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Some like it Hot - HowTo.co.uk

(EMAILWIRE.COM, March 31, 2009 ) Some like it Hot

‘Roadtrip through Death Valley’ may sound like the title of a bad horror movie but it’s a journey that more and more intrepid travellers want to make every year. HowTo.co.uk finds out why…

What’s in a name? Well, in the case of Death Valley, California, an awful lot. There’s nothing quite like a sinister, mythical place name to lure in the tourists and in the case of this land of extremes, it’s worked a treat.

Much of the valley’s hotspots (sorry, couldn’t resist) have names suggestive of their location. For all those who, like me, are currently currently shivering their way through another British winter, the likes of Stovepipe wells, Furnace Creek and Last Chance Canyon have taken on a certain attraction.

So, first things first. How did Death Valley get such an awe inspiring name? Well it wasn’t for the heat - which regularly tops 50 degrees centigrade during the summer months - instead it was named by a group of pioneers who were lost in the valley in the winter of 1849-1850.

Even though only one of the group died, they all assumed that this valley would be their grave, so they gave the area its haunting name.

Death Valley is the lowest, driest and hottest valley in the United States. It is a record breaker-it holds the record for the highest reliably reported temperature in the Western hemisphere at 56.7 degrees centigrade at Furnace Creek in 1913.

Geographically, Death Valley lies southeast of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert and the valley is around 3,000 square miles in size.

Whilst Death Valley drops to almost 300 feet below sea level, the Mojave Desert to the south boasts mountain ranges rising to 5,000 feet. This desolate landscape is stunning in its harshness, with sand dunes, snow capped mountains, coloured rock formations, spring wildflowers and native wildlife.

It is a land of true extremes - whilst the roads are hot enough to fry an egg on in July; come December, the mercury drops below freezing and the surrounding mountains are sprinkled with snow.

Dying to see…

One of the most famous sights in Death Valley is Badwater, a salty spring which is said to be the lowest point in the western hemisphere. From here, there are excellent mountain views, including Telescope Peak, which soars to 3368 metres.

The 1.4 million acre Mojave National Preserve is the geological, ecological, cultural, historical, recreational and scenic heart of the Mojave Desert.

The Death Valley National Park was established as a national monument in 1933 and has long been prized for its unique wildlife and desert beauty.

Today, much of the park is wilderness and attracts hoards of visitors each year, who come to see the rugged canyons.

Rhyolite Ghost Town was the largest town in the Death Valley area during the mining boom of the early 1900's. Included among the ruins are a house built completely of bottles, a train depot, jail and old schoolhouse.

The Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge is a wetland and alkaline desert providing habitat for more than 26 types of plants and animals unique to Death Valley.

Manzanar National Historic Site was one of ten camps at which Japanese-American citizens and Japanese aliens were interned during World War II.

Hidden in the green oasis of Grapevine Canyon in far northern Death Valley is Scotty’s Castle, which offers a glimpse into the life and times of the Roaring 20's and Depression 30's. Park Rangers in period clothing present 1939 living history tours of the Castle each day.

Don’t go to Death Valley unprepared - it didn’t get given that name for nothing. During the summer months, avoid cycling or walking unless at dawn or dusk, when the temperature is slightly cooler.

Drink at least two to four litres of water, even if you don’t feel thirsty. Make sure you fill your car up with petrol before entering Death Valley - getting caught short in this unforgiving environment could be a recipe for disaster.

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