Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Very Non-Traditional Christmas Part 2

My Christmas present was to cross something off my bucket list. Yes, I know that I said we weren't doing gifts this year and we didn't - at least not tangible gifts that will end up cluttering our apartment. My, ok OUR gift this year was to cross something awesome off our National Park list and my life's bucket list.  Death Valley.

Whaaaaaat? You may be asking. 

Yes, I have dreamt of going to Death Valley for no other reason than to see the racetrack. The idea of mysterious moving rocks is just too interesting to the physical scientist nerd in me. 

We rented a jeep and headed out on the 2 hour 4WD trek to the playa. Jim looked pretty studly driving a jeep, in case you wondered.

See? You don't have to take my word for it... they really do move.

It would be much more awesome if we could see them move in real time, but at present no known person has ever seen it. The trails are visible for years though since the playa receives so little precipitation.

On the drive out I was filled with the type of anticipation that makes you wonder if you're building something up too much and will really be disappointed.

The answer to that was no.

Look! A rock!

The sun was really high in the sky and quite intense. While it made pictures really a bit of a challenge, it did cause clear reflections on the playa which caused the trails to show up really well. When I tried to shoot in shadow the trails barely appeared, so intense crazy pictures it is.

From a distance it doesn't really look like much other than a bunch of random rocks resting on the playa. It's pretty surprising though to think that all those little rocks are there because a little rain and wind get together to start a party.

Look, a Joshua Tree! We had to take a picture to make up for the other park.

We stopped at Badwater Basin on our way out of the valley and it was quite a sizable salt flat.

Filthy, but sizable. The thing that I found to be most interesting here is that the areas of highest foot traffic appeared stark white, while the areas void of traffic were the most dirty. The thing other people find most interesting is that this is lowest point in North America with an elevation of approximately 282 feet below sea level.

In case you need a visual of exactly what that means, there's a sign! Jim will attest to the fact that I nerdily discussed the fact that sea level isn't constant so what on Earth the elevation deal really means is up in the air. Then he pointed out that I'd have to call into question every elevation measurement ever recorded and my head hurt just thinking about it. So, I conceded. We'll go with 282 below and call it good.

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