Death Valley is one devilishly hot place

(Fotolia)

(Fotolia)

IAN ROBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:18 AM ET

DEATH VALLEY, Calif. -- Use of the old saying "hot enough to fry an egg" recently backfired on U.S. National Park Service staff in one of North"ˆAmerica's hottest regions.

With temperatures a searing 53 C in early July -- six weeks after my visit on a balmy 40 C mid-May day -- an employee suggested an egg could be cooked on the Devil's Golf Course.

Some visitors naturally decided to crack a few yolks, resulting in a plethora of highly salted, abandoned sunny-side-up castoffs.

The employee's suggestion "was intended to demonstrate how hot it can get here, with the recommendation that if you do this, use a pan or tin foil and properly dispose of the contents,"park officials subsequently wrote on"ˆFacebook.

Death"ˆValley National Park maintenance crews have "been busy cleaning up eggs cracked directly on the sidewalk, including egg cartons and shells strewn across the parking lot," the writer added, urging "please put trash in the garbage or recycle bins provided and don't crack eggs on the sidewalks."

The flat expanse of salt crystals and gravel beds that lie 86 metres below sea level between the Panamint and Amargosa mountain ranges, got its name when the ancient lakebed became a national monument in 1934. A guidebook proclaimed it a place where "only the devil could play golf."

Crystal pinnacles form as salty water rises from the underlying mud and form myriad shapes, often crackling as they burst while expanding and contracting under relentless sunshine.

The deposits at the continent's lowest elevation site consist of minerals dissolved in Lake Manly, the nine-metre deep body of water that covered the valley more than 2,000 years ago.

Considered the hottest and driest U.S. National Park, the Devil's Golf Course has occasional rainfall that smooths the salt into a flat bed.

When my group stepped from our mini-bus that balmy 40 C day -- each carrying a prescribed water bottle -- several hiked a couple of hundred metres among the large, lumpy salt rocks spread across the valley floor. They stepped carefully, to avoid painful cuts from the coral-like deposits.

We only stopped a few minutes to explore and take photos of this amazing phenomenon.

Our guide said a return trip offers the potential of a very different scene, since winds and rain are forever moulding the salt crystals into new shapes, as do occasional floods.

TRIP TIPS

-- Located in California and southern Nevada, Death ˆValley recorded its hottest temperature -- 57 C -- on July 10, 1913.

-- To play golf check out a course in Furnace Creek, where the Death Valley National Park Museum and Visitor Centre is on Hwy. 190.

-- To see a surface water deposit, drive a short distance from the Devil's Golf Course to Badwater Pool, so-named after a surveyor's mule refused to drink due to the heavy salt content.

-- For more, see nps.gov. For more on visiting Death Valley, see travelnevada.com.

GETTING ˆTHERE

Air Canada flies direct to Las Vegas from several Canadian cities. From there, rent a car and drive 225 km west on U.S. 15, to Hwy. 127 and Death Valley Junction, then along Hwy. 190 to a 2.1-km gravel road heading south to the Devils Golf Course parking lot. Alternatively, it's a 480 km trip east from Los Angeles, Calif., via U.S. Hwy. 15 to Baker, then on Hwy. 127 to Hwy. 190.


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