Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Death Valley Part 2

Last Saturday, the Wiffee and I made a pilgrimage to one of the places in Death Valley we hadn't visited yet -- the Racetrack.

The Racetrack is the name of a playa -- a basin where water runoff from the surrounding mountains collects and evaporates. In this case (and in many other cases in Death Valley), the runoff contains various salts and minerals. When the water evaporates, the salts are left behind as a completely flat, level, dazzling-white lakebed.

This particular playa is named the Racetrack because one can sometimes find rocks scattered about with evidence of the rocks moving across the flats. It's believed high winds blow the rocks around while water levels are low and the rocks skid across the slippery mud, leaving tracks behind them. (That's the theory, anyway -- no one has actually seen the rocks move).

It was fun visiting the Racetrack -- the quiet was unworldly, as was the place itself. The downside was: getting there and back. One must travel a dirt road, washboardy in some places and rocky in others. For 27 miles!!! EACH WAY!!!!! (That's 43.5km for you metric folks). Drive time each way was 1.5-2 hours. ("Racetrack" definitely does NOT describe the road!) We made it OK with our two wheel-drive pickup truck, although some parts came loose along the way.

The views we saw there and on the "road" (I'm using the term loosely here!) were fantastic, and I'm glad we went. But I doubt we'll ever return to the Racetrack, unless the National Park Service improves the road significantly.

On a related note: the night before, we heard a singer, Kerry Christensen, performing cowboy songs. We bought one of his CDs, and one of the tunes is "Cool Water." I've heard the song's first two verses many times about two guys trying to find water in a place that may have been quite similar to Death Valley. I hadn't heard the third verse before, and for me, it makes the song especially sad and tragic:

The shadows sway and seem to say tonight we pray for water,
Cool water.
And way up there He'll hear our prayer and show us where there's water,
Cool Water.

If you'd like to check out Kerry's music (some of these are accompanied by his daughter, Emilie), his Website is:

And, of course, don't forget -- MY Website is:!

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