Death Valley and the Racetrack


There are just over two weeks until Sam and I take what I am sure will be a trip of a lifetime. We leave for Death Valley, California on February 10th, and we are starting to get serious about our preparations. One of the things we are paying special attention to is the weather. Lately the west coast seems to be getting hit with storm after storm, and some of the moisture has even reached into the central valley and beyond. Floris van Breugel just posted an amazing photograph and interesting narrative from a recent trip to DV where he witnessed rarely seen reflections from rainwater on the Badwater salt flats – read the post on his blog.

Normally Death Valley gets very little rainfall, but when it does, it can create havoc with flooding and moving of the earth. When I check the road conditions – a key to being able to truly explore the park – it is obvious that the area is struggling to deal with the impact of the recent storms. When we get a little closer to our departure date we will be paying even more attention to the link to road conditions. Fingers crossed that things open up again by then, but we are developing a Plan B just in case.

Temperatures have been at or below average for a while now, and within a week or so we will be able to check the 10-day forecast for the region to get an idea of what kind of weather we have in store for us. Obviously we are hoping that things get back to “normal” before then, and that the temperatures are more like expected for this time of year – the low to mid-seventies would be nice.

High on our list of places to see is The Racetrack, a dried up lake bed tucked away in an extremely remote and desolate part of the park that is home to the legendary “moving rocks” on the playa. Our plan is to spend the night out there so that we can really explore the area and capture the light at dusk, at night, and in the morning.

Looking at the lunar schedule, we will have no moon to deal with, so our plan to also attempt to create some star trail photographs from this unique and special place looks like a go – as long as we don’t get clouds! From my last trip to The Racetrack… here’s an image showing one of the moving rocks that this place is renowned for. I remember the overwhelming feelings of isolation and awe that being at The Racetrack brought, and I am very excited to be able to share what I know will be a powerful experience with Sam.

2 thoughts on “Death Valley and the Racetrack

  1. Ben Horne

    Reading your blog post is getting me even more excited about heading out there in a few days! Much like yourself, I have been checking the road conditions. There is still plenty to shoot in Death Valley in the current condition, but it would be nice if the racetrack road opens up again soon.

    • David Patterson

      Ben… I hear you about there being plenty of opportunities – even if some of the back roads aren’t open by the time we get there. The water and rains might even offer some special conditions in the desert that aren’t often seen. Am sure you saw the image from Floris with water in the salt flats of Badwater? Good luck on your trip, and fingers crossed the road to the Racetrack (and the playa) dry out enough to visit there.

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