After our stay in Las Vegas our adventure really started. Together with our travel group, with whom we will spend the next weeks, we made our way to the Mojave Desert. We spent the first day in Death Valley, the “Valley of Death”.
The journey went to Pahrump and Shoshone with crossing the Nevada desert further to Death Valley. Death Valley is about 85.5 meters below sea level and although the “Valley of Death” is only a few hundred kilometers away from the Pacific Ocean, it is one of the driest and hottest areas on earth. Temperatures of up to 56 °C are normal here. The Death Valley National Park covers an area of 12,000 km² and is located in the Mojave Desert east of the Sierra Nevada.
The desert is home to the tribe of Timbisha Shoshone Indians who live near the hotel oasis of Furnance Creek. The fauna and flora is very diverse, with 51 mammal species, 307 bird species, 36 reptile species and three amphibian species. In addition, the national park counts up to 1000 different plant species. You are warned everywhere with signs against snakes and wild animals. So it is possible to meet roaming coyotes, pumas or foxes. Lizards that inhabit the numerous crevices are very common. The national park is also a very popular place for migratory birds passing through.
The name “Valley of Death” was given to this area after two groups of travellers set off in 1849 to follow the old Spanish route to California. After weeks of finding no way out of the valley, they reached their destination exhausted but alive. Legend has it that when they left the valley a woman turned around and shouted “Goodbye, Death Valley” to the valley.
The Zabriskie Point is known worldwide through the Hollywood thriller of the same name from 1969. The viewpoint offers a unique view of Death Valley. The rock formations were formed about 9 million years ago when Lake Zabriskie dried up. They consist of salt crusts, boulders and ash from the then active Black Mountain volcanic field. The Zabriskie Point is a holy place for the Shoshone Indians. A short walk leads from the car park up to the top of the vantage point. The beautiful and bizarre view compensates for the exhausting, hot way to the top.
Badwater is the lowest point in the USA. Here at 85.5 meters below sea level, the highest temperatures occur. The salt structures that can be seen here were formed by the drying out of a 200 meter deep lake about 3000 years ago. There is very little water in Badwater today and it is twice as salty as sea water. Despite the temperatures around 50 C° this spring never dries out. The subterranean water layer comes to the surface through a very salty layer. The name Badwater derives from the fact that the water here is very salty and therefore inedible.
Mesquite Sand Dunes
In the northern part of Death Valley are the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. They are huge sand dunes made of finest quartz sand that rise up to 50 meters. This part of the valley has often been used as a film set, among other things it can also be seen in Star Wars. The biggest dune of the valley is the Star Dune, which is centrally located in the sand field. The continuous wind ensures that the dune is preserved. One looks in vain for a parking place here, one is forced to park at the highway and to walk a little longer in extreme heat. But the feeling of standing in the middle of these dunes is simply indescribable and worth the effort in any case. Already as a child I had my idea of a desert and in this desert it looked exactly like this. If one plans to walk to the dunes and stay there, one should be aware of the fact that it has between 40 and 50 C° and that it is the habitat of rattlesnakes. Since these animals are nocturnal, one should leave this place at dusk.
Borax Mine Museum
Borax was found in Death Valley around 1870. Borax is a mineral used to make glass and soap. The mining of borax, then called “white gold”, was very lucrative. In some years, up to 100,000 tons of borax were mined from Death Valley and transported from the valley by mules and horses. Today there is a museum in Furnance Creek where people are informed about the extraction and processing of the metal.
The day in the desert was an experience I don’t want to miss anymore. I love to explore the world and experience new things. When you stand in the middle of a desert and realize what nature is capable of, you just can’t get enough of it. Already at the beginning of our round trip I knew that it will be unforgettable. Whether something as breathtaking as a desert or as crazy as the city of Las Vegas. On journeys you learn a lot about the world, life and people, everyone should try to see as much as possible of the world.