The day has been long and hot. On your journey to the scorching desert of Death Valley, you noticed the mercury rising to 42 degrees, and you instinctively turned the dial up on the car’s air conditioning. The road trip from Las Vegas was like something from a movie, with country songs blasting out of the radio and long, straight roads cutting through dusty landscapes. You were met by an overly friendly, local ranger who explained with gusto the ins and outs of a place they call Death Valley. In short, it’s low, flat and hot.
You set up your tent in a campsite named Furnace Creek. It seems all the names of the places are out to get you; Death Valley, Furnace Creek, Devil’s Golf Course. But you won’t be deterred from spending the night here under canvas, soaking up the silence. And the silence here is truly deafening. The only sounds of life are the crackle of your fire as you cook up your supper, and the occasional howl of a coyote signaling to its pack.
As the sun sets you feast on a meal of char-grilled ribs and rice and decide that tonight is one of those nights when you won’t need your tent after all. The night is warm and clear, and you drag your bed out into the open to immerse yourself in the darkening sky. Soon enough, your bravery is rewarded with a sky of effervescent stars, each competing with its neighbour to twinkle with more gusto than the last.
You can’t remember the last time you just took time to look up at the night sky, and you certainly never noticed the strip of brighter stars stretching right across it before. This must be the Milky Way which people talk about with such wonder and joy, but you being the city dweller you are, had never even glimpsed it until this moment. You make a promise to yourself to appreciate our natural wonders more often as you close your eyes, drifting into a deep, soundless sleep. As you reach the sweet release of slumber, your eyes snap awake at a long menacing howl, this time much closer than before, and you decide that perhaps you’ll give the tent a try after all.