The plan to spend a few days hiking in the Eastern Sierra fell apart. My hiking traveling party was either physically busted from the first day on Mt. Whiteny or emotionally and mentally done with anything involving a mountain. And so we decided to drive to the desert instead and headed south to Death Valley.
One of the things I pride myself on is an intense curiosity to go anywhere, but if given a list of places to visit, the desert would have ranked near the bottom. I had no lifelong desire to see the desert. Westerns in film, television or literary form held little appeal to me with the one exception of Little House on the Prairie. The gold rush didn’t hold a particularly vibrant spot in my love of all things historic. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t up for a trip to the desert. It just never really appeared on my cosmic to-do list.
Sunset at Zabriskie Point
We spent about two days in Death Valley and most unexpectedly, I fell in love with the American desert. While the scenery was breath-taking what struck me most was the stillness. I first noticed it when I took a power walk by myself. Everything was still. No noise. No wind. No faint whisper of animals. Just complete stillness among vast beauty. Without even knowing it, this is what I had been craving – a stillness, a calm, a confidence, a joy. This is the essence of feeling I try to capture during my own yoga practice and my beginner forays into meditation. I was blown away. I took a few minutes to experience it, to be present to the stillness.
At times it seems counterintuitive, this notion of stillness. If I want to get better, to succeed, to thrive I need to be doing, right? One of the most overlooked and misunderstood parts of training is recovery. All athletes need recovery time in order to prevent burnout, prevent injury and as a way for the body to acclimate and absorb all the fitness gains it has made. It needs some stillness in order to continue moving forward. A trip to the desert isn’t necessary to achieve that recovery and sense of peace, but for me, the opportunity was a