“…whop, whop, whop, whop…” (Death Valley Part III)

After driving the nine mile Artist Drive loop, it is probably around 11:00am, and the temperature remarkably still feels comfortable to me.  (“It’s a dry heat,” I know, I know.)  So I figure, I am feeling good, I am going to keep going!

So I stop at Golden Canyon to do the 2.5 mile RT mile hike to Red Cathedral.  On my way in, I meet a couple coming the opposite direction.   I ask them how much further to Red Cathedral.   The man says, “You are halfway, but it is very far.”  The woman adds, “TOO FAR!!”   He says,  “My wife has suffered a little heat stroke. “  But she is standing and talking, so I don’t even THINK to ask if they need help.

Golden Canyon Trail

Golden Canyon Trail

IMG_0110I keep walking up the canyon until I get to the Red Cathedral.   It’s getting hot fast, but I stop under the overhanging rocks in the shade frequently to rest along the way.   I get to the red rocks, and the trail appears to keep going much further than the .25 miles at the last milepost.   I am either on a different trail, or my distance perception is off.  I keep going, but I start to feel woozie and a bit disoriented, as it has now gone from “still comfortable” to “seek shelter” in a matter of a few minutes.IMG_0129 IMG_0132 IMG_0133

I want to reach the end of the trail, so I keep going, all the while hearing my dearly departed cave diving instructor Fitz’s voice in my ear saying “Being goal-oriented on a dive can get you killed.”  I start to see a few spots before my eyes, and smell that burnt skin smell from back in the day of tanning beds.  So I know it is time to turn and high-tail it back.

Red Cathedral in the distance.

Red Cathedral in the distance.

IMG_0120I still have plenty of water, and I know it is downhill all the way into the cooling breeze so I am confident I will be okay, but I need to pick up the pace as it is now burning hot.

Fifteen minutes from the trail head, I come across the couple again.  She has collapsed in his arms, and he has dragged her into the shade of an overhanging rock.  He is fanning her, using a small plastic empty water bottle.  I run up and say, “What can I do?”   He tells me someone has gone for help.  By the time I get to the trail head, the Ranger is there.   By the time I get to the Visitor’s Center 2 miles down the road, I hear the “whop, whop, whop, whop, whop” of a distant helicopter.

The back side of Manly Point near Zabriski Point Trail junction

The back side of Manly Point near Zabriskie Point Trail junction

IMG_0122I go inside the Visitor’s Center and overhear the Ranger behind the desk telling the visitors that Badwater Road is now closed due to an emergency medical evacuation.  I wait until the crowd clears, then approach the ranger.  “Is this the woman in Golden Canyon?  I just left her.  Do you know if she is okay?”   She answers, “They are air-lifing her out now, but that is all I know.  It’s too dangerous to be hiking right now.  One to three people die in the park every year.”   (I later try to google for info, but cannot find any news.  I take this as a good sign…) IMG_0141

It is now 2:00pm, and the thermometer outside the Visitor Center reads 110 degrees.   I hang around inside where it’s cool for about an hour, looking at exhibits and sleeping during the movie.  😉   Then I go back to the rig.  I had left the thermostat on 88, but the wall thermometer now reads 91.   The AC keeps cutting off and on, but it it never drops below 90.  It shuts off without reaching the thermostat setting of 88.

I go for a swim in the pool to cool my body core temperature down, because I am now feeling like I can’t get water in me as fast as it is leaving.   I am nauseated, not sure if from dehydration, or from a bloated belly full of lukewarm water.  I have two ice cream sandwiches after the hike, and that is it as far as food for the next 24 hours.

Sleeping is nightmare.   I hang towels over the blinds on the windows for added insulation.  I put up the reflectix on the windshield, hang the cab curtain and close the opening above with a beach towel, all trying to minimize the space by closing off the cab.   My bedding is so hot, it feels like an electric blanket on high.  I cannot sleep,  so I get down on the floor, knowing it is always the coolest place in a Sticks and Bricks home.  So I try to sleep on the carpet, but it is no better.  Even the floor is hot to the touch.   I spend the entire night in what feels like a hallucinatory state, waking up covered in sweat every time the AC turns off, praying it will come back on again…

To be continued….


12 thoughts on ““…whop, whop, whop, whop…” (Death Valley Part III)

  1. I just love the Lunar-looking landscapes of DeVa…but can’t imagine enjoying it at 110!!! You are one very brave (or dumb-a$$ed) Texan! Thank goodness for those life-saving ice cream sandwiches!!! Ha!

  2. Wow a brave woman to be out in that heat. That’s way to hot for me and I also dehydrate very easily. I’ve even suffered from heatststroke and dehydration here. Your cave daving instructor was a wise man.

  3. Well? you’re alive because I”m reading what you wrote…. I can’t help but ask … why? you can google pictures of where you are and go hike along the Rogue River….

    y’kill me

  4. Lynne — And where was the “dumb a$$ed Texan” remark when the email came saying “sure, you’ll be fine, just don’t ride your brakes” before I left? Et tu, Brute’? 😉

    Dave — Yes, I learned a whole lot more from that man than just about diving! Gone nine years now…miss him still!

    Carolyn — Now since when will “googling pictures” satisfy the likes of you and me?? LOL! It was only supposed to be a high of 96 that weekend. A freak “warming trend.” It was back down into the 90’s the week after I left…

  5. Touche! Well, as a dumb frozen-a$$ed Illinoisian, I once boondocked in a WalMart parking lot during an Arctic deep-freeze with wind chills howling at 30-below zero. Nearly froze to death that night! So I guess maybe we’re a bit closer to “Dumb & Dumber” than Lucy & Ethel 🙂

  6. Ok I was convinced when you said you were going to try it and I’m even more convinced now that I will never do Death Valley if it isn’t in the dead of winter. Sure hope that woman is OK and am sure glad you are. Now get out of there and move to higher ground.

  7. I would have probably turned around when I saw the name of the visitor centre, me and extreme heat don’t mix.

    Hey, I sent you an email, just thought I would let you know in case you threw me into the trash pile again :)).


  8. I’ve been there at that temperature, and that is hot. But we also hiked in various canyons on those days. We went through our water in a flash and our bodies evaporated all of it quickly. What I think is different about the canyons from the visitors center is that you are enclosed by rocks and it gets hotter there, much like an oven. I wish I had taken a thermometer. We found that we reached a point where our bodies told us we were done, as if we had reached a wall where no amount of willpower would penetrate.

    • Hi, Mom!! Instead, you should be congratulating yourself on raising a daughter who had sense enough to turn around before she reached her goal destination. 😉 Besides, it wasn’t half as taxing as mowing that “canyon” of a back yard I had back in Atlanta in 90 degree heat and 90% humidity! (xxx)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *