Close your eyes! Don't look! Now imagine that a wide river is cutting its way through a big valley framed on both sides by tall green mountains. As you leave the valley and you get up in the mountains, there are hidden canyons and little creeks rushing downhill. Listen carefully... Can you hear the rustling of the leaves? Do you feel the cool breeze on your face as you get closer to the top? Water makes all this happen. Now open your eyes. It is the lack of water that makes Death Valley such an astonishing place.
|Death Valley seen from Dante's View|
The second National Park I ever visited (first was Joshua Tree), Death Valley is never a runner-up, always the winner.
It is the hottest place on Earth. This year in July, it broke the world heat record with a temperature of 130°F (54.4°C) reading, the Earth's highest reliably measured temperature. (The previous record belonged also to Death Valley, as the unreliable measured record of 134 °F, from 1913.)
It is the lowest place in North America. Badwater Basin is 282 feet (about 86 meters) below sea level. It was once a lake and now consists mostly of salt flats that sparkle in the sun with their symmetric geometrical design.
|Badwater Basin, lowest point in North America|
It is the driest place in North America. Average rainfall is less than 2 inches per year (5 cm), with several years when there was no rain at all. The four mountain ranges between the ocean and Death Valley contribute to the dryness of Death Valley as the clouds loose the water with every traversal of a range. There are several dunes in Death Valley, some open for sand boarding.
Not everything can be measured though. How do you put a measure on feeling? Is it the intensity of the emotion, is it the duration? Is it how vivid some images still live in you? This climate has created some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen, such at the rainbow colored hills of Artists Palette.
|Artists Palette, Death Valley|
I knew nothing about Death Valley. Before my friends M. and M. mentioned it to me during my first trip to the West Coast, I did not know it even existed. Unlike other places I've been, I did not write anything about it at the moment or immediately after. All I have are old paper photos and my memories.
|Golden Canyon with the Red Cathedral in the background.|
When I think about Death Valley, I think the most about an afternoon hike through the Golden Canyon to Zabriskie Point, with the Red Cathedral on the left. We were little dots sliding on an invisible and narrow trail making fun at our shadows projected on the sandy walls across. We rushed through badlands to get to Zabriskie Point just in time to get soaked into the sunset light and watch quietly the colors fading away till the dark and cold took over.