The Cracktrack: Confessions of a Drug Runner

Some years back, my good friend Steve told me about finding old aircraft tracks on Death Valley National Park’s famous Racetrack playa (where the stones “mysteriously” move). In 2004, author Michel Digonnet released a wonderful adventurers guide to the Park, and he too, mentioned the aircraft tracks: “…a few decades ago the Racetrack was used by drug smugglers as a landing field.”

Steve, Scott, and I were at the Racetrack again in December 2010, and we found the aircraft tracks on the playa after walking across it while aiming towards one of the old mines east of the playa (photo at right).

Finally, just last week, the Los Angeles Times published a Framework multimedia piece by Don Bartletti entitled “Flight of a Drug Cartel Smuggler“. Within the first two minutes of this video, you’ll see images of Death Valley and hear drug smuggler/pilot John Ward detail how he used to land at night on the Racetrack, carrying upwards of one ton of marijuana or cocaine. Unless there was more than one smuggler using the Racetrack as a landing strip, I assume that the tracks seen in the photo at right belong to none other than John Ward.

The mystery of the Racetrack’s aircraft tracks is no more.

You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.


4 thoughts on “The Cracktrack: Confessions of a Drug Runner

  1. Wow, that is fascinating, thanks for sharing, Michael!

    Hope you’re on the mend with regards to your injury.. I keep waiting to see a triumphant return.

  2. I also read this story, fascinating indeed! Very interesting to read about the seedy underbelly of DVNP, when its the Sequoia/Yosemite pot farms that get all the press.

    Thanks for sharing.


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