State of Gold: Chapter 1
Gold Rock & Cold Sand
“What if this thing falls over?” somebody asks of the rock we’re all sitting on, this precarious-looking boulder teetering high above Death Valley’s Golden Canyon Trail. It’s a valid thought—the thing looks ready to topple—but it’s probably been like this for centuries. I think we’ll be OK.
Curiosity led us here. The question, “What do you think the view’s like from up there?” got us off the wide, mellow path now a couple hundred feet below us. It got us onto a barely-there trail heading up the ridgeline that became nothing but a steep face of scree.
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Two steps forward, one step back.
The hike was tough, getting up here a group effort. Each person offered a hand to help another through a tricky section and took a hand when they were the one who needed the help. We cheered each other to the top.
The way down will be even harder, jumping rock to rock and hoping for the best—butt sliding. But the view here is totally worth it, stripes in the rock portraying millennia-worth of geology. It makes us feel small, makes this world around us feel so big and deep, inspires us to keep exploring more of it. Colors—white, tan, red, brown, gold—just spill out of the horizon. Better yet, it’s a moment of bonding for this group of people who didn’t all know each other 36 hours ago.
We sit up here, catching our breath.
We share water bottles and scoot down the rock to let the film crew sit down. They’d just climbed the same ridgeline as the rest of us, hauling their equipment the whole way. Kyle hands them water, slaps them on the back. We all hit the road together yesterday morning, but this is the moment when everything clicks. I feel it happen.
The sun sinks, painting the rock gold.
We speed off, windows down, to the sand dunes. Rachel’s been there before—she recommended the hike, so we know the dunes will be good, too. It feels great to take off the shoes, feel the chilly sand between my toes. We run up the tallest dune and try Misty flips off its corniced peak. Our sound guy, Chris, puts down his boom and hucks himself off the top, stomping the landing. Mic drop.
It’s dark when we get back to camp, and the stars are incredible this far from any light pollution. Ben and Cameron cook dinner while the rest of us sit around the fire, drink microbrews, sing pop songs, and swap stories. Dinner is awesome—the guys know exactly what they’re doing. We’re a unit now, no longer just people stuffed into a car together. Death Valley’s been great—we are all sure to be back someday—but when we wake up tomorrow, the desert sunrise warming the inside of our tents, we’ll be ready to pack up camp and move on to the next place. This was only the beginning.