On a recent visit to Death Valley National Park, as tourists kept watchful eyes on dueling thermometers and temperatures soared near-record highs, Roxanne Melchiori and her family admired the breathtaking badlands.
Then, she said, her 12-year-old daughter sniffed and made a face. It smelled like rotten eggs.
They looked down at their feet and spotted the culprit: an egg cracked open and left sitting on a rock, ostensibly by someone who thought it might just be hot enough to fry one. It looked more “crystallized” than cooked, said Melchiori, an accountant from Rhode Island.
“It was not frying,” Melchiori said. “It was dripping down off the rock. And it was disgusting.”
Park rangers aren't too pleased with the eggs-periments, either. A Facebook post from the park’s page last week explained that maintenance crews had been “busy cleaning up eggs cracked directly on the sidewalk, including egg cartons and shells strewn across the parking lot.”
“This is your national park, please put trash in the garbage or recycling bins provided, and don’t crack eggs on the sidewalk,” the post warned.
Melchiori and her family, who visited Death Valley over two days, saw evidence of another egg fry gone awry the next day when temperatures reached a sizzling 129 degrees.
Death Valley, which on Wednesday celebrated the 100th anniversary of recording the hottest temperature on Earth, has long been a must-see destination for extreme-weather buffs.
But after a park employee’s video of her egg-frying adventure (complete with pan and lid) went viral, many curious visitors have come armed with cartons of eggs. And some forgot their frying pans.
“I guess it would be funny, except that they made a mess,” said Melchiori.
Cheryl Chipman, spokeswoman for Death Valley National Park, says it was “disheartening” to see so many shells and cartons left behind.
Chipman said, “129 degrees is pretty darn hot, and when you have to spend energy and time cleaning up a gooey stinking mess, you lose a little bit of faith in humanity.”
The fried-egg stunts have waned over the last few days since a recent heat wave, but with the possibility of more record-scorching temperatures on the horizon this summer, rangers will be prepared next time: “We’ll definitely have a stronger message about what to do with poultry items.”
On the sunny side, said Chipman, weather fans from far and wide gathered Wednesday to commemorate the centennial of the park’s blistering 134-degree record, set in 1913.
“What it meant to me is that there’s lots of people interested in weather and science,” she said.
But to any would-be science geeks that may be tempted to bring along a dozen eggs on their next visit to the park, Chipman has a message: “Bring a pan.”
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