Ever wanted to be an astronaut? Well like every boy under the age of ten I wanted to explore space and have always been fascinated with the illustrations of alien worlds I found in science books and encyclopaedias growing up.
I wanted to explore blasted desert landscapes, marvel at craggy alien spires tearing at the sky and sun myself under foreign stars… Did I watch Star Wars too many times as a child? Probably yes, but I now think I may be able to say that I have seen these alien landscapes..
Death Valley is like.. Nothing else on earth.
Desolate in such a way as to make the loudest, meanest Norwegian Death Metal band friendly in comparison, the hottest place on earth (56.7 degrees!) is literally like being beamed up onto another world, another very hot world..
It’s enough for you to get lost in the fantasy that you are in fact Buzz Lightyear or Captain Kirk (less the ridiculous spandex suit) and maybe, just maybe you have actually somehow wandered off planet earth and found your way to another world devoid of life as we know it.. hence the name.. genius.
Death Valley has to be one of the most unique and interesting environments available to visit without the help of psychedelic chemicals or a computer gaming console. The landscapes are bizarre to behold with blasted rocks and dunes assailing the viewer in every earth based colour imaginable so don’t forget to bring a camera.
A 4X4 vehicle is advisable (but not essential) as there are a few rough rides over some of the side roads that are unpaved and make sure that you bring lots of water.
You can stay in the Valley itself or in one of the few towns surrounding the Valley. Each boasts a select number of terrible motels to choose from, each reminding me in too many ways of ‘Psycho’… Interesting places none-the less, especially given that there are more trailers in these towns than teeth!
My Must See Spots
Dantes View – My favourite viewing point of the valley, it’s 1.6 km’s high and overlooks the earth at such a height that the view becomes a myriad of earthy colours, blue sky and craggy snow-capped peaks scraping the sky in the background.
The Devils Golf Course – Aptly named, and one of the coolest sites these eyes have seen. Horizon to horizon cracked and desiccated ground so as to leave the soil a jagged mess of razor sharp mud claws. Go 18 holes with Lucifer and the name really makes sense!
Ubehebe Crater – Created by the sudden heating of ground water by magma that essentially caused the ground to explode… leaving a crater that looks like it may have actually been the cause of the end of the dinosaurs (1 km across and 250m deep). You can circumnavigate the largest one which is a very decent walk or scale the wall and make the decent to the bottom.
Badwater Basin – The lowest point below sea level in North America (86m) is a salt flat leading away from the cliffs into the desolate flat white nothing, beautiful to see but sometimes crowded with tourists.
The other part of the Death Valley experience I can’t not mention are the terrifically morbid sounding names. If Death Valley paints a pleasant picture, then try: Coffin peak, The Black Mountains, Furnace creek, Hells Gate, The Red Cathedral, Dantes View and ending right on Par with The Devils Golf Course (pun 100% intended). Brilliant.
If I had to pick a single memorable experience in a 5 month trip though North America I would have to say Death Valley is, if not a clear winner, certainly a contender (Vegas was.. interesting). The bare desolation of the place was like nothing had ever seen, even growing up in Australia, which has more then its fair share of deserts. The colours, the heat, the bizarre environment make it undoubtedly one of the harshest and most interesting landscapes on the planet.
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