Two best friends on a roadtrip across America. We had it all planned out, and our next big stop was Death Valley. It was the middle of July and we had been driving through the desert for hours, stopping periodically to look for snakes, scorpions, donkeys, mine shafts, anything that two teenagers would find remotely interesting. The long stretch of road that lead to this national park was straight and empty, we should’ve taken that as a sign that perhaps July was not the best time of year to visit the most brutally hot and desolate place in the United States. We stopped on the side of the road because we saw what we believed was a mine shaft up in the hills. We grabbed our bags, locked the car, and started walking. For what seemed as an eternity later, we finally reached this “mine shaft.” There were car parts, bullet casings, wood pieces, a destroyed old shack, and the boarded up mine shaft. We were both excited and disappointed. Although the mine shaft was boarded up (very heavily boarded up, we tried to get in anyway, but the boards wouldn’t budge) the scenery was cool, like something out of an old western movie. So we admired the scenery for a few minutes, and walked back to the car. A little later down the road, we were going fast because the road was straight and flat. Then, without warning, there was a massive hump in the road and all four wheels came off of the ground. When we slammed back onto the pavement, we nearly lost control of the car. Although the outcome could have been severe, it was actually pretty fun. We then saw what appeared to be some sort of little country store in the middle of nowhere. We were thirsty, and eager to know how much longer until we reached death valley. We went into the “store,” which was basically a little shack with a mini fridge. There was trash on the floor, and the walls were covered in posters of scantily clad women. There was a man sitting in the corner of the room on a stool. This man appeared to be missing an eye, and had a very rough and raspy voice. We asked if we could buy something to drink, to which he replied “we have beer and we have coke.” We reluctantly took our coca-colas, paid the man our two dollars, and got out of there as fast as we could. After driving a little while, we came across the death valley “ghost town” which was a few wooden shacks and buildings with signs outside of them explaining what their significance was. We were disappointed with the ghost town, because it is not at all what we were expecting. We left the ghost town in search of a place to camp for the night. We finally found a spot that appeared to have campsites (Emigrant campsite). There was a small gravel spot on the left side of the road, with picnic tables. On the right side of the road there was a restroom, which was a small building, and a payphone (which we later discovered did not work).
The only other person in this area was a skinny shirtless man in a white van that held eye contact with me for an unpleasant amount of time. Although we were concerned that he abducted children in his free time, he was probably a pretty cool guy since he was van camping in a national park on a day that the high was 127°F.
We pitched our tent in this gravel parking lot, and prepared for nightfall. It was the middle of the day and it was HOT! We laid around camp, trying to stay cool, but it was no use. Even the shade (what little bit there was around the bathrooms) was unbearable. As we laid there, preparing to die in the unforgiving heat, we noticed a water spigot next to one of the picnic tables. We turned on the spigot, and boiling hot water started to trickle out of it. We decided to let it run for a minute to see if it would get a little bit cooler…. It never did. We drank from this spigot because we had run out of water, even though the water was so hot that it burnt our lips. Eventually nightfall began to come as the sun started to settle down behind the hills. We thought that it would cool off significantly. We had always heard that the desert gets cold at night, but we were wrong. It may have cooled off a little bit, but that was probably the highest temperatures at night that I have ever had to endure. I could not sleep in the tent because there was no wind, so I moved to the picnic table. I laid on the top of the picnic table in order to try and catch whatever breeze there may be.
It felt like the hot setting on a hair dryer, blowing on me all night long. It was absolutely miserable. We would have just left in the car, but we were starting to run low on gas, and the only gas station close enough to fill up before we ran out would’ve been closed. Eventually, the sun came back up, and the night was over. We gladly got back into the car and left that horrible, desolate campsite. Although Death Valley is beautiful, we do not recommend camping in the heart of it during the summer months. Although this trip was very memorable, memorable and enjoyable cannot always be used interchangeably.