Monday, May 2, 2016

Death Valley, The Racetrack Playa and The Michigan Loader Site

For the fifth year I asked the group if we could go to The Racetrack Playa in Death Valley to see the spot of the burning of the Michigan Loader. I have been consistently outvoted because the spot is very hard to get to. This year I got my wish!

The Racetrack Playa, or The Racetrack, is a scenic dry lake feature with "sailing stones" that inscribe linear "racetrack" imprints.

From Lone Pine where we bunked for the night after checking out Independence it is about a 60 mile trek from the turnoff on CA 198. All of those miles on dirt roads. Not just dirt roads but really windy, mountainous mining roads. None of these dirt mining roads are closer than 40 miles to anything that can be called a town.

Luckily George has lots of backcountry driving experience, topo maps and ice in his veins. The ride was very very bumpy, and we got temporarily lost at least twice. The views were spectacular. Death Valley is a breathtakingly beautiful place.

The view from Hunter Mountain overlooking Hidden Valley:

Tea Kettle Junction - about 6 miles from the Racetrack. Yes, we left a tea kettle:

Racetrack Playa from about 3 miles away:

Racetrack Playa:

The rock formation near the center is known as "The Grandstand".

Sailing Stones at The Racetrack:

Below is the set of the burning of the Michigan Loader, the incident that spurred the Inyo County Sheriff's Department to start the investigation that led to the Barker Ranch Raids and the final arrest of Charles Manson. The spot is the turnoff onto Lippincott Lead Mine Road.

As intense and unforgiving as Death Valley is, it is full of natural beauty.:

On the way back to LA we hit the Trona Pinnacles. Many of you will remember the backdrop from the YouTube video of Bill Nelson filming Cappy as she protested that he had promised not to film her:


Chris B said...

Getting lost a couple of times in Death Valley, sounds like you're living the dream out there.

Robert Hendrickson said...

Well, well, it's about time the MOST significant "issue" (Michigan loader) is finally brought to the forefront in a land where the Manson Mystique is paramount.

Matt said...

Hug, that's old and stupid.

orwhut said...

It's a wonder those tea kettles weren't stolen and sent to China when scrap was sky high.
I bought my grandson a toy wheel loader the other day. I'd have liked to have gotten the Mischigan brand but I didn't see one.
Despite his faults Bill Nelson came up with some very interesting material, the contemporary video of Cappy is an example.

Patty is Dead said...

Patty and Stoner are finally home enjoying a Luigi's pizza. Thanks y'all for a real good time

Farflung said...


Being at Luigi's pizza is the culinary equivalent of staying at Ray's Den! No Olive Garden? Nope, because you're a righteous chick, and he's stand up dude. So there.

Keep America strong, even if it is only you two. USA, USA, USA!!

Patty is Dead said...

Farflung xoxo

Mr. Humphrat said...

I hope it's a good year for wildflowers there. I was there in spring of '07 I think and it wasn't a great year but still a very memorable trip, so beautiful. I loved the racetrack and the tea kettles. Loved Zabriski's Point.

Robert Hendrickson said...

The park service has just shut down "Corral Canyon Cave" in Malibu, CA because the graffetti is so BAD.

So my question is: did/does the Tour group ever see graffidie at Manson sites?

AND I was also thinking: maybe all the writing in blood at the murder sites was simply the Family leaving some graffetti. Cause that seems to be what young rebels do best. I mean like "WAR" on Leno's stomache - that really looks like someone WANTS to be remembered - FOREVER.

George Stimson said...

Robert, there used to be graffiti at Barker Ranch, but it was the small, handwritten type done with a Sharpie, not full-blown spray painted murals -- except when the ranch burned down, at which point someone wrote "WHY" in red spray paint on the steps leading up to the house.

Patty is Dead said...

Patty remembers the WHY. George, was it you that removed it?

Fiddy 8 said...

:::Michigan Loader seems like a dream to me now:::

Logan said...

Bill Nelson seems like such a mean-spirited person...just the way he talks to her & tapes her/their surroundings in that odd trona video...& the way he talks to Doris tate in the Ed sanders interview.
Thanks for sharing these pictures. The desert looks strange & beautiful! It's really cool to see images of these places as they are today. Odd to compare the desert, which stays somewhat static, to locations in LA/SF & other cities which are constantly changing & also associated with the whole TLB/Manson mythos/history.

George Stimson said...

Patty, Park Service removed the WHY because they didn't want it setting a trend for people to spray paint the remains of the ranch.

AustinAnn74 said...

I still cannot believe Barbara Hoyt & Sherrie Cooper fled Barker ranch in that kind of terrain and actually made it back to civilization. I know that's not the exact area they fled at, but the landscape is about the same. I always wondered if they were barefoot too. Barbara was/is blind as a bat too and didn't have her glasses. Those girls must of been scared shitless. Didn't Kitty Lutesinger & Stephanie Schram flee the exact, same way too? That must of been absolutely terrifying & brutal. Those girls must of been scared out of their wits to take off like that.

Patty is Dead said...

Ann, Barbara and Sherri went West to Ballarat; Kitty and Stephanie went east to Anvil Springs. That's the way Patty remembers reading about it anyhow

Patty is Dead said...

George was a trooper, head cold and all. Patty is happy to report that even though she sat next to him while he coughed and hacked she seems to have dodged the bullet. :)