Saturday, February 19, 2011

Land of Migrating Rocks- Death Valley, CA

Having been born and raised in Alaska, I've come to realize my understanding of the desert from an early age has been skewed. Until fairly recently, I thought of it as a wasteland or no man's land--a place you only find yourself if you're running from the law, an impression no doubt obtained by watching old Westerns in which the character's horse had expired and water was no where to be found. Death Valley epitomized this destitute and maybe because of which, became one of the last National Parks within proximity to me I had not visited.

Death Valley, for all its ominously named features (above is the Devil's Golf Course), is anything but in the wintertime. Admittedly, since moving from Alaska, I've realized anything below 75 seems cold to me, so it was to my surprise when the main challenges during our trip turned out to be distance and sub-freezing temperatures at night. Death Valley is the largest National park in the U.S. so, after packing all remaining warm layered clothing I still owned, we got a map and were on our way.

We only had two days, or more importantly, two sunsets, as the terrain most definitely benefits from light at lower angles. Very long story short, I was running on 10 hrs of sleep in a 68 hr span, so there was going to be no sunrise photos this trip!

We arrived at Racetrack Playa at 11pm. It's called Racetrack Playa because the rocks on the playa move on their own and leave trails behind. The track is three miles long and has only a 1/2 inch elevation difference from end to end. With only the moon as a light source, we supplemented with a flashlight to highlight this migration. We shot until 2:30am, with only a brief visit from a curious kit fox as a disruption. Most nature lovers know the feeling, no one else, in a place that special. Pure solitude, communion and exhilaration.

Zabriskie Point during a truly enveloping warm pink-ish sunset.

No one has actually seen a rock moving. Scientists have done extensive studies on the phenomena and have their theories. I too, have a theory and being a photographer, have outlined it above, visually : )

I can see the allure of bringing the kids, but DV is really a photographers paradise. Its unique geological features make for striking oddities. I didn't get to photograph the dunes and the salt formations at Badwater were covered by a shallow pond. So much to see, DV could take a lifetime to canvas.


Kirigalpoththa said...

Wow! Just Magnificent!!

James said...

Thanks Kirig, lots of amazing hiking there, you'd really enjoy it! Just bring plenty of water!


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