Panamint Annie

March 13, 2016

A note to “Panamint Annie:”

Dear Annie,

Well, I came back – again. A lot has changed with me, most notably the aftermath of a serious car crash, but I still love being here in Death Valley. I still have my adventurous spirit (the thing we share), even though I thought I’d lost it. I was lucky I “only” lost my car – I could have lost my husband, or my own life. I know you had many difficulties in your life, and mine pale in comparison, but this experience, for me, was traumatic nonetheless. For a while, I thought I’d never ride again, but I got back on the bike, and here I am, standing where I never thought I would again.

Today, our first full day here in Death Valley, we explored Titus Canyon on the bikes, as we did last year. I was a little nervous in some areas, but I loved being there and experiencing again how beautiful it all is, from the multi-colored rocks, to the blue sky overhead. I am sure you fondly remember these things. On the Titus Canyon road, there is one spot where it looks like we truly do ride off the edge into nothingness. Across the chasm there is a sheer rock wall, but we can’t look at it too long because immediately there is a sharp right turn to go down some more steep switchbacks. It is an exhilarating place!

There are many wildflowers this year, more than in years past, and I stopped to enjoy them at the west end of the canyon. Do you remember years when there were so many flowers? I think we were a little early, and I’ll bet we missed the high point of the display. It seems there was more rainfall this winter than in recent years.

It was hot while we rode, but then as we climbed back up to Rhyolite and Beatty, it got very cool again. The wind was blowing hard from the west. I wanted it to be storming again, like it did four years ago when we were here. I love weather drama, the clouds, the rain, the wind. I know you lived in Beatty for a while, and I am sure you remember how different it can be from Death Valley.

I also wish I could have met you in person, our lives overlapped by 20 years. I would love to talk to you and hear about your adventures, and your thoughts about all the things that you did. I wish I could know where you are now, and where we all end up. Your life was full of adventure and you were an adventurous, wild spirit; it seems such a waste that such a vital person as you would no longer exist in some form or another. I feel your presence whenever I am near Rhyolite and can visit your grave. I know you are not “there,” but I feel your spirit. Maybe there is something on the other side after all.

My friend, Hal, and I will be visiting for two more days, and I will love and appreciate every moment I am here. I will be thinking of you.

Love, Jo

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