Families living in the 54C hottest spot on Earth say they adore Death Valley
‘It’s like living in paradise, who wouldn’t want to live in a place where you wake up to blue skies and sun every single day?’, said 27-year-old Omar Meshref, who is one of only around 175 residents who live in California’s Furnace Creek, Death Valley. The village hit the headlines last month when the mercury hit 129.9F (54.4C), the hottest temperature ever reliably recorded on earth – one which, for most people, would be too much to bear.
But there are a select few sun-seekers who do endure the searing heat and are happy to call Furnace Creek their home. They have deliberately chosen the isolation of the barren Californian desert over the hustle and bustle of the city. And if you can cope with the heat then living here comes with some favorable advantages. It hasn’t rained in Furnace Creek in over three months and, to date, the village has yet to record a single case of coronavirus.
On the downside, the nearest hairdressers, large supermarkets and shopping malls are located 60 miles away in the nearest town of Pahrump, Nevada, on the outskirts of Las Vegas. But what it lacks in amenities Furnace Creek makes up for in it’s climate; temperatures in the summer rarely dip below 110F (43.4C) during the day and 82F (28C) at night. The sun-scorched city also receives less than three inches of rain a year.
Almost all of the people who reside in Furnace Creek work and live at the world famous The Oasis at Death Valley, a sprawling resort made up of two hotels, a golf course, tennis courts and swimming pool. It employs 140 staff, all of whom live on site. Metro.co.uk has spoken exclusively with some of the resort’s best-known residents about what it’s like to live somewhere so unrelentingly hot.
Ray Paglia, 44, Furnace Creek resident for eight years
‘I came out here for a winter job and just fell in love with the place instantly’, said Ray, who moved to Furnace Creek from upstate Wyoming in 2012 to start a new life. Eight years down the line and Ray is now married to 25-year-old Joyce, who he met whilst working at The Oasis and who is now pregnant with the couple’s first child, due in February 2021.
The pair, like all other employees, live in onsite accommodation. As part of their commitment to settle down in Death Valley they have access to The Oasis’ sport and leisure facilities, as well as the wilderness and wildlife that the national park has to offer. Ray said he often gets up at 5am when temperatures are at a comparatively cool 83F (28C), to go for a swim in the resort’s pool or go for a run across the vast and dusty desert.
Ray said: ‘I will never get bored of the heat, I just love it here. A lot of people think of it as a desolate land but it’s not, the air is so pure out here. We have 0% pollution and wherever you look you can see for miles around, which is especially good at night when you can see all the stars and the Milky Way.
‘We do have a well-stocked store on site but we don’t have a supermarket or anything, stuff like that are about 60 miles away in the nearest town. There’s not a lot here at all, aside from the resort, but it’s the best way I can think of living my life at the moment.’
For most people the thought of living and working in daily temperatures topping 113 (45C) for weeks on end sounds like too much to bear. But remarkably, Ray revealed that he and most of his friends never wear sun protection, regardless of hot and sunny it gets.
He said: ‘I’ve never had sunburn in eight years of living here, and I don’t wear sun protection either. A lot of my friends and colleagues don’t wear sun protection as well, we choose to cover up instead.
‘But staying cool is hard work, I drink at least five lots of 24oz (700ml) of water a day and we have the air con on 24/7 during the summer. We do have heaters too though, and in the winter we do need to turn the heating on because it can get chilly, to 35F (1C) during the night.
‘For those of us who live here, it’s not a scary place at all. We have such a tight community around us and we all feel very safe and very happy here.
‘We have all types of people from all backgrounds working and living here and and so long as me and my wife feel settled, we will remain here because it’s an incredible place.’
Omar Meshref, 27, and Christine Sceppe, 33, Furnace Creek residents for four years
Having grown up in Cairo, Egypt, Omar moved to Furnace Creek in 2016 after ‘falling in love’ with not only the area but his now wife, Christine, who he met during the summer season four years ago. The pair married in 2017 after Christine swapped the glitz and the glamour of New York City for the sun-kissed plains of Death Valley and Omar moved half way across the world from Africa to be with Christine.
They are now key members of staff at The Oasis, Omar as front office manager and Christine as HR manager, and are both enjoying the relative isolation that Death Valley offers having grown up in their respective city environments.
‘I feel like I am always on holiday, it’s the summer all year-round here it’s just amazing’, said law graduate, Omar.
‘We met when we were both working for the season in 2016 and we have been here ever since. We went hiking with each other every day and experienced this amazing place together.
‘I embrace the heat, we live in the most beautiful place in the world and it does feel like I am living in paradise. The co-workers here are like family to use, we are so close to each other.
‘I like the isolation, I find it very refreshing and I am very comfortable living here. Having come from a city we have learned to make the most of the resources we have and we manage okay.
‘The city was very crowded and I am completely converted to living like this, I don’t plan on moving out anytime soon.’
Omar added that a lot of people have misconceptions about the conditions in Death Valley related to the heat. Here humidity fluctuates between 2% and 15%, and he said that even on August 16, when the heat record was broken, life in Furnace Creek went on as normal because the dry heat of the desert makes the conditions ‘enjoyable’, as opposed to the stuffy heat in famously humid cities like New York.
He said: ‘I didn’t think it felt any hotter than usual, in fact I did’t even realize until later in the day. Everyone was just going about their day as normal because it’s why we live here, for the heat.
‘The reality is that we all spend as much time outside as possible, the heat is dry heat and is very enjoyable. We still exercise, go hiking and enjoy the outdoors even when it’s very hot.’
Along with the climate, Christine meanwhile said she became inspired to live in Death Valley by its huge array of geological features and landmarks. The landscape has been moulded by a combination of the sun and the wind which have created unique land formations.
But aside from the scenery, Christine added living in Furnace Creek comes with some priceless safety advantages, such as no crime and no coronavirus.
She said: ‘Furnace Creek is naturally crime free, it’s a very quiet and safe life out here.
‘When we saw how bad coronavirus was getting we took our own precautions to make sure we wouldn’t be effected. So far we haven’t had any cases since the pandemic began.
‘A lot of people don’t wear sun protection but I do on my face. I go hiking most days after work and I’ll just cover up instead.’
John Kukreja, 51, Furnace Creek resident for four years
John, general manager at The Oasis, moved to Furnace Creek in 2016 with his wife Michal, son and daughter, who are now aged 11 and nine respectively. They moved to Death Valley from southern California and are now a family of six following the birth of their two-year-old twins in 2018.
A baking hot desert might not seem like the ideal place to raise four young children and even John admits he had reservations at first, but he said Death Valley is their playground. The children regularly go on camping trips and long walks with their parents and when it comes to an education, they are home-school by their mom, who is a qualified teacher.
There are less than 30 children living in the whole Death Valley National Park, according to John, who explains how they often get together for parties, play dates and even trick or treating at Halloween.
John said: ‘The first day we came to visit it was 122F (50C) and we were like, ‘wow’, I wasn’t sure myself if my family would be ok with it. The kids complained about the heat and I had my doubts.
‘Unlike most people we do lather the sun protection on the children because they are still young. They are used to the conditions now but the sun is still dangerous.
‘The Oasis is perfect for the kids, we have the pool, the tennis and basketball areas, they love it here. We sometimes travel two hours to Vegas for martial arts practice, too, there are so many options that a lot of people just don’t realize.
‘Obviously there aren’t many kids here but I’d say there’s 27 or 28 children under 13 and they are all friends with each other. At Halloween we get together for trick or treating down at the National Park Service and go around the houses there.
‘We have pool parties too, so the kids aren’t isolated or anything. We are loving our life out here, it’s a really nice life and there’s no feeling like driving through the desert.
‘The Oasis has some regular guests who keep coming back year after year because of how good it is.
‘It’s a hidden gem in the heart of America and I wouldn’t have it any other way.’
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