Could See No Further
Complete silence surrounded the 11,049' summit of Telescope Peak as the colors of sunset faded away and twilight deepened. This peak at the top of Death Valley National Park is so named because "You could see no further with a telescope." Endless ridges, mountains, sand dunes, and salt flats stretched out in every direction. In the valley on the left is Badwater Basin. Nowhere in North America is lower or dryer, and it lays claim to the hottest air temperature ever measured (134°F). Despite being only 18 miles away, the weather and environment up here at this altitude is vastly different. Temperatures can be as much as 60°F cooler, and a lot more rain and snow falls here than in the surrounding desert. This sustains a forest of bristlecone pines, the oldest species of tree on Earth at up to 5,000 years old. Staying on the summit for the sunset meant descending 8 miles in the dark, but the incredible views were worth the longest dayhike I've ever done.