Making memorable images

The Racetrack


Moving rock 0135 small

From the moment I found out a place like the Racetrack existed in reality and not only in someone’s imagination, I wanted to go there.

The first time we visited Death Valley, three years ago, we ran out of time. The second year we went, I made it to the Racetrack! It is as amazing as I thought it would be.

The name of the landform is called a playa, a flat area where a thin layer of water collects from time to time. It dries out to form the almost-tessellated pattern shown in the above image. It is spongy to walk on, and the cracks don’t collapse. The only time visitors are not allowed to walk on the playa is when it is wet. That is because the tracks left on the mud take a very long time to disappear. Fortunately, when we visited, it wasn’t wet.

How do the rocks move, or “race”? There have been many theories, but the latest one is that ice forms on the water-filled playa, then the sun, when it comes out, makes the ice break into pieces. The wind then drives the ice into the rocks, and they are pushed over the muddy, slippery surface. This amazing occurrence was witnessed by James and Richard Norris in December, 2013.

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