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Field Notebook

Spring, 2010
Atacama Desert, Chile


(photo: JT Thomas)
(photo: JT Thomas)
Cordillera de la Sal, the range of salt, a spine jutting more than a thousand feet over the great salar below. The climb is arduous and strange, like hummocks but without water or any living thing up a steep incline. The substrate is a peculiar mix of concrete-like salt and mud just as hard -- milky streams of salt, rose-stained crystals and fins. Some salt formations ring like bells when flicked. Salt oozes from the ground: crust, pools, pillars, and eroded blocks. I crack off a piece and nip it with my teeth. It is good.

I top the overhead ridge and enter a fantastic landscape of salt steeples and horned summits. The top of this salt mountain has weathered into bizarre forms. Clear daggers of salt stick up from the ground, masses of them separated by fine-grained sand dunes.

In the last golden light of day we find ourselves humping gear and water around bright pinnacles. I go down on my knees licking a clear, wildly-eroded boulder, biting off bits of it.


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