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Categories & Keywords

Subcategory Detail:
Keywords:endorheic, basin, landscape, sunset, cloudy, National Park, mountains, amargosa, quiet, Death Valley, marsh, water, california, Death Valley National Park, desolate, mysterious, solitude, salt pan, flats, alone, patterns, salt, below sea level, inyo, briny, badwater, surreal
Photo Info

Dimensions15000 x 9998
Original file size44.8 MB
Image typeJPEG
A Basin Of Badwater Moods

A Basin Of Badwater Moods

This is the 1st image I captured this year, in January, after losing my wife, home, and community. The previous day I had arrived in Long Beach after driving a rental car most of the night from my new hollow empty nest in Flagstaff. The mission was to pick up both my Jeep from the port where it was shipped and waiting for my receiving, and pick up my dog, “Spirit” from air cargo later in the evening. From there the plan was to take my sweet time driving back going out of my way through Death Valley, because I needed to leave my house a few days so that my final vacation renter lease could execute. And then come back with Spirit, into our full-time primary residence…the money from that last renter would likely pay for this trip.

Mixed emotions and moods were rampant. On one hand I was happy to finally have my wheels and my dog back and not pay for a rental car anymore, yet on the other hand I was sad as more tethers of my failed relationship were being physically cut with the delivery, and losing a needed income source as well. Pile on that I hoped that returning to this National Park with Spirit would recreate some amazing joyful moments when 8 years prior I took her there, yet also soured by the knowing that Death Valley was more than a place to me at the moment -- a jeering 282 ft below sea-level-symbol of the exact last place in the world I wanted to be at the moment.

Every moment of the drive to Long Beach, and the full logistical day of receiving, had me stepping through one mood after another it seemed. Exhausted and finally having Spirit at 10pm, I searched online for dog friendly motels and booked one, only to find out later that dog-friendly in LA means service dog…it turned out every motel in that list was the same. So, at Midnight I gave up and started the dark journey into the night – To Death Valley, making it up as I go…not too dissimilar from all those years ago driving through the night with Spirit the first time. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead or in Death Valley” I thought…part of me didn’t care which.

Just like before, I hit Mesquite Sand Dunes at sunrise but it was dreary, and both my spirit and Sprit’s spirit seemed weary, mine even more that she was not enjoying herself here like she had before…no happy joyful dog, no running, no jumping, no leaping, no unabashed goony-run-doggieness…I think I needed it more than her! She just wanted to be back in the Jeep with me. My shooting the rest of the day was as unremarkable as the day was long, waiting for the time to go get the one shot I never got before, and sorely was missing from my portfolio…Badwater Basin. Both self-doubt and the restless need to rest kicked in as I started driving toward it.

Walking out into the salt pan was quite a long haul to get to where the water was, feeling so heavy with all my equipment and resentment, clearly out of shape from not taking care of myself. Barely present and emoting darkness, I searched for a field of view without others around that provided the most uniform hexagonal honeycomb shapes of salt crust…it was harder than it looked. Trudging around step-slopping from one reflective crusty pool to another was like stepping through all the sloppy moods of the day, and the previous day, and the week, and the month…each reflective pool, reflecting me, in each reflective mood, each reflection in its dreary-dullness, then kicked apart by my foot’s trampling heaviness.

Somewhere in the moments of this places uncharacteristic muted setting sun and very little color, while reassured by everything I’ve lost, I gave up. I let go. I can’t temper this scene, these moods, if I can’t temper myself with some sort of consistency, with some sort of style, with some sort of acceptance. I swallowed hard and mentally started acknowledging every feeling, emotion, and mood, even the hopeful ones, placing each into each’s own compartment; its own salt-pan-crusty-honeycomb. It took awhile, despite my training in this exercise. When done I stood in my own pool while staring at the sun, reconciling that that this is the start of true hero's journey and I would have more of this to deal was up to me how I navigate it. I felt empty, cold, torn apart, but in a lighter way. I started to work. This is what I created while negotiating the hollow flux and swing of my Badwater moods.

Badwater Basin is an endorheic basin in Death Valley National Park, Death Valley, Inyo County, California, noted as the lowest point in North America and the United States, with a depth of 282 ft below sea level. Mount Whitney, the highest point in the contiguous 48 United States, is only 84.6 miles (136 km) to the northwest.

The site itself consists of a small spring-fed pool of "bad water" next to the road in a sink; the accumulated salts of the surrounding basin make it undrinkable, thus giving it the name. significant rainstorms flood the valley bottom periodically, covering the salt pan with a thin sheet of standing water. Newly formed lakes do not last long though, because the 1.9 inch of average rainfall is overwhelmed by a 150 inch annual evaporation rate, which is the highest rate in the United States. Where water is not always present at the surface, repeated freeze–thaw and evaporation cycles gradually push the thin salt crust into hexagonal honeycomb shapes, which is what you see you here. The layer of water in the honeycombs in January, where I shot this, seemed to go forever off into the distance, yet was merely about a ¼ - ½ inch in depth.