Next stop is Death Valley. This is the best time of year to visit–January, February and March where it’s a cool 65. I was here in October right after the floods which devastated Scotty’s Castle. The highest officially recorded temperatures ever on the planet were recorded near here at 134F in 1913 however this is disputed. In 1960 and four more times since then 129F as been measured. Four of these are within the past 20 years, three within 10 years and the last two just six years apart. Global warming I say.
I head first off to the lowest point in the US of A at Badwater Basin which is…….282 feet below sea level. South America’s lowest point is -344 ft; Africa, -502; Australia only -52 ft; but Asia gets bragging rights on the Dead Sea, with a whopping -1388 ft shared by Israel and Jordan. Yes, Israel is in Asia.
It’s a big flat place with evaporites everywhere. Horses wouldn’t drink the water here in the early days (or now), hence “Badwater.”
The small white sign at the top is the sea level.
I hike up a bit on the edge of this great basin to get a better perspective of Badwater. The flowers are blooming early this year because of the increased rain.
I keep going up this little ravine with a natural arch. Frankly, this didn’t look very stable so I ran under it. These are quite recent deposits and quite unconsolidated with water-fall funnels all around. This runs like a river when it rains, although that is pretty rare here with less 3″ a year–but it comes all at once…..
Incredible colors on a loop road–Artist’s Drive. This is the Artist’s Palette turnout and it is pretty. No photoshop here.
I give two talks at Death Valley, then head out to Lake Mead that afternoon and pass over Hoover Dam the next day. This is Mike O’Callighan and Pat Tillman Memorial Bridge……but I call this the Big Bridge for simplicity–it’s an eyesore frankly and towers above the dam. Like Hoover Dam, this bridge took a bit of engineering. Unlike the dam, you can bunji and base jump off the bridge. It bypasses the narrow horse-shoe two lane road on the dam crest. Hoover Dam is well worth the visit as it was the largest concrete structure built at the time–a PWA project completed ahead of schedule and under budget. All Art-Deco, too.
Here the penstock towers (Art-Deco) are exposed due to the low water levels even after all the winter rains; California reservoirs are nearly empty. I’m on the way to Phoenix & Saguaro National Park……stay tuned.