FURNACE CREEK, Calif. (AP) — 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.
But wait! There’s more!
For all you Global Warming True Believers:
The record temperature for the region — and the world — is 134 degrees, reached a century ago.
I spent the summer of 1981 at Fort Irwin near Barstow, California. My Number One Son was born that June. If you look at a map you will see that Fort Irwin and Death Valley are ass-up to each other, even though there is no direct paved route between them.
I am familiar with Mojave heat. That is one of the places where the sun can kill you dead and not just from skin cancer. The desert is not a beach. It is a hostile environment for the unprepared.
You do not strip down to beat the heat, you cover up. Big hats (not ball caps) and loose, long-sleeved shirts are required during the day. Shoes are essential, gloves (or potholders) are recommended. Always carry water, even for short trips. Be sure to hydrate and stay in the shade (if you can find any). Travel by night.
FYI: I live about 5-6 hours from Fort Irwin. It’s a little cooler in Merced. Here’s what the local weather looks like: