Personal Journeys


December 28, 2003|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

Death Valley forecast: hot, dry, silent

By Jenny Beatty


When reading The Sun each day, I'm inclined to turn first to the back page of the Maryland section to study the weather map. I look at the forecast, scan the temperatures for places I've lived (London, Boston) or visited (Anchorage, Stockholm) before I tackle the rest of the news of the day. It helps me get my bearings.

I'm ever hopeful that the paper will include information on Mount Washington, in New Hampshire, "home of the world's worst weather" and where I actually lived and worked for part of a year.

In view of my interest in the weather, it was a given that when planning a trip with my husband, Jonathan, to Las Vegas in August, we would take a side trip to visit Death Valley, Calif., about two hours away. This is a place frequently listed as the national high for the day on the weather page, and it was a national park we had never visited.

We spent the night at a motel inside the immense park, which covers more than 3 million acres. Jonathan could then photograph the dunes, made famous in the Star Wars movies, at sunset. Shimmering mirages appeared everywhere during our drives. Our park map was filled with names like Devil's Cornfield and Funeral Peak.

The next day, we woke up at 4:30 a.m. (fortified by cold espresso in a can), and headed out to watch the sunrise at the Badwater section of Death Valley, a mineral bed that's 280 feet below sea level -- one of the lowest places in the Western Hemisphere. We planned to do some hiking up a nearby canyon before the extraordinary heat of the day set in.

I can't remember ever being in a place so quiet. There was no sound: no birds, no insects, no people, no wind -- just a ringing in my ears from the silence. The sunrise cast a muted pinkish glow on the mountains surrounding us. Some of those mountains rise 11,000 vertical feet, one of the greatest rises in the country. It was all beautiful. And even at 5:30 a.m., it was amazingly hot.

Then I noticed the little weather station topped by the motionless anemometer used to measure wind speed. It struck me that this could be the station that recorded those high temperatures every day -- numbers that often made their way to the weather page, back home in Baltimore.

I eagerly checked the local newspaper the next day, when we returned to Las Vegas. Sure enough, the record high temperature for the day in the 48 contiguous states: 113 degrees in Death Valley.

Jenny Beatty lives in Monkton.

My Best Shot

Gail Berkenblit, Baltimore

Step right up, my friends

My husband, Scott, and I recently returned from a trip to Glacier National Park, in Montana, where we drove the renowned Going to the Sun Road. After a breathtaking (and often harrowing) climb along the sheer cliffs of the Garden Wall, the road crosses the Continental Divide at Logan Pass. There we were greeted by several of the local residents -- a family of mountain goats. They didn't seem to be seeking handouts; rather, they were at home on their own turf and didn't mind a few human visitors. One goat in particular seemed willing to pose for a photo.

Readers Recommend

Brentham, England

Pat Elliott, Baltimore

About two years ago, the English magazine Home and Antiques published an article about a London suburb called Brentham. The houses there look very much like the houses in my neighborhood, Elsinore Village. The houses in both neighborhoods were built around the same time.

This year my husband and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary by renting a small house in southwest London. One day we visited Brentham, and I carried a picture of our house and showed it to people there. Two girls -- about 12 years old -- stopped to talk, and I showed them the picture. They enthusiastically said, "cool."

Let Us Hear From You

We want to know about your travels, your experiences, your pictures. Here's how to participate in this page:

* My Best Shot -- Send us a terrific travel photo with a description of when and where you took it. (Cash value: $50.)

* A Memorable Place -- In 500 words or less, tell us about a travel experience that changed you, about the nostalgia a certain place evokes, about the power of a favorite beach, the mountains, a city cafe. (Cash value: $150.)

* Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

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