Emerging from Bad Water in Death Valley, where the elevation is 282 feet below sea level, this sign gave us hope that we would make it out of the valley. Driving to the lowest point in North America sounds simple, if simply put. But, even with a car, it is an unnerving experience.
The road starts at an elevation of about 3000 feet and a sign warns that there are no services for the next 100+ miles. With quick glance at the fuel gauge and one another we only hesitated a moment before taking the turn off. As you descend the landscape gets more and more desolate, and the temperature just keeps rising. A sign appears on the empty horizon to warn about driving properly on the steep hills to save your brakes and against using air conditioning, which might keep your face cool for now but will probably overheat your engine. These are things we already know, but it is still a foreboding reminder as the temperature continues to rise to 48 degrees Celsius. This is not a place you would want to get stuck. All the signage to aptly named places like Hell’s Gate, Dante’s View, Bad Water Basin, Furnace Creek, and the Devil’s Golf Course do not inspire good feelings either.
The incredibly strong wind did not even offer relief, and we had to cut our hike at Bad Water short. I have heard motorcyclists talk about the hot wind, but this was the first time I have ever experienced it myself. Death Valley is a very neat place and there are parts of it I would really like to explore more (eg: The Racetrack) but an off road vehicle, and maybe a cooler season for my Canadian blood, would be needed.
So, with that background given, we were happy to get back above sea level. It only goes up from here.