OK, so it’s called “Death Valley”, we all know that. And its motto is “Hottest, Driest, Lowest”, meaning ON EARTH. At its lowest point, it is 282 ft below sea level. At its hottest, it set a world record at 134 degrees Fahrenheit. It gets hardly any rain and some parts of Death Valley never get rain at all. There is some moisture to be found in the “salt pan”, which is just what it sounds like, a large, flat area of salt deposits on top of the ground. It shimmers in the sun and creates a mirage effect of water. Also to be found here is Borax, which was mined for a long time using 20 mule teams (just like the laundry treatment box) to move the natural resource faster out of the deadly terrain.
Before coming here, we both thought we had a pretty good idea of what a desert looked and felt like, but nothing ever prepared us for this place. It is otherworldly and, there’s no other way to say this but: so very, very hot.
We stopped at Crowley Point, which was spectacular and made me feel as if I’d been transported to the surface of Mars.
We traveled on into Death Valley and the landscape became more desolate and flat. We passed the salt pan and borax plains. At one point, we saw a really sad, sick-looking coyote slowly shuffling towards our car. We stopped to let him pass, but he just stood there looking at us, so we slowly moved past him. It’s amazing anything can live here at all.
We finally came to Stovepipe Wells, which has a general store, restaurant and motel, if you’re so inclined. We weren’t, but we got a bottle of energy water (fruit and vitamin infused), and then stood around a while experiencing the oven-hot wind blowing (No kidding, it felt just lie when you open the oven and bend down too quickly – curls your eyelashes.)
The next stop for us was Amargosa Valley, where there’s an intersection, an “opera house” and a motel that appears to be derelict, but is in fact open for business. There was no shade to be found, so we parked the car next to a small, empty building for a wind block and made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches out of the trunk. It was so hot, I used the car sun screen just to keep my legs from stinging from the sunlight coming through the partially open window. It was pretty miserable, and we were only there for 20 minutes! We did have a great view of the Amargosa Opera House and a couple of other travelers stopping there to check it out. Later, an internet search shed some light on this strange place in the literal manifestation of the middle of nowhere – The opera house was initially a place of entertainment and libation for borax mining company workers. Years after that went bust, a woman named Marta Becket moved here in the 1930’s and painted the inside to look like a 16th century audience was always in attendance. A former ballerina herself, Marta began performing – dancing, singing, and “pantomime”. She has since retired, but the opera house is open from November to May, with movies and ballet pantomimes held frequently. What a weird and wonderful place.
Death Valley is like traveling to another planet; unlike anywhere else on earth.