Sunday, February 24, 2013

Death Valley Impostor

The Rock That Wasn't There

Welcome to the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park, that magical anomaly where rocks move mysteriously across a clay-like surface and cut trails to mark the path or their travel.

At least, that's what we think happens. Rain softens the playa and the surface becomes slippery. Wind currents channeled through the mountains are strong enough to move the rocks and cut trails through the soft clay. It's impossible to verify the theory because except for the smallest of pebbles, no one has ever seen the rocks move.

Yet, move they do and trails they leave, and in so doing they capture our imagination. The entire phenomenon is like something from a science fiction story.

There is, unfortunately, a dark side to our story, and that dark side is the hand of man. There are individuals who lack respect for the fragile wonder of places like the Racetrack Playa.

Here is case in point, a subject that I call 'The Impostor Rock'.

a photo of a sliding rock on the racetrack playa at death valley by daniel south
Impostor Rock - Death Valley

We see a long, well-defined trail in the playa, distant mountains, a clear sky, and a rock right in the middle of the action.

The problem is that this rock did not cut the trail, except perhaps for the last few inches. The rock that did cut the trail had a different shape. It would have been a bit wider, and it had a ridge that cut a groove to the left of the main trail.

This rock is an impostor.

Someone took the original rock as a souvenir, probably leaving the trail empty.(There are many empty trails on the playa.) I'm guessing that some well-meaning person put this rock in its place. Hopefully, the didn't snatch it from one of the other trails.

The Racetrack Playa is remote and not well-patrolled. Even if there were rangers on site, the playa is more than two miles wide. It's not possible to watch the entire surface at all times. Inconsiderate people take liberties.

There are signs posted: Don't move or take the rocks. Clearly, this one has been broken a few times. Don't walk on the playa when it's wet, or you'll damage the surface and leave footprints. I saw lots of this type of damage at the southern end of the playa. Don't let your dog run on the playa. While I was there I met a man who told me how much his dog loves to run on the playa, and then he let the dog loose.

The world is full of inconsiderate people, and there's not a whole lot that we can do about it. Let's hope that they don't destroy everything.

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark II

Lens: Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2013 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

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