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Racetrack Playa questions

Palmdale, California
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Racetrack Playa questions

I am headed to DVNP for the first time the last week of March. I do photography as my hobby and Racetrack Playa has always been on my photography "bucket list".

I am coming to the park from the Palmdale/Lancaster area of California and I plan on renting a jeep from Farabee's to explore Racetrack. I will be in the park for a total of 3 nights/ 4 days and I am staying at Furnace Creek Ranch. I am travelling by myself for this trip.

Here is my issue: I want to be out at Racetrack either during sunrise or sunset to get the best light. I am also considering some star trail photography while out there, although I will probably do that elsewhere in the park as well. That means a drive in the dark, which I am not very excited about, having never been there before.

I am currently leaning towards heading out to Racetrack in the afternoon, which gives me daylight to scout for good compositions, then photograph through sunset and into dark. How bad would the drive back to Furnace Creek be at night?

I guess my other option is to spend the night in the jeep out at racetrack and drive back the next morning. I am not very excited about his option, as it would entail basically a sleeping bag in the jeep (I am not planning on bringing camping gear).

So, any thoughts on the safety of the racetrack to furnace creek drive after dark? I am a newbie 4x4 driver, BTW.

Thanks!

Tucson, Arizona
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for Dusseldorf
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1. Re: Racetrack Playa questions

I would sleep in the Jeep. It is drop down gorgeous there at night. Unbelievable. It is a tough road from the Racetrack back to Ubehebe, really not dangerous unless you have a flat, but extremely washboarded and known for eating tires. In the daylight I drive this road at 5 to 10 mph. I personally would not do this at night unless you have a full moon.

ZB

San Francisco
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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2. Re: Racetrack Playa questions

Backcountry camping is restricted along the Racetrack Road, and sleeping in vehicles is often interpreted by the park as a form of camping. Camping is allowed east of Teakettle Junction, but after that, not until the Lippincott Mine, 2 miles beyond Racetrack Playa.

If you decide to sleep in the Jeep, just don't tell anyone you're going to. It's unlikely that rangers will be patrolling there overnight unless they have some specific reason.

Be sure to allow adequate time to get there in the afternoon, keeping in mind it's 26 miles of rough road plus the 50 miles from Furnace Creek if that's where you're starting from. Sunset will be close to 6:00 p.m., and you'll be driving into the setting sun for part of the trip. Here is a website to figure exact sun times for every day of the year; use Las Vegas NV for the base location.

…navy.mil/USNO/…rs-one-year-us

The road is not truly unsafe, unless you go too fast, which is counter-intuitive because the road is so rough. Between Ubehebe Crater and the playa, there aren't a lot of steep grades or tricky curves. It would be nicer to enjoy the scenery in the early morning after watching the sun come up over the Grapevine range.

There are no trustworthy water sources unless you treat them, so bring plenty. Maybe bring something to eat in the morning while you enjoy the sunrise.

Palmdale, California
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3. Re: Racetrack Playa questions

Thanks for the info! I guess the primitive campground I have seen mentioned must be that one two miles down the road past racetrack.

Hmm, I guess I will consider staying overnight out there. (I will drive down to the campsite to do my "camping" though). I do plan on always having lots of water with me, and I will bring some basics like a snack for breakfast, etc I just don't really want to mess with setting up a tent.

San Francisco
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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4. Re: Racetrack Playa questions

** "If you decide to sleep in the Jeep...* **

Should have specified, in a no-camping area. It's fine to sleep in a vehicle anywhere camping is allowed. I've done it when I was only staying one night, or it was really windy.

In defining camping, the park doesn't really distinguish between sleeping in a car, a tent, or a blanket on the ground. Camping is camping, because whatever the sleeping setup, there will be some environmental impact. For instance, everyone has to go to the bathroom, and most camping areas (not necessarily all primitive backcountry ones) have trash cans or parking. So it's best to minimize such places.

Tucson, Arizona
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5. Re: Racetrack Playa questions

Frissy, I do not mean to be critical, but seldom have I ever had the urge to go to the "bathroom" in the middle of Death Valley while camping. However, if you mean tinkle or poo poo in a toilet or a hole in the ground ( I always carry away my tp, or set it on fire ) I think I get your drift. Bathrooms are overrated in the desert.

ZB

Tucson, Arizona
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6. Re: Racetrack Playa questions

Frissy, By the way, I was kidding. Welcome back. Your posts are always charming.

ZB

San Francisco
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7. Re: Racetrack Playa questions

OK, so "bathroom" isn't accurate.

How about "the can"?

And since there aren't a lot of "cans" out in the backcountry, if people were camping everywhere, they would be digging catholes everywhere. Some wouldn't bother to do that, so they'd be pooping everywhere. Some wouldn't take their TP with them or even have the courtesy to burn it. I'm sure you've seen TP remnants out in places where there are no cans, which means just one thing: not far away, there is poop, either safely decomposed or not.

While we're on the subject of cans, most folks eat while camping. That leads to 2 issues: the need for a can (see above) and a can (for trash). Many backcountry areas have no cans of either kind, and some visitors treat the ground as a substitute for both.

Tucson, Arizona
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8. Re: Racetrack Playa questions

Ever by any chance walked up behind the Borax Works to the south and west?

ZB

Tucson, Arizona
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9. Re: Racetrack Playa questions

Frissy,

BTW, I was kidding about bathrooms. And I for one never eat anything out of a can. I don't think cans are healthy. Oh yes, don't forget, "yes we can!".

ZB

San Francisco
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10. Re: Racetrack Playa questions

While we're on this profound subject, I should mention something a friend of mine told me that her brother and his frat buddies did, then I read about it in a book on wilderness medicine. I laughed until my gut ached when I first heard of it, but apparently it's common enough to be a problem. It does sound like something from Animal House.

We're talking about burns from ignited methane gas. Out in the boonies, where does the methane come from? From us, of course. It's the gas all mammals expel as they process food & get rid of what they don't need. Apparently, SOME people have been burned trying to ignite this gas. IOW, as my friend put it, trying to light pharts (maybe this will slip by) on fire with matches or by directing them at a campfire.

The remedy for such burns might be to not wear any clothes or sit down for a couple of days. This could be a real disruption to one's vacation. The doctor who mentioned it in his book suggested an ounce of prevention instead.

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