I first read of the Sump through Richard Moreno's "Backyard Travels" book. At first it didn't sound that interesting, but if he wrote about it, it must be a place to visit. The adventure begins near State Route 773 just south of US 6. Nearby coordinates are N37* 55.047 W118* 06.419. The landscape is typical rolling hills with low sage dotting the land, though the mountains rise up in the distance to the west. However, if you take a small dirt road south from the road, you'll soon drop into a wash that winds its way up a wide canyon behind one of those unassuming rolling hills.
The entrance to the Sump is covered with soft sand that is packed enough in the center to make an ok road. Sheer walls show the force of the water than has traveled down this path in years past. The wash twists and turns as it makes it way east, before it opens up and leaves you staring at a huge column. We parked near the remains of a petrified tree to begin our adventure on foot. We circled the Sump, taking in the varied landscape. There are huge mounds of dusty crumbling mud that have little grooves in between that you can scramble along, massive towering walls with narrow twisty slot canyons, and narrow ridges of dirt with sides that just fall down forever. Veins of crystal run along the floor, leaving small narrow blades poking up into the sunlight, which glow with white, gold, and brown colors. Petrified trees dot one corner of the Sump, some still standing while others have fallen to break into a thousand pieces of colored rock.
It takes about an hour of slow walking to circle around back to the truck. In that short time, I managed to fill up my camera, capturing this diverse landscape. I am vaguely reminded of Cathedral Gorge in Eastern Nevada, but here the terrain changes more, and there are less signs that anyone has every found this place before you. The Sump is longer than it first appears as the features grow in size the further away from the mouth you get. No shade, no trees, no water, this alien landscape demands you come prepared but rewards you with sights seen few places.
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