My October 2006 Photo of the Month is The Long Track, a photograph made in Death Valley’s Racetrack Playa.
The Long Track Background
I made this image on a Death Valley trip with friends Jeremy Long, Brad Denbo, and Scott Hatton. We all love Death Valley, but getting to the fabled Racetrack playa has long been a bucket-list item for us.
This October morning was very cold. Horizon sunrise was much earlier than light hitting the dry lake due to the mountains to the East. These Eastern hills are the source for the rocks found on the Racetrack.
As the sun finally touched the dry lakebed, the color was instantaneous and incredible. This was my favorite track. While the highest density of tracks along The Racetrack are found on the Eastern side of the playa, this one was not a long distance from the parking area, perhaps a half mile away.
The incredible thing to ponder about this track is that it moved North to South. You can just make out The Grandstand in the top right of the image. The rock almost certainly came from the Eastern hills, so this rock has literally travelled miles to create this modern track.
How long it takes is anybody’s guess. There are many theories on how these tracks are made, but it is almost certainly associated with the playa being moist with a lot of wind. Indeed, while we were there, it was observed that this area is a very windy place.
The Racetrack is a very remote location. On a Saturday morning, we were the only people here for miles. That being said, footprints along the Racetrack were obvious. It is important to take good care of fragile locations like this.
As always, thank you very much for reading, and I hope you enjoy the images.
T.M. Schultze is a San Diego-based photographer, traveller, and writer. He writes, photographs, and draws things of the outdoors that have inspired humans for thousands of years. He co-authored the Photographer’s Guide to Joshua Tree Park which can be purchased here.