A trip to the mountains west of Death Valley cont.

The camping spot we picked last night on the road up to the Lost Burro mine worked great and we agreed to stay here for another night. Rather than cook breakfast, we decided to walk the rest of the road up to the mine first thing while it was still pretty cool. Working around the heat was our priority.

We walked up past our cactus friends E. mojavensis growing out of the face of a cliff and then past the mine shack on a trail behind the mine to a stunning view.



Then it was back to our camp for breakfast. As the sun came up, it got hot. And bright. Absolute heat is not the main quality of the mountain desert – by now it was probably in the low to mid 80’s – the brightness and the intensity of the sun are the overwhelming considerations. Oh! and the dryness. There is no shade and the sun beating down gives the impression that it is much hotter than it really is. We knew that we wanted to end the day at the Race Track and that we would spend the middle of the day trying to find shade, so we started off our our exploration. Past Teakettle Junction and past the Race Track to a pass that overlooks Saline Valley about 3000 feet below us.



I am not sure what I was hoping for – maybe a little wind coming up the pass – but the day stayed pretty still and got very bright. And very dry. We spent the middle of it, drinking water and thinking about being hot while sitting in the shade of the truck. Inside with the doors open, sitting on the tailgate, sitting on the ice-chest in the shady side when the sun moved past high noon. There was no question that it was uncomfortable and we didn’t have any choice but to be in it.

I want to say Be in it and sweating. which we were but it is so dry that the sweat drys as fast as we are making it and we never seem to be sweating. Also, in the desert, we don’t seem as grubby as we are.

Anyway, in the late afternoon, we went over to the Race Track. It was packed at the south end with – around – ten other people in three vehicles. Two of them looked like  rental jeeps and, it turned out, one of the groups were two guys from New Zealand. We went to the north end of the Race Track to an area called The Grandstand which was less crowded and in the shade. It was a surreal spot.

The Racetrack is a flat playa a little more than one mile wide and a little less than three miles long. It is in the corner of a basin which drains into the playa and is really the remnant of a lake that used to be at the bottom of the basin. Years ago – maybe twenty or thirty thousand years ago – when the northern US and the Sierra area of California were covered in glaciers, this area was much wetter and the lake probably drained down into the saline Valley. As the area got dryer, the silt matched the lake surface and now all that is left is the flat, flat, dried lake bed. Sprinkled with rocks that seem to slide across the dried lake leaving mysterious trails.

It is very austere, even by deep desert standards, but – in the low light of the afternoon – very beautiful. If you are into that sort of thing. We stayed for awhile and enjoyed the wonders.

At the end of the day, we went back to our new home, just in time to see the sun go down.

To be continued..



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