One of the many things that I like about Death Valley National Park is its enormous expanse of open terrain. Its enormous swath of desert and mountain wilderness ensures that you will have solitude to appreciate the park's many amazing geologic features; and it also ensures that you will have the opportunity to have an adventure, and if you're lucky, the chance to discover things that have been lost. For example, earlier this year, when thepeakseeker and I were attempting the Shorty's Well Route (Trip Report here) to the top of Telescope Peak, we came across an abandoned mine. While abandoned mines are common in Death Valley due to the park's mining history, the location of this mine was unexpected. We had backpacked into the Panamint Mountains from the Badwater Basin; and had passed Shorty's Well, and Shorty's Mine. From the mine, we had followed a foot trail which had gradually become steeper deep into the mountains. At the end of the first day of backpacking, we had traveled ten miles from the nearest "road"; and were truly off the grid.
The Devil's Golf Course is an area of Death Valley that is close to Badwater. While it is not quite as far below sea level as Badwater, this is an area that is also below sea level. But like Badwater, it shares a common geologic past. Over twenty thousand years ago, the valley floor of Death Valley was not barren and desolate - but instead was covered with water - a large body of water known to geologists and historians as Lake Manly. Lake Manly was full of minerals from the surrounding terrain; and over the course of time, as it evaporated, it left those minerals - and sedimentary rocks behind. Today, what remains are salt crystals from the bottom of the lake - and borax crystal formations. These crystals have grown into an extensive – and hard network of structures. As you can see from the pictures above, the crystal formations have covered the area in a network of sharp formations that are between one to two feet high and are close together. As the area is difficult to traverse on foot, one can only imagine the difficulty one would have attempting to play any sort of golf game (hence the name). While the crystals are spectacular, where myth and fact meet are with the secret pools of water that remain interspersed among the formations.