October 14, 2018
On Wednesday, we lounged around Nipton until noon, enjoying the quietude (full disclosure: Nipton is right next to a branch line of the Southern Pacific train tracks and about every hour or so a long freight train comes blasting through with sirens blaring).
Kathy and I were headed for the hottest place on earth. Driving west to I-15 we headed southwest to Baker, California, then headed north into the the least popular National Park in America.
The Longest Vanishing Point I've Ever Seen
Back in the day, New York art directors were fond of vanishing point desert vistas and I remember driving all over Arizona with a professional photographer from Phoenix who got the assignment to find a two-lane highway example for a national ad shoot. We found the one on the back side of Monument Valley, heading for Mexican Hat (it is seen prominently in the film "Forrest Gump") but this one, above, is about twice as long as the Arizona one.
Of course, I couldn't drive through Shoshone without sampling the local museum and I wasn't disappointed:
Local bad girl, "Shotgun" Kitty Tubb
From Shoshone, Kathy and I motored over the divide and then stopped at Badwater, which is 282 feet below sea level.
According to Roger Naylor's fine book, "Death Valley: Hottest Place On Earth," that white stuff I am standing on is 95% pure table SALT, and it covers 200 square miles and is 9,000 feet deep and consist of accumulated sediment and SALT. All from lakes drying up during the ice age. And it is still damp now!
From this interesting hell hole, it was only a hop, skip and a jump to Furnace Creek in Death Valley.
The Oasis at Furnace Creek
"It was so hot that swallows in full flight fell to the earth dead and when I went out to read the thermometer with a wet Turkish towel on my head, it was dry before I returned."
—Oscar Denton, caretaker of the Furnace Creek Ranch on the record hot day of 134 degrees, the hottest ever recorded on the planet, July, 1913