Death Valley holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded on earth - 57 Degrees, or 144 Fahrenheit. Visiting the hottest place on Earth in mid-summer was not for the feint hearted. We had done A LOT of research to see if we were crazy for making this detour on the way to Las Vegas and had found mixed responses. However, being a top tour operator, I plotted a route knowing that if we were up before sunrise, and finished by 10am, we had a good chance of seeing most of the Valley’s sights before melting.
We headed down from our over night camp around 5am (we had slept in the car - this has been a grave error! We sweated buckets and had to evict a kangeroo rat from the car boot at 3am) and quickly reached the Furnace Creek visitor centre. Even though the centre was closed, we picked up a map from outside and filled both our 1 gallon water bottles with fresh, cold water from the water station (these are available at most parks and a god send in Death Valley). The visitor centre also had plenty of warning signs about the dangers of the heat and said not to hike anywhere at all after 10am!
With hiking not on the agenda we headed straight out to Zabriskie Point, about a 5 minute drive up the road, to catch the sunrise. Some of the scenery in Death Valley is unbelievable, rocks of every shape, size and colour. Zabriskie Point didn’t disappoint. The area was surprisingly busy with at least 50 people there to also watch sunrise, a good indication that we weren’t completely mental for braving the heat
After sunrise we headed down to Badwater Basin, the lowest point in North America at 244ft below sea level. The area (given its name when the horses wouldn’t drink the basin’s water) is a huge flat bowl lined with salt crystals - very similar to the salt flats we had saw in Bolivia, but on a much smaller scale.
From Badwater Basin we stopped at ‘The Devils Golfcourse’ - a rugged flat area of desert made up of tiny mud and salt spikes. We then drove the scenic 9 mile detour called ‘Artist’s Drive’ which is a one way paved road up and in between all sorts of weird and wonderful rock formations. The route eventually lead to the ‘Artist’s Palette’. This is a small area full of jagged rocks of many colours - hence the name! It was a really great sight but the sun was the wrong side to truly appreciate it (late afternoon is best). We’d now started to fry so we headed back to the visitor centre for a cool down and to learn a few more things about the park.
Our last, brief, stop was at the remains of an old borax mine, a valuable mineral that the miners thought would make their fortune. When I say brief, it was BRIEF! The temperature was now up to a ridiculous 47 degrees so after literally a few minutes out of the car looking at the mine we couldn’t take anymore and ran back to the car - AC set to full blast!
Death Valley had beaten us into submission so we headed out of the park, straight to Las Vegas!!
With nowhere to stay in Sin City we pulled in at the small town of Parhump to get some Wifi and book a hotel. This quick pit stop turned into a 4 hour ordeal. George finally got her hair cut - the first time in 5 months! I nearly died in the car in 40 degree heat for 4 hours.
Suffice to say I was relieved when she returned. I’d booked a bargain motel for $42 and after an early start and a long, hot day we were delighted to discover it had HBO. We watched the new Game of Thrones and had an early night! Sin City would have to wait until morning…