Last Thursday, we landed in Las Vegas a little later at night then we expected. The drive through death valley would have to wait until morning, and with our little rental car we weren’t going to take any chances on the dark desert highway.
Things don’t always going according to plan.
After the 5 plus hours drive through Death Valley, where the hottest temperatures on earth have been recorded, without many opportunities to eat and refuel, we missed the rock climbing training. The drive was beautiful. The lonely desert landscape for hours was dotted by joshua trees, dried out lake beds, sand dunes, and the occasional alien souvenir shop. Death Valley is the lowest point in North America, and we were about to attempt the highest mountain in the continental US in just two nights. That’s a good way to get altitude sickness, so acclimatization was a concern.
We decided to take a short hike around McLoed Lake, a part of the Inyo National Forest. It was close to the house we met the rest of our party at, and our first taste of the High Sierras. The elevation is 9,000 ft, and this haunting area has trees that have been killed by carbon dioxide leaking up through cracks in the earth post earthquake. At first I thought they had been killed in a forest fire, but we quickly realized they were not blackened like the trees in other areas of California. Certain areas off the trail even have levels of CO2 so high that they are dangerous to hikers.