Mount Whitney – part 3

the Sierra Nevada

California

September 2016


Badwater

After exploring the Lone Pine area, Lisa and I take the opportunity to visit Death Valley, the largest national park in the country outside of Alaska.  We figure that a day should be plenty enough time to enjoy all 5270 square miles.  How big is that?  Bigger than Delaware and Rhode Island combined, and throw in the District of Columbia too.  Yep, one day should do it.

We start at Badwater.  Here’s how Lisa figures it;  We plan to get to the highest point so why wouldn’t we go to the lowest point.  When you are standing on the salt floor of Badwater (among the cars and tour buses and hundreds of visitors) you can look high up the stone wall of the mountain to the east and see a sign on the side of the mountain.

can you read it?

SEA LEVEL

You are looking up 282 feet from the bottom of the country.  Yah, Badwater is the lowest point in the continental United States.

Did I mention it is hot?  We know that one thing mountain climbers must contend with is the cold, snowy freezing conditions.  This is the other way.  With names in Death Valley like Dry Bone Canyon, Hells Gate, Desolation Canyon, (dry) Lost Lake, Funeral Peak, Coffin Peak, Furnace Creek and Dantes View, you may begin to pick up on the hints.  Yeah, it’s hot here.

In fact, it is hot enough to be a living cliche…

Notice the egg residue on the rock and the nearby eggshells.

It was 100° at 9:55 this morning.  Not unusual.

We drive a bit and walk a bit.  Deserts of course, are more than sand and Death Valley, a very large desert, has salt dunes, springs, high mountains with an array of flora, snow and colors and textures that a city dweller may never see.  Snake, nine species of bat, fox, 50 species of tarantula, bobcat, lizards, bighorn sheep and, yes, mountain lion.  Hundreds more species inhabit Death Valley.  We saw exactly none.  Zero.  Rats.

Must have been the heat.  No, it was not the heat.  The temperature is regularly 100° or more and those who live here have lived here for a long time and this is the environment they live in.  They know how to do it.

Tourists don’t know how to do it, many of them making mention of the heat, as if it’s a bad thing.  This is not their accustomed environment, no.

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