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Descending the Dunes
Ripply Texture
Mud flats and dunes
Click to view full-size with photo points
Stovepipe Wells Dunes Walk
Start Time: 6:58a.m.
End Time: 8:36a.m.
Duration: 1h37m
Distance: 3.66 km (2.27 mi)
Average Speed: 2.3 km/hr (1.4 mph)
Start Elevation: -46ft (-14m) *
Max Elevation: 76ft (23m) *
Min Elevation: -81ft (-25m) *
End Elevation: -21ft (-7m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Total Elevation Gain: 152ft (46m) *
Total Elevation Loss: 126ft (38m) *
* : +/- 75 feet
Elevation Graph
We headed further south along Death Valley's main north-south highway, gradually descending lower and lower below sea level. We were entering the world of the evaporite basin, where mineral and salt-laden waters flow down, dry up, and deposit their load in wide, flat sheets.
Ahead and Behind
Blooming Desert Sunflower
DV cycle event
Along the way we stopped to take pictures of the many blooming flowers (we were lucky enough to have arrived during the spring bloom), the remnants of the old mining days in the park (for example, at the old Borax Works site), and other curious phenomena.
Borax Works
Borax Works
20-mule team wagons
We turned off onto a short dirt side road to visit the Devil's Golf Course - a fascinating spot where a large plain of salt has been differentially uplifted and eroded into a sea of sharp, jagged foot-high mounds and towers, stretching away as far as the eye can see. Do not fall while walking amongst this hummocky terrain, or you will get wounds -- with salt rubbed into them automatically as a bonus!
Devil's Golf Course
Devil's Golf Course
Sharp Salt Formations
courtesy PChen
Devil's Golf Course Formations
Salt Formations Closeup
We next moved on a short ways down the road to Badwater. Badwater is a spot on the eastern edge of the floor of Death Valley that marks the lowest point of elevation, at 282 feet below sea level. I once thought that this was the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere, but it turns out that there's a slightly lower spot somewhere in South America. Still, it's the lowest point on the North American continent.
Badwater view
From this low point, a wide salt flat extends out miles and miles to the west. Death Valley had experienced rains the month before, causing the intermittent streams that feed this basin to flow for a short while, creating a wide, shallow lake of water. This had recently dried up, and a fresh new (and blinding white) layer of salt was laid down. It was upon this slightly damp layer of fresh salt that we took a stroll out into an untouched area of the flats.
courtesy JInnes
Badwater Sign
Heading out onto the flats
Heading to whiteness
There's a heavy use path made by the many tourists who stop to check out Badwater. However, if you walk more than half a mile or so, you reach beyond the point where most people turn around. We did this, reaching a point where the footsteps stopped and the fresh, white salt extended out in all directions. It was blindingly bright out here, as much or more than a pure white snowfield, and it was quite painful to take off one's sunglasses, even for a moment. I'm sure we could have gotten a good reflective tan here, had we stayed for a long time.
Snow and Salt
Bob takes it in
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[ Grand Canyon 2010 home page | Introduction | Death Valley | Backpack Prep | Backpack Day 1 - Boucher Trail | Backpack Day 2 - Boucher Creek & Rapids | Backpack Day 3 - Boucher Creek to Hermit Rapids | Backpack Day 4 - Hermit Rapids to Salt Creek | Backpack Day 5 - Salt Creek to Bright Angel Trailhead | Epilogue | Video Clip Index | Supplemental - Flowers | Supplemental - People | Route Description- The Waldron Trail | Route Description- The Boucher Trail | GPS Data ]

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