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By far the best fall Ive ever taken
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“Fill my heart with song and let me sing forever more.” — from Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon”

I think I finally found myself.

I was sitting down with my legs stretched out after falling five or so feet from a 15-foot dry fall in a side canyon five miles from the nearest road in Death Valley.

It was stupid, I know. I was by myself heading cross country to Little Bridge Canyon. I had changed my itinerary and didn’t let anyone know where I was going. Two cardinal sins. You don’t scale challenging rocks by yourself and you let people know where you are going when you’re solo hiking.

I was emboldened by having just scaled a 12-foot dry fall. The surface of the second fall was smoother but I still could make out places I could hold and step on.

What I wasn’t counting on was a rock on the top edge that looked solid giving away. I had the presence of mind not to panic. And – probably thanks to Jenny at InShape and her 200-plus push-ups she works into every class as well as being drilled in burpees during Nicole’s RIPPED classes – I was able to hold on with one hand until I was able to plant my feet momentarily back against the fall’s surface. My free hand searched for the last solid hold and found it. I was probably 12 feet above what was thankfully a dirt surface – a rarity in the rock strewn canyons of Death Valley. I wasn’t out of the woods.

My luck ran out at about two-thirds of the way down. I missed a rock hold, overcorrected and then lost my grip with my other hand. I kind of lunged toward the rock which made no sense. That caused my right leg to brush against some sharp outcroppings of rocks as I tumbled to the ground with my backpack helping to cushion the fall.

I sat up, looked at my bleeding leg, did a body check and realized there was no serious damage – except perhaps to my ego. I took the backpack off, cleaned up the cuts as best I could and then laid down. Since I had a strenuous descent to get back to the car I needed the cuts to heal as much as possible so I wouldn’t be tearing them open any time I jarred my leg. Contrary to popular belief, the desert isn’t sand. It’s rocks, rocks, rocks, rocks, and more rocks.

Then I checked the time on my iPhone. I figured I could get back at a reduced pace before 6 o’clock although I’d need to use my headlamp while going from 3,000 feet back down to sea level. I gave myself 15 minutes to rest.

I started thinking about a lot of things.

I have a ton of flaws – who doesn’t. My problem is I slam myself big time for them. What good does that do? Besides, they are my flaws and they are who I am.

Then I thought about what had been haunting me for the past six years. Actually it was from my childhood but thanks to prodding by a relative when my mom was dying it came out of the box I had put it in and was consuming me.

I started laughing.

It was insane. It couldn’t be hurt by the person anymore but I had been hurting myself because of it. What was I afraid of? Besides, a real argument could be made it shaped me into who I am today in a positive way. What doesn’t kill you can really make you stronger.

Since I just dodged a broken extremity or worse I guess I figured I could keep going down the list.

It always irks me a bit when people freak out because I’m solo. I always say I’m anti-social but that isn’t it. I tell myself it is because of garbage that happened to me a long time ago that I don’t trust people, but that isn’t it either. I’m simply who I am. I just need to accept that. As far as everyone else, they can think what they like although I would appreciate it if they stop trying to play the matchmaker. I can get into enough crazy trouble on my own, thank you.

I even had time to think about what it’s all about. Actually I do that every time I get away to Death Valley.

I honestly don’t have any idea. I doubt most of us do. We have our plans and our lives but I don’t think we’re privy to what the overall puzzle ends up actually looking like. Yet we often spend an inordinate amount of time fretting about what it all means.

Those who wandered across Death Valley 164 years ago en route to the California mines and barely made it out with their lives had it 1,000 times tougher than I’ve ever had. Their concern was surviving to the next day.

I have a good life. I can’t complain.

I checked my iPhone. It was time to get moving. My leg hurt but not much. I’m sure I wasn’t smiling.

Then as I started walking Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” began playing in my head.

I started smiling.

I got it, finally. It’s what happens when you fill your life with song and not dread. You can sing forever more.

It goes without saying it was the best tumble I’ve ever taken.

This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or (209) 249-3519.