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Author Topic: Racetrack, Death Valley  (Read 3501 times)

marvls

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Racetrack, Death Valley
« on: January 28, 2007, 05:17:33 PM »

Hi all,
Planning a trip in mid-to-late March to Death Valley.  Thanks to everyone for all of the detailed info.  I've got 6 great days lined up.  I've rented a Nissan XTerra (4WD) from Hertz.
Quick question is:  If I stay at the Racetrack for sunset, how difficult/safe is the trip back in the dark?  How much time shall I budget for returning (driving slowly, of course)?
Thanks,
Marv
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David White

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Racetrack, Death Valley
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2007, 05:44:01 PM »

Quote
Quick question is:  If I stay at the Racetrack for sunset, how difficult/safe is the trip back in the dark?  How much time shall I budget for returning (driving slowly, of course)?
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=97977\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

The trip back in the dark is no different than doing it in the light.  It's just darker.      
I'd allow 2 hours if the road is in its usual washboard state or a lot less if it has been recently graded.
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David White

thewanderer

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Racetrack, Death Valley
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2007, 09:37:26 PM »

i would make sure you have a good spare and can get ti on and off,,,that is one rough road,,the one time i was there, another couple in a lexus suv, had a flat right at the track end,,, they tired to fix it, bit before they left there hometown, they had there tires rotated, etc. well they put the lugs on tooo tight, and the little keyed groove lug buster wouldnt let them take off the tire rim,,,had i not been there, they would have been stranded for an unknown period of time,,in 2004, there was NO cell service to call for help,,

i had to pack them in my PU truck, and all this large format stuff,, and my stuff,, haul them all the way back to the main fuel area, about 40-50 miles, then back to my campground backnear the start fo the trek to racetrack,,,they had to hire  a tow truck to get them out, the next day,,,

point is,, make sure you have working back up, water, food, etc in the event you get stuck,,,

its a lonely place there,,
« Last Edit: January 28, 2007, 09:45:17 PM by thewanderer »
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howiesmith

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Racetrack, Death Valley
« Reply #3 on: January 29, 2007, 03:44:19 PM »

Quote
Quick question is:  If I stay at the Racetrack for sunset, how difficult/safe is the trip back in the dark?  How much time shall I budget for returning (driving slowly, of course)?

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=97977\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

Driving back in the dark should offer no real problems.  The road is easy to see with headlights.  Because you have already covered the road in daylight, any difficult spots should be known on the return trip.

As mentioned elsewhere, don't depend on help arriving soon.  It may, but don't depend on it.  Especially after dark.
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marvls

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Racetrack, Death Valley
« Reply #4 on: January 29, 2007, 04:06:01 PM »

Thanks to all.  I will certainly ensure that a spare tire is ready to go.  I will also bring enough "stuff" to allow me to spend the night out there if needed.
Cheers,
Marv
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grepmat

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Racetrack, Death Valley
« Reply #5 on: January 30, 2007, 12:14:00 PM »

People die in Death Valley, but if you follow a few simple rules you will be fine.

1) DO NOT LEAVE YOUR CAR!!! Wait for help. Have good tires and a good spare (or two).

2) In summer, bring tons of water. Water and shade are essential (see #1).

3) In winter, it will often be freezing and very windy at night. Bring lots of warm clothing. Your car will be a good emergency shelter.

Otherwise, if you stay on the main paved and dirt roads, someone will be along to help soon enough.

Enjoy your trip.
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howiesmith

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Racetrack, Death Valley
« Reply #6 on: January 30, 2007, 12:44:46 PM »

The only time I had "trouble" in Death Valley was when I had two flats about a quarter mile apart on the paved road between Stove Pipe Wells and Furnace Creek.  About 10 hours after I asked the Inyo county deputy sherif for help (he was passing by in a car), I got a tow down to the service station at Furnace Creek (spendy).  Everything there was closed for the night, so I waited until about 7am for the service station to open and fix a flat.  It was nearly 24 hours before I was on my way home again.   I fear had I been at the Race Track, the wait may have been longer and help more expensive.

So "soon" is be a relative term.  In this case, it was spring, and a couple good books were more valuable than food and water.
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danmitch

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Racetrack, Death Valley
« Reply #7 on: February 05, 2007, 10:38:12 PM »

You have a good vehicle for this road so the drive shouldn't be any problem.

The main issue with the road is that it is (or was last year) extremely washboarded. It is a very rough ride in spots. I drove in my (now sold) 4WD Dodge Durango and sort of went back and forth between going slow and bouncing the [fill in the blank] out of myself and the vehicle, or driving faster and getting a smoother ride but less control. If you are new to this kind of driving I recommend slow and bouncy.

I drove out there in the evening (straight from the SF Bay Area in one day) and arrived a bit too late to do any photography in the evening. (Though now that I've been exposed to night photography I feel quite different about this - next time I'll plan to shoot at night.) I camped at the very small and very primitive campsites a bit past the playa - basically just a few turnouts next to the road, with no water at all. It was an absolutely lovely, silent night, with abundant stars. You can also camp a few miles before the playa at Teakettle Junction. (Directions assume that you are driving the road from Ubehebe Crater.)

The next morning I was up before dawn and on the playa near the south end and the hill from which the moving rocks originate. It was extremely windy, but there were quite beautiful clouds - and I had a pretty successful morning. I saw only one other person there.

Why do you want to drive back after dark? I recommend staying the night near the playa and getting a chance to shoot the early morning light in addition to the evening light. The drive back at night is going to be about two hours of very not-fun driving on an extremely rough road that you can barely see. Instead, you could be sitting outside your vehicle watching the astounding view of the stars, or even taking a nighttime walk on the playa.

Exercise due caution in Death Valley, but don't be paranoid. It is unlikely to be all that hot in March - I've seen rain and snow that time of year though. Carry water - you'll want to visit many places that are completely dry. You probably won't be completely alone at the Racetrack - it isn't exactly Yosemite Valley, but you will see others driving the road and you may even meet some other photographers at the playa.

Have a great trip!

Dan
« Last Edit: February 24, 2007, 11:06:16 PM by danmitch »
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B-Ark

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Racetrack, Death Valley
« Reply #8 on: February 06, 2007, 07:32:40 AM »

If you're feeling adventurous, there are two alternate ways out of the racetrack area, that avoid having to retrace your footsteps along the washboard road.

One is the Lippincott mine road - not for the timid, but definitely a worth while adventure.

The other is the Hunter Mountain road - an easy road, but it can get snowed in.  I easily made it through on one trip, and on another had to turn back when the snow got 2 ft deep.

Both of these routes offer lots of photographic potential.
Both of these routes end up in the Saline Valley (where you can check out the hot springs).

Check detailed maps for the exact routing.
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