On a seemingly desolate desert slope a small eroding blacktop road meanders like an ancient river towards a mystic canyon painted crimson and gold by a dying sun in a sky full of flames. The awe-inspiring sunset fades quickly as the evening wind blows the desert's oppressive breath across my skin. Stars begin to emerge and the radiant heat of the sand rapidly replaces the once relentless rays of the sun. It's almost time...

The long crooked fingers of ocotillo reach for relief from the burnt and broken rocky terrain into the revitalizing evening air. The chaotic buzz of diurnal insects is gradually being replaced by the harmony of their nocturnal counterparts. My peripheral vision catches the fluttering silhouettes of bats and moths dancing in the now lavender sky. There is no time to waste...

I look to the ominous canyon mouth and step back towards my Jeep. Releasing a large orange-red whipsnake back into the desert scrub, he ungratefully takes one last lacerating bite and leaves a faint tattoo of blood on my wrist to match the ones received just moments ago when I had first lifted him from his late day prowl. Pouring into a nearby patch of cactus he fades into the evening and the sting of his bites are almost as quickly forgotten. Almost...

The Jeep roars to life almost blasphemously against Nature's deafening silence. The methodic rumble of six cylinders overwhelms Her chaotic orchestra as I am suddenly and dreadfully self-aware of my invasion in this land. I sense my soul calm as the all-terrain tires depart from the rock strewn shoulder of the road and grab vigilant hold of the searing pavement. As the path of this roadway takes me closer to the canyon's jaws, Nature quickly forgives my intrusion and I am bewildered by the poetry of contrasting earth-tones replacing what was only minutes ago the vivid colors of a stunning sunset.

Though I have made this journey more times than I can count, I am ever amazed at how unique each experience is, and this one will be no exception. Alone on this expedition, I am more conscious of my own presence in this vast land, more attentive to the details of the Present than I have ever been, and the exhilaration of this epiphanous moment surges through my veins. What encore could Nature have in store that would do justice to such a drama?

The desert's breath cools with every exhale and the once oppressive evening wind quickly becomes a soothing and refreshing gentle breeze. The headlights struggle to find purchase upon the scorched asphalt as my eyes strain to find the faded lane markers... as if it mattered on such a deserted road. My heart races in anticipation of what lies ahead as the jeep is swallowed up by the gaping canyon.

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