Death Valley’s hundred-year bloom was all over the news. And since we were in the area anyway . . .
We couldn’t get a reservation for a campground in the park (well, we could have gotten a spot – maybe – if we’d lined up at 6 a.m. to try, and how likely was that?), so stayed in nearby, charming Beatty, Nevada. OK, so it’s only nearby. Beatty is a one-whorehouse town and it shows. Our RV park happened to be conveniently situated just down the road from Angel’s Ladies, housed in a none-too-discreet, pink double-wide, complete with a large letter "A" branded on the hill above it.
On the plus side, the RV park fee did include access to any one of three private bath houses on the property fed by Bailey’s Hot Springs, each with a different temperature water (from the highest 103 to 105 degrees for the hardy, to the lowest 98 to 101 degrees for the completely wussy). We were only going to stay in Beatty four or five days, but ended up parked for a week. We were, after all, only feet from what we considered to be the biggest attraction in town (sorry, ladies), even though I was dubious of the hot springs at first. The rooms were so dark and passels of people seemed to be passing through. What about germs? Tim reassured me that little could survive in that heat. Oh, yeah? That’s what I thought about heating my lunch in the windshield. I remained worried until the warm waters washed away my apprehensions. We took a dip every night.
Beatty did inspire us to come up with the "Top 10 Reasons You Know You’re In a Shit Hole." You know you’re in a shit hole when: 10. There’s no grocery store in town but there is a whorehouse; 9. The whorehouse never seems to get any business; 8. The elevation is greater than the population – and the town is a stone’s throw from Death Valley; 7. You can’t even be bothered to think of seven more reasons.
In Death Valley itself, we took several short hikes not even short enough for me. Suffice it to say there’s a bug in the desert so disgusting, I still don’t know how it can stand itself.
"I know I always say you should get out more, but maybe that’s not such a good idea," Tim was forced to concede.
Nevertheless, he did entreat me to accompany him on a "technical" hike through a rock formation. Not really understanding the word in the context of actually doing anything, I assumed "technical" meant I could simply, as always, tune out the details that didn’t interest me. I started the hike in my usual attire: capri sweatpants, pink sneakers and sweatshirt, Chanel sunglasses (just because I hadn’t bought new clothes didn’t mean I threw out the old ones). As I arranged myself, all the while shooting dubious looks at the nonexistent path, Tim shook his head.
"It’s known as Nail Breaker Canyon. Are you sure you’re up to it?"
To our mutual shock, I actually enjoyed that hike. It wasn’t the usual endless, mindless meandering over identical scenery, but much more interesting – challenging even, what with having to discern the best route over a constantly changing landscape of jagged rock formations. It kept my brain occupied, rather than emptying it out even more. At first, Tim tried to guide me, but quickly backed off when he realized how much I enjoyed figuring it out for myself.
At one point, we had to traverse a huge granite slab wedged into the ground at a forty-five-degree angle with nothing on either side for support. It was easy for my long-legged husband to simply bound through in one giant step. But for five-foot-two me . . . I studied the situation, taking into account the distance, the slope, and most importantly, my attire. Not wearing hiking boots turned out to be an advantage, for I simply planted my feet together, hunkered down into a squat, and slid along the slab on the slippery soles of my sneakers, halting my descent by grabbing the trunk of a tree which conveniently jutted out from the ground below. Tim beamed his admiration.
"I was wondering how you were going to manage that!" He gave me a kiss and for the first time in our relationship, I understood the pleasure he derives working with his hands, of puzzling something out and making it right. I even managed not to spoil the moment, keeping to myself my chagrin that the maneuver had, in fact, caused me to break a nail.