Mike and I started off 2015 with a 3-day walk in Saline Valley, located near Bishop between Owens Valley and Death Valley. You can get into Saline Valley from the north or south via the rough and often washed-out Saline Valley Road. We were able to drive the intrepid Subaru in from the north, with only a few icy sections to negotiate.
Saline Valley is part of Death Valley National Park, the largest National Park in the Lower 48. The valley floor boasts warm springs and a somewhat-perennial hippie colony, where rumor has it that the word “wind” is forbidden; a marshy salt lake; and sand dunes nestled between the towering 10,000-foot escarpment of the Inyo Mountains to the west and the Saline Range to the east. Unless you are in the deep canyons of the Inyos, where water flows, the only water you have in the Saline Range is what you carry with you.
People sometimes ask why we walk around out here. Despite sometimes heavy packs, we enjoy these remote and untraveled routes because there is always something to see: Animal tracks or giant, ancient logs in a wash. Jumbles of geology, where basalt, granite, limestone, and other rocks sit side by side. Carpets of wildflowers after a rain. Evidence of past, violent volcanic or hydraulic action. Obsidian pieces and rock art left by long-ago nomads.
And always the chance to sleep in the open, full of dinner after a day of walking, under the stars amid the absolute silence of a mostly empty valley, and with the next-day’s promise of sitting in a warm sleeping bag with hot coffee, watching the sun rise.