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Tiptoeing Across Salt Creek

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Salt Creek, Death Valley, California, Patricia Steffy


As we made our way from the wildflowers along Beatty Cutoff to 190, heading east out of Death Valley National Park, we noticed a significant number of cars stopped by the side of the road. Far off in the distance, people were walking out on what appeared to be a dried lake. As we hadn’t seen anything noted on the map, we were puzzled, and more than a little curious.

Naturally, I was reluctant to get out of the car – we had reservations for dinner in Pahrump, and I didn’t know how long it would take to get there. Plus, I couldn’t see an easy way into the area. And, well, I’m the timid one. Luckily, Andy wanted to see what the attraction was, and his enthusiasm won me over. Out of the car, and off to explore we went.

The impression of the area was partially correct – it is a mostly dried water-bed. But it wasn’t a lake, it is what remains of Salt Creek. Further up the line, the water is a bit more substantial and is actually home to the Salt Creek Pupfish. Down in our area, we didn’t spy any fish, but we couldn’t help but be amazed by the scenery.


Salt Creek, Death Valley, California, Patricia Steffy


After crossing over the pickleweed bunches, we notice the white ground covering. The entire area is covered in the residue of the once flowing creek. The remains give the area, which is already dry, an even more arid look. It’s hard to believe that anything flourishes in such ashen earth. Just as we finished taking in the vast space around us, we looked past it all to the backdrop of mountains. In contrast, they look almost blue, as their elevation allows for significantly more life.


Salt Creek, Death Valley, California, Andrew Gerngross

Photo by Andrew Gerngross


Salt Creek, Death Valley, California, Patricia Steffy


Even with all the other people venturing into the middle of this wash, it was nearly silent. Whether others were similarly caught in awe of their surroundings, or the wide expanse swallowed the sound before it reached us, I don’t know. All I can tell you is that a tremendous feeling of serenity overcame me – unusual given how stressed I am about life right now. I took a moment to just stop, close my eyes and breathe. Why? I don’t know. I just had to take the moment. It was a moment that Andy observed with a bit of wonder because he, too, had taken a moment to just breathe during an earlier desert stop (but hadn’t shared what he was doing at the time). So simpatico in that moment that in times of stress since, he has become fond of saying “our only job is to breathe.”

I’m trying to remember that even with the desert far behind me in the rear view mirror.


Salt Creek, Death Valley, California, Andrew Gerngross

Photo by Andrew Gerngross


40 Comments on Tiptoeing Across Salt Creek

  1. There is beauty everywhere. Good to get off plans and stop to enjoy.Nice pics 🙂

  2. It sounds lovely there. Just the sort of place I need to be right now! I like the ‘our only job is to breathe’ bit too 🙂

    • PatriciaSteffy // March 23, 2016 at 3:50 pm // Reply

      I think we need to get a picture blown up with that saying on it for one of our walls at home. That way, I can always be reminded of his saying, even when day-to-day life gets stressful.

  3. Looks breathtaking. I enjoy following creeks and love my short hikes and photography sprees like this – looks like you had a fun day.

  4. What a great post on how important the little things are – like breathing and enjoying the beauty of our current surroundings. Thanks you for sharing! Keep up the amazing work! Malibu Mama Loves Xx

    • PatriciaSteffy // March 23, 2016 at 4:46 pm // Reply

      Thank you! I’m hoping to keep stay in that “desert” mode every day (so far, some days are easier than others).

  5. These photos are stunning! Those mountains really do look blue. I have never been to that part of California, but I am dying to go.

    • PatriciaSteffy // March 23, 2016 at 6:02 pm // Reply

      There is so much of California that I haven’t seen, and I am constantly finding myself amazed that all of this different terrain is packed into one state!

  6. Wow! What an incredible place. I love the photo’s too.

  7. Looks like a very magical place…quiet and calm to gather your thoughts…I love Calfifornia..every part!


    • PatriciaSteffy // March 23, 2016 at 6:13 pm // Reply

      Every time I get back to LA, I start planning for the next trip. There’s so much to see, and I can’t wait to get back out and explore. 🙂

  8. This looks beautiful! I love the part about ‘our only job is to breathe’, very well said 🙂

    • PatriciaSteffy // March 23, 2016 at 6:48 pm // Reply

      I’m pretty tempted to put his words on a poster made of one of these pics so I can remind myself of this whenever I need to slow down.

  9. This looks great. I’ve not visited a salt creek ever but now, I guess I should head out to the one here in India. 🙂

    • PatriciaSteffy // March 23, 2016 at 7:12 pm // Reply

      Yes!! I highly recommend exploring them when it isn’t too hot. And definitely take pictures when you go so we can see them!

  10. Moral of the story is to pull over and enjoy the ride, not just the destination!

    • PatriciaSteffy // March 23, 2016 at 7:47 pm // Reply

      Absolutely!! And I’m getting better at putting my “got to stay on schedule” side aside. Of course, this kind of scenery is pretty great incentive.

  11. I feel calm just looking at these photos. In fact, I wanna throw my camera into the car and hit the road right now to explore the Death Valley. Strangely, that’s one place we haven’t been to yet, despite various stays around the area.

    • PatriciaSteffy // March 23, 2016 at 8:20 pm // Reply

      Do it! But if jumping into a car right this minute isn’t practical, definitely think about doing it before it gets much hotter. Those 100+ temps are right around the corner!

  12. Whoa this place looks so cool! I haven’t heard of it despite living in California so I’ll have to check it out. Great photos too!

    • PatriciaSteffy // March 23, 2016 at 9:56 pm // Reply

      Thank you and yes, definitely check it out! Even if you don’t follow Salt Creek from the top, you will see tons of people pulled over to walk out into the main body of it. Incredible place!

  13. Thanks for the inspiration. I’ll be going to Death Valley in just a few weeks and am looking forward to the scenery.

  14. I came back from Death Valley 2 weeks ago and it was one of my favorite places there. I loved reading your article. It reminded me of how I felt at that same spot. The vastness and emptiness made me want to stay there all day long.

  15. Never heard of it. Looks very interesting. Love the freedom of being able to spontaneously stop and check out things that we come across.

  16. I feel a road trip coming on!! A great reminder to stop and ‘smell the roses’ and notice the little details around you.

  17. Wow, what a beautiful and unexpected moment! It looks so serene!

  18. I love unexpected adventures like this that turn out wonderfully.

  19. Every time I read your blog, I discover a new place in California that I’d never heard of! These photos are so gorgeous and I especially love that you stumbled upon Salt Creek unexpectedly – that’s the best kind of adventure!

    • PatriciaSteffy // April 19, 2017 at 8:36 pm // Reply

      It was such a beautiful and unexpected find. We love essentially tripping over places like this, and I’m hoping to spend more time in the desert soon!

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    • PatriciaSteffy // July 30, 2017 at 1:38 pm // Reply

      I have just started thinking about doing an e-book for travel. I just haven’t quite narrowed down which one I would do. I love the desert travel we’ve done, but it would take quite a bit more travel there for me to feel I have something unique to share.

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