It got off to a bad start right from the beginning. I originally signed up for a Road Scholar program that was to take place in early October and counted the days until I got the OK that the program was a go. It was an ambitious program which was to include a flat water float on the Colorado, tours of Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona, a pontoon boat ride on Lake Powell, a brief stay in Henderson, Nevada (so I could get my Vegas fix) and then four days in Death Valley, actually staying at the Flint Creek Ranch Inn. It sure was plenty to look forward to! It was cancelled very near to the start date due to lack of interest. What a bummer! So, I had to reshuffle. Check out other programs and make one work for me. I did, I made my own fun for a week getting out to Death Valley and got a full week of hiking in Death Valley while staying in the nearby town of Beatty, Nevada. So I managed to get almost everything in my original program (plus a little more) but under very different circumstances. I went the first week of November, which meant the weather would be very different. In retrospect, that was a good thing, it was brisk at night and delightful during the day, which allowed for pure enjoyment without worry of sunburn, dehydration or a host of other nasties one could encounter closer to summer.
Several years ago a film called "The Bucket List" was popular and I for one really enjoyed it. The story line was a bit far-fetched, but the spirit was solid. Two guys who were both diagnosed with terminal illnesses got together and used the rich guys money to do outlandish things, a pre-composed list of stuff to do before you die. While some of the activities were adventurous and fulfilling in a way, it was the relationship that developed between the two men that seemed to be the most rewarding. It became very popular to say, "well, that's another thing I can scratch off my bucket list." It always struck me as a little cavalier...if I can do everything on my list, then I will have, sort of, cheated death. Presumably, there would be nothing worthwhile left to do, so dying might be the better alternative. So the idea of a bucket list, played in my mind and I fought it. Just the idea of a list, that might have an end and then of course, the end...well it just didn't sit well with me. Nevertheless, I knew, IF I had a bucket list, Death Valley would be on it. Little did I know I may have been flirting with my last hurrah. For two years I have been monitoring what my pulmonologist calls a black fuzzy mass in my chest, it has been dormant...no changes, until this year. Now it is morphing. Taking more drastic steps, I had a bronchoscope (go inside the lung and get biopsies) done hoping to finally determine what it is. But still no answer. At the end of this trip, I am going to have most of my lung removed. My last hurrah indeed.
The first day of hiking was spent at the Mesquite Flat Dunes section of the park. This is what I had envisioned the entire park to be composed of before my arrival; desert as far as the eye could see, dry, desolate and forbidding. Well, yes, there is that but there is a whole lot more than just sand. Having already been to Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado, I already knew what it takes to get to the top of a dune and what it looks like from that vantage point. I decided to stay on the lower dunes and get some shots of the weather-beaten sand and the starkness of the landscape.