Posted by: TomA | 10 May 2007

Day 8 – Death Valley National Park

Death Valley is an awe-inspiring place, with a far more varied landscape than you might imagine. Yes, it might be the hottest place in North America, possibly the hottest place in the world (only 95-98F when we were there, approx 38C I think) but the heat wasn’t as stifling as I imagined. Air-conditioning in the car no doubt helped.

Driving around (and you do have to drive around – it’s far too big/hot to get around otherwise) presents a constantly changing environment. The drive from Lone Pine into Death Valley itself was great, loads of long, sweeping roads; with unusually for the USA, every next mile bringing significant changes in scenery.

We tried to explore the less obvious and touristy bits of Death Valley. There were several coaches of old dears being ferried around to the obvious bits (Dante’s View – with a view of the highest (14,000 ft+) and lowest (-250 ft) points of North America; Scotty’s Castle; etc). We decided to hit the dirt roads and explore some of the more interesting bits. Dirt roads is exactly what they were, still accessible by car, but certainly not bus. Some of the even more exciting sounding areas you could only get to with a high clearance 4×4 – we obviously didn’t attempt these in our little Dodge. Once you get stuck somewhere remote, I don’t fancy your chances against the heat, nor the wildlife (deadly scorpions, black widow spiders, all sorts of scary snakes, coyotes etc…)

We found this great walk, through a very narrow (3 feet or less) canyon, with polished marble sides and lots of tiny lizards. Midday heat meant we lasted around 15 minutes of a 6 mile hike before turning back to the comfort of an air conditioned car.

There are also a number of ghost towns in Death Valley, following the discovery of gold, silver and other precious metals and minerals at the turn of the 20th century. The one we headed to was significantly larger than most, being more of a ghost city, apparently having a population of around 10,000 at it’s peak, with banks, schools and even a brothel. Not much remains now, a few stone buildings, most of the railway depot and several semi-sealed mine shafts.

It’s an eerie place, made more so by the caravan park just north, full of rusting cars and empty shotgun cartridges…

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Responses

  1. Can’t thank you enough for sharing these beautiful pictures. They are so breathtaking.


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