Dinesh Death Valley Trek
(The Great Daring Stupendous Unbelievable Dinesh Death Valley Trek)

6-17 Jul 1998 - by Dinesh Desai

A flashy version of this report on the was Car Talk website but it vanished in 2011.
Fortunately it is preserved on Dinesh's website, and all but Car Talk's intro is below in a more linear format.

Here, then, are the unexpurgated, never-before-published chronicles of Dinesh's walk across Death Valley. For 12 days. In the middle of summer. (Dinesh, you're a great guy...and a raving moron!)

The following is an account of our walk through Death Valley National Park during July 1998. We wanted to find out how it feels to walk in extreme heat for days at a time. We had set a goal of walking the entire Park, from its northern boundary to its southernmost point, a distance of about 180 miles. Our plan was to walk 15 miles a day and finish the walk in 12 days.

Dinesh caption:
Training for the hot walk. Note water-delivery tube, wool pants, wool shirt and heavy-duty thermal top and bottom.
Car Talk caption:
"Jeez, I'm already disoriented--and I'm still in my driveway."

This is how Warren and everybody else slept every night.
""Sleep, my foot! By morning, I'll be passing through the digestive system of wolves!" (To quote Dave Barry.)

Day 0 (Sunday, July 5)

Warren, my wife Joy and I arrive at a roadside camping spot, in Death Valley National Park, where we hope to spend tonight and tomorrow night. This spot is about 14 miles south of the Park's northern boundary. We deliberately arrive late to avoid having to sit around in a shadeless environment. Luckily, we are able to sit in the shadows cast by our cars. Each of us has driven a car here, but my Acura Legend has already one strike against it. It does not cast as big a shadow as Joy's Ford Explorer or Warren's Kia Sportage. Our camping spot is at an elevation of 3,200 ft. and thus about 10 cooler compared to most of below sea-level Death Valley. It is about 86 at 8 PM and quite pleasant.

Our bed is a chaise lounge covered with a pad or an old Boy Scout sleeping bag. It works pretty good except that it is somewhat narrow and we can't thrash around too much. It is a day or so before the full moon and now we are positioning our beds in the shadows of the cars to avoid the moon. We say our prayers to the automobile gods and say good night to each other. All of us don't sleep that well as the constant breeze coupled with the dropping temperatures makes us, believe it or not, a little cold. The thermometer reads 59 at 6 am.

Day 1. My wife, Joy, starts hiking with her reflective umbrella.
"How many miles to the nearest divorce lawyer?"

Day 1 (Monday, July 6)

As soon as the sun comes up, the temperature starts to rise rapidly. But the real problem is the heat absorbed by the body in direct sun. We again use the shadows cast by the cars to cook and eat our breakfast. Even in this no man's land, there are plenty of grasshoppers and a few biting flies. We then set out to park the cars for our first day's walk. We park my Acura a mile south of the camp, Joy's Explorer 7 miles north from the Acura and Warren's Kia 15 miles north from the Acura. We cover each window of each car and the top of the Acura's trunk with sun-shades. We are ready to begin our walk here at almost 6,400ft. and at 9-30 AM, the temperature is quite pleasant. Even though this is our first day of walking, we are not too concerned. We know that it is mostly downhill today and at these higher elevations, it will not be too warm. We are , however, surprised at the intensity of the sun's rays. We each have a large umbrella covered with sun-reflecting material. However, whenever we put down the umbrella to take a picture or to urinate, our bodies seem to heat up almost instantly. I was glad that I had insisted on a "no shorts" policy.

The morning's walk is pleasant and interesting. There are Pinyon pine and Joshua trees as well as various flowers as we walk towards Joy's Explorer parked at about 4,100ft. elevation. We spot a large yellow-brown snake making its' way across the dirt road as well as several long-tailed lizards. As if to remind us that we are still in a desert environment, carcasses of two cows stare us in the face as we round a bend in the road. We reach the Explorer at about noon and eat our lunch and refill our water bottles. We had covered 7.5 miles in two and a half hours, a respectable 20 minute per mile pace. It is 92 but we are not that uncomfortable. We are pretty elated at how well things are going. "Not so fast, my children", Mother Nature seems to whisper in our ears almost immediately. We have been walking in the Cucomungo canyon shielded from the winds but as we enter the open Eureka Valley, the gusting head winds bring our forward march to a crawl. The umbrella that is so effective against the sun is now becoming a liability. Warren wasn't very meticulous in taping the sun-reflecting material to his umbrella and the material is already starting to come apart. I was aware of the umbrella in the wind problem, but I am now wondering if I should not have included some upper-body workouts in our training.

We have not seen a single car since yesterday evening. Prior to starting this walk, I had informed the Park Service about our plans. As we walk the lonely Eureka Valley Road, I wonder if a Ranger might not come by to talk to us. Lo and behold, as we near the end of our day's walk, a truck pulls up behind us and the driver identifies himself as an off-duty Park Ranger. It is the same ranger, Charlie, whom I had talked to previously. He is returning from an outing in the mountains,where he had gone to escape the Valley heat. So much for the Death Valley Rangers braving the heat. He tells us, that, in summer, most rangers just stay in the office.

We finish the walk, retrieve the cars and return to our camp. It is 5-30 PM and about 100. We relax a bit in the shade of our cars before tackling the dinner chores. I was feeling pretty energetic when we finished the walk but now, an hour later in the camp, I don't seem to have much energy. Then I realize the problem. While we were busy retrieving the cars and setting up the camp, I had neglected to continue to drink water and I was becoming dehydrated. We were all so careful about staying hydrated while walking but became complacent as soon as the walk ended.

Late that evening, Patrick drives up from Reno. He is going to join us for the next four days.

Starting Day 2. Smiling, but not looking forward to climbing 2,500 feet to cross over from Eureka Valley to Death Valley.
"Smile, Dinesh --because as soon as the shutter clicks, we're going to impale you on that cactus over there and get back in the car and go to the nearest McDonald's."

Day 2 (Tuesday, July 7)

Today, our schedule calls for crossing the Last Chance Mountain Range. This Mountain Range separates Eureka Valley from Death Valley. We wonder if the name implies that one must not cross this last barrier unless one is prepared to meet his fate in Death Valley. We are a little apprehensive but for a different reason. This crossing is going to require us to climb 2,500ft to the high point of the pass and then descend into the valley. However, we do have one advantage over yesterday; we have four cars today and thus, we will have only five miles between the cars instead of 7 miles. And we will have two rest stops.

Before we started this walk, we had set certain ground rules. We would do the walk during July, the hottest month in Death Valley. We would walk between the hours of 9 am and 5 PM only and, once parked, we would not get in the cars and drive until the walk for the day was finished. On the other hand, even though we were starting at the north end and finishing at the south end of the Park, we did not have to walk each day's distance in a southerly direction. As the north end of the Park is in the mountains, walking in a northerly direction almost always resulted in an uphill walk. However, this saved us considerable time in laying out and retrieving cars. So it is to save time in laying out cars that, today, we are walking from Death Valley up to the pass and then down to the spot in Eureka Valley where we had stopped at the end of yesterday's walk. Joy has two and I have three quarts of water as we start today's walk but in an hour and a half we are both out of water. We sip some from Warren's supply, but soon he is out too. We are happy that the cars are parked only five miles apart today. We obviously need a lot more water when walking uphill.

We each take an extra quart for the second leg of our walk and head for the top of the pass. The terrain is mountainous, but unlike other mountain regions, there are no trees here. We see evidence of past mining activity but not much else.

We are camping tonight near a junction called Crankshaft Crossing. Underneath the sign, are various car parts. Looking at the condition of the road, I wonder if I am going to have to contribute a part from my Acura to the pile. As we make camp, Patrick announces that he has a flat. No, it is not just a flat. The sidewall is split. He unloads everything from the back of his Toyota 4-Runner to get to the spare. He is having a hard time loosening those nuts but none of us other three offer any help. We figure he is young and strong and besides, he can't be too tired; unlike us, he did not walk yesterday. He is barely finished with putting the spare on when Joy announces that the lift-gate of her Explorer won't stay up. She does not even bother to ask me to help. She has been married to me long enough to know that my mechanical IQ is below zero and that I will only make matters worse. Patrick tries to fix the broken clip of the strut but to no avail. We take off the strut and add it to the pile of parts near the sign.

A tough stretch of road where some motorists lose their crankshafts!
"If I can just crush Dinesh's skull with this one rock, we can bury his corpse behind the sagebrush and be in Reno in time for dinner."

Day 3 (Wednesday, July 8)

I wonder what is in store for us today after yesterday's car problems. We still have the bad road to contend with today. Patrick is worried about getting another flat. His truck's tires have six lug nuts whereas ours' have five; so, he can't use our spare. Luckily, we are able to use a long mailing tube to keep open the Explorer's lift-gate. The tube is not long enough and we keep hitting our heads. It is a good distraction from our other problems.

Patrick and Joy were complaining yesterday about their heat rashes and now, just half an hour into the walk, Patrick is already moving a bit slower. Joy's feet are hot and her shoulders are aching from holding the umbrella in the wind. We had almost no wind yesterday but it is certainly making up for it today. I estimate some gusts at over 40 mph. Surprisingly, there is no dust blowing. I guess everything that can be blown away has been taken care of by these incessant winds.

We are again walking north today but we only have about a 1,500ft. climb. We have not been able to buy any ice since Sunday and our water is now warm. In spite of the stiff wind we are still able to cover five miles in two hours.

We see a lot of creosote bush and much of it looks quite healthy. El Nino dumped almost twice as much rain here as usual (the usual is about an inch) and that seems to have done the trick. These creosote bushes are real survivors and some of the specimens have been found to be over 10,000 years old. The oldest living trees, the Bristlecone Pines, don't live even half as long as these desert wonders.

We are camping tonight at Mesquite campground. It has water and restrooms but no shade. By now, we have become pro's at using the car's shadows and nature's wide open restrooms but unlimited water is a real treat. We also buy ice from the store at nearby Scotty's Castle. Well, what more can one ask for? I believe that one draw of a trip like this is the fact that your daily life becomes very simple. When you are just trying to survive, a lot of things don't really matter.

There are a few misguided souls at this campground. They all look like foreigners. A young woman seems to be walking around in a daze. Many are sitting in their cars with the engine and the air-conditioning running. I don't think they believed their guidebooks about how uncomfortably hot it can get in Death Valley.

Joy looks like she is waiting for someone to give her a ride. And it wasn't that hot either--just 110 or so!
"My mother was right about my marrying this bozo. What *was* I thinking?"

Day 4 (Thursday, July 9)

Patrick is a basket case. He can hardly walk around this morning. He is a big, strong guy, but in his own words, a little too fat in the thighs. The heat rash around his thighs and groin area causes excruciating pain as he tries to walk. We all agree that he should take a day off and see how things progress. We lay out the cars for the day's walk, his being the car from where we start. The three of us begin walking and he drives off to get a new tire from a town about 70 miles away.

We are now below 1,500ft., and even at 10 AM, the heat is quite oppressive Soon, we hit the paved road. Until now, we had seen a car only occasionally but now, there are a few more cars. Almost all are tourists visiting Scotty's Castle. Until about 15 years ago, almost no one visited Death Valley in summer. Then the foreign tourists, who came to California mostly in summer, started going through Death Valley on their way to Las Vegas. Now. even the Park Service encourages a visit in summer to experience the heat. It is my observation that most Americans are still not buying the Park Service line.

As we are walking, a car approaches us and slows down. They look at us in disbelief and ask us in their halting English if they can take our picture. In a true capitalistic manner, I tell them that it will cost them five dollars. Before they can dig in their wallet, Joy tells them that I am only joking. "Even though you are born in this country, you just don't understand the American economic system like us foreigners do", I tell Joy. This scene was to be repeated many times in the coming days. We felt good that we were providing people with an unforgettable moment during there time in Death Valley.

After walking 10 miles, she collapses under the car, the only reasonably cool place in the desert.
"You know, having the weight of a Ford Explorer on your chest really distracts you from those 130-degree temperatures."

Day 5 (Friday, July 10)

Patrick has to go back tomorrow morning and today is his last chance to walk with us. His rash is still there but he decides to walk anyway. I commend him for his courage and kid him for his foolishness. The paved road is good for our cars but it does present a few problems for us. On the dirt road, we walked in our light hiking boots and they worked well. However, they are not suitable for hard, unyielding surfaces and as such, we are wearing our running/walking shoes. Our feet feel much hotter in these shoes and seem to make them blister-prone. Joy, especially, does not like the increased traffic either. With all the water we are drinking, it is not unusual for us to take six or seven pee breaks. With no foliage to hide behind, this is annoying Joy.

Warren and I are doing fine, but Joy is feeling quite hot. We are walking north and it has been uphill all day. Now, we just have a couple of miles to go but the road seems to get very steep. I am pouring water on Joy's head and neck to keep her from overheating and Warren is making sure that ever suffering Patrick is still moving. In Death Valley, the day's high temperature usually occurs between three and five in the afternoon and by then we have been walking for several hours. So, the last leg was always the worst part of our walk. Today's seems to be a little worse than usual. Tonight and the next four nights, we are camping at Furnace Creek Campground. The elevation here is 190ft.below sea level and the heat is just unbelievable. I check the temperature of the water coming out of the faucet and it is 112. The wind is not warm anymore; it is hot. I open my bag to look for some tape and I am horrified to see everything in the bag covered with something sticky. My Vaseline has liquefied and emptied out of the bottle. "Welcome to the real Death Valley", I pronounce, but my fellow sufferers just ignore me.

We were a curious sight to many a motorist. Here a team of young people who were testing some new cars in the Death Valley heat spend a few minutes taking our picture near Badwater, the lowest point in the Americas.
"Beats the heck out of me, Vinny. Maybe they're part of some government experiment."

Day 6 (July 11 )

We say goodbye to Patrick after the cars are set up for the day. As we walk, I wonder if his wife will ever forgive me for putting her husband through such torture. I also wonder how Melissa, who is joining us tonight, will be able to tolerate the valley heat. I guess I will just have to wait and see.

An hour into the walk, we spot a parked car in the distance. As we get closer, we see people with video cameras and microphones. We wonder what they are shooting. Soon, we find out; they are filming us! It is a British television crew doing a documentary on the world's hottest, coldest, wettest and driest and windiest places. They interview us for a while and then take off in their air-conditioned van for some fun in Las Vegas. Later in the afternoon, we get on the main highway through Death Valley. There is a little more traffic on this road and more cameras pointing at us. At times we feel like zoo animals providing entertainment to people. But it does not bother us. We are too busy with our job; putting one foot in front of the other.

Melissa arrives about 6 PM. She flew from her home in Santa Fe, New Mexico to Las Vegas and rented a car. She could not easily bring a chaise lounge but she assured us that sleeping on a picnic table will be no problem.

Melissa and Dinesh crossing the Amargosa River near the southern end of Death Valley.
"Dinesh?" "Yes, Melissa?" "Can we talk?"

Day 7 (Sunday, July 12)

None of us are sleeping well at this camp. Last night, Joy put a wet beach towel on the chaise lounge, and then another wet towel on her. Warren hung a wet towel behind his lounger hoping to tame the hot wind. Melissa, in her haste to get some sleep, had plopped herself down on a metal picnic table and around midnight had asked "When does it cool down around here?" She knew she was doomed to a sleepless night when she heard me reply "Mid-November".

The forecast for the next few days is for temperatures to exceed 120. I don't know about the others, but I am really excited. I am here to brave the heat and 110 is not going to do it for me. Even though Death Valley had below normal temperatures in May and June, I keep dreaming about record highs. And now, my dream is about to come true.

Yesterday, we hit the part of the Valley that is below sea level and from now onwards we will be below sea level until almost the end. This is the hottest part of Death Valley. We start at about 9 AM and the temperature is already 96. Melissa is a fast hiker and she and Joy are in the lead. Warren can walk fast too but he is deliberately walking slower. When we reach the first stop, we notice that Melissa has not been drinking enough water. I ask her to slow down and drink more water. By the time we reach the next car, both Melissa and Joy are complaining about the heat. It is now 114 in the shade. We usually take about a 30 minute break, but now, we take an extra 10 minutes before starting for the last leg.

It is still a couple of miles from the end. Melissa appears really done in. Joy has several blisters by now and she is struggling too. We leave the main road and are now on the road leading to Badwater. There is a small mesquite tree about 200ft. ahead but beyond that is just a vast expanse of barren ground. Melissa heads for the tree and lays down under it. Her body temperature is close to normal and she does not appear to be in any immediate danger. She is probably suffering from dehydration and heat exhaustion. We decide that she should not walk any further today. We leave Joy to look after her and then Warren and I walk the remaining mile and a half and bring the car back and pick them up

At the camp, the first order of business is to relax and soak our feet in water. It is still very hot, but not having to walk is such a relief that nobody is complaining. And there is something good about this dry heat. Our washed clothes dry in less than half an hour. This is one trip where I am wearing clean clothes everyday in spite of the fact that I only brought six pieces of clothing.

Walking near Badwater salt pan.
"Now, where did we leave the car? I could have sworn we would have come to it by now..."

Day 8 (Monday, July 13)

We start today's walk at that mesquite tree so Joy and Melissa do not have to miss any part of the walk. Things are fine for a while but then Melissa starts to slow down. I stay with her but we are about five minutes behind the other two. In all my years of hiking with Melissa, I have never seen her walk this slow. I wonder if she can make it through the day. At the first rest stop, I tell her that I do not want to hold up everybody and I may have to ask her to quit. I was worried about her safety but, as I later learned, I did not communicate my concerns properly.

Ahead of us is the vast salt pan of Badwater. Even the creosote bush has given up on this bleak landscape. Gusts of wind buffet us. Yesterday's high was 119 and it definitely is hotter today. We are walking but not saying much to each other.

Melissa has picked up her pace and she and Warren are now in front. I am helping Joy stay cool by squirting water on her. As we approach the Explorer, I see Melissa laying under it I had mentioned to her yesterday that, in the desert, the inside of a car gets very hot but it is a lot cooler underneath. I am encouraged that she is still able to think clearly. All of the Explorer's windows are covered with sun shades but still, the temperature inside is 134. We let her lie there for a while and give her Gatorade and some food. She admits that she has reached her limit and she does not want to try to finish the last leg. She said that she tried to walk fast to avoid being asked to quit. I had not meant her to race but I must take the blame for giving ambiguous signals.

I tell her to get in the car and drive about three miles and wait for us. That way, if necessary, we could take another break there. We start off well but soon Joy is getting unnerved. Her blisters are causing havoc with her feet. The hot wind is like needles on her bare arms and her whole body is now hot. She goes to urinate frequently ( not an easy chore with the wind and the umbrella ) but when I tell her to stop drinking for a little while, she tells me she does not want to get dehydrated. I detect a panicked feeling in her. We continue for a while but it is slow going. We are approaching Badwater and the heat and the wind are unrelenting. Finally, I think, the panic overtakes her. She now has no bladder control. I agree with her that she should not try to go any further than where Malissa is parked, about a quarter mile ahead.

Warren sees Joy getting into the car and he knows that I am all right. So, he decides to see how fast he can walk. When I finally reach the car, he tells me he walked the last mile in about 15 minutes. Not bad for a 71 year old man.

The really harsh part of Death Valley: no shrubs, no water-- just extreme heat and hot wind.
"I told you we should have taken that left at Crankshaft Crossing, Dinesh!"

Not an encouraging sight! A dead cow.

"Gee, where's the umbrella she had when she left this morning?"

Day 9 (Tuesday, July 14 )

There was not much wind last night and it even felt a little cooler. Or maybe we were all just too tired. In any case, we all slept better. This morning, we all feel perky and ready to go. Yesterday's high was 121 but it is supposed to be a tad cooler today.

Yesterday, we were approaching Badwater from the north and were still three miles away from it at the end of the day. Today, we are starting from12 miles beyond Badwater and walking from south to north. So, again, we will be at Badwater near the end of the day.

Joy and Melissa seem to have recovered and our walk is proceeding fairly smoothly. Joy has a lot of nasty looking blisters but she is managing. A plus today is almost total absence of wind. Both Melissa and Joy have wet beach towels draped around them and it seems to keep them cool. We reach Badwater around three and take a short break to chat with other tourists there.

An arrow on a plaque points towards the lowest point in the western hemisphere. It is 282 feet below sea level. Though there is not much water here now, a small lake does appear sometimes in winter. We finish the remaining three miles and head for camp.

Joy's blister rate is about two per day. She now has 17 blisters.
"Hmm...'pain and suffering'...each one of these ought to be good for 10 grand!"

Day 10 (Wednesday, July 15 )

After yesterday's almost problem free walk, I am encouraged. We have covered 135 miles with only about 45 to go. Joy has tender feet and if they can hold out for three more days, we will be home free. Joy has been switching between her hiking and running shoes and she has her hiking boots on today. She is walking but slower than usual. At the first break, she realizes that one of her boot is coming apart. It appears that the glue has melted. I tape it up but it keeps coming apart. Her other shoes are in the car that is still five miles away. She somehow manages to walk to that car. Like me, Warren has no real problems. As such, I have not been paying much attention to his state of mind. As a matter of fact, I have been too busy worrying about Melissa and Joy. He now tells me that he is finished with the walk and he is going home tomorrow. He tells me that he came to see if he can handle the heat and now he knows he can. I argue and plead with him but to no avail. He offers to take my Acura and leave his Kia for me to use. That is useful but what I really need is a car with the driver. I know that parking cars 7 miles apart is not a viable option anymore.

As I walk the last few miles, I wonder if Warren is ticked off about something else. Sure, I may have irritated him, but I can't recall anything big. I did insist on all of us staying fairly close together during our walk. It is possible that he is tired of walking slower than he would have preferred and was fed up with continuing problems of Melissa and Joy. A few years ago, he went with a group to climb Aconcagua, a 22,000+ peak in Argentina. At one point, he decided he could not go on and returned home a few days before the rest of the group. After recalling that incidence, I attributed his decision to stop walking to his personality rather than any animosity towards me. I then started thinking about how to solve the problem at hand. Warren will help us set up the cars tomorrow. If I can find somebody to help us do the same Friday, we can still finish the walk as planned.

Tonight, we are camping at Tecopa Hot Springs, a county campground just outside the Park. On the way there, we stop at a store in the little town of Shoshone. I wander into the town saloon and offer $100 to a reliable looking fellow to help us set up the cars Friday. He asks a few questions and then he agrees. He is willing to miss a couple of hours of work to make an easy hundred. I feel even more relieved when the bartender assures me that Jack is a pretty reliable person.

It is 121 degrees in the shade and 5 percent humidity on the 11th day of our walk. The temperature later rose to 127 degrees.
"This is my 'Dinesh-Is-a-Moron' confirmation instrument. Every time it registers over 90, it confirms that my husband is a wacko."

Day 11 (Thursday, July 16)

It was 123 yesterday, and the forecast is for even higher temperatures during the next few days. I am a little apprehensive because we will be back on a dirt road with almost no traffic and I won't have Warren to help me if either Melissa or Joy should have some problem.

We are getting ready and I see Joy struggling to move even a few feet. Her feet are totally blistered and I cringe just looking at them. We look at each other. She has tears in her eyes. She wanted to finish this walk so badly but she has realized that there is no way to do that now. I tell Warren that since Joy will not be walking, I won't need him to set up the cars. Joy will drop Melissa and I at the starting point and drive five miles further and wait for us. After we take our break there, she will drive another five miles and wait again.

Melissa and I start off on the paved road but in a few minutes we come to the junction where we will follow Harry Wade road, a dirt road that will take us to the Southern boundary of the Park. I knew that this road was almost 32 miles long. We had started our walk on day 8 a mile and a half further back than where Warren and I had finished the day before. This was to give Melissa and Joy a chance to walk the distance they had missed. As such, we now have to cover 32 miles in the last two days. Normally, an extra couple of miles is just no big deal, but here in Death Valley in summer, it is a slightly different story.

Even though Joy is not walking, in some ways, she has a pretty tough job. The inside of the car is too hot and even with the lift-gate open, there is not much shade. Running the air conditioner all day without moving the car is out of the question. In the morning, she tried looking for some small rocks for her rock tumbler, but soon found them too hot to handle. She then tried to amuse herself by doing some experiments. She found that, indeed, M and M's don't melt even when it is 120+. We realized that our stomachs must work overtime on these impervious candy shells. Interestingly, our favorite concoction of peanuts, raisins and M and M's was just not appealing to us in this hot weather. Our bodies craved salt, not sweets.

Melissa is doing fine but for whatever reason, I feel like a superman. I seem to have enough energy to tackle anything. At the second break, after we have covered 10 miles, I ask Melissa if she wants to walk seven miles on this last leg. She looks tired but I know that she is one tough woman. She does not answer me. She looks in disbelief at the thermometer hanging under the car. It shows 125. She is not at all thrilled with the idea; but, she has a flight to catch tomorrow evening and she would rather not be too tired tomorrow for her drive to Las Vegas.

We finish the walk at 4-45 PM. Melissa tells me that she has done some really long hikes and climbed many tough mountains, but this was the toughest she can remember. I congratulate her on her persistence. Even though Warren and I look like the tough guys who can handle anything, the real honors must go to Patrick, Joy and Melissa for their determination in face of adversity.

Joy and Dinesh at the finish line, or, rather, the finish rock. The high temperature later that day was 129 degrees--the highest temperature recorded in Death Valley since 1913
"So, Dinesh. Do we understand that this was your idea of a good time?"

Day 12 (Friday, July 17)

Last night Melissa had noticed that one of the tires on her car had gone flat. We were too tired to do anything then but this morning we can definitely handle that chore. It is about 7-30 now and a van pulls up next to us. It is Jack. He is here to help us lay out the cars. I explain to him that we now have a different arrangement and we won't need his help but I am going to pay him his $100 anyway. I tell him that it would not be fair for me not to keep my word. Maybe it was only my imagination but he appears to be just slightly pained to have to take the money for not doing anything. I have a perfect solution; I ask him if he would not mind changing that flat on Melissa's car. As they say, we were two happy campers. From the campground, we drive to the southern boundary of the Park, where we leave Melissa's and my car. We then hop in Joy's Explorer for the 15 mile ride to where we had stopped yesterday. On this bumpy dirt road, at 20 mph, it seems to take for ever. If you have never walked 15 miles and are interested in finding out how far that is, I invite you to find a long road and drive your car at 15 mph for an hour.

The first leg of our journey goes well but we are both walking a tad slower than yesterday. I think those extra two miles yesterday during the hottest part of the day took some wind out of us. Or maybe we are spooked by what Jack told us. He had said that yesterday's high was 127 and it is expected to be even higher today.

We are about two miles into our second leg and we hit a new obstacle. This part of the road is just very sandy. It is taking more energy than ever to walk. Melissa and I leave the road and look for firmer ground. We are weaving between creosote bushes and at turns in the road we lose sight of it. We don't like the prospect of getting lost and soon return to the road. Eventually, we reach the car. Sometimes, the only thing that keeps Malissa going is the anticipation of reaching the car. It is our oasis in the desert. We drink, eat, rest and then start on our last few miles. Finally, the end is near and we get somewhat energized by that realization. This has been the loneliest stretch of our walk; no people or cars yesterday or today. Cars flashing by at break neck speed announce the junction with highway 127 and the end of our journey.

Map of Dinesh Death Walk

  • Miles walked each day = 15
  • Total miles walked = 180
  • Walk done each day between the hours of 9 am and 5 pm only.
  • Maximum temperature during the last two days = 127 and 129
  • Number of people and cars encountered during the last two days = 0
  • Estimated speed of headwinds near Badwater = 40+ mph
  • Amount of water consumed per person per day = 3 1/2 gallon

  • The Participants:
    Dinesh and Joy Desai - Los Altos, California
    Warren Storkman - Palo Alto, California
    Patrick Thornley - Reno, Nevada
    Melissa Rigg - Santa Fe, New Mexico

    Death Valley daily high temperatures:
    July 6116July 12119
    July 7118July 13121
    July 8117July 14118
    July 9117July 15123
    July 10118July 16127
    July 11117July 17129

    Average daily high in July:115
    Average highest temperature in July124


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