Friday, January 3, 2014

Salt, Sand, and Sunset

I'll apologize in advance...this post is a bit picture heavy!

It was still light when we got back to the car, so we drove a bit further to south to see as much as we could before it got dark.

Our first stop was Devils Golf Course. It's a big salt pan that was left behind when a lake evaporated; the wind shapes the leftover salt and minerals into weird craggy shapes on the valley floor.

It was pretty neat and we wandered around for a few minutes, but then everyone and their mother showed up so we decided to keep moving.

Every once in a while you could see white patches of salt in the distance.

After a few more minutes, we reached Badwater Basin. At 282 feet below sea level, it's the lowest point in North America.

Hi, Badwater! You're allowed to walk out onto the salt flat, and there is white salt everywhere - the sidewalks, the pathways, inside your rental car - since it cakes onto your shoes so fast. Of course we had to walk on the salt flat.   :)

My new fancy camera isn't exactly inconspicuous, and it seems like anytime I carry it, I attract people asking me to take pictures of them with their cameras like flies. My new favorite thing to do is then hand them my camera and ask them to return the favor. Their reactions are always great when I hand over my 5lb camera and they realize they're in over their heads (I always set it up for them in advance so all they have to do is push the button).   :)  

I love how I brought thousands of dollars worth of camera gear with me and somehow wound up taking one of the best pictures of the entire trip with my cell phone.

We wandered around and waited for the sun to set.

After a little while the sun started to break out from behind the lit up the whole valley.


We wound up talking to another couple while we were waiting for the sun to set. They were artists, and they liked to come out to the desert for inspiration. I wish I had thought to get their names so I could try to look up their work.

Close up of the salt. There was a lot of texture!

The sun eventually dipped down below the ridges, so we started to make our way back to the car.

I loved that long white looked so weird!

We were just about to leave when the clouds started to turn orange and pink. It only lasted a few minutes but looked really cool.

After finally deciding that the sunset was over, we started to drive north toward our hotel. We were spending the night at Stovepipe Wells, a little collection of hotel rooms and a restaurant and a general store in the northern part of Death Valley. It took a little while to drive back up there, but we eventually found the hotel, checked in, and walked over to the restaurant (well, saloon) for dinner. The saloon had a really strong wild west vibe, and after a little while it seemed like they had turned on a fog machine because it started to get pretty hazy inside and it even smelled like that fog machine juice. Turns out we were wrong...what we saw and smelled was blowing sand! While we were inside, the wind had really kicked up as a cold front moved through, and the sand from the nearby dunes was blowing everywhere. People could barely get inside the door because the wind was so strong.

I had wanted to try to get some star pictures at night since it should have been so clear in the desert, but as soon as we stepped outside I knew that wasn't going to happen. You could barely keep your eyes open, there was so much sand! We walked over to the general store, bought a couple little things, then made our way back to the room and called it an early night.

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