Southwest Exploration—USnomads: FEB 2020 — part7


SOUTHWEST EXPLORATION: Day 7 — DEATH VALLEY


Mesquite Springs, Death Valley, CA — 15 February 2020: The night was not too cold and we slept well. In the morning we decided to take a walk down in Death Valley Wash and just go until we felt like coming back. I liked the sensation of being deep inside the earth and seeing its raw textures where the now dry river ran violently at some point. The churned earth shows the power of the fast moving water that is just a ghost shadow in the dry morning. We stopped to do some skying too …

Mesquite Springs, Death Valley, CA — 15 February 2020: We took a few moments to do some “skying,” an “activity” from my ReWild Your World challenge that I had really liked, which is basically just lying down on the ground somewhere and just watching the sky for a while. We were alone in the wash, getting deep inside the landscape and it seemed like a good occasion to take some time out to just savor the moment. We found a nice flat spot and laid down on the sand and just watched the sky. It was pretty cloudless and all of a sudden a distant plane crossed above making a vapor trail and I played with the perfect bisection of my sky in an abstract way, like some of those paintings in the museum of modern art, the famous “white on white” and “black on black” just the simplest minimal thing …

Mesquite Springs, Death Valley, CA — 15 February 2020: During our walk I did look for animal tracks, hoping to be able to find evidence of Coyotes. Surprisingly I did not really see a lot of tracks, but I did pick up a few — and though I cannot identify them, I can be pretty sure they are not coyote …

The Racetrack, Death Valley, CA — 15 February 2020: After our morning walk we got in the Jeep and headed on the Jeep trail to “The Racetrack.” It was a long drive on a washboarded dirt road that took us through a beautiful desert landscape. Not long after starting the trail we saw a few joshua trees and some striped hills in the distance …

The Racetrack, Death Valley, CA — 15 February 2020: We had to make a stop at Tea Kettle Junction to photograph the teapots. We were not the only ones, other overlanders made the stop there too. As if it was some kind of strange shrine on an absurdist pilgrimage to complete a desert quest, and in a way I guess it was. It wouldn’t be the first time this day where the theme of pilgrimage popped into my head. And like an Oovo in Mongolia we kind of walked around it, though not in a ritual, rather to take photos from all the angles, and then we just got back in our vehicles to continue the journey as others stopped for their photo opportunities. The Junction marks “mile 21” of the journey to the Racetrack …

The Racetrack, Death Valley, CA — 15 February 2020: As we arrived to “The Racetrack” we got our first glimpse of the “playa” and the otherworldly landscape that as Niki mentioned looked like what we imagined a desert to be when we were little kids. The parched and cracked earth, so completely flat and empty, apart from the giant black rock formation in the center. The contrast of black rocks and white cracked earth making it all the more intriguing. We were drawn to the rock formation, and as I wandered around it I had the impression that the “the grandstand” was kind of like the Kaaba in Mecca. Niki and I did walk around it clockwise in a circle, kind of the same way we would do with an Oovo in Mongolia (although only once, instead of three times). On one side there was a photography class lined up with their tripods in front of the rocks, also a bit bizarre to see in the middle of “nowhere.” …

The Racetrack, Death Valley, CA — 15 February 2020: We wanted to see the famous “moving rocks” and they were at the other end of the playa so we drove down there and went in search of these oddities. A little bit of the mystery was gone since they figured out how the rocks “moved” and made the scraping trails (something to do with ice and melting I think) but I still wanted to see them. When we got there it was a little “underwhelming” in comparison to everything else we had seen today, as the rocks were small and the “trails” were faint, but we took a walk around and made some photos. Bonus was some really clear canid prints preserved on the playa…

Uhebe Crater, Death Valley, CA — 15 February 2020: As we returned towards camp we passed the volcano, and decided to go up and at least have a quick look in case we don’t come back this way. It was an incredible view and the light was beautiful, but it was so cold and windy we couldn’t stay up there for long. We headed back to camp happy with our day — it had been a long day on the Jeep trail but well worth it …

Mesquite Springs, Death Valley, CA — 15 February 2020: Settled back in at camp for the night as dusk fell and the pink clouds appeared. We did foil packet chicken fajitas for dinner …