Category: Travel

Devil’s Golf Course

Large halite salt crystal formations in Devil’s Golf Course are just the tip of salt/gravel beds that extend up to 9,000 feet below the surface. Unlike the valley floor at Badwater, this place remains dry, allowing weathering processes to sculpt the salt there into complicated, razor-sharp formations. 

Devil’s Golf Course should not be confused with an actual golf course in Furnace Creek, also in Death Valley.

Panamint Sunrise

“And yet day and night meet fleetingly at twilight and dawn,” he said, lowering his voice again and narrowing his eyes and moving his head a quarter of an inch closer to hers. “And their merging sometimes affords the beholder the most enchanted moments of all the twenty four hours. A sunrise or sunset can be ablaze with brilliance and arouse all the passion, all the yearning, in the soul of the beholder.”
Mary Balogh, A Summer to Remember

 

Crystal Power

At a distance Badwater Basin is a frothy ocean – a great white shining expanse. As you get closer, it starts to resemble snow. When you finally start walking on the flats, it is more like crunchy sand. That’s when you really realize that you’re walking on a 200 square-mile lake bed of salt.

Here, salt crystals expand, pushing a crust into rough, chaotic forms. Newly formed crystals ooze between mud cracks, sketching strange patterns on the surface of the salt flat. Passing rainstorms wash off windblown dust and generate a fresh layer of blinding white salt. Floods create temporary lakes that dissolve salts back into solution, starting the process all over again.

(Notice also the remnants of the previous day’s dust storm still lingering in the sky.)

Desert dust storm

It wasn’t what I expected or hoped for. I wanted five days of sunshine and renewal in the desert. Instead, I descended to Death Valley in a storm. The wind whipped my tent fly and pushed fine desert dust through the mesh walls. In minutes, clothing, skin, hair and sleeping bag were a gritty, matte grey-brown. 

I turned my gaze toward Furnace Creek. It wasn’t far to seek refuge. A cold beer in the bar would at least wash the sand from my mouth.

Slowly, one foot in front of the other, back turned to the wind, I made my way to the oasis. A quick glance upward to get my bearings. And this. The beauty in suffering. If only we take a moment to look for it.

Matho Tapila Mega Moto Adventure

My new favorite picture of Nick and me

In June, Nick, my dad, Karen, Dave and I undertook our most ambitious motorcycle tour ever. Twelve days, five states, seven national parks, 3100 miles, and only two notable bike issues. Whew!

Highlights included a return to the 99 miles of twisty road leading to Lolo Pass, seeing all sorts of wildlife (moose, buffalo, big horn sheep, grizzly bear, pronghorn, and more), bowls of legendary cheeseburger soup, seeing the Brewery Follies in Virginia City, geysers and thermal springs in Yellowstone NP, showing those WY people how we dance in Seattle, an unexpected visit to a roadside air museum, hilarious entertainment by a singer in Gillette, WY (where Les Canards Sauvages almost got renamed “the water people”), contrasting visits to Crazy Horse and Mt. Rushmore, meeting an artist whose work was solicited for inclusion in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, walking around Devil’s Tower, prairie dogs, surviving 30+ mph cross-winds, a sobering visit to Little Big Horn, $2 margaritas and evening games of pool, an early morning blast up the Going to the Sun Highway (with no cars!), skinny dipping in Avalanche Lake, rafting the Middle Fork Flathead River, a visit with long-time family friends in Sandpoint, ID (dinner at a floating restaurant!), twisting the throttle through some of Washington’s best roads, being met by riding friends (Mark and Laura) in Winthrop on our last night, and surviving the final day’s ride home.

We live in an amazing country, and I’m so glad I get to experience it on two wheels with friends and family. Watch the slideshow below to see some of the visual highlights. (The arrow in the lower right corner will embiggen it.) Additional pictures by my dad are here.