The name is so ominous, Death Valley National Park, that I believe most people are turned off just by hearing the name. This is just fine by me, as the solitude and vast emptiness you find here only adds to the uniquely special feeling you can find.
This trip marks my third time exploring Death Valley, and my goal this time around is to make it out to Ubehebe Crater. It turned out to be an all day driving adventure from Las Vegas, with closed roads and detours making the journey almost impossible, but as afternoon starts to turn into twilight, I pull into the empty parking lot.
Being the lone soul in front of this massive creation from the Universe I am immediately humbled by the crater presence. I judge the daylight left from where the sun is at in the sky, and figure I have enough time to hike the circumference of the crater today, then return in the morning to venture down into the crater to reach the floor.
A lone bird circles above me as I start hiking. The wind comforts me in the silence as I make my way around. I feel tipsy the closer I get to the craters edge and the sheer drop off down into the heart of Ubehebe. I am fully connected to Nature.
The next morning I arrive just after sunrise. There are a few other brave souls out here, trying to navigate down into the crater, just like me, as there are a few trail routes that you can take.
I find a path that looks to be the safest route, and start the quick one mile descent the the crater’s floor.
I slip and slide on volcanic rocks, almost losing my balance, then before I know it I’m at the bottom. I look around me and feel the impending pressure of being so small and powerless under the giant aura of this Natural wonder. I’m breathing heavy and sweat is pouring off my brow. I look up and see just how steep of a climb it is to get back out.
But there is no one here that can help you, no 911 call you can make if you get into trouble. Time to toughen your nipples and get busy working on your ascent.
I drain the last of the water from my pack, then start to slowly scramble back on up. My boy Stretch starts to talk to me, giving me words of encouragement to keep going, you are stronger than this, don’t give up now, you are almost to the top my friend…..
I take that final step and find myself back on the crater’s rim. The sense of accomplishment that courses through my body is exhilarating.
Stretch and I high five each other, then carry on, as there is always another adventure on our horizon.