“Oh great, we made it,” said a man wearing a plaid shirt while hugging his red headed son.
“Are you sure dad?” replied the kid with a suspicious face.
“Of course, look at the sign up there,” said the man while pointing in the direction of a dark, wavy rock face. While spying their conversation, I looked up too.
“Where is he pointing? I don’t see any sign,” I thought.
The kid easily projected an imaginary line from his dad’s finger to the wall. “Whoaaa dad, we are at the lowest point in the U.S.”
When he finished talking, I spotted the sign indicating the level where the waves should be hitting that wall. I know we are at 282 ft (86 m) below sea level but that sign puts everything in perspective. At least, I can say I have been hundreds of feet below sea level without getting wet or needing equipment to breath.
That day I was visiting the Badwater Basin located inside the Death Valley National Park. The basin gets its name from a spring fed pool close to the road leading you to the access point. Since the pool is surrounded by salt and other minerals, the water is undrinkable or “bad.”
It was the last stop of the day and probably the most special. That was the first time visiting a saline.
My first impression? Well, I thought the salt was going to be whiter. Maybe photos of places like these have distorted my understanding. The color of the surface goes from white to light brown and this is understandable. Thousands of dust, rock, organic matter and mineral particles cover the place. And lets not forget about the hundred of visitors who transfer the dirt from their shoes to the rough surface.
The surface gets more glistening the more you walk from where the visitors enter the area. I walked and walked with the hope of seeing hexagonal sea crusts. However, the area is vast. Time is needed to get to a point where you feel isolated.
Not sure why, I felt an urge to taste the salt. When I pick up a rounded crystal from the ground, it was so thick, hard and uneven, a total different texture from what we consume on a daily basis. I was extremely close to sprinkle some small crystal in my tongue when reality hit me.
“I am sure this tastes like battery acid,” I thought (don’t ask me how I know). That was not a taste I wanted to wash off my mouth when my potable water reserves were low.
It was time to go back to the parking lot. Time was running fast and my eyes were burning. Gosh, the burn was painful. I kind of understood how it feels to be wounded in a wild place like this.
Once at the parking lot, I noticed a thick crust of salt underneath my boots. I tried to shake it off much to the delight of some German visitors (maybe I was being a little too aggressive). A lot of the salt stained the car’s black, “dirt-proof” carpets my husband placed below the front seats. I pretend nothing happened. Hopefully, I would not feel the urge to taste the salt we brought back home.
Have you been to Badwater? Let me know in the comments section below.