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Saline Valley Trip 12/26-12/31

Updated: Feb 14, 2023

We just returned from a quick trip to Saline Valley near Death Valley. Leslie, Rob, Anita, and Gene had been there before. We left on Boxing Day in 3 vehicles, 8 of us all together. The road into the hot springs area is about 50 miles of tough sledding - rutted gravel roads that require a truck with high clearance. And we were loaded for fun - tents, a kitchen set up, a guitar, mando, fiddle, banjo, and bass. I was impressed with the stunning desert geography, passing through Joshua and Juniper forests on the way in, snaking up to the 4,000 foot summit past huge rock outcroppings, and then the big reveal of the whole Panamint Valley. I was just thinking “This would be a tricky place to break down” when the Jeep died. We got a tow into camp with the last light and raced to set up camp before dark. Saline Springs are truly a beautiful desert oasis with palm trees, stone lined pools, and a grassy lawn where bunnies romp at dawn. We would wake early (temperatures in the 30’s), and soak with a cup of coffee, followed by breakfast and music as the sun warmed us. Then, off to hike before happy hour soak and dinner at camp. Our fire circle became the musical hub - drawing all sorts of folks and other musicians for some nights. We met kind and courteous folks: Chandler and Jen from Salt Lake, Linus, Ike and Jenna, Brett and Sarah (Santa Cruz) who traveled in vintage Land Rovers. So many folks helped diagnose the Jeep, and got her running on new fuses, although not enough to drive out. Oh my, the stars! When you step outside in the night, they dazzle. Coyotes call to each other across the valley, and you have to put your trash away at night or they will get into it. Wild donkeys on late night trips that were happy to have their ears scratched. The morning sunrise show as the sky bled pink and orange, then the sun hitting the snow capped Inyo mountains, with an ever changing display of colors and shadow play. So many beautiful mysteries we saw in Saline Valley. Megan
If you want a sense of hope, check out Sarah and Brett, from the Santa Cruz mountains. We're playing music around a fire one night, and neighbors have come to join us both to listen and to share their music. Megan says, “Hey what's that case got in it?” Brett says, “That's my friend Sarah's.” Sarah says, “That's my rebab from Morocco.” My jaw drops, I have known this instrument and have been playing North African music (al Andalus) for 25 years! Their pack of friends arrived in three restored (as in historically and mechanically accurate and high-principled) Land Rovers. Sarah studied in a school founded by the writer and educator Martín Prechtel (whose special yet obscure books I have also known about through natural building circles). And other beautiful moments around the fire, getting to know the kinds of people who are filtered through the effort it takes to get to this place. I've been coming for 30 years, and have always wanted to play music here. That we are with such lovely people and the full kitchen and the quality of company brings tears. (12.28.22) Leslie

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