What’s it like in 128-degree heat?

FURNACE CREEK, Calif. — Associated Press photographer Chris Carlson is no stranger to heat. He grew up just outside Palm Springs, Calif. On Friday, he returned to his desert roots, leaving his home near Los Angeles and driving to the hottest place on earth on one of the hottest days of the year. Below, he describes what it is like to be in triple digit heat in Death Valley:

___

By 9 a.m., the two bags of ice I loaded in the cooler are gone and the floor of my rental car looks like a storage bin at a recycling plant. Hydration is essential.

I know what to expect in Death Valley: Unrelenting heat so bad it makes my eyes hurt, as if someone is blowing a hair dryer in my face. I don’t leave CDs or electronics in the car because they could melt or warp. I always carry bottles of water.

But I still make mistakes. I forgot my oven mitts, the desert driving trick I learned as a teenager after burning my hands too many times on the steering wheel. And my rental car is black, adding several degrees to the outside temperature of 127. When the digital thermometer at the Furnace Creek visitor center ticks up to 128, a few people jump out of their cars to take a picture. The record temperature for the region — and the world — is 134 degrees, reached a century ago.

I try to work in flip-flops, but the sun sears the tops of my feet, and I am forced to put shoes on. My cellphone, pulled from my shirt pocket, is so hot that it burns my ear when I try to take a call from my wife.

One of my first stops is at the Furnace Creek Golf Course, a place I’ve played in the past. The guy in the pro shop tells me they’ve only had two players all morning. Both were employees.

I don’t stay long. The camera around my neck gets so hot it stops working. An error message flashes a warning at me.

I’m surprised to find out that hotels are packed with visitors. This is Death Valley’s busy time of year. Tourists, mostly from Europe, come to experience extreme heat, or they just didn’t know what they were getting into. Death Valley is between the Grand Canyon and Yosemite, and many people add it to their itinerary.

Tourists are out today, but they rarely emerge from their cars. They drive through the brown, cracked landscape, peering out at the vast desert and occasionally rolling down the windows, but only briefly.

Those who do attempt to get out of their cars park in sparse shade, sprint to local landmarks, snap a few photos, and then jump back in their cars. Most were out at daybreak. By midday, few people can be seen.

More in Local News

A customer walks away after buying a hot dog from a vendor on 33rd St and Smith Street near the Everett Station on Friday. The Everett Station District Alliance pictures the area east of Broadway and south of Hewitt Avenue as a future neighborhood and transit hub that could absorb expected population growth. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
How can Everett Station become a vibrant part of city?

A neighborhood alliance focused on long-term revitalization will update the public Tuesday.

Man arrested after police find van full of drugs, cash and guns

An officer on patrol noticed a vehicle by itself in the middle of a WinCo parking lot at 2 a.m.

After work to address issues, Lynnwood gets clean audit

The city has benefited from increased revenues from sales tax.

Bolshevik replaces BS in Eyman’s voters pamphlet statement

The initiative promoter also lost a bid to include a hyperlink to online coverage of the battle.

Man with shotgun confronts man on toilet about missing phone

Police say the victim was doing his business when the suspect barged in and threatened him.

Detectives seek suspect in woman’s homicide

Alisha Michelle Canales-McGuire was shot to death Wednesday at a home south of Paine Field.

Car crashes near Everett after State Patrol pursuit

The driver and a second person in the car suffered injuries.

Voter registration deadline looms

Oct. 30 is the deadline for new voter registrations prior to the General Election.

This week’s Herald Super Kid is Nathan Nicholson of Snohomish High School. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
One driven Panther

Snohomish senior Nathan Nicholson a student leader, social media master.

Most Read