Without any particular expectation about the day, as it was just my second day on the tour, I woke up in Las Vegas motel and after morning deeds, trying to avoid cockroaches in my way, went to the car – deadly unresponsive Nissan Altima.
First signs of the deadly beautiful came as a road sign saying that the next place where basic services will be available will be after 72 miles. On our way temperature steadily rose from some 70 F to way above 100 F and we exchanged information available for each of team members on Death Valley – place holding the US records for hottest temperature – 134*F or 57*C while sitting in safe and cool shelter of a conditioned car, these were just numbers. Above us blue sky with no clouds, around us deserted flats with mountains in the backstage. Deadly promising.
Coming closer to Death Valley National Park, we noticed frost like icing on sand and tones from white palette here and there. Despite looking like ice, this was salt, left after massive evaporation of water. Sight I experienced for the first time in my life. Badwater – overwhelming salt flats – approached accompanied by Dave Matthews band singing “Don’t drink the water”. I along with my spouse left the cool shelter of car to meet the Badwater salt flats in person. Scenic, deadly hot and unusual place. Lacking the previous experience encountering extremely hot places like this, no ice water, even no water was taken along by us. Its close, short walk from car to the salt flats and back – how hard can it be? Leaving the car, hot air and wind met us first, then salt flats. We went for a while, along with other visitors, till the point where I felt it’s time for me to return. My husband together with other tour mates went further – till the furthest visible people in the flats. I spotted the park ranger returning to the visitor centre and turned around, to return alone, finding solace in the thought, that in case I will fall from my feet, ranger will evacuate me out of the salt flats. Way back to the car was harder than I expected, hot and salty wind bit my skin and I was reconsidering my decision to walk in salt flats. Last part of the walk I made thanks to Moisturising Mist on the open parts of the body and Ammoniac solution under my nose. Reaching the car was not the solution, as far as Air Condition, turned on by my team mates didn’t bring the cool relief I expected but just more hot air. Panic attack was ended by tour members from team 1, who had air conditioned car and ice water bottles. Deadly scary experience which made me deadly respectful regarding the place we were.
The rest of the Death Valley exploration went far smoother than Badwater. The nice detour through the narrow canyon – The Artists Drive was lively and exciting – each turn and sight after that came as a surprise, leading us to the Artists Palette – colourful sight with mountains and minerals colouring them, which explains the name given to the area. Zabriskie Point provided really spectacular views over the valley. Before arriving at the next point – Dantes view, we took one more nice detour through unpaved Twenty Mule Team Canyon – the dry flood water river. Spectacular Dantes view covers the stretch from the highest (Mt Whitney, 14 505 ft) and lowest (Badwater) points in the contiguous USA (as the Lonely Planet guide says). In all of the places – deadly hot. As furnace creek visitor centre thermometer told us – slightly above 122*F was the outside temperature. Because of it hiking trails, which should be beautiful in spring time, greeted us with with red road signs saying “STOP, Extreme Heat Danger, walking after 10 AM not recommended”. Deadly beautiful will be quintessential phrase for me, when describing Death Valley.
Leaving the Death Valley, our way led through Amargosa – small town (?) in the middle of nowhere, where we saw … Amargosa Opera house!!! No idea what it meant, but it made me curious – do they really perform operas here? Maybe Wagner would go well with these unforgiving landscapes? Will google it back home, when reminiscing the travel experience! Deadly curious!