A husband and wife encounter an unwelcome third party in Desolation Canyon, Death Valley, in Janet Goldberg’s short story “Desert Draw,” from the 2021 issue of Deep Wild: Writing from the Backcountry.
“4:00 p.m. and we were getting a late start on our hike, my husband and I, on our yearly Death Valley trip, this one though maybe our last since we were thinking of separating, going our own way. Our third day in, the road ended, as it always did, at a canyon, Desolation Canyon, a hike we’d never done in the many years we’d been coming to the park. Yesterday’s hike to Zabriskie Point, one of our favorites, had taken us up to a tourist-ridden area offering hypnotic views of rippling canyons. There, the paved parking lot had been full; here in Desolation Canyon, though, there was no lot. Now, at road’s end, was only an old van, burnt orange with tinted windows, parked up against the wall.
“…We walked single file down the narrow trail as it rose and dipped, my husband leading. I stopped for a minute and looked back at the van, still thinking of Manson, the school bus he drove up Goler Canyon, his followers in it. He hadn’t actually committed the murders but instead sent the alienated, drug-crazed runaways he’d collected, brainwashed. I turned back around and started up the trail again, but my husband was already out of sight. He’d wait up though, I knew, so I kept walking, listening to the ground crunch beneath my boots, the sky above, blue, unforgiving. Already hot, I wiped my forehead and then heard footsteps, foot-dragging behind me.”
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