On our way out of the Furnace Creek Ranch, I bought ice cream and remarked on the furnace-like, 100-degree heat. The guy behind the cash register said we were lucky; it was usually about 120 degrees this time of year. I stopped by Zabriskie Point on the way home and saw the fluted sandstone Badlands catch the golden glow of the evening light. It’s amazing that a place known for mining borax, a mineral left over from seasonal flooding, became such a tourist destination either. Death Valley’s borax helped make “modern living” comfortable with its contribution to detergents and cosmetics, but the land itself is so remote and unforgiving. Death Valley is the hottest, driest, lowest place in the U.S., which makes it almost unearthly in its strangeness. Water has nowhere to go and simply sits until it evaporates. Heat crouches on its haunches. Hills that would have been eroded elsewhere simply expose themselves. This place is pretty unapologetic. Everyone and everything that manages to live here has earned that right.