World’s hottest

Stovepipe Wells

Stovepipe Wells

We left the astonishing beauty of Yosemite NP and continued our journey via the beautiful Mammoth Lakes to the world’s hottest place… Death Valley.  As the name itself suggests, the extreme summer heat here can be deadly.  Before we crossed the Valley, we stuffed the car with several tanks of water just in case the car broke down.  Travelling through the sweltering heat of the Valley in the comfort of airconditioned cars, often let us underestimate the danger of the Valley.  Even when we drove through… it was cloudy and it seemed not to be that extremely hot.  That was till we reached the settlement of Stovepipe Wells in the middle of the Valley.  The temperature reached 49C here & walking outside was nearly impossible as you seem to be in an oven breathing burning hot air. The most important thing here was protecting ourselves, drinking a lot of water and not wander off!  After a few minutes we felt slightly better and visited the Sand Dunes for a few minutes.

Death Valley

Death Valley

Death Valley has such high temperatures due to its depth and shape.  The Valley is a long & narrow basin, 86m below sea level, yet is walled by high & steep mountain ranges. The clear, dry air and sparse plant cover allow sunlight to heat the desert surface.  Heat radiates back from the rocks & soil, which then becomes trapped in the Valley’s depths.  The heated air rises, becomes trapped by the high valley walls as well, then is cooled and recycled back down to the valley floor.  These pockets of descending air are only slightly cooler than the surrounding hot air.  As they descend, they are compressed and heated even more by the low elevation air pressure.  These moving masses of superheated air blow through the Valley, creating extreme high temperatures.  The greatest number of consecutive days with a maximum temperature of 38C and above was 154 days and 43 days with temperatures above 49C !   The hottest air temperature ever recorded was 53C on July 15th, 1972.

Badlands' salt flats

Badlands’ salt flats

As you may think, we could only stay a few moments in such heat an after visiting the Sand Dunes, we continued and drove via the village of Furnace Creek to Zabriskie Point & Dante’s View.  Zabriskie Point is surrounded by a maze of wildly eroded & vibrantly colored badlands.  Dante’s View is the most breathtaking viewpoint of the Valley with an overlook higher than 1500m above the Valley’s surface.  Next stop was Artist’s Drive, a scenic loop through multi-hued  volcanic and sedimentary hills.   Our last stop before heading to Las Vegas was the lowest point in the States… Badwater Bassin with an elevaton of 86m below sea level & a surreal landscape of vast salt flats.

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