Saturday, August 2, 2008

Death Valley

Summertime means travel time. I'm lucky when it comes to travel. I've seen many of the world's landmarks up close and personal. Places like the Eiffel Tower, The Acropolis, Vatican City, Ayres Rock, Franz Josep Glacier, Norte Dame and Big Ben. For the next few postings I want to share some lesson plans I use for my students as I present some of America's outstanding landmarks and places of interest. So get your luggage packed and gas-up your mental car because we're off. Today, let's go to Death Valley:

Death Valley is the lowest, driest and hottest valley in the U.S. but is not the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. It is the location of the lowest elevation in North America at 281 ft. (85.5 m) below sea level. It holds the record highest temperature in the Western Hemisphere and the world’s second highest. It is located on the border of California and Nevada.

Death Valley is located southeast of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert in death Valley National Park. It runs north-south between the Amargosa Range to the east and the Panamint Range to the west, the Sylvania Mountains and the Owlshead Mountains form its northern and southern boundaries. It has an area of about 3,000 square miles.

The Valley is an excellent example of the Basin and Range configuration. It lies at the southern end of a geological trough known as the Walker Lane which runs north into Oregon and is bisected by three fault lines which makes the chances of an earthquake high. Death Valley has sand dunes and salt pans. Millions of years ago, there was an inland sea over the valley, but the water evaporated as the land turned to a desert, leaving behind the salt.

Temperatures in Death Valley can range from up to 130 °F (54 °C) in the day in the summer, to below freezing at night in the winter. The lowest temperature on record at Furnace Creek Inn is 15 °F (-9 °C). The National Climatic Center reports that temperatures at Furnace Creek reach 90 °F (32 °C) on an average of 189.3 days annually and 100 °F (38 °C) on an average of 138.0 days annually. Freezing temperatures occur on an average of 11.7 days each year. Usually, the lower the altitude of a place, the higher the temperatures tend to be, and this is especially true in Death Valley. Because of the mountains that encircle it, the valley radiates extreme amounts of heat. The hottest temperature ever recorded in the U. S. was 134 °F (56.7 °C) at Furnace Creek during a sandstorm on July 10, 1913.

While Death Valley gets very little rain, there can be flooding during heavy rains because the soil is unable to absorb the bulk of the water. The runoff can produce dangerous flash floods. In August 2004, such flooding caused two deaths and shut down the national park. The Valley is home to the Timbisha Indians, a tribe that has lived in the valley for over 1000 years. Some families still live in the valley at Furnace Creek. The name of the valley, tümpisa, means 'rock paint' because the valley as a source of red ochre paint. Find out more at this website:

Research info gathered at:

Now, here's one of my "hot" poems:

Expectant Look. Deliberate Attempt.

Can I be very candid?

OK, first off I favor the reinstatement of the cast system.

I strongly believe that ditches belong between thighs and
that organic food talks with a lisp.

A good splash though a rain puddle is the only way to find
the ultimate truth.

Grapefruits should come with their own spoons and burnt
toast ought to have its own national holiday. Train whistles
should be banned worldwide. On the other hand, warm milk
at bedtime should be mandatory and mattresses ought to
know at least one lullaby.

There never has been a need for pen caps or things dyed
green. I prefer to have my life’s road map tattooed on my
lower eyelid and detest alarm clocks.

What else. O yeah, I feel it would be better if the government
discontinued minting pennies, so long as they replaced them
with Velcro. Zippers are just so “prehistoric“.

Poem first published at:
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and music blog:
Poem Copyright 2008 by Maurice Oliver. All Rights Reserved.


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