Death Valley - The Hottest Place on Earth. But Is It Really Dead?

Despite the fact that Death Valley is the hottest and one of the driest places on Earth, you'd be surprised to find out how many living...

Despite the fact that Death Valley is the hottest and one of the driest places on Earth, you'd be surprised to find out how many living creatures, in fact, call it home. The valley looks empty, desolate and inhospitable at the first glimpse, but take your time and you'll see how attractive this place can be with all its vastness and eternity.
Death Valley is the largest national park in the lower 48 states, yet only about 5% of it is accessible to visitors.
I first realized how big Death Valley was when I put together a list of places I wanted to see in the park. But unfortunately, there is no way you can make all of them in one day as you'll need at least two days if you're lucky. The biggest obstacle for visitors is the summer heat. You can tell how ruthless it can be by looking down the ground.
The highest air temperature (134 F / 56.7 C) ever recorded was at Furnace Creek which is located in the heart of Death Valley National Park. It's not uncommon to experience the temperature of 120 F / 49 C and higher in the summer. I have seen pictures of people frying eggs right on the ground.
Nothing seems to survive such extreme temperatures.
But wait a second - who do we have over there?
He does not mind the heat and is patiently waiting for a prey.
If you keep a low profile, you might be lucky to see some more animals such as this camouflaged lizard.
But most animals hide underground throughout the day until the sun goes down. These include snakes, scorpions, rodents and others.
One particularly interesting animal lives only at Death Valley National Park. It's called Salt Creek pupfish. These fish are members of carp family and live in extremely harsh conditions where no other fish can survive. 
At Death Valley, it means living in water which is four times more saline than the ocean, high water temperatures reaching 116 F / 47 C and low ones down to 32 F / 0 C.
What now is known as Salt Creek located 161 ft / 49 m below the sea level, used to be a vast body of freshwater water called Lake Manly. Over time, the climate changed and the lake dried out. 
This forced fish to adapt to newer and harsher conditions. The lifespan shrank, so did the size of the fish. They are only about 1.5-2 inches / 3-5 cm long. The males turn blue when they are ready to mate.
Not only animals, but plants also survive and thrive in the desert.
The spring 2016 brought lots of moisture, so the desert was literally blooming which has not happened for many years.
Even clouds turned rainbow colours. I've never seen such an optical effect before.
You don't necessarily have to go to Africa to see sand dunes. Death Valley National Park has two patches of real ones - Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes (lower yet more accessible for visitors) and Eureka Dunes (higher but more remote).
You can wander for hours as there is no restrictions that prevent you from walking on dunes. But, I'll tell you - it's not an easy thing to plow the sand, so don't get too far from your car or bus.
Ever wondered why there are very few sand dunes even though sand is everywhere in the desert? The answer is simple: for a dune to form, there has to be lots of sand, strong winds and something that would trap sand and keep it in once place.
Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes at Death Valley National Park has all three ingredients.
Another interesting place to see while at Death Valley is Mosaic Canyon.
The main attraction is the marble rock polished by water.
But the most exciting place, in my opinion, which happened to be the lowest place in North America is Badwater Basin.
When facing the salt plain from the parking lot, look back, and you'll see the mark showing the sea level. It's all the way up.
282 ft / 86 m below the sea level.
The salt plain looks surreal. I felt like I've landed on another planet - so different this place was from what I'm used to seeing.
And yes, this is real salt. I tasted it!
And no matter how lifeless this salt flat looks, there are some animals that live here, too. One of them is the Badwater snail. How lucky it is to not know where some of its relatives live.
The best way to finish the day at Death Valley is to watch a sunset at Zabriskie Point.
What a palette of colours!

My other posts from the Trip to California:

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