I don’t know when it all began. Maybe it was the trip to Bodie with my parents. I
remember vividly the sense of wonder and exploration as we prowled through the
buildings and walked the sun bleached boardwalks. We wandered the farthest
reaches of the town until we encountered a staunchly scripted sign, "NO
ADMITTANCE BEYOND THIS POINT." My mind reeled with possibility. What secret
are they holding hostage? There must be something fantastic hidden beyond.

I still endure this childish syndrome: what could be over the hill, around the bend or
up the trail. I was hooked on not necessarily the find, but the road getting there, the
adventure of it all. Spitting sand the tires on my 69 Ford F-100 effortlessly spun until
the truck’s frame rested smugly on the floor of the great Mojave Desert. My first real
experience with the “road” was one I would never forget but I learned, the weakness
of a two-wheel drive.

With a loan from Grandma and a steady job I purchased
my first four-wheel drive, a Jade Green Suzuki Samurai.
Although there should have been an option for kidney belts
and uphill was challenging even without a head wind, the
fuel indicator had the slowest downward movement of any
vehicle I have ever driven to this day. It was with this
vehicle the first Death Valley adventure took place.
Thanksgiving weekend, somewhere around 87, my girlfriend and later to be wife,
Maggie, and I found ourselves entering the mouth of Warm Spring Canyon just as
the shadows crossed the canyon floor.  In retrospect it could have been disastrous:
no map, no supplies other than a cooler full of beer and no idea where we were
going. The silence of the canyon was overtaken by the low-pitched growl of the
tires as they wrestled with the road. The headlights fought their own separate
battle with the darkness revealing brief encapsulated views of a harsh but
beckoning desert
Through the bouncing beams of our headlights appeared a cluster of mustard
colored buildings, although a prominently displayed NO TRESPASSING sign
prevented further investigation. Later we learned this was the Warm Springs Talc
Mine. Through the darkness the Samurai moaned an over revved song as we
climbed the slight grade leading to Butte Valley. We could see no further than the
headlights, except for skyward where an occasional shooting star accompanied
a growing blanket of stars, clearer we were sure than ever witnessed before. We
pressed forward to a small rock strewn pass.
At the pass the Samurai grasped for traction, first spinning one wheel and then the
other hopping from one rock to the next. There was a lag of forward motion, then
as the tires grasped and caught traction a sudden explosion of forward
momentum. This was replayed several times before clearing the pass, all the while
the cross member screamed in anguish as it met it’s stone faced nemesis. Forging
forward into the darkness, the road narrowed and the canyon walls grew steeper
and higher until their tips were no longer visible except for their contrasting
blackness against the night sky. Overwhelmed by this surrealistic scene, I grabbed
the camera and snapped a photo. Knowing it could never capture the true
essence of what we were witnessing With a few twists and turns we were clear of
the canyon and into a valley.
We had no idea of our destination, off to the left a watery refraction of the stars
above and to the right a solitary glowing beacon (Brigg’s Camp). We soon came
upon a sign, a 2x4 painted white with black lettering, facing the opposite direction
of our travel. It proclaimed Goler Wash & Death Valley. We may have not known
where we were going but at least we knew where we had been! The road curved
around the edge of the mountain until we reached a small encampment with a
number of glowing campfires. Our Samurai came to idle just long enough to read
a monument stating this was the fabled mining town of Ballarat. We followed the
dirt road West and met with the highway and wandered through Trona and then
into Ridgecrest.
While this particular trip may have been over our destiny with the “valley” had just
begun. So what’s it all about? The Breeze?  It’s about you the reader and your tales
of adventure. It’s about whatever you wish it to be. So hopefully you will be inspired
to share with us your tall and maybe not so tall tales of Real Adventure…
Goler wash through the Samurai
Happy Trails - Matt
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