Trail Week 16-08

Week Summary (February 22 – 28)
6.6 mi (610 ft gain) – 58 min on trail
Trails: Clear Creek

It’s my rest week so I got in a fast one at Clear Creek on Wednesday. I didn’t really intend on a PR-style run, but once I got going I felt really good and decided to try for under an hour. I’d been close last week and thought “Why not?”. I’d be driving and hiking over the next few days so I might as well give it a go. The gradual uphill of Clear Creek had a pretty good headwind and it almost felt cold again. Of course, it was the usual nice evening once I gained the forest; as is usual for mid-week, I turned back at the road crossing a little over three miles in.

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Clear Creek Trail towards the forest

The trail has been modified in a few places to smooth out the turns and, as is most often the case, is in great condition. With two miles to go, at the “big rock”, I knew I had barely 15 minutes to get back to the trailhead. I have never been able to gauge what fast is for me personally, so seven-minute miles seem to be, well, fast. I wasn’t sure if I could be that consistent. Of course, it is a nice, gradual downhill, plus a little tailwind, so it felt really good to stay consistent and clock ~6:30 miles over those last two, including the new little segment at the very bottom. Fun stuff in 58 minutes, and now a few days of travel would be fine.

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Over a few days at the end of the week, I made my way into the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley National Park. The Racetrack is a fantastic place because of the playa phenomenon of the “sailing stones”. I’ve observed similar tracks left by rocks, plant parts, artifacts, and military equipment on other playas (dry lake beds) in the Great Basin but had never visited the famous Racetrack. That was the successful goal of this outback trip. I highly recommend a visit, but be prepared for some serious desert travel deep into the lesser visited parts of the Park.

The rocks move, most likely, during cold winter nights after brief winter rains when thin sheets of ice cover parts of the playa encasing the cobble- and boulder-sized rocks. It only takes a relatively light wind to slightly lift the ice sheet; think of air moving over a wing. The movement has been documented on breezy winter nights, when movement is aided by just enough melting to lubricate the playa beneath the thin ice sheet. The rocks can move several hundred meters in a relatively short time. It’s crazy to think about, but the reality is written in the playa.

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One of many on the Racetrack Playa; the rocks originate at the outcrop at the playa’s southern end.

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From the outcrop above the playa — the race is on

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Heading home from Teakettle Junction north of the Racetrack, early on a Saturday morning.

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