From Flagstaff, we continued west on I-40 and then took US-93 north towards Las Vegas.  We ended up staying at a motel in Boulder City, NV.  The next morning, we continued northwest towards Death Valley.  The approach to Death Valley is very cool.  Basically, you’re driving on a perfectly flat desert plain, and all of a sudden some hills pop up.  You start snaking through the hills, and you vaguely sense that you are descending.  BC brought his GPS receiver on this trip, so we could tell that we were actually descending quite rapidly.  20 miles later, you are still descending as you are snaking between hills, and finally, you come out of the hills and you are in Death Valley.  There is a sign directly in front of you that says “SEA LEVEL,” and then to the south, you can see the valley continue to descend from there. 

Having just entered Death Valley, looking down the valley from the sign demarcating sea level

Lowpoint: Badwater Basin
: California
Height: 282 ft. below sea level
Lowpoint #: 1 – Probably the only one J
Date: 8/5/2004
Trails: N/A
Distance: N/A
Vertical Gain: N/A
Time Taken: 30 minutes
Weather: Sunny, ridiculously hot (according to one thermometer there it was 126 degrees)
Group: JO and BC
Comments:  Badwater was awesome, but damn was it hot.  Maybe it was a stupid idea to go to one of the hottest points on the face of the earth at 1 in the afternoon in August.  Oh well, live and learn.  One of the cool things about Death Valley is the mountain range on the west side, that go directly up over 10,000 feet above the floor.  Believe it or not, there were actually some dirty ponds of water that had collected at the bottom of the basin.  There were some educational exhibits, but we didn’t stay long, since it was so hot. 

At Badwater, looking out into the valley, where the real lowest point is (a whole foot and a half lower than where I am standing)

There is a sign up the valley wall (pointed out by the green arrow, as it is hard to see in this picture) that shows you where sea level is.

Some sand dunes in the northern end of Death Valley

A tornado dissipating just as we are leaving Death Valley.

Snaking up through canyons out of Death Valley, on our way to Owens Valley.

After leaving Death Valley, we continued west to Lone Pine, CA, where Mount Whitney was staring at us.  We stopped by the ranger station in Lone Pine, and when we inquired about Whitney permits, we were told that there was a 3-day permit for 2 that we could take right then and there.  Man, that was tempting.  But it would also mean abandoning the other climbs we had planned.  We decided to continue on, we’ll get Whitney some other day.  We drove up to Bishop, where we found a campsite and turned in for the night. 

Mount Whitney standing there seductively, daring us to go climb her.

Go to Friday, 8/6/04

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