Monday, 22 August 2011

Fahrenheit 112

5th August

There’s something about wide open spaces that really does it for me.  Mountains do the same if I’m honest but they have to be very big, or craggy, and more than a bit showy.  Actually I think they have to be awesome and I mean that in the truest sense of the word and not the watered down misused version often seen on Youtube to describe say, a cat wearing socks or a stupid person with three snooker balls in their mouth.

For me, some of the spaces in Death Valley were quite awesome.  Of course Death Valley is most famous for its temparature and interestingly as we approached the entrance to the park, this began to fall from the low 100s we’d been experiencing since the drive from Las Vegas to around 88 o at 6pm. We were obviously disappointed but soon realised we had climbed to around 5000ft.   Our destination at Stovepipe Wells however was just 5ft above sea level and at 9pm that evening we sat stargazing in a not so disappointing 110o. 

Death Valley seemed to be a very popular place for Harley drivers, and there was a constant punctuation of small groups passing throughout the night.  We thought that this may be the only time leather clad bikers could make it through without melting.  

Our accommodation was a little rough around the edges, which wasn’t a problem.  It was the dead cockroaches around the edges that was.   I have no problem with live cockroaches because of course this is their home, but if a motel is going to charge $200 a night then they should at least get their flipping broom out and sweep the dead ones up.  This approach would also have saved us from our nightmares as we wondered what disgusting creature could possibly moult such gigantic fist fulls of pubic hair onto the bathroom floor and.....I can’t even say it, sorry.

6th August

Of course the location is astounding.  Nearby were the Mesquite Flat sand dunes which we explored in the morning.  The sand which is blown in from the canyons is trapped here by the surrounding mountains.  They are not the tallest dunes in Death Valley, but still impressive to witness.  

We were also lucky enough to spot some recent nocturnal activity which was not, as I initially suspected, a BMX nearly running over a frog. 

From here we headed down to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 282ft at below sea level.  

Here the temperature hit 112o and we walked out onto the salt flats with a couple of bottles of water.   There is a small spring fed pool here but the salts make it undrinkable, hence the name ‘Badwater’.

Whilst we didn’t see any direct evidence of the former mining activities, official figures indicate that there could be at least 10,000 and up to 50,000 abandoned mines in Death Valley. 

The Californian gold rush of 1848 saw small boom towns spring up mining gold, silver, copper, as well as evaporates such as salt, talc and borax.  The combination of harsh environment and low yields (with the exception of the evaporates, which were much easier to collect) meant that the towns and mining activity was relatively short lived.

Our next stop was Zabriskie Point, made famous by the film of the same name and because various people in the 1970’s choose it as a location to drop acid. (Possibly listening to Pink Floyd whom also did the soundtrack for the film). 

From here we drove west on Highway 190 which passes rather spectacularly through Panamint Valley, another vast and ‘awesome’ wide open space.   

Against the distant mountains, we saw another small gathering of sand dunes which perfectly illustrated the processes at work, trapping the sand and allowing it only to continually reshape itself.

As we approached Highway 395 to take us north to Lee Vining, and the ancient Mono Lake, the ghostly Sierra Nevada mountains began to appear through the distant haze and we saw our first glimpse of this massive range which at its northern extent shaped our next destination; Yosemite National Park.

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry for your predicament - but "...disgusting creature could possibly moult such gigantic fist fulls of pubic hair onto the bathroom floor.." made me SNORT with laughter!



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