Ice Playa

Icy Moonset

Several days ago, motivated by a spell of very low temperatures, I ventured down to Deep Springs Lake for sunrise. The Lake is usually a bit of an inconvenient place to explore, since the numerous healthy springs nearby create lots of bogs, swamps and mudpits, some of which are almost invisible beneath mats of grass until you find yourself sunk to your calves, or sometimes deeper. My best excursion to the Lake previously was helped by the presence of ice, and I hoped that a really hard freeze would open up some unusual options in a beautiful and strange landscape.

Ice Playa Sunrise

Cold was certainly abundant. My car thermometer hit zero on the drive down, and I was glad to find that the nearest spring formed a path of solid ice. I was able to walk two or three hundred yards out onto the lake playa on ice smooth enough to skate on. Further out, the surface began to grow crunchy as I got further from the freshwater sources and deeper into the chemical lakebed, whose waters are so salty that their freezing point must be very low indeed. I didn’t push my luck any further: the prospect of finding myself sunk knee-deep in half-frozen chemical mud, alone on a single-digit morning, miles from another human, was not appealing.

The cold made working with photo gear pretty challenging and framing solid compositions was not easy, but it was a glorious dawn surrounded by a sheets of blue ice laced with salt formations in a ring of high desert mountains.

Desert Ice Morning

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7 thoughts on “Ice Playa

  1. Zero certainly isn’t what one expects from there, at least to us in the east, and that qualifies as cold. It’s nice to see ice somewhere. We will finally see some serious cold come in on Monday when the night time temperature will be in the single digits, but not as cold as you had it.
    That first image is lovely with the reflected soft light on the frozen playa.

    • Thanks, Steve! Desert or no, we are at 5,000 feet, and the enclosed valleys out here can really be cold sinks at times. Places further east in Nevada have been reporting numbers like -18 this week. But when the sun comes up, things get more comfortable very fast in the dry air.

      • I’ve heard that about the deserts and elevations in the west, but zero is still not what I imagined. Make sure you’ve got a little brandy with you next time.

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