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Published: November 15th 2005
The view from Badwater, the ground is covered in salt crystals, left after the water has evaporated.
Death Valley 28/10/05
We headed back into California via Las Vegas (managed to drive straight past it this time!) and drove into Death Valley. The temperature was 82F (and no, I don't know what that is in real money) and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We saw loads of cyclists, it's like they were there to taunt us. Apparently there is a ride tomorrow, out of Death Valley into Nevada and back via the northern end of the valley - grrrrr, not fair, wanna get back on my bike, sob.
We heard a very interesting talk on weather conditions in the valley at the visitor centre, apparently there was a huge rain storm this spring and they got enough water to kayak in. This occurs about once in every 100 years and gave rise to a beautiful display of spring flowers. It also caused lush growth of the vegetation in the desert areas of California (i.e. most of it) which dried out and resulted in the spectacular desert fires seen this year. What else can I tell you about the conditions here? Well, it's usually men who get into serious difficulty with overheating because they stay out in it
longer than women. British people are the worst for wilting in the heat - they drive into the valley in an air-conditioned car with the windows up and then get out at the visitor centre and keel over. Germans prefer to visit Death Valley in the summer, nobody knows why, but the temperature gets up to 130F on very hot days.
We drove to Badwater, which is the lowest point in the USA (-282 feet). There was a small amount of water there from a storm a couple of days before, but it was evaporating rapidly and at its deepest was about one inch. We tried walking out across the salt flats to get an artsy photo of the mountains reflected in the water, but gave up after walking about half a mile and not seeming to get any closer to the lake.
Mono Lake and Bodie 29-30/10/05
From Death Valley we drove to Mono Lake, high in the Sierra Nevada. The lake is much shallower than it was in the early 20th century, because in the 1930s the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (DWP) bought ranches and farms above the lake which had watercourses running into
it. In 1941 they built an aqueduct across all the watercourses to carry that water to Los Angeles (over 350 miles away). The lake levels dropped by 50ft over the years as more water evaporated from it than ran into it. Eventually the lake became so briny it was threatening the survival of local animals and something had to be done, so an agreement was drawn up in the 1980s to allow some of the water back into the lake. Years later, after legal arguments had run their course the lake finally started to refill as water was undiverted back to it.
The next day we went to Bodie, a former mining town which, like most mining towns, was abandoned when the gold ran out. You can still walk around the town and see the church, court house, school, saloon, hotel and two undertakers businesses and well as a number of houses. By all accounts the undertakers did good business what with the mix of gold, money and alcohol; there was a death each day on average.
There is supposed to be a curse associated with the town, if you steal anything at all you and your family will have
Look for the sea level sign on this cliff.
bad luck forever. A number of people have posted nails back to the museum over the years which they picked up off the ground while they were looking around the town, but the one which really took some believing was this:
Some time ago a man walked into the museum and said he wanted to return something because since his family had taken it there had been early deaths, cancer and car accidents (I can't remember the full details), finally his daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia so he had come to Bodie to return the piano which his family had stolen years ago!!
How does anybody steal a piano without being seen? A handful of nails I can understand, but a piano!! How??? We have previously helped a friend to move a piano up a flight of stairs, it took eight of us and there was much language involved, most of it very loud.
Anyway, he proved that the thing had come from Bodie and they took it back; I have no idea how his daughter is.
We left the Ghost of Bodie in peace and drove on to San Francisco.
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