OFF TO THE DESERT
OFF TO THE DESERT
After the loud, glaring and unreal Las Vegas we are happy to return to the wonderful nature outside of this gambler’s paradise in the middle of the desert. Not far away is the “Valley of Fire”, an area that truly deserves this name. The rocks shine in all imaginable colors and we use the light of the setting sun up to the last minute and walk back to our car in the dark. Even the silence at night is a huge contrast to the city noise of the last couple of days.
VALLEY OF DEATH
The next day the thermometer rises to well over 30 ° Celsius while driving and there is almost no vegetation anymore. We are on our way to Death Valley, one of the driest places on earth! Due to the extreme heat in summer months, rental cars are not allowed to drive in this area, as they might overheat. A few of the burned-out vehicles to the left and right of the road bear witness to this circumstance.
During the day we spend the hot hours soaking in a swimming pool which we surprisingly found at the campsite and we truly welcome this cooling off from the heat. The water originates from an underground river that surfaces here in the middle of the desert. It’s also the first night on our trip in our rolling one-bedroom-apartment so far with tropical temperatures …
Early morning and late in the evening, when the sun is not burning too fierce from the sky, we explore the bizarre world of stone, sand and salt. For the first time in our lives, we are below sea level and have neither a scuba tank on our back nor do we wear mask & snorkel. 😊 The Death Valley is one of the very few places in the world where that is even possible.
And who would have thought that at the end of this valley we suddenly come across huge sand dunes? We park our car at their edge, explore them on foot and feel transported to Morocco… It is really an extraordinary landscape in this valley of death.
Our journey continues westwards towards the Sierra Nevada, more specifically to the “Alabama Hills”. We spend the night in the middle of an unreal world of rocks and have a first glimpse of the mighty mountain range that the Sierra is. It is a climbers’ and hikers’ paradise at the foot of these mountains and while hiking we feel for the first time again since we left the Rocky Mountains in Canada reminiscent of the Swiss Alps. At the top of some summits there is even a hint of snow.
In some places, hot springs gush out of the earth and we camp more than once right next to one of these natural bathtubs. Until late at night we pamper ourselves with the warm water and relax our tired muscles before we disappear in our cozy home. Although we are not far away from the hot Death Valley, it gets cold here at night and we are happy to have our diesel heating…
As we keep on exploring along the Eastern Sierra Nevada, we come across another peculiarity: a large lake with high pH-value and salinity, which unfortunately is slowly drying up. Decades of mismanagement of the water distribution for the metropolitan area of Los Angeles lead to a sinking water level of the Mono Lake and despite increased efforts in recent years, the process seems to be unstoppable. It though reveals to the visitor bizarre tuff formations which on days without wind reflect nicely on the lake.
It seems almost impossible, but we’re kind of running out of time… Winter is approaching in these latitudes and the 3’030-meter-high Tioga pass, which leads us over the Sierra Nevada to Yosemite National Park, can be closed any time now. In the next few days snow is forecasted and so we set out to cross this huge mountain range before that.