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.