Tom went to graduate school at Vanderbilt a year before I did and moved into a dorm. When he got all his things moved in, he started unpacking, and when he tried to leave his room, the doorknob fell off. He tried to get the door open but really needed someone from outside the room to help him so he stood at the door and yelled “help, help” until the guy across the hall heard him and opened the door. That guy was Art Stetson, a tall, red-headed MBA graduate student. That funny meeting led to a friendship that has lasted ever since.
Art now lives near Los Angeles with his family. Art married late, so even though he is Tom’s age, he has two boys who are 10 and 12. Even though we stay in touch, we had never met his wife or children. So Art decided we would never have a better chance to get together than while we were in Death Valley.
The Stetson family drove up from Los Angeles on Easter and got here to Death Valley around 2 p.m. Although they travel extensively (Jennifer is from China) they had never been to Death Valley, so they put themselves into our hands. We all piled into their minivan and headed off to see the sights of Death Valley.
We started with a hike up Golden Canyon. The Stetsons had been in the car for four hours coming from Los Angeles, so they were ready to move. We hiked up the canyon about a mile. At first the boys – John and Geoffrey – wanted to explore every slot canyon, but the heat soon took its toll and they slowed down. While we hiked we got to know Jennifer and caught up with Art.
After Golden Canyon we hit the Death Valley high spots: Badwater Basin, Devil’s Golf Course, Artist’s Drive, Artist’s Palette, Harmony Borax Works, and Salt Creek. The boys especially loved watching the pupfish and would have stayed at Salt Creek a while.
Jennifer wanted to see the sunset, which is hard when you are in a valley, so we headed up to Towne Pass. We got there just as the sun was dipping down behind the mountains so it was beautiful. We ate supper at Panamint Springs, which is also where the Stetsons were spending the night. It is called a “Resort” but the rooms are pretty basic with electricity and running water and not much else (no tv, no phones, no wifi). We had pizza for supper which was very good and then we enjoyed looking at the stars and watching the moonrise over the mountains.
The Stetson family had to head back to Los Angeles early the next day. They had planned on staying in Death Valley another day but were having brake problems over some of the high mountain passes, so they wanted to get home and get it looked at.
We really enjoyed the day with the Stetson family. It was great to see Art again – he’s as funny and interesting as always. And it was wonderful to meet his wife and sons. Jennifer has a business as an intermediary between the US and China for airplane parts. John and Geoffrey were intelligent, thoughtful, polite young men. We made plans to get together again the next time we are in southern California.