Extremes Are Part Of What Make Death Valley National Park So Fascinating
Some folks are just attracted to extremes. Extreme food. Extreme clothing. Extreme hairstyles. But those who really want to go to extremes should visit Death Valley National Park in the summer.
One of the hottest places on Earth, it’s where the world’s second-highest recorded temperature occurred in 1913 when a spot near the Inn at Furnace Creek hit 134 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, really. In June, July and August, it’s not unusual for the desert park to hit 115 to 125 degrees during the day. Yet, more than a quarter of a million people come to experience it.
That’s not its only “extreme.”
Located on the east-central edge of California, the 3.3-million-acre park has a low point of 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin and rises to 11,049 feet above sea level atop Telescope Peak in the Panamint Mountains.
And it’s dry. So dry, it gets less than two inches of rainfall a year, on average. More than that can cause flash floods in low-lying areas due to the lack of vegetation and the broad expanses of impermeable rock.
Despite these extremes, there’s plenty to do in the park in the summer. Here are some extremely good ideas:
- Get wet. Plunge into Furnace Creek’s beautiful spring-fed pools fed naturally heated to 82 degree temperatures during the hottest part of the day. Top off your dip with a cool sip – drinks are served poolside. Extremely refreshing.
- Stargaze. The night life here might involve a telescope, where you can view the stars in one of the darkest environments in the nation. There is virtually no light pollution in Death Valley due to its isolated location. Low are pollution also means clear views. (October-May, the National Park Service conducts interpretive programs at the Visitor Center, located near the Ranch at Furnace Creek.) Extremely impressive.
- Take a swing. Though the days get hot, they start relatively cool during the early summer (in the low 80s), so you can play a round of golf or a game of tennis before the place heats up. The Furnace Creek Golf Course is the world’s lowest, at 214 feet below sea level. For tee times, call 760-786-3373. Extremely fun.
- Walk it off. Early morning is also the time of day to take an easy hike. No matter when they go, guests should carry plenty of water with them. Even before it heats up, the dryness will demand hydrating. Try hiking near the Harmony Borax Works or in Golden Canyon, starting at Zabriskie Point and meandering through the colorful stratified landscape to the valley below. Extremely beautiful.
- Visit the Borax Museum. This is a good way to spend an afternoon. Located near the Ranch at Furnace Creek, it lets visitors explore the mineral that first made this place famous. There are even antique stagecoaches and a steam locomotive on display. Learn all about the mineral’s cleaning capabilities – still used to day to remove stains from laundry. Extremely interesting.
All these adventures, and more, can be had when you stay at the park’s year-round lodge, the Ranch at Furnace Creek, or at the historic AAA Four-Diamond Inn at Furnace Creek (open mid-October through mid-May). To get information or reservations, call 1-800-236-7916 or 1-303-297-2757 or visit www.www.oasisatdeathvalley.com/.