Part 2-Pahrump NV- Death Valley Days, Again!

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Welcome to Part two of the Desert adventure. I was remiss in not mentioning (in part 1) that China Ranch has the best date milkshakes on the planet. After traveling in the hot dry air of the desert there is nothing more refreshing than a freshly made China Ranch Date shake. Honestly. Yum!

After the Goldwell Open Air Museum we took a day for Titus Canyon in Death Valley. To see and experience the Canyon you need an early start and a whole day. Titus Canyon is accessed by a 27 mile one way (east to west) gravel, rock and 4 wheel drive road. I love dirt roads so this was an adventure. To top it off, there is a section in Titus Canyon that has PETROGLYPHS which were picked by the Timbisha Shoshone! The Canyon is a deep gorge in the Grapevine Mountain section of the Mojave Desert. The canyon was formed during the Cambrian era 500 million years ago. I thoroughly enjoyed the place.

Leadfield is a ghost town we passed through on the east side of Titus Canyon. It was an unincorporated area 4,058 above sea level. The Western Lead Mine Company, particularly CC Julian, promoted a get rich quick scheme through false advertising to get investors. The town formed and boomed to a population of 300 in 1925 and was abandoned in 1927 as the mines closed (not productive). Mr. Julian simply disappeared. Even in the 1920s if it sounds to good to be true, it probably is. The only person to make money was Mr. Julian.

We traveled through the Stovepipe Wells settlement on our way to the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. When most people think of deserts they think of sand. Death Valley is less than 1% sand dunes. Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes is expansive and impressive. There are three kinds of dunes there: crescent, linear, and star shaped. It is also a protected wilderness area but they do allow people to go out on the dunes. Very nice. Bring plenty of water!

Next we were off to explore the Harmony Borax Works ruins. It is located at Furnace Creek Springs in Death Valley and it is on the National Registry of Historic Places. Borax was discovered there in 1881 by Aaron and Rosie Winters with William Coleman and Francis Smith obtaining mining rights. They were the original twenty mule team borax folks. The operation began in 1883 and collapsed in 1888.

Manzanar Internment (Concentration) Camp was a very somber experience. It is one of 10 camps where 110,000 Japanese Americans were held from December 1942 to 1945, during World War II. It is now called the Manzanar National Historic Site. This is a sad history of a dark time in our country. Reading and viewing the exhibits was overwhelming. How could this have happened in the United States of America? Can it happen again? We don’t tend to learn from our historical mistakes.

We took a day to experience the Hoover Dam and Lake Meade. The Dam is amazing and it was a great tour. It is on the Colorado River and borders both Nevada and Arizona and was built during the great depression, 1931-1936. It is a marvel, even by today’s standards. One story of interest to me was the Hoover Dam Dog. He was a part lab puppy that was born in 1932 in the crawlspace under the police department of Boulder. One of the workers started bringing him to the dam every day. The pup came and went with the workers each day and the commissary started making lunch for the pup. He carried his lunch bag along with the men. He went to sleep under a truck on February 21, 1941. He was accidentally run over and is buried on site at the dam and was honored with a plaque above his tomb. Hardened construction workers broke down in tears over his death and are responsible for making a place of honor for him at the dam.

The Chicken Ranch! No trip to Pahrump is complete without checking out the Historic Chicken Ranch Brothel, so we did. Got the tee-shirt! It wasn’t what I was expecting at all. We had to be buzzed in and out through the gate and the front door. It was a nice place to have a coke and get some souvenirs. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Lastly, we had a divine lunch at the Pahrump Valley Winery at their Symphony Restaurant. The food was deliciously savory and the ambiance outstanding as was the wait staff. It was a special gift that we gave ourselves. Well worth it. Give it a try if you are in the area.

That wraps up our Pahrump, Nevada adventures. Good fun was had by all! Please stay tuned for Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Thanks again for reading.

Camp Verde Arizona March 12-16 Jerome/Montezuma Castle & Well/Tuzigoot

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Our new base of operations was Verde River RV ($34.20/day) in Camp Verde, Arizona. It was central to all the capers we had planned for this area. We had to make some alterations to our plans but all in all this was a great few days of exploring history.

We headed up to Jerome early morning of the 13th. Jerome was built in the Black Hills on steep slopes at 5000+ feet above sea level. The population was 10,000 during it’s copper mining days in the 1920s. After the mine played out the population dwindled down to 444. In 1917, when mine workers tried to unionize, the workers were removed at gunpoint and loaded in to cattle cars and railroaded to other areas. It brought a lot of scrutiny to the small town.

Prior to settlement by the Europeans, the area was inhabited by the Hohokam Indians from 700-1125 BCE. The mining brought in a lot of brothels and women were subject to being murdered and their murders never solved.

The town is currently full of art galleries, craft stores, wineries, coffee houses, and restaurants and tourism sustains the community. There is a wonderful history museum on Main Street. Jerome is a nice, friendly kind of place and we had a delicious cup of hot cocoa on a cold, windy day on Main Street.

We spent the next day at Montezuma Castle and Montezuma Well National Monuments. These are two are separate sites just a few miles from each other. European settlers who discovered the ruins in 1860 mistakenly thought that they had found Aztec ruins, thus, the name.


The pueblos were built by the Sinagua (Without Water), pre-Columbians, who are related to the Hohokam and other indigenous tribes. The pueblos were built between 1100 and 1425 AD. Main structures were five stories tall and had twenty rooms. Don’t let the dates mislead you about the inhabitants of the region. Prior to building the dwellings, many indigenous people used the caves from about 10,000 years ago. Montezuma Castle is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America and is built in the cliffs above Beaver Creek, a tributary of the Verde River.

This place is a spectacular and a very spiritual site. Native Americans consider it sacred and request that you honor the site with reverence when you visit. We were fortunate that, at this time of year, it wasn’t crowded. One school group from a local private prep school was visiting while we were there. I will not disclose the name of the school, but we tried to avoid them because they were the epitome of the “privileged white kids.” Before the day was out I did email the school to voice my concerns, but, alas, they haven’t chosen to respond. Sad, but we didn’t let them take away from our experience as a whole.

While the prep school kids were having lunch, we headed over to Montezuma’s Well (Yavapai). The Well is formed in limestone by an underground spring, which is somewhat like a sinkhole. The spring supplies 1.5 million gallons of water daily. There are many prehistoric dwellings (700-1425 CE) in the rock rim surrounding the well. The Sinagua were talented farmers and built aqueducts below the Well, along the Verde River. Some of those aqueducts have survived and you can follow them along the river.

The Castle and the Well would make a great addition to anyone’s bucket list. I’m certainly glad we went and saw the amazing work and learned the true history of an amazing people. Go, you’ll be glad you did!

On the way to the well, we stopped by a prehistoric Sinagua Pit House nearby. It dates to 1050 CE. It was a great specimen of pre-pueblo living.

Our next caper was visiting Tuzigoot National Monument. I like learning about our country’s history and I like saying Tuzigoot! Tuzigoot is Apache for “crooked waters.” This is appropriate as Tuzigoot is on the summit of a limestone and sandstone ridge above the Verde River. The Verde River Valley has a rich assortment of Native American ruins all through the valley, an archaeologists dream.

The Tuzigoot pueblo was also built by the Sinagua people between 1125 and 1400. It was three stories tall and has about 97 rooms and was home to about 250 people. Soon after construction stopped in 1400, Tuzigoot was abandoned like other pueblos. The reason for abandonment is still being discussed by experts and there is no definitive answer.

I hope you are enjoying following along on our trip. I am having the time of my life and learning more about our important history. Hope to catch you next time when I share the Grand Canyon excursion. Until next time!