack up Saturday and trek over to Saline Springs for the rest of that day and night before coming home Sunday. Oh well, maybe next year.

But at least I can take some consolation in the fact that the whole of 2006 won’t have gone by without getting me some DV. At least that streak/tradition of annual visits was kept alive at five with the visit Susan and I and my friend Rachel made there for a truly monumental weekend in May. Not only did I hike to the top of the park’s 11,049-foot Telescope Peak, but on the next day — my 42nd Birthday — I got on my mountain bike and with Susan and Rachel bringing up the rear flew downhill 17 miles from the 8,133-foot elevation of the Mahogany Flat campground all the way to the Panamint Valley floor:

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I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate the milestone. And I wouldn’t think of going back until I’m ready to celebrate again.

Download a PDF (1.3 Mb) of my October 2002
Orange Coast magazine travel feature on Death Valley.