Days on the Road: 14
High temperature: 96 degrees
Number of desert dwelling animals seen: 3
I swear I'm going to pistol whip the next person who says, "it's a dry heat."
The night before we camped at 7800 feet, it was a frigid 33°. The next day we descend over 8000 feet into Death Valley. It is 96° and mercifully temperatures are falling, it was 103° two days earlier.
The weather this time of year is quite pleasant the park ranger says. "It's a dry heat", she says. I fail to make the distinction. Jessica is in heaven, recharging her batteries she calls it. I'm counting the minutes until sunset, and Kobus is on the lookout for pet tarantulas.
We rolled up to the park entrance around lunch time and stopped for a few sandwiches. It was still pleasantly cool above the valley. We met a nice Japanese fella by the name of Masashi Yoshida who was driving solo from Seattle to Los Angeles for a month. While the four of us were chatting about our trips, an F-18 jet flew directly over our heads. He was obviously out to scare the tourists, and was quite successful. Gotta love the Air Force.
We setup camp in the mid-afternoon, claiming what little shade was available. Considering it rains about two inches a year in Death Valley and almost all of that falls in the winter months, we didn't need our rain flys for the first time this trip.
Twenty miles down the road from our campsite is the lowest point in North America. They were nice enough to hang a sign up on the cliff to put that into perspective for visitors.
Badwater Basin is the name of the place - 282 feet below sea level. It's a dried-up lake bed, now a giant salt flat. Amazingly, the highest point in the 48 states, Mt. Whitney, is only 65 miles from this sign.
What does one do in a salt basin in 90° heat, you might ask? Go for a walk. And bring water, lots of water.
Some amazing photo opportunities - my favorite is this panorama I took of the entire basin. Click the image for the full sized picture.
The sun was (finally) starting to go down and temperatures were falling. It was time for us to leave the basin and head up the valley to our next adventure, a hike up Golden Canyon.
Arriving at the trail head I was greeted with the first sign of life I'd seen in the Canyon. A curious little dragonfly who decided he liked Blue's antenna.
We hiked about a mile up the canyon while the sun set behind us. The canyon definitely lived up to its name.
Once the sun dipped behind the valley we headed back to camp to make dinner and check out the stars.
After a fine meal of grilled pork chops, rice and carrots we doused the light and waited for the planetarium show. Little did we know we weren't alone. A kangaroo rat was scavenging for leftovers under our picnic table. Cute little guy, eh?
The star show was amazing. The first times we'd seen the clouds of the Milky Way in years. Kobus sent us to bed with one request - that packing our tents in the morning be a two person job. One to lift, the other to inspect. I sort of shrugged it off as the typical "Kobus is trying to freak out Jessica with tales of giant hairy spiders before bed." Turns out, I was wrong.
That night, a scorpion decided to seek shelter between my footprint and tent. I didn't see it at first, but after I'd done a quick inspection, taken down the tent and moved it off the side, I saw the little bastard make a dash for the shade. A scorpion, no bigger than a quarter, and not very dangerous to humans, but still...not cool man, not cool.
As the relentless Death Valley sun came up over the hills, we hit the road in record time. It's a long drive to Zion National Park.