StormEffects

 Death Valley National Park

California

All Photographs Brian & Nancy Morganti


Death Valley

Mesquite Dunes - Ubehebe Crater - Racetrack

Lost Burro Mine - Night Sky

March 2010

March 11, 2010

We departed our motel at 6:30am and headed directly to the Mesquite Sand Dunes for an early morning hike.  Nancy and I decided not to enter via the already crowded main parking lot, but instead from a remote point farther west.  A sandstorm the night before had swept the dunes free of footprints and it was nice to have part of the dunes to ourselves for the first hour of daylight.

Our next stop would be at the Ubehebe Crater about 35 miles to our north.  Road construction had closed off the viewpoint, but a friendly flagman gave us permission to park nearby so that we could hike the half-mile or so up to the crater's rim.  From there we had a great view of the crater and the surrounding terrain and a trail led uphill to another series of craters including the "Little Hebe".  Ubehebe resembles an impact crater created by a  meteorite, but was actually formed by volcanic activity when superheated water flashed to steam and blasted out the half-mile wide, 600-foot deep crater.

We then continued south towards the "The Racetrack" via the scenic, but rocky and wash-boarded Racetrack Valley Road.  Along the way we stopped briefly at Teakettle Junction which is marked by an ever growing collection of teakettles left there by passing visitors.  After leaving Teakettle Junction the Racetrack Playa soon comes into view, a large flat lakebed nestled below rocky mountains.  What makes this remote playa so unusual is the presence of tire-sized tracks etched into its surface by skidding rocks that can weigh up to several hundred pounds. One theory of how this occurs is that strong winds push the rocks across a moisture-slickened lakebed.  Another theory suggests that the rocks travel across the lakebed after the playa partially freezes after a winter rain making it easier for the winds to push the rocks around.  This curiosity alone makes a visit worthwhile, but the scenery here can hold its own without the geological enigma!  Unfortunately we were visiting at mid-day when everything was awash in the harsh sunlight. 

Our last exploration of the day was at the Lost Burro Mine, a collection of old wooden frame structures along with a mine accessible via a treacherous 1.1 mile jeep trail that exits the main dirt road not too far from Teakettle Junction.  We walked the last half-mile of the trail after coming close to being a permanent part of the scenery.   After having a late dinner back in Stovepipe Wells, I decided to head about 25 miles north of town to enjoy the pristine nighttime sky from an elevation of about 1,000'.  After setting up my camera for a series of 8-minute exposures to capture star trails revolving around the North Star, I spent the next hour or so marveling at the amazingly bright Milky Way overhead as the Zodiacal Light began to fade in the west.  A great way to end the day!

 


Death Valley - Mesquite Dunes - Patterns

 


Death Valley - Mesquite Dunes

 


Death Valley - Mesquite Dunes - Sand Ripples

 


Death Valley - Mesquite Dunes - Patterns

 


Death Valley - Mesquite Dunes

 


Death Valley - Mesquite Dunes - Morning Shadows

 


Death Valley - Mesquite Dunes - Patterns

 


Death Valley - Ubehebe Crater - Wide View

 


Death Valley - Ubehebe Crater

 


Death Valley - Ubehebe Crater

 


Death Valley - Little Ubehebe Crater

 


Death Valley - View from Rim of Ubehebe Crater

 


Death Valley - Teakettle Junction on the way to The Racetrack

 


Death Valley - Distant View of The Racetrack & Grandstand

 


 

Death Valley - The Racetrack - Moving Rocks

 


Death Valley - The Racetrack - Moving Rocks

 


Death Valley - The Racetrack - Moving Rocks

 


Death Valley - The Racetrack - Moving Rocks

 


Death Valley - The Racetrack - Moving Rocks

 


Death Valley - The Racetrack - Dried Mud Pattern

 


Death Valley - The Racetrack's Grandstand

 


Death Valley - The Grandstand "Shoreline"

 


Death Valley - The Grandstand Up Close

 


Death Valley - The Grandstand

 


Death Valley - Racetrack - Grandstand

 


Death Valley - Lost Burro Mine

 


Death Valley - Lost Burro Mine - "Thieves Will Be Prosectued"

 


Death Valley - Lost Burro Mine - Valley View

 


Death Valley - Lost Burro Mine - Interior of Mine Shack

 


Death Valley - Lost Burro Mine - Miner's Shelving

 


Death Valley - Lost Burro Mine - Outhouse

 


Death Valley - Night Sky / Zodiacal Light - Stovepipe Wells area


Death Valley - Star Trails - Grapevine Mountains

 

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