The plastic water bottles next to me crinkled as the air pressure increased, reminding me that I was driving down into the lowest place on the continent. The sun was shining, the day was crisp, and I was relieved to be out of the Vegas metropolis.
As I set up camp at -196 feet below sea level, I chit-chatted with my new neighbors. “Supposed to get a little windy tonight – why dontcha’ park it a little closer so our rig can act as a barrier.” I thanked the gentleman for his advice and maneuvered Clarence so that he was in a cozy little nook. Setting off with my adequate water supply, I was eager to begin hiking before the full heat of the day took effect. After all, Death Valley boasts being the hottest, driest, and lowest national park in the country.
I soon found out it was also one of the windiest.
After about a mile and a half into my canyon hike, the wind really started to pick up. I recognized that the towers of rock next to me were acting as a buffering, so I was concerned as to how bad it was back at the parking lot.
“I’m going to turn around – I’m not liking this wind so much,” I explained to some hikers I had met. At this point, my sunglasses were doing very little to block the grit from getting in my eyes. Tiny debris whipped up and pelted my legs, and I had to give up on wearing a hat, resulting in my hair going every which way.
As I exited the canyon, every step became a struggle. I could feel the dust going into my nose when I breathed, and I started to lose my balance. I fell three times trying to make it back to my car. As quick as I could, I yanked the door open and practically fell inside, bringing a whirlwind of soot with me. I was safe.
(to be continued)