Friday, March 24, 2017

Day 31: Walking in the Valley of Death....

I didn't sleep very well. I woke up at around 3:00 in the morning and tossed and turned on a squeaky bunk bed, trying to not to make too much noise. There wasn't any particular reason I had trouble sleeping, but I didn't sleep very well last time we were at this hostel either. Maybe it was the hostel?

Eventually Karolina and my mom woke up, and we headed out to the Alabama Hills Cafe for breakfast. The place was packed and we had to go on a wait list before we were seated, but eventually we got our breakfast.

Karolina decided to try something other than "American pancakes" for breakfast today.

Our John Muir Trail hike was over.... but we had an "extra credit" assignment we made for ourselves: Death Valley. We had hiked to the highest point in the contiguous United States the day before, and now we were going to hit the lowest at 282 feet below sea level today.

My mom wasn't all that thrilled with the idea. Death Valley was hot. What the heck did we want to go there for? A desolate wasteland! It was now September--not the hottest time of year, but not the coolest either. But there was a good chance Karolina would never be in this area again and she was anxious to visit, and I wanted to visit as well. Somehow, despite growing up and living most of my life in California, I'd never actually made it to Death Valley before. Probably because I had parents that had utterly no interest in it. =)

So it was a first visit for me too! Woo-who! It was a long 2 1/2 hour drive to Badwater Basin.

We stopped briefly to pay the entrance fee where a sign warned that the weather forecasts today expected a high of 113-116 degrees. Yikes! The hottest temperature I ever remember being in was 111. If those weather forecasts hold, it would be a new record high for me. I wasn't sure if I should be thrilled at the idea or horrified.

My mom just said we were crazy.

"Hey, it could be worse!" I reminded her, "At least it's not 134 degrees!"

That was the highest temperature ever recorded. On earth. Ever! Right here in Death Valley back in 1913. "We're a good 20 degrees cooler than that!"

Our plan of attack was to hit Badwater Basin first--the lowest point in the park at 282 feet below sea level. That was the main reason we were heading out here, after all. Then we'd start driving back and make short stops along the way for sightseeing.

There was a crowd of people at Badwater. I'd like to say that we were the absolute lowest people in the country at that moment, but the ground was so utterly flat, at best, we could probably say that we tied for lowest people in the United States with several dozen other people.

The temperatures were soaring. Certainly something north of a hundred degrees.

'Twas a long 2 1/2 hour drive to Badwater Basin from Lone Pine.

And I whipped out my water bottle--the one I filled with fresh Mount Whitney air just yesterday. By now, it looked thoroughly crushed, maybe half its normal size. That's what nearly 15,000 feet of air pressure will do. I knew air expands in warm temperatures, so I was a little disappointed that I filled it with freezing air and now--when I wanted the water bottle crushed as much as possible under the air pressure--it was filled with 100+ degree air.

My mom went back to the car, not wanting to stand or walk around in the brutal sun very long. Karolina and I went around taking photos and videos before returning to the air-conditioned vehicle as well.

On the drive out, we made multiple stops at various trailheads, hiking for a mile or two at a time. Mom would stay in the car. No way was she hiking in this heat! We hiked to a natural arch, and drove to Artists Palette, and hiked a mile up Golden Canyon because... gold! Not really, as it turned out. =)

We stopped at the Furnace Creek Visitor Center where a large, digital sign marked the current temperature: 117°F. Dang, that's hot.... As we walked up to the sign, the temperature dropped to 116 and Karolina and I panicked. The temperature was dropping! We had to get photos before it dropped any further! We needed evidence of us hiking around in these absurdly hot temperatures. The icicles we saw yesterday were a distant memory.

We got photos of ourselves with the sign at 4:15 in the afternoon, but only recording 116°F. I wondered what the high temperature of the day had been seeing as it was already falling by the time we arrived.

It's just a measly 116°F now. It was much warmer earlier in the afternoon. *nodding*

On our way out of the park, Karolina saw some dust devils which thrilled her to no end having never seen them before. These were quite large, and several of them were running over the sand dunes in the distance.

And.... that was that. A bunch of small day hikes. We weren't here for any long-distance hikes or even to spend a few days. Just a quick, one-day visit. It was time to go home. Well, to mom's house. My old home. Karolina's new base of operations. That was a multi-hour drive that got us back to San Luis Obispo by around midnight or so.

Karolina would have another week or so in the country before she had to fly home to Europe, and I used the time to show her around the San Luis area. She flew out from San Francisco, so we drove her up to the airport there and stopped at various locations along Highway 1 and hit some sights in San Francisco.

And after Karolina flew back to Europe, I headed to Europe myself a few days later. My hiking season, after all, had not ended with Karolina's departure. Nope... I had a trail to do: the Portuguese Way from Lisbon (Portugal!) to Santiago (Spain!). It would be my first ever visit to Portugal.

But before I sign off on the JMT, there's one last detail for me to cover. All along the JMT I've been teasing you with hints about a "music video" that Karolina and I were working on. Now that we've reached the end of the JMT portion of this blog... it's time to introduce you to my first music video! =)

So anyhow.... stay tuned.... this blog isn't over yet! Next week, to Portugal!

Badwater Basin -- location 282 feet below sea level. Seems like just yesterday we were at 14,505 above sea level!
Had to pose at the official sign marking the lowest point in the western hemisphere. (See my water bottle?)
Here's a close-up view of the water bottle with fresh Mount Whitney air... nearly 15,000 feet lower than where the air was collected!
A natural arch!

Karolina pretends that she died of thirst in the blistering desert heat. I was a little genuinely concerned that laying down on the ground like this could blister her. The air temperature might have been 117, but that's the temperature in the shade maybe five or six feet off the ground. The ground temperature at Furnace Creek had recorded a temperature as hot as 201°F back in 1972! That's just 11 degrees below the boiling point of water! I don't know what the ground temperature here was, but it's hot. Freakishly hot. She didn't lay on the ground long, though!

Ironically, there's not really any sea, and it's certainly not level! =)
Irony. =)
Karolina, hiking over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco the evening before she'd be flying back to Europe.


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed your blog and loved the video!!!

Kristin aka Trekkie Gal said...

Your mother sounds like an extremely intelligent woman, Ryan. Not sure what happened with you...

Laurel said...

Thanks for blogging. The video was great except for the blister and toe part. Looking forward to the next entries. =)

Ryan said...

Kristin.... I have two parents. I probably took after my dad. ;o)

-- Ryan

Mary said...

I thought the references to making a music video were all talk and no action - and then there's the music video! It was so well done! I'm very impressed. Loved it! I really loved that you went from Mt. Whitney to Death Valley. That's the way to bookend a trip! I've been in CA for 41 years and never had a desire to climb Mt Whitney (coworkers have done it!) or even to visit Death Valley due to the heat. Mammoth Mt and that area - yes.

Loved this blog. Looking forward to the next one!

Unknown said...

great video

clueless said...

loved the video!

SuzySquirrel said...

Loved the video, it came out great, as good as anything on MTV! Lots of good memories, look forward to following your next adventure. (Little jealous!)

KuKu said...

LOVED your video!! I knew you were really making it and was so excited to see it. It's also great to recognize many of the parts and what you were doing and where you. Thanks so much!!