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Exponentially Fertile Soil
Overview: Located on the Guadalupe Mountains National Park's far western edge, the Salt Basin Dunes are part of the second-largest gypsum dune field in the United States. This area does not seem to get high visitation; even on weekends, you will likely have the area to yourself.
Hike: From the parking area's southeastern corner, head east on the dirt road/trail. The dunes are not visible yet, but they will be in just a few minutes. It is abundantly obvious that cattle frequent this trail more often than humans. After about a quarter-mile, you will reach the old parking area, which has another interpretive sign explaining the region's geology. The trail continues to the left of the sign and heads toward the northern edge of the sand dunes. The trail surface is covered in fine sand, making walking somewhat strenuous despite there being virtually no elevation change on the trail. Every plant along the trail also seems to have thorns.
As you head east, the dunes rise on your right, and a few side trails lead over to the dunes for exploration. Continuing east on the trail, it "ends" at the old Butterfield Stage route. The Butterfield route runs SE to NW along the eastern edge of the dunes. From here, turn right, and head up into the dunes past some old signposts that no longer have signs. This is the end of the official trail, but you can explore along the stage route and all over the dunes to your heart's content before heading back to the trail. The dunes on the northern side tend to have less vegetation and are taller than the dunes at the southern end.
Notes: Sledding is not permitted on the dunes. If exploring in the dunes, pay attention to your surroundings. It is easy to lose track of which direction you need to head to return to the trail. Bring plenty of water; there is no shade. The dunes are open daily from sunrise to sunset.
Gypsum: A great source of calcium and sulfur for plant nutrition. It improves soil structure, improves water infiltration, and helps reduce runoff and erosion. Gypsum is also the primary component in drywall.
Check out the Official Route and Triplog.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.