Death Valley is, unsurprisingly, very hot especially in July. The thermometer was over 100 in the Shade of a building and that was on an overcast day. Luckily we didn't have to worry about melting our car tires or anything along those lines because the temperatures weren't at their highest yet. Hydration in Death Valley is a serious issue. We were told a story of a gentleman who only had to walk about 3 or 4 miles and had a liter of water with him. Sadly, 1 liter isn't nearly enough and his wife grew very concerned when he was a few hours late.
She sent for rangers to help but by the time they found him, he was already dead after being out in the valley for about 5 hours. If White Sands looked like Arrakis, Death Valley felt like it. The rising heat distorted your view and the landscape was treacherous. It may look flat and easy to walk across but it was very bumpy, hard, and an excellent place to sprain an ankle. To our surprise, despite being the driest place in America, there is an area of standing water at the bottom of the valley. Needless to say, we didn't plan on camping in the valley itself.
However, where we camped we didn't feel very safe either. We arrived in the later evening and set up camp around late dusk. Tom went to the restroom and was unsettled that it had been used as target practice. As the evening progressed Tom was awoken by the sounds of a small mammal screaming/squeaking in fright/pain which was suddenly cut off by what we can only assume was death. After somehow being able to fall back asleep we were awoken again by a police officer shining a searchlight into our tent. Apparently there were complaints of fighting happening at our campground. This was news to us as we thought we were only 1 of 2 occupied sites in a campground of only 12 or so sites. Finally morning came and we quickly packed up to leave. We did notice the tell tale signs of a car robbery with broken glass on the ground at our site which did not help settle our nerves.
We couldn't leave our campsite soon enough to go to Sequoia National Park, one of the oldest national parks. As soon as we arrived, we saw a small black bear wandering the area. Sequoias only grow in a very particular set of altitudes and rainfall conditions and we had to drive a long way up. However, when we reached the Sequoias it was well worth hit. Its hard to put into words how massive the trees were. They make other trees look like shrubbery. The General Grant Tree, the largest in the park, in one year puts on enough mass to be equal to an average 60 foot Douglas fir.
In addition, the trees are extremely tough to kill, they resist both fire and fungus extremely well.
They only die as a result of being too heavy for the ground to support them properly (they have no taproot). Even when they do fall, they don't really follow the normal decomposition period and can lay in the forest for hundreds of years and still look like they just fell yesterday. The pictures don't really do the trees justice. Its hard to capture the enormity of the trees, especially the vertical dimension.
Tom and Christine