Duncan (aka Mr Weather) is always searching to find and experience the most extreme climates the world has to offer. So it comes as no surprise that he has always dreamed of visiting Death Valley California. It is, after all, the hottest, driest, most godforsaken place in the western hemisphere and nearly the world.
The road that leads into Death Valley boasts little more than road signs and desert as far as the eye can see. There are no buildings. There are no plants. There are few other motorists. The road signs bare warnings; stay on the paved roads, turn off air-conditioning for the next 8 miles, radiator water in 2 miles. There is a sense of foreboding to the journey that makes you feel like a legitimate adventurer. If something goes wrong, it’s going to get really bad, really fast.
Naturally we took our two year old into this so-called valley of death. We stayed right in the heart of it at Furnace Creek Ranch. It’s an unusual place, but it was quaint and homey. There are no towns within an easy commute of the ranch so most of the employees live on site. Everyone there is friendly and welcoming.
Our room was in the old part of the ranch. We were on a narrow street lined with semi-detached cabins with cute front porches and shared driveways. It was adorable.
The ranch has a swimming pool that is fed by a warm spring. Feeding the water in from the spring keeps the pool cooler than it would be if left to bake in the summer sun. It’s still too hot to be refreshing in any way, but it was interesting to try out.
Heat catches up to kids much sooner than it hits adults; poor Liam. Mommy and Daddy learned their lesson when we were walking back to our room from the pool, in the 47 degree heat. We stopped halfway to peek into the Borax Museum but noticed that Liam had started to look absolutely ill. We got him back into our room where the air-conditioning was cranked and he fell fast asleep on his bed. When he woke up we gave him some Gatorade. From then on we made him sit in his stroller with water whenever we went outside. No more exertion for him!
One of the most popular sites in Death Valley is Badwater. Badwater is the lowest area in the park at 282 feet below sea level. There is a small, very salty, pool of water and a heavily travelled salt flat that stretches out in front of the parking lot. We took a wander out onto the flat. We gave it a taste. It was, in fact, salty.
Driving through Death Valley and seeing its landscape with my own eyes was probably the most impactful aspect of the trip. It’s difficult to describe. It’s a parched, rugged, rocky place yet the mountains and canyons give it so much depth and dimension. It’s something you have to experience firsthand. Pictures can’t do justice to the beauty or express the oppressive heat or the sense of accomplishment at having made it through the valley to the other side. My hat is off to the pioneering souls who first ventured into the valley. I’ll take a Canadian winter any day.