California: Death Valley. Where I experience a new all-time high temperature and visit a Ghost town or two


Death Valley was an amazing place. Supposedly it is the hottest place on earth (whilst we were there the temperature reached 116, which I calculated as 46.7 for us metric-ites), it also contains both the lowest and highest point in the US.

We stayed at Stovepipe Wells, one of just four lodges within the park. Rooms were quite adequate and the place had a general store, a restaurant, a bar and a gift shop.

General store at Stovepipe Wells

General store at Stovepipe Wells

I had no phone reception in all of Death Valley (some people claim to get some in certain parts, but I couldn’t find any) and the internet didn’t work. Yes, I spent 2.5 days without phone or internet.

5 highlights of my time there:

1. Dante’s View, which yielded this amazing sunset.

Sunset at Dante's Point,

Sunset at Dante’s View, looking down on the salt flats.

2. The salt flats of Badwater. This is the lowest point in the US at 85 meters below sea level.


Every year there is a race that goes from the lowest point in Death Valley (Badwater 182 feet below) and travels 135 miles to Whitney Portal (the highest point in the US), taking in three mountain ranges on its route. This takes place in July, which is the hottest month of the year.

3. Zabriskie Point, also good for sunsets but we did it in the day.

Pop Trivia: The cover of U2’s The Joshua Tree was photographed here.

Pop Trivia: The cover of U2’s The Joshua Tree was photographed here.

Zabriskie Point was also featured in the movie of the same name from 1970. A somewhat baffling film it featured a great soundtrack and a plot that involved two hippies climbing up Zabriskie’s Point to have sex (ok there was a bit more to it than that, with some student uprisings and a guy who may or may not have shot a cop. I haven’t seen it in years, and I read there’s a resurgence of interest in the film. Maybe it was ahead of its time after all).

4. The ghost town of Rhyolite.

I love a ghost town. IMG_3658

This former gold-mining boomtown consisted of a school for 250 children, a hotel, bars and everything a thriving town needed. The town was deserted in 1916, five years after the mine closed down.

IMG_3668 IMG_3669 IMG_3684

A ghostly apparition, or me trying to photograph inside the building

A ghostly apparition, or me trying to photograph inside the building

5. Sand dunes next to Stovepipe wells.

I always thought dunes are what sand does when it gets together in a desert. Apparently not. To get a sand dune you need a lot of sand and very little vegetation, an ‘obstacle’ such as a tree or rock and finally some wind to blow it into a dune. I saw a video about it. Half an hour in a room with AC; believe me I would have watched anything to get in that room.


13 replies »

  1. Hi Sarah

    I love these photos how ace does this place look. Mind you, I don’t know how I would get on without any wi fi lol. I like the contradiction of the place as in the highest and lowest point in the States, pretty cool. Ghost town looks like my kind of place as well.

    So where we off to next I wonder (after Vegas …… oh did I win lol?). Safe travels my friend and I want to get on a plane and come and join you xx

    • Yes I edited this down but in the original I was speculating whether the reason I used to drink so much on holidays was because we didn’t have the internet to keep us entertained.
      Have another day in Vegas and then get the bus to LA. Yes I know it’s going by fast.

  2. I think the stark beauty combined with the inevitable creep factor – this is a very forbidding place – is such a draw for visitors. I’ve only driven through on my way to other destinations, but the gazillions of visitors every year prove Death Valley is a destination that stands on its own merits.

  3. Death Valley has the best sunsets and sunrises I have seen in the area. Rhyolite is good fun too and a nice side trip. I am glad you enjoyed!

  4. Rhyolite looks so interesting. I feel so far into the future when I see pics like these. It’s hard to imagine the was deserted less than 100 years ago!

    • Ah no I don’t think I did. I hate it when I find stuff I missed.
      Ghost towns are ace though; there are loads dotted through Nevada, but really need a car to find them.

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