Mad dogs & Englishmen (and us!)
30 April 2012 | Us: Death Valley, CA Cups:Tassie
We were up and on our way to Death Valley NP early this morning. We had picked up a map and park guide and had our itinerary all planned. It was a cool, but sunny 59F. The park encompasses over 3 million acres of land, most of which is wilderness. We started out at Scotty's Castle in the north end of the park. A desert getaway for a wealthy couple in the 1920s-30s, this Spanish colonial revival style “castle” sits resplendent in the middle of nowhere, now part of the Death Valley NP system.
The desert was brilliant with color. The sky was a clear, cerulean blue. Mountain peaks in the far distance still showed a frosting of snow. Traveling through different altitudes as we descended from over 4300' to below sea level allowed us to observe significant changes in flora and desert scape as well as a drastic temperature change. By Noon, it was 107F in Badwater Basin. Epitomized in Noel Coward's poem, “only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun”, we nearly fried on the salt flats at Badwater, the lowest (-282' below sea level), hottest (2nd highest recorded temperature in the world 134F) and driest place in North America.
We took short hikes to Golden Canyon and Harmony Borax Works, but the heat was oppressive. We drove along the circuitous Artist's Drive to the Artist's Palette, rock formations and hills rich in mineral deposits. displaying brilliant reds, oranges, greens, blues and yellows. Dante's View, a mile high in the sky above the Badwater Basin, was cool and windy with unsurpassed views of the simmering salt flats below.
A full day and we were hot and dusty when we headed back to Beatty and our hotel. Tomorrow, another day in the park and then we'll move on.