On a flat plain nestled 1,731 meters above sea level, stones mysteriously wander across the landscape.
This occurs at Racetrack Playa; a dry, vegetation free, desert basin area. Located in the Western part of the United States (Death Valley), it’s about 4 kilometers long, and 2 kilometers wide. The bed is composed of stratified clay, silt, sand, and other commonly soluble salts.
No one has ever seen them move, but the trails that they leave are ample evidence that rocks as heavy as 115 kg scoot across the surface like sailing vessels. Flat bottom rocks move in arcs and straight lines. Some move in one direction for awhile, and then another. Round bottom boulders travel more toward the right or left, in haphazard manner, as they tumble across the dry lake.
The dancing rocks are thought to move every 2-3 years. The trails last about 5 years. Stones with jagged bottoms leave grooved tracks as they travel. Sometimes stones turn over and the trail takes a sudden turn.
These rolling stones inspire our imagination.
Scientists have many theories to explain what propels these stones on their mysterious adventure. High winds are certainly involved, and the dry lake bed needs to be wetted (or iced) in order for the winds to be able to overcome the coefficient of static friction and start moving the heavy stones. High winds and a slick surface make movements across the plain possible.
As with an enlightened person, these stones remain in silence (do not move) until prompted by nature. When the right conditions exist, the sailing stones move. When the need of the environment requires it, an enlightened person is moved to action.
Death Valley is the lowest point in the United States, at 86 meters (282 feet) below sea level.
It is almost completely flat and holds the record for the second highest temperature ever recorded on Earth, a blistering 58oC (136.4o F).
Death Valley spans 3.4 million acres. Its flat plains and towering mountains are home to over 600 plant species; and 17 mammal, fish, and snail species that exist nowhere else in the world. The desert tortoise, coyote, ringtail cat, bighorn sheep, lizards, snakes and birds, call this their home.
How did Death Valley get this way?
• 1.4 billion years ago this area was covered by a shallow sea. Then the metamorphosed Precambrian basement rocks began to uplift. (These rocks are still visible today at Badwater).
• 550 million years ago the sandy mud flats gave way to harder carbonate rocks.
• 270 millions years ago – the Death Valley region was near the Earth’s equator.
• 250 million years ago the Sea began its withdrawal.
• 225 million years ago tectonic collisions from the west caused erupting volcanoes, mountain building, and further bed compression.
• 65 million years ago the withdrawal of the Sea is complete; after 160 million years of volcanism, thrust/faulting and mountain building.
• 30 million years ago the Pacific and Farallon plates intersected at the subduction zone, dividing the Farallon plate in two. The Death Valley basin was born. The Black Mountains began to rise, and the Panamint/Cottonwood Mountains moved westward.
• 24 million years ago river and lake deposits continue.
• 186,000 years ago the area filled with glacial fresh water. Lakes and rivers (Amargosa River, Lake Trcopa, Lake Manly, Panamint Lake and Searles Lake) became a part of the landscape. As faulting continued, Lake Manly grew to be 160 km in length and 183 meters (600 feet) deep.
• 10,000 years ago all the lakes were gone and dry land reigned supreme.
Geologists tell us that subduction continues. The Valley is sinking and the mountains move further apart. At some point in the future the Valley will open to the Sea and once again fill with salt water. As the mountains move further westward that area of California will separate from continental North America and become an island unto itself.
Modern day Death Valley features include:
This is lowest point in North America. Fault scarps and salt pans are still visible.
Death Valley dunes
The beautify Desert sands
Devil’s Golf Course
Ample Salt deposits
Harmony Borax works
Early mining (20 Mule Team Borax) in Death Valley
The mysterious wandering rocks
The Desert oasis
The Maar volcanoes
As human beings we desire, think, and act. We direct our will toward the fulfillment of personal satisfaction.
For the deluded, pleasure and pain appear to be different. A lifetime is spent avoiding pain and pursuing pleasure.
But pleasure and pain are just two aspects of our relative life. It’s far better to transcend both. Reach for truly lasting happiness – the eternal bliss of enlightened consciousness. Unfettered by time and space, you become truthfully free.
Be like the wandering stones of Racetrack Playa. Act when propelled by nature. Act for the betterment of all mankind.
Meditate every day to develop your full potential.