11 Death Valley
Our first encounter with an American desert came in driving Interstate 15 north from Los Angeles to Las Vegas through the High Mojave. Where we expected to find Lawrence of Arabia waving from atop a sand dune, we instead crossed a moonscape of barren rocks and tumbleweed half-hidden under a mountain of ghost housing, discarded junk and furniture, assorted car trash, and reams of toilet paper trailing off in the desiccated breeze. It wasn’t until 15 years later that we actually left the highway and discovered the hidden wonders of Death Valley. Since then, we’ve trekked every inch of this spectacular monument, most often at 5:30AM as the sun was still thinking about rising.