Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Borax + Salt in Death Valley

{What We Learned and Agreed On Below Sea Level}

The lowest and highest elevations in the contiguous US are less than eighty miles apart, but this fact cannot be fully appreciated until seen in person. As P. and I cleared the mountain pass and plummeted below sea level we agreed that Death Valley is, for lack of a more accurate description, a geological mind-f*ck.

We learned that twenty-mule wagons hauled borax out of these rumpled, velveteen-looking hills in the early 20th century. Borax, for the making of soap. Borax, for the making of flame-retardants. Borax, for the making of insecticides. Borax, via Death Valley courtesy of mule teams. Huzzah.

We agreed that it would be exceedingly difficult to be a bighorn sheep living in Death Valley. And it is, but they do. We disagreed over the practicality of the wearing of legwarmers when the temperature rose to 80 degrees. 

But the problem was solved when we descended into the salt flats of Badwater Basin, where it seemed appropriate (and legal) to remove legwarmers, socks and boots, and walk barefoot across the flooded salt pan at 282 feet below sea level.

Others joined us and we listened, grinning, to the utterings of disbelief in a dozen different languages as our fellow waders ventured out into the warm salt water.

Although we agreed that it is generally inadvisable to taste exposed minerals, I am happy to report that the salt of Badwater Basin does, in fact, taste just like regular salt. And look like dirty freezer burn. And feel like pliant crystals that soften and sooth tired feet.

To walk across flooded salt flats barefoot with someone you love is a Peak Life Experience, as the someone I love proclaimed on our drive home. I wholeheartedly agreed as I tossed my legwarmers into the back seat.

Sometimes it just takes a little time to soften, sooth, and agree. And it feels really good. 


  1. you know, those are like three big interests... Peak Life Experiences as seen through eyes of homemade-hat tolerating loved ones, wondering when it is, exactly, that leg warmers are perfectly appropriate, and taking pictures of one's own feet. Bravo!

    my commentary, it hasn't exactly been running of late. I don't think we can even call it stumbling. I promise to do better. But my READING-- it has been avid. *Grists!!* You're completely fabulous.


  2. I am so overwhelmed by how beautiful these shots are. I must go to this place. It seems incredible.

  3. Wow!!! What a beautiful post. Your trip sounds so wonderful. I passed a bit too far North on my last cross country trip. This seems like a MUST, for the next time.

  4. 1. They must have really wanted that Borax, because that sounds like an undertaking.

    2. Did your feet come out all silky smooth?

    3. New Orleans is below sea level, too. I suspect that all places below sea level are a little bit magical.

  5. Cool. I have always loved photos of feet!

  6. beeeeyoootiful..you are so thoughtful--i love it...

  7. velveteen really is the right word for those hills. this post got me pondering what my own peak life experiences have been...

  8. Crikey, I need to get out (on that road trip across the US that I've been dreaming of for years) more. How magical.

    And my tootsies! Oh to bare my tootsies again. And on warm flooded salt flats no less...


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