09.05.2012 - 09.05.2012
Today it was finally time to visit Death Valley National Park. Before our trip to the US I had googled a lot about this national park and I was really excited to experience everything I read about. So we drove 1 hour and 30 minutes to Shoshone for lunch before we kept on driving into the Death Valley National Park. We had planned to enter the National Park from the south and drive north so we had the sun more or less from behind, because we knew that it would be hot (and sunny) today. And oh yes, the further into the national park we came the warmer it got. The record for the day was +109 °F, which is +43 °C! After driving for a while an animal appeared on the road. It was a coyote that came towards our car begging for food. If I had reached out my hand outside of the window I could have pet the coyote. That’s how close it got. But when it realized it wasn’t getting any food from us it went to the car behind us in line. I’m a little surprised that a coyote decides to live in the desert. But it must have had access to water somehow otherwise it wouldn’t survive.
Eventually we reached Badwater, the US’s but also the entire west hemispheres lowest point at -86 meter BELOW sea level. Here it was “only” +40° Centigrade. Badwater is a dried out lake and now the bottom is covered with dried out salt and they have made a walkway so you could walk out in the salted area. It was a mighty experience. But the thing that got to me the most was the silence. It was so quiet! You neither heard the cars passing by nor the people talking to each further away. Only when you were right next to people you could hear their voices. So weird! When we got back to our car it was literally boiling inside and it took a while for the air conditioning to cool it down again.
After driving a little further down the road we turned right onto a narrow lingering one-way road that led us to Artist’s Drive and Artist’s Palette. A barren yet beautiful landscape appeared in front of us with hills in different colors and shades and as an artist myself I thought it was incredibly beautiful. I tried every setting in my camera in order to capture these amazing colors in my photos but unfortunately I couldn’t. So the photos above represent the best settings I possibly could. Soon thereafter my fellow traveler ran out of water so we had to make a stop at Visitor Center and buy some more. I can ensure you that you really need to bring a lot of water due to the extreme heat. We drank water like all the time so whatever you do – do not forget to bring water visiting Death Valley National Park!
Zabriskie Point was next on our road trip, a nice place with a lot of sand banks. Zabriskie Point is not far away from 20 Mule Team Canyon Road, a canyon named after the carriages that was pulled by 20 mules up and down in the mineral mines in that area. We felt we didn’t have time to drive that road and it is preferred to have a jeep when driving that road and not a city type care that we had.
Last but not least we drove up to Dante’s View (yes, you can drive all the way up there) with an amazing view over Badwater and many mountains in the distance, Telescope Peak for an example. Next to Dante’s View is a hiking trail to Coffin Peak which is not far away and Dante’s Peak. When the weather is clear they say you can actually see the US’s highest and lowest point from Dante’s Peak. But in that heat and all the warning signs for snakes and scorpions we decided not to.
On the way back to Las Vegas we made a stop at Devil’s Hole in Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge. The signs to get there were not that well-posted but surprisingly the GPS actually knew where it was! Devil’s Hole is a deep water filled hole and the home of the almost exterminated Death Valley Pupfish. Nowadays it’s a fenced area with security cameras and as a visitor you were able to walk inside a steel cage bridge over the hole and have a look. Near Devil’s Hole you can find Crystal Reservoir, where you actually can take a swim. In the area you can also find several hot springs but due to the heat we really didn’t feel like swimming today… at least not in a hot spring!
When we got back to Las Vegas and after well-needed showers we went down for the Las Vegas Strip (a.k.a. the Strip) with Caesars Palace, Mirage, New York New York among others and walked around in all the casinos. Though we never played or bet at any casino since people smoked like crazy inside and we got headaches after only 5 minutes. So tragic it has to be that way.