Sunday, August 01, 2010

Playa Puzzle

While planning a short trip off-roading in the Mammoth area, I spotted a large playa east of 395 in the woods. In Google maps satellite imagery, it looks bright and I was hoping to wander around looking for meteorites.

To my surprise, the playa doesn't appear bright at all when I'm walking around on it. It's more of a sandy beige color with a lot of yellow flowers growing on it. The surface material is actually pumice. It's interesting to walk on and sometimes my feet sank an inch or more in the pumice pebbles.

From the northern end of the playa, the first photo looks toward Bald Mountain. I decided to drive the road up to the top of that hill. There was a USFS lookout building there. Here are a few shots I took from there.

This next shot looks west toward Mammoth ski area.

The next shots look back down on that playa. As from the satellite imagery, it looks very bright. hmmmmm I'm no expert in how light reflects off all the stuff on the surface down there, but I'm guessing that the bright reflections off the pumice must be overwhelming any other reflections off the flowers and stuff.

Then I approached the playa from the east side, and again, it was not bright and consistent with what I just saw from atop Bald Mountain.

This is in contrast to my experiences in the Mojave Desert, where the bright playas seen in satellite imagery are equally bright when you're walking on them. But they're mostly sand or dried/parched earth and not pumice.

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