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The Devil’s Golf Course

Devils Golf Course Death Valley CAIn the searing heat, the sun glares down on the barren valley while fiercely scorching winds roar through the bowl-shaped desert floor. I’m in Death Valley National Park, California in the United States, attempting to gingerly make my way on an unpaved track towards what they call the Devil’s Golf Course. The scrub gives way to lumpy domes of black and white covering acres of the valley. The uneven terrain is made up of one common place table item: salt and tons of it. Here, the evaporated salt beds of an ancient lake dig deep into the earth’s crust and their exposed tips have weathered over centuries into a multitude of unusual salt crystal formations. Looking down upon this landscape, the salt and hardened mud look like a breakfast of lumpy oatmeal. I’m not sure even the devil would want to play golf on this sort of terrain. I make my way gingerly into the salt spired field, carefully avoiding the sharp edges of the delicately laced salt crusts. Golf might not be an option on the Devil’s Golf Course, but maneuvering around this terrain reminds me of childhood hopscotch games. For a moment the heavy wind dies down and the valley is eerily silent. I bend down close to a jagged pinnacle and hear a quiet pop, then another. A few minutes later two more metallic pings follow. This is the sound of the salt crystals expanding and bursting in the summer heat. I am awed not only by the looks of this place, but by the strangeness of the science behind it. My head this close to the salt domes, Devil’s Golf Course changes from an oatmeal dish into a miniature landscape of mountain peaks, deep canyons, and wide plateaus of black rock covered in an ethereal wash of white snow. A change in my perspective transforms this harsh and bizarre land into a world of unsettling beauty.

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6 replies »

  1. Really cool – I loved hearing about the noises it makes and the changing perspectives. Have you seen the movie Gerry? It’s a very strange movie but this made me think of it.

    • Thanks, Sheila. It is an odd place in the middle of the desert with peculiar features, almost alien, but still quite amazing. As for “Gerry,” I have not seen that movie, but am intrigued that you mention it. Do you recommend it?

      • I’m not sure if I’d recommend it – the first time I saw it I didn’t like it but then I liked it more the second time around. It’s not for everyone – most of the movie just shows the characters hiking through the desert – but the scenery is fantastic. By the time you finish watching it, if you’re still awake, you’ll feel like you’ve hiked through the desert along with them (but then you’ve already hiked through the desert in real life anyway).

      • I always appreciate how a book, tv show, or movie can give you the sense of being in a different world. I did read a brief synopsis of the movie after you mentioned it and it does sound very character driven and interesting enough for me to check out. Thanks again and I’ll be sure to drink plenty before watching the movie lest I be dehydrated in the desert. Cheers.

      • I always appreciate how a book, tv show, or movie can give you the sense of being in a different world. I did read a brief synopsis of the movie after you mentioned it and it does sound very character driven and interesting enough for me to check out. Thanks again and I’ll be sure to drink plenty before watching the movie lest I be dehydrated in the desert. Cheers.

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