Death Valley is known as the hottest, driest, lowest national park in the United States. With an elevation 282 feet below sea level, Death Valley holds the world record for recording 134 degrees in 1913. This year having had 17 consecutive days above 120 degrees, it appeared it might be a candidate to set a new record.
Six hundred thousand “bucket list” tourists have flocked to Death Valley to claim their place in a possible record setting experience.
I’m no fan of hot weather, but in 1985, my oldest son, Eric, and I were on a wonderful cross-country adventure in my Cessna Skylane airplane. After stops in Hot Springs; San Antonio; El Paso; Grand Canyon, Palm Springs, and Santa Catalina Island off the coast of California, we planned a landing at Death Valley National Park.
On touchdown, the first unique experience was watching my altimeter slip below zero when landing 282 feet below sea level. The next shocker was seeing our outside temperature gauge registering 130 degrees. Of course, that was on the runway in unshaded sun. Officially, the temperature was probably only 120, but still, that’s hot enough.
The name “Death Valley” was christened by gold rush pioneers when heading west in 1849, They had become lost in the desert and several in their wagon train died. The sun-bleached desert airport ramp confirmed the appropriateness of that name. We shared the ramp with one faded, forlorn, single engine airplane.
Parking was not a problem
After shutting down, when opening the door on the airplane the heat hit us like being smothered by a hot Turkish towel. Yowee, it took your breath away. While tying down the airplane, Eric used the restroom in the unoccupied airport building. When he returned, he said, “Dad, even the water in the toilet is hot!” I didn’t ask how he happened to know that.
Love the heat in the desert
Death Valley National Park had a campground and museum only a short distance from the airport. Our museum visit was interesting, but we were anxious to depart and climb to cooler altitudes on our way to our next stop in Salt Lake City.
Good bye, Death Valley. Been there, done that. We won’t be retuning.