Sea Below Sea
Sea Below Sea
Badwater – the lowest point in North America, the hottest point in the world. An expansive ocean of salt and mud forms cracked patterns extending hundreds of square miles across the valleys, embraced by staggering mountain ranges standing many thousands of feet above on all sides, each filled with beautiful secluded canyons just waiting to be explored.
These salt flats are covered with myriad patterns and textures of all scales from the microscopic to the expansive, white crystals inches long filling dried pools where rainwater once sat, and massive mud formations extending towards the horizon in places as far as the eye can see. Each year the formations morph to form ever more unique masterpieces of form and texture, resembling the surfaces of alien planets.
As I stood there, my jaw dropped in awe at the majesty of the spectacle that was unfolding before me. I couldn't believe I was really there, really experiencing that sunset in that incredibly vast and special place. It was about 80F, and the refreshing wind was blowing strong, as the sun dropped below the Panamint Range below Telescope Peak, the highest point in Death Valley National Park, towering 11,300 feet above me, just a few miles to the west. Of all the places I've visited, perhaps Death Valley is the place most deserving of the term, "magical."
This particular area on the salt flats is many miles in, near the back side of the playa, far, far away from the trampled tourist attractions on the edges of the playa that most people visit there. I was entirely alone for hours out there, never a soul in sight. The silence was palpable, the vastness overwhelming.
The tiles you see here are flat, white, and hard, covered in translucent white salt crystals, which reflect the blue sky above them, creating the cold bluish hues you see here. You are viewing them from about 3 feet above, looking slightly downwards. Each tile is about 3-6 feet in width, and only a hundred feet away, the patterns are entirely different.