As my tour of Death Valley progressed, we drove deeper into the desert, watching the numbers on the car’s thermometer get higher and higher. By the time we hit Badwater Basin, it was a stifling 118°. I’m a New Englander, and, while we do tend to have a week-long heat wave every summer, temps rarely top 95°. “Is there really a noticeable difference between 100 and 118?” I’d asked Bob, our knowledgeable guide from Adventure Photo Tours earlier in the day. His answer: a resounding yes. And he was right—118° felt like being in a sauna, or, perhaps more accurate, an oven.
At 282 feet below sea level, Badwater Basin isn’t just hot. It’s also the lowest point in North America. The basin gets its name from its content of undrinkable salt water, and even a quick scrape of your shoe across the salt flats yields a glimpse of that liquid, just under the surface.
It was so hot that the other two people in our tour opted to stay just outside our air-conditioned car, but Bob and I ambled down to walk along the flats. I was dripping sweat, but when would I be back in Death Valley again? (Hopefully soon, as it turns out that I loved the desert!)