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: