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Guard Rail or Guardian Angel?

The Mojave Desert was beautiful—and dangerous. But something stopped her fall.

An artist's rendering of a guardian angel in the desert

Two days into our family trip to the West Coast I was beginning to think I’d made a mistake in coming.

My nephew and his wife, my two sisters and my husband had all flown 2,000 miles from Batesville, Indiana, to Las Vegas to see some of the area’s famous natural landmarks, particularly Death Valley in the Mojave Desert. Everything was exotic and beautiful—but dangerous too.

“It will be an adventure!” my nephew Jim had said when he originally called and asked me along for the trip. “You’ve never been to the West Coast, Aunt Lois. And this could be your last chance.”

“You’re right,” I said then. Now I wondered if I should’ve let that chance go by. I was 75, and the temperature here was in the 80s. On the floor of Death Valley it could be much hotter—I hoped the group wouldn’t want to go.

The landscape whooshing past the window of the van was dramatic—and unforgiving. Was this a safe place for someone my age?

“Welcome to Dante’s View,” Jim announced, pulling into a parking spot. “It overlooks Death Valley and the salt flats that have formed in its basin due to the extreme heat. We’re fifty-five hundred feet up!”

Fifty-five hundred feet? I thought. God, keep me safe!

Jim parked the van and we all got out. People milled around. I didn’t see anyone my age. It was a breathtaking sight: the pale valley below, mountains on all sides, a clear, blue sky overhead. But I didn’t see any guardrails. My husband, John, spied a little lookout point away from the others.

“Let’s check out the view from there, Lois,” he said.

I followed John to the lookout. We stood several feet apart, staring out at the sprawling valley below. In the grandeur of nature, I relaxed a little. I even took a few steps closer to the edge to get a better look.

My foot slipped. I heard pebbles going over the side of the mountain. There wasn’t time to scream. My legs slid down the rocks. Frantically I clawed with hands and feet to get a foothold, but I kept sliding. Dear Lord, I’m going over!

I closed my eyes as my whole body slid several feet down the mountain until I hit something hard and solid. A guardrail! I thought. Using the solid metal to push off against I scrambled back up the mountain. “John!” I cried out.

He came running. I was covered in dirt and blood from scrapes on my arms and legs.

“I’d be dead if it wasn’t for that guardrail,” I said.

“ What guardrail?” he asked. John went over to the spot where I slipped. “There’s no guardrail there, Lois. Something else stopped your fall.”

I wasn’t injured, just in shock. Back at the hotel John patched me up with some Band-Aids.

“I felt a guardrail,” I told him.

“You felt something,” he said. “But that was no guardrail. It was your guardian angel.”

I was suddenly flooded with a sense of safety like I’d never known before. The rest of the trip was amazing. I didn’t miss a thing. Not even the floor of Death Valley.

I would go to Dante’s View again, although I’d be much more careful. It will always be a special place for me, a place where I learned that life is one big adventure. And no matter what happens, no matter how old I get, there will always be angels to guard over me.


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