Into the Valley of Death

Can you think of any place on earth with a more ominous and foreboding name than “Death Valley”? We have all heard of this place, even if we didn’t know where it actually is. Death Valley sparks images of relentless heat and excruciating dryness. At 57°C (157F) in July of 1913, it boosts to date the hottest air temperature ever to be recorded. Sometimes in the summer, the temperatures remain above 36°C even at night.

My wife and I went on a California desert road trip to see it for ourselves in the early spring where it was “only” around 35°C at 5% humidity.  We discovered a landscape much more diverse than we expected, full of mountains, colorful rocks and salt flats, something we had never seen before. Photography in the park can be challenging due to the harsh lightning conditions throughout most of the day.

The climate is hostile but there are still more plants and water than in other deserts around the globe. Death Valley is unlike anything else. It has a unique aura as you drive across seemingly endless roads. Ghost towns and old equipment are reminiscent of the old days where mining workers labored year round in horrible conditions. Now the park is all about conserving its natural beauty.

Ascending the hills of Artist’s drive in Death Valley
Overlooking a wash at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley
Painter’s palette in Death Valley
Zabriskie point in Death Valley, one of the park’s iconic landscapes.
Uhebebe crater in Death Valley. A violent volcanic explosion created this crater and landscape around it only a few thousand years ago.
Beginning of the massive salt flat at Bad Water Basin in Death Valley. At about 80 m below sea level it’s the lowest point in North America and yes it is very hot there.
Overlooking the Mesquite Flat Sand Dune in Death Valley. Dust from all over the park accumulated here into massive sand dunes.
Strolling across the sand dunes of Death Valley on a moonlit night.
Entering Titus Canyon in Death Valley on an early morning hike.