Ramble On

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Trips to Las Vegas - part 2

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m on business travel to Las Vegas this week, so instead of putting up new posts, I’m reprising my past trips there.  As I posted yesterday, in 2009 I took a helicopter flight to the Grand Canyon.  Today’s post is about the 2011 drive up to Death Valley, and tomorrow I’ll post on the 2013 trip when Mary and I took a day trip to the Grand Canyon. 

During my first trip to Vegas I learned that if you carve out a little time, you’ll find that there is easy access to several national parks for a day trip, and so it was in 2011 that I decided to rent a car and drive two hours to Death Valley to have a look around.  I’d prepared for this trip by purchasing the Easy Day Hikes guide (Amazon link).  

Thumbing through it, I saw some dire warnings about risks in this park:
  • Dehydration
  • Weather
  • Hypothermia/Hyperthermia
  • Vegetation
  • Flash Floods
  • Rattlesnakes, Scorpions, and Tarantulas
  • Mine Hazards
  • Unstable Rocky Slopes
I thumbed through this section in the parking lot at Zebriskie Point. Even though I’d stopped at Target back in Las Vegas to prepare and had two liters of water handy, these warnings were enough to convince me to go to the camp store at the visitor center and pick up another gallon of water (which I gave, unopened, to the attendant when I returned the car – two liters was enough). 

The warnings in the little book were a good reminder about how harsh this environment is. At a couple of points on the trip as I took short “hikes” in the park, I was left contemplating how up to 10,000 frontiers people could survive in the towns in this area, between the heat, and no ready access to potable water or food. Yet even before them, essentially since the Ice Age, there has been a population of Native Americans living in this area, although climate evolution may have facilitated that.

Among the highlights in Death Valley were four or five stops I made to check out the scenery and stretch my legs.  I saw a bunch of German tourists exit their bus and walk out into the desert, taking their shirts and shoes off within a couple of hundred feet before walking a half mile out into the salt and sun.  I also set a new low-altitude record on my Casio Pathfinder watch, at -500 feet or so, which became the bookend for my high-altitude record at 8,800 feet on Glacier Point in Yosemite.

After my four-hour visit in the park, I made my way back to Las Vegas and dropped the car off at the airport.  I caught a cab back to my hotel, took a refreshing shower, and headed back out to the Strip for dinner.  All in all a great trip in 2011, one that made me look forward to the next time, when hopefully Mary could join me.

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