yea though i walk…

…through the valley of the shadow of death, i shall fear no evil.
with the arrival of the forerunner, i decided to get out of dodge and put it to the test. early friday i got up, packed up the nissan and headed for highway 395. 3 1/2 hours later, at 8:30, i crossed into death valley national monument. i wandered through the south part of the park, oohing and ahing, all the while looking for someplace to get out and run wild. coming in through the south has you driving through the emigrant wilderness area, with elevations mostly over 5,000′. there was plenty of snow on the mountains and still quite a bit in the valleys in the shade.
shortly after passing through emigrant pass, i found a valley that looked like it had an old unused mining road winding up through it, leading to a ridge line about 3 or 4 miles off. i pulled off the road onto a large gravel shoulder and got my kit together. the temperature was in the high 30′s with a nice gusting breeze. since coming into the park, i hadn’t seen a single car and it was great to only hear the sound of the wind.
i turned on the forerunning and it immediately got a satellite lock. woohoo! i was in business. with a full camelback, a couple gu packs, some cytomax and of course, a camera, i headed out. the grade going up the valley was pretty mild, but i still took it easy. just before i hit my first mile, i noticed a faint trail going up to the left. well, the purpose of this run was to run wild, so off i went. the trail wound up a steep hill and deposited me at the entrance to an abandoned mine. there were a couple rusting cars sitting around, so i pulled out the camera and took a couple shots before heading off again.
i dropped back into the valley and continued up to the ridge. i did most of my running up the valley along a wash/old trail. the soil was soft, but not as loose as sand. i kept seeing coyote tracks, with as many as 3 at a time. i made a point of keeping aware of my surroundings, remembering the ordeal that meghan had with her lion. at about 3 miles, the ‘trail’ ran out and the canyon got pretty steep. i had to bushwhack and scramble to gain the ridge line. the forerunner kept switching into ‘auto pause’ mode since my pace was drastically reduced, but i just kept moving to see how it would respond.
up on top of the ridge line, i could see another faint track heading up and to the left, terminating at prominent peak. i headed up, wanting to see what view the point would provide. when i arrived there at about 4 miles, i was treated to a grand view of the badwater basin, the heart of death valley. i paused, took some photos, had some gu and then headed back down the ridge line.
after gaining the valley via a different wash, i connected back up with the original wash/trail that i had run up. at one point, i decided to head off cross-country, but after doing that for close to a mile, i decided to hook back up with the wash. jumping and dodging all the desert scrub brush was tearing my shins up.
i kept cruising down the valley, with a big grin on my face. as the starting point came back into view, i was bubbling with excitement. the forerunner had worked very well, in one of the most remote locations in the country. i finished up with about 8.4 miles traveled, 8.1 if you only count ‘running’ distance.
i cleaned up and spent some more time exploring the park. i had been there as a child, and i distinctly remember hiking through golden canyon (where the scene from star wars where r2d2 is shot by the jawas was filmed) and exploring several of the side canyons. one had some very vivid green and purple in the walls of the canyon. as a kid i was amazed and told my dad to remember the location so we could go back there.
as i hiked up the canyon, i explored every side canyon, trying to find the one from my childhood memory. eventually, i rounded a corner up in one of them and was treated to a good deal of green and some purple in the soil and canyon walls. this was the one from my childhood. i spent some time reminiscing, took some quick photographs (it wasn’t as vivid as i remembered as a kid, but the photos were more for nostalgias sake), and then headed back out of the canyon.
it was starting to get late in the day, so i hopped back in the car and started the long trek home. it was a great day of solitude, pushing myself, nostalgia and exploration. it couldn’t have come together more perfectly.

4 thoughts on “yea though i walk…

  1. RNRHH!!!
    What a fun trip down memory lane! I distinctly remember our trip to Death Valley – pitching tent in the dark, the canyons, the kids campfire. I think of that every time I drive to the gas station here because there is a sign pointing to Death Valley… wonder how far you were from here!
    Happy Thanksgiving… love you and chatatcha soon!
    Shauna!

  2. Glad to hear some good reports about the Forerunner. I might want one for Christmas.
    You gotta love a run that brings you home covered in burrs from bushwacking!

  3. Wow! This is a great story. Death Valley is a beautiful place and, really, much like Big Bend. Wide open desert, undulating badlands, pointy-tall mountains, extremes of cold and hot. And, we have random cars in the desert, too… Maybe those coyotes were watching you from some undetected scouting point? Maybe you were on a coyote trail?
    What fun,
    Meghan

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