Two Men Nearly Died After Trying a Short Cut in Death Valley

Two Men Nearly Died After Trying a Short Cut in Death Valley

When it comes to exploring a place literally named Death Valley, you really want to do some preparation. Two men learned this the hard way after becoming lost in the national park and getting their Chevrolet Malibu stuck in the mud on July 4.

The two unnamed men are facing a slew of charges and fines after getting their Chevy Malibu stuck in the salt flats that stretch across Death Valley, CBS News reports. The men became lost in the park after taking a wrong turn down a gravel road. After attempting to backtrack several times over the course of three hours before they realized they were running out of gas. In a desperate attempt to make it out of the park they turned off the road to drive across the salt flats to a paved road. It didn’t take long for their not-great-at-off-roading Chevy to become stuck in the mud just under the baked white exterior.

With no phone service the two men made a desperate attempt to reach safety. It was a near-run thing, according to CBS:

There is no cell service in most of the park, so, unable to call for help, the men walked about a mile across the salt flat to Badwater Road, then another 12 miles [19 kilometres] north. Around 3am, the men split up, with one of them walking another 6 miles [9 kilometres] north.

He was picked up by other visitors around 8am and taken to Furnace Creek, where he was able to call for help.

The good Samaritans who picked up the first man drove back to get the second man, who was suffering from heat illness. The man was taken to a hospital for treatment.

The lowest temperature that evening was 90 degrees Fahrenheit [30 degrees Celsius], the park service said.

Furnace Creek, by the way, is the site of the highest recorded temperature on Earth. Temperatures over 54 degrees Celsius are rarely recorded on the whole planet, with most instances being in Death Valley, the Guardian reports. Last month, Furnace Creek reach 55 degrees Celsius. The hottest temperature ever recorded — 56 degrees in 1913 — is still hotly debated over if it’s legitimate or not.

This has been a deadly year for folks exploring the American Southwest. At least seven people, from teenagers to people in their 70s, have died from heat sickness this summer, the New York Times reports. But it’s not just that these guys nearly died of heat sickness; the Chevy was also stuck in the mud for three weeks, marring other visitor’s experience of the unique landscape and leaving lasting damage to the delicate ecosystem of the salt flats. Driving across the flats is strictly prohibited as tracks left in these salt flats can last for over a decade. The men have both been ticketed and must attend court in the coming weeks.

So here’s my Public Service Announcement in conjunction with the National Parks Service: When going to a place called Death Valley, it’s wise to do a little leg work. Bring a paper map, for one (and know how to read it) plus lots of extra water and a little common sense for what your vehicle can handle.

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