Driving through Death Valley National Park isn’t for the faint of heart, especially if it’s 111 degrees outside. It is especially tricky driving an RV with an SUV on behind and takes some concentration and stamina for both the driver and the rig. The changes in elevation through Death Valley are vast (the highest point we drove on reached about 8,400 feet above sea level; the lowest was 236 feet below sea level). At one point when we were driving we could see the road where we were supposed to end up, but couldn’t believe that the road we were on would take us there. After about 12 miles of a 9 percent grade, we were glad to be through the tough part of the trip. The road at that point felt like you were riding along in a level of Super Mario Kart.
There is a great risk for over-heating your vehicle (and all the passengers in it). To avoid over-heating the RV, we cranked up the heat and opened the front windows. This cooled our RV to a mere 108 degrees, but of course Curt still had to try out his very awesome winter driving hat.
Death Valley has many salt flats, most of which are protected. Rain that falls outside of Death Valley creates floods that rush into the lowest points of the valley. As the waters rush in, minerals from the rocks dissolve and join the rain water. When the floods rest at the lowest point of elevation, temporary lakes are formed in basins that do not drain to the sea to wash away the salts. The climate has to be just right to form a salt flat. Because there is much more evaporation than precipitation in Death Valley, the water evaporates but leaves behind the minerals and salts that the floods picked up along the way, forming the salt flats.
The views in Death Valley aren’t what we pictured them to be. Of course, it is basically desert with a few surviving green plants, but there are also large rock formations and mountains of many colors. When we first pictured Death Valley, we pictured a large valley that looked to the lowest point of the United States. However, the range in elevation in Death Valley creates views that don’t seem possible in a desert landscape. The sky was so blue and cloudless through Death Valley, that once we got through the park, the clouds in the sky seemed almost surreal after seeing a clear blue sky for so many miles. Not only were we thankful for the cloud cover, we were also thankful for a few miles of flat roads to drive on.
More adventures tomorrow…