I’m at a certain Hot Springs Resort outside Death Valley and let’s say the word “resort” is used loosely.
It’s the kind of room where you walk in and immediately think “A lot of people have had sex here and most of them smoked.”
Who cares, though. The room gives on one side into a hallway off of which are four or five private hot springs bath rooms that if you don’t have contamination fears, which I don’t, are kind of great.
The sliding window has no screen so I slept last night open to the night-cool desert air. There’s no food or drink to speak of (I brought plenty, camping-style myself) so I opened one of my cans of double shot Starbucks espresso, heated some water in my electric kettle, threw in some instant coffee, mixed all (twice) in my travel mug, and I’m good to go for several hours.
The drive yesterday from Pasadena was lovely. I caught up on some phone calls on the way, and though I did go the wrong way on 127 from Baker for 35 miles finding myself in the East Mojave’s Cima Dunes and having to reverse track, driving with virtually no-one else on the road—and this is the height of wildflower season—was its own kind of treat. I listened to Russian pianist Maria Yudina, one of my many heroes, who was openly Catholic in Stalinist Russia and was once summoned by Stalin himself in the middle of the night to play Mozart’s Piano Concerto I believe Number 22.
After checking in, yesterday afternoon I drove through Shoshone to within 9 miles of the park (which is gigantic, with 30- or 50-mile increments between “points of interest”) border and, desirous of a hike, spotted a dirt road meandering through the desert scrub, wheeled over, parked and set out. Apparently this is BLM land which means it is open to one and all for free camping, dirt-biking and whatever.
Five minutes in, I came upon a gentleman in a somewhat soiled white T-shirt and khaki pants sitting on the tail of his pickup truck bathing his feet in a basin of water. He had set up camp there. Just like pioneer days! I imagined him panning for gold in the mornings. He had a cultured accent and was friendly without being creepy and we had a nice chat. Then I continued on and hiked up this fairly steep trail for a bit, enjoying stupendous views of the valley floor while perched on a no doubt billions-of-years-old rock escarpment.
This morning in prayer I realized all over again that my heart has become hardened against certain people. No, no, that can never be the way. “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” [Ezekiel 36:26]. Please, PLEASE do.
I visited the (Charles and Ray, husband and wife as you may know) Eames House earlier in the week and have become entranced, like so many before me, with the Eames “philosophy” (although Charles apparently had affairs, which tarnishes the halo somewhat).
Still, “Take your pleasure seriously” has always been my own credo. Field trips are hard, but the best kind of, work.