Over the long New Year's weekend of 2006/2007, Tracy and I decided to take another LONG
road trip. This time Tracy was focused on getting one of her four remaining states off her list,
so we had to go to California. Since the weather in Utah was crappy, and the weather in
Death Valley looked really nice, it was pretty much a no-brainer. So we left Friday after work
and drove to St. George, UT, for the night. On Saturday we headed into Nevada, and we took
a drive down the strip in Las Vegas. I had never been to Vegas, because, of course, I hate
people, but I can see spending a weekend down there. There was definitely more going on
than I expected. Of course, like other tourist towns, I would probably be fed up with it after a
couple of hours, but we may go back and give it a shot one weekend.
But after leaving Vegas we drove on to Death Valley. The Valley was pretty cool, but it wasn't
amazing. After you've gotten used to the grandiosity of the Utah and Wyoming parks, Death
Valley wasn't much. But it was warm, and that was a good thing. We ended up driving straight
out to the Racetrack, which is where rocks move on their own. That was really weird. First off,
as soon as we get out of the truck, a guy walking back to the parking lot walked by us and just
said, "Welcome to the Twilight Zone." And that's pretty much what it was. You get out on the
insanely flat dry lake bed, and there are rocks scattered around one corner of the lake bed.
And there are tracks in the ground from where the rocks have moved around on their own.
The lake bed is completely dry and hard packed, but the rocks have cut gouges into the
ground, indicating the ground had to have been wet when they moved. Scientists believe the
rocks PROBABLY move when the ground is wet or iced over, and wind blows the rocks across
the ground. I expected the rocks to be pretty small, but some of them were really fairly big,
and probably weighed 30 pounds. So that would take a LOT of wind. But the Racetrack was a
really cool thing to see. You have to drive 30 miles up a gravel road, but don't let the Park
Service scare you: you can drive the road in good weather in a car.
After leaving the Racetrack we headed to the sand dunes on the west side of the park and did
some moonlight hiking. That was really cool. We had the dunes to ourselves, and the waxing
moon was really bright. We then headed out of the park towards the Sierra Nevadas because
Tracy really wanted to see them. We stayed the night in Lone Pine, CA, and then got up the
next morning to the grandiosity of the Sierra Nevadas near the east side of Kings Canyon.
Those mountains look really incredible. We both definitely caught the bug to want to go back
and hike in the Sierra Nevadas. I know they're really crowded in the summer, but I think it
would be worth it to see them up close at least one good time. We tried to find ways up into
the mountains on the east side, but all the roads over the passes or up into the mountains
were already closed for the winter. We drove up through Bishop, CA (just to make Benjy
mad), and then to Carson City, NV, where we took a side trip over to Lake Tahoe, which was
really pretty, also. The lake is huge, and it's surrounded by mountains. Then we drove up to
the interstate and headed to Winnemucca, NV, for New Year's Eve. This was, somehow, the
second time I've stayed in Winnemucca...don't bother. Unfortunately, it's the closest city for
hundreds of miles across the middle of Nevada, but it was a really red-neck town. But it did
make me realize that white trash isn't limited to the south-east!
We then got up Monday morning and drove the seven hours back home.
This was a great trip. Tracy got to spend two days in a new state, and now she only needs to
get to Hawaii, Vermont, and North Dakota. We saw the mysterious moving rocks, we hiked by
moonlight in the sand dunes, and we got the Sierra Nevadas bug. I consider that a successful
New Year's trip.