We arrived in California’s Death Valley National Park just in time to watch the blazing sun fade away behind the mounds of rock and sand. We opted to sleep in the car rather than pay for accommodations as we had done without issue for most of our five month road-trip across the USA. Our extensive experience traveling through deserts in Utah, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado, had proven to us that the oppressive heat produced by the desert sun is always replaced by cool, comfortable air following dusk. We had yet to experience a desert which continues to roast its inhabitants the whole night through. The inferno formed in California’s infamous Death Valley produces record temperatures so high that it would leave Lucifer himself climbing the walls in search of an escape. It is located in Mohave Desert where the rain shadow produced by the Sierra Nevada mountains blocks all wind and weather systems from reaching the valley. This land is renowned for being the hottest place in the entire world and the driest in all of North America.
The heat was absolutely tyrannical; utterly incapable of defeat. Throughout the night I would take off my shirt every fifteen minutes and drench it in water then put it back on; a fruitless attempt to cool my body. Our fear of venomous spiders and scorpions made us wary of rolling down the windows, not that it mattered because there was absolutely no air current to speak of. To add insult to injury, Karina was sick with a fever so her body was truly being pushed to the limit, being attacked from the outside and from within. For the first time having a horrible cold on the road was a benefit to one of us; I was suffocating as I attempted to fall asleep in an oven, while the hellish-heat kept Karina’s feverish chills at bay enabling her to get some rest.
We contemplated driving out of the park in search of a motel with air-conditioning but we knew the expensive cost of nearby shelters so we decided to withstand the pain and suffer through the night. We parked our truck at the base of one of the trails behind a small building. Just as we managed to doze off we were surprised by unexpected guests who were headed for the latrine system, as we had unintentionally parked behind it in the dark. As soon as our fellow explorers opened the door to the building, the putrid stench saturated the once clean-smelling air, which left us gagging and reaching for the keys re-locate our truck. We ended up moving to the parking lot of a pricey nearby-hotel and throughout the night we regularly observed a coyote wandering not ten feet from our truck in search of a good meal.
In the morning we bared witness to a breathtaking sunrise over the world famous Zabriskie Point, and afterward we happily fled the scorching Mohave Desert, taking with us some valuable experience. I had initially entered Death Valley with a naïve sense of familiarity, believing if I knew one desert, I knew them all. I was blindsided with a scorching hot twist that left me with the most painful of sleepless nights; tossing and turning for hours on end, my limbs contorted, and soaked in sweat from head to toe. One car-sleep in Death Valley forced every drop of moisture in my body to abandon my pores turning my flesh to a festering variant of beef jerky. Despite the pain I experienced in California’s notorious badlands, my only regret is that mother nature refused to serve me a tall glass of ice-water to help wash down such an enormous slice of humble pie.
~ An Extraordinary Story by April Beresford ~
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