Saturday, April 17, 2010

Racetrack Valley

So a driving excursion to an interesting part of Death Valley National Park, with some very unusual features. The purple wildflowers carpeting the valley floor near Ubehebe Crater were impressive. (Click on any of the pictures to enlarge)

After twenty-plus miles of badly washboarded gravel road, you come to Teakettle Junction. Apparently this junction originally did not have a sign, just a teakettle on the ground. Now it has a lot more, obviously.

Racetrack Valley is named after Racetrack Playa, a fairly typical dry lake bed with an interesting rock island in the middle.

But what makes Racetrack Playa interesting is the rock trails in the playa, as in trails from where the rocks moved on the playa! Here's one with my large daypack for scale.

There are a few rocks scattered about the playa, but at the south end there is a pretty impressive collection. (Click on the photo to enlarge it, well worth seeing, trust me...)

Best guess is that when there has been enough rain for the surface to turn muddy and slick, high winds can slide the rocks along. On a nice Saturday afternoon in April, this was a popular area considering that it's about thirty miles from the nearest paved road. I saw at least fifty vehicles, and twenty dirt bikers. Some passenger cars do drive the rough road in from Death Valley, just have to take it easy on the rocky road and try not to puncture a tire; I was happy to have a truck with heavy-duty tires.

I also did a bit of hiking up from the playa, two miles and 1200' up an old mining trail to Ubehebe Divide, where I had almost 360 degree views with the Racetrack Valley to the east and Saline Valley to the west.

When Jill and I were visiting the park back in February, we were told the playa was wet and you weren't allowed to walk out on it (because of leaving footprints).  This was worth the return trip...

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