After lunch in Furnace Creek, Marcia and I headed north on Scottys Castle Road. This took us through the northern portions of Death Valley. Scotty’s Castle and the Grapevine Canyon Road were closed due to a big flood in October, but our plan was to make it to the Racetrack Valley before sunset. Of course, every trip to the Racetrack requires a quick stop at Ubehebe Crater.
Usually the wind is 20 to 40 mph at the edge of the crater, but it was nice and calm on this visit. The road from Ubehebe to the Racetrack playa is about 27 miles in length, and is not paved. You figure it might take 50 or 60 minutes, right? Nope! The road was not in very good condition along many sections. Some segments were quite rocky. The road starts off along the northwest and west side of Tin Mountain (in the Cottonwood Mountains), and it was pretty much like driving on an alluvial fan with two wheel paths to help guide you and the vehicle. Eventually the road improved a little, as it traversed a wider part of the valley, but it was horribly wash-boarded most of the time. Anyway, it took about 90 minutes to do the 27 miles, and we didn’t have much daylight remaining. It would be pretty dark by about 5 p.m. I drove my battered and totally rattled X-terra another two miles to the south end of the Racetrack, where I thought we had a better chance of seeing the moving rocks and their tracks. And it was not difficult! We walked onto the dry playa and found a handful with very nice tracks. I wish we had had more daylight to enjoy the playa, especially since we were the only ones there. After about 30 minutes we started the bumpy ride back to the north. We stopped near the crater again to check out the very dark night sky, and I tried a 200mm shot of Andromeda Galaxy. Not bad for an amateur!