Friday, October 21, 2011
Death Valley: Badwater Salt Flats
After getting my picture taken for the Tech-watch Geek post I made last Friday, I decided to walk on out into the desert on the trail surface. However it was done, there is a salt layer that is a couple of inches thick that is smoothed out from the traffic – either the footsteps of thousands of tourists or some kind of construction vehicle had prepared the surface for hiking. There was residual moisture on the surface, making a sort of greasy solution that left footprints, belying what appears to be a glassy smooth area from a distance.
Back to the German tourists for a moment: the salt flats are very much like a snow-covered ski slope, with all the glare. Fortunately the trek out is only a mile each way, maybe less, and I’m sure the bus kept a tight schedule, so sunburn was minimized, even with shirts doffed. Considering this, there was another point of amusement for me with the Germans encountering this environment – so much curiosity and exploration – one fellow knelt on the boardwalk to reach down into the salt water, and brought his hand back to his mouth for a taste!
I was in the park on a fall day. I’m reading in my guidebook that during the summer, when air temperatures exceed 100 degrees, the ground temperature – those salt flats underfoot – can exceed 180 degrees. And those Germans were wearing wool socks!
The visit to Badwater was my final stop in the valley, as I needed to begin heading back to Las Vegas to return the car. I guess I walked four miles or so all totaled, but the elevation changes were negligible and I’d kept hydrated, so I didn’t feel tired. Quite stimulated by the new environment, one I’d never seen before. There’s quite a list of sights I didn’t make it to – perhaps next time I’m in Vegas.