Star Trails over Racetrack Valley
Racetrack Valley, Death Valley National Park, California
One of the flattest (curved) places on Earth, The Racetrack in Death Valley NP is perhaps the single most surreal landscape I've ever visited. It gets its name from the famous moving rocks at the southern end, where you can see lots of tracks though not quite as many rocks, some of which are easily 100+ lbs. How did some of those rocks travel several hundred feet from a hillside and onto the playa? The most reasonable explanations suggest that strong winds propel the rocks when the playa itself is covered with a thin layer of water or ice; that thin layer drastically reduces the friction coefficient between the rock and the lake-bed surface, facilitating the rock's movement over great distances and even its changing directions with acute angles. I made this image after driving out to The Racetrack, scouting locations, and trying to stay warm as dusk gave way to night in this high desert in November. I wanted to further suggest the (past) motion of the rock using the motion of the stars with short trails. Caution: The road to Racetrack Valley is notorious for blowing tires over its 26-mile (one-way) length! Photo © copyright by Greg Owens.