During my visit to the Racetrack Playa in Death Valley earlier this year, I encountered very few people. There were more people than I expected, but the number was still low. The Racetrack is located in the remote backcountry of Death Valley and requires high clearance and 4x4 vehicles to travel to it, so it’s not a very crowded place any time.
The Racetrack is a large area, and when there are three or four groups of people and the group size is only one or two people, it’s pretty easy not to encounter anyone. The area is completely silent too, and even when you can see other people, you can’t really hear them. I couldn’t even hear the cars driving to and from the Racetrack along the playa, a little less than a mile away.
During my visit, I was not without visitors, however. I arrived at the Racetrack in the afternoon. I found a rock to photograph, and I was working with it when all of a sudden a large insect landed near me. I have never seen this kind of insect before, and I don’t know what it is. It looks like some kind of beetle. When I touched it, it kind of hunkered down and stayed that way long enough for me to take its picture. After a couple minutes another one of these insects arrived. They seemed to follow me around, and they kept going near my bag too. I don’t know if they were looking for shade, food, or what, but I couldn’t get away from them for a while! Finally I just walked over to another rock that was a short distance away, and I didn’t see these two again. I didn’t see any others of these insects either.
My other main visitor was a little lizard. I had been at a rock for probably an hour or so. Suddenly, this lizard came darting out from behind the rock. It had probably been there the entire time taking refuge in the shade, and I didn’t even know it. The lizard was much more skittish than the insects, so it was hard to get close enough to get its picture with the wide angle lens I had on my camera. Eventually it went scurrying off to the shade of another rock, and that’s the last I saw of it.
I didn’t expect to encounter very many annoying flying insects like gnats or mosquitoes at the Racetrack, but in the late afternoon and early evening I was visited by a small swarm of small flying insects. I don’t know what to call them, but they were kind of like a cross between a large gnat and a small moth. They landed all over my bag, and they were flying around and landing on me, too. They were only there for an hour or maybe even less, and then they were gone. They did not return even in the morning around sunrise, so they must only be active in the early evenings, I guess. Or maybe they just moved on to someone else.
Fortunately, these were the only creatures that visited me. There were no snakes or large animals. I’m sure they were out there, but they probably don’t venture out on the playa too much. The Racetrack Playa is a very wide open area where you can be completely alone. It was nice to have a few visitors to keep me company!