Death dancing with devil in the hot Valley

During our honeymoon roadtrip through California, we also visited the Death Valley. For me, it was truly a welcomed change to come to such a warm place after many days spent in the cold north 🙂 What I couldn´t understand is that most of the campsites were already closed (mid May) because it was too warm 😉 But we did find one, it was 58,5 m under the sea level and 25 degrees in the evening. As there is no light pollution, it is a great place for star gazing. We tried to find some constellations, but there were so many stars visible, we just couldn´t. We went to sleep with the howling of coyotes nearby.

Dry Death Valley

Death Valley is the driest, hottest and lowest place of North America.  It is situated between two mountain ranges and therefore clouds almost never come there. And when they do, and it rains, it usually means flash floods as the soil is so dry. Supposedly, Death Valley holds the record for the highest recorded air temperature in the world, 56,7°C, measured on July 10, 1913. Be sure to have enough water with you when you come visit, because there is not much places where you can buy anything. There are several oases though, with green grass, palm trees and usually an expensive hotel resort with a shop and a restaurant.

Starred sky

The lowest place of the valley is the Badwater Basin, situated 86 metres

Badwater Basin

below the sea level. You can take a short round trip around it, but you won´t see anything different then from the parking lot, so there is no need to do it. There is a legend about a man with his mule, who went through the dessert, both exhausted, and finally they came to this basin and saw the water. He was happy and wanted to take a sip.

Badwater Basin – lowest point sign

But he saw that the mule didn´t want to drink this water. He was surprised at first but then he realised the mule saved his life as the water was so salted he would have died of dehydration pretty soon. He named the place Badwater.

Devil´s Golf Course
Artist Drive

If you drive on the Badwater Road, be sure to take a small detour to see the Artist Drive. It is a spectacular exhibition of colours made on the stone by years of oxygenation. Another place worth seeing is the desserted borax mines, which explains how borax was refined right there as it was not worth the energy to transport it with the debris.

20-mule-team wagons

Loads of borax were then transported by the 20-mule team, which brought it to different parts of California and to railroad stations as well. One team could transport around 33 tons of material and stretched to over 55 m.

20-mule team

On our way out of the valley going to Nevada, we stopped in the ghost town named Rhyolite, where gold was mined. From 8 000 people at the beggining, there were only 14 left after 6 years. Till this day there is a very well preserved house all made from beer bottles. There is also a train station which later served as Ghost casino for tourists.

Beer-bottle house
Rhyolite´s train station and later Ghost Casino

Rhyolite in 1907 had concrete sidewalks, electric lights, water mains, telephone and telegraph lines, daily and weekly newspapers, a monthly magazine, police and fire departments, a hospital, school, train station and railway depot, at least three banks, a stock exchange, an opera house, a public swimming pool and two formal church buildings.