Death Valley. The lowest, hottest, driest place in North America. Let's start by saying our experience of Death Valley was not exactly typical. Arriving ready to face the harsh sun we are greeted instead by a consistent downpour of rain. And it's cold. At higher elevations the water had fallen as snow.
There are constant reminders how hot and dry this place is during summer. From the urine colour chart in the restroom to help catch your dehydration before it's too severe to the constant reminders posted at trailheads to drink 2 gallons of water (about 8L) per day when hiking to the bewildered expression on visitor and Ranger alike as the rain continued to fall for a second day straight as we arrived.
In our case the rain seemed to bring out the contrast of colours in the rocks and sands that make up this national park. For me, it was a park of textures.
Formerly a Borax mine, the ground consists of a variety of unusual colours. These colours are caused by the oxidation of different metals (red, pink and yellow is from iron salts, green is from decomposing tuff-derived mica, and manganese produces the purple) .
This was also the most expensive place for fuel we found in the US. The cheapest grade petrol was $5.989/gal. Priced in the 'if you're buying gas here you don't care about the price anymore' category of petrol stations. Typical prices for our journey averaged about $3.20 to $3.50 with our cheapest refill at $2.699/gal in the south (and, I got the impression, a slightly dodgy part of town). To put that in perspective the Death Valley price is equivalent to AU$1.74/L and our cheap refill was 78.3c/L! (in fact, even less as the exchange rate was better at the time).