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Postcards from Travel Near and Far by Jia-Rui

92328, Death Valley

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One of Racetrack Playa's famous moving rocks

Dear ——–,

The rocks move here. That’s how “Racetrack Playa,” a flat, dry lakebed in Death Valley, got its name. No one has seen the rocks actually move. Scientists think the wind pushes them when the ground is wet. Flash floods wash down the mountains and pave channels with pebbles in a pattern they call “desert asphalt.” Water that collects on the playa evaporates as it gets warmer, leaving light-colored salts and clays behind. The lakebed cracks in a hexagonal pattern that reminds me of the way basalt cooled at Devil’s Postpile. One end of the playa was baked solid, but the other end was still a little damp. It had apparently rained about a week or so before. Little green plants were climbing out of the cracks. On nearby hillsides, orange poppies, fuschia prickly pear blossoms and lavender mojave aster were still hanging on in the 100-degree heat. This trip made me think how tenacious life is, somehow finding a toehold in such a harsh environment. People can barely survive here — there is a place named Starvation Canyon — but these plants somehow manage to return, year after year.

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Author: postmarkhere

I'm a journalist based in Los Angeles who has always said that writing postcards for a living would be a dream job. The posts -- short enough to fit on an actual postcard -- chronicle recent travels near and far. I could blab on about being inspired by epistolary novels, the short poems of Emily Dickinson, and the New Yorker's "Talk of the Town" pieces, but I'll just say that I'm aiming to give you a sense of flavor of a place without boring you to death. Wish you were here!

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