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

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.

Death Valley Days-Pahrump, NV April 16-28 (where gambling, weed and prostitution are legal)

We arrived on April 16 at Preferred RV Resort (Good Sams $18/night), Pahrump, NV, for an adventure that spilled over to Death Valley, California. We stayed until the 28th and enjoyed many days in the desert, which was in full bloom. I never thought about a desert in bloom but let me tell you that it was beautiful. We averaged hiking about 6 miles a day and enjoyed every minute of it. The Furnace Creek area was 102 degrees but no humidity. Just remember to take plenty of water, sunscreen, good hat and walking shoes. We made an obligatory trip over to Las Vegas (haven’t lost anything there), and we enjoyed ghost towns, China Ranch, Manzanar, Hoover Dam and last but not least Chicken Ranch!

Death Valley National Park is Homeland of the Timbisha Shoshone tribe and is on the border of Nevada and California. 91% is wilderness area and the Valley is the hottest, driest place in North America with annual rainfall of 1.5 inches in the basins to 15 inches in the surrounding mountains. We were fortunate to be there in a full blooming spring desert. There were amazing salt flats and Badwater Basin with an elevation of 282 feet below sea level. The Valley encompasses the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert. Elevations vary as does the terrain. Titus Canyon was one of my favorite places, accessed by a one way gravel/dirt/boulder 28 mile road(?). Blooming plants draped many canyon surfaces and looked like hanging baskets. Loved it!

Dante’s View is a scenic terrace overlooking the Valley from 5,476 feet above sea level and on a crest of the black mountains. For the adventurous soul, hiking out to the edges of the terrace is very rewarding in wonderful views.

Zabriski’s Point is part of the Amargosa Range and was formed 5 million years ago when an ancient lake dried up. Erosion and volcanic activity caused the landscape.

Furnace Creek is 192 feet below sea level and has the record of the highest temperature on earth, recorded at 201 degrees on July 15, 1972. It has a population of 24 hardy souls.

Artist Palette Drive is on an alluvial fan and the landscape was created by volcanic activity in the Miocene Period. It is known by the various colorful rocks.

Badwater Basin is 282 feet below sea level and is so named because the water is inundated by salts from the surrounding area and is undrinkable.

Ashford Mill Ruins is the remnants of a gold mine started in 1914 by the Ashford brothers. It played out around 1938.

China Ranch and Date Farm is another favorite. We stocked up on dates and breads. Delicious and the ranch was an interesting place. It is located in an oasis on the Amargosa River, adjacent to Death Valley. It is family owned and operated and surrounded by abandoned gold mines. The trip in was a “trip!” Some history can be found here:

Rhyolite Ghost Town is on the eastern edge of Death Valley. It was founded as a gold mine by industrialist Charles M Schwab in 1906 and closed in 1911. At it’s peak in 1906 the population was some over 3,000. Next to Rhyolite is the Goldwell Open Air Museum which is wonderfully eclectic.

Goldwell Open Air Museum at Rhyolite is a one room museum with historical pictures and artifacts from the area. Interactive art is on the grounds outside. The museum was started after the death of Albert Szukalski, a Belgian artist who created the first sculpture there, “The Last Supper” in 1984. It is eclectic and wonderful.

Please stay tuned for Part 2 of this adventure. Titus Canyon, the tragic tale of Manzanar Internment Camp, and more. Thanks for reading!

If it’s Tuesday, it must be Torrey, Utah. April 9-12 Capitol Reef, Fruita, Escalante

Our home for the next few days was Thousand Lakes RV Resort ($36.45/night with Good Sam’s) just outside of Torrey, Utah. Torrey has a population of 180 with median household income of $47,369. It’s a good place to anchor for day trips to surrounding areas.

The weather was a little unpredictable with snow and flurries on higher elevations and warmer weather in the valleys. That didn’t slow us down one bit. An interesting thing happened at the Torrey Trading Post. As we were leaving, after a very long day, we were approached by two ladies from the local paper. They talked to us about our visit and took our photo for the paper. It was a nice exchange. Almost famous!

The first day we visited the Fruita Mormon settlement and the Fremont area of the Capitol Reef Park. The Mormons settled the area near the juncture of Fremont River and Sulfur Creek in 1880. The group was led by Nels Johnson and originally called the settlement “Junction.” The name was changed in 1902-1904 to Fruita because of the large orchards that were established by the Mormons on the Fremont River. The town was abandoned after World War II with just a few buildings remaining. This is a beautiful area with large herds of mule deer and Petroglyphs. If you’ve been following my blog you know I love petroglyphs.

We rode out to the Grand Wash Trail, a nice trail that weaves in and out of a dry river bed or wash, known as the Waterpocket fold. We took the Grand Wash Road, a winding dirt and rock road out to the trail head. The trail is about 2.2 miles one way but well worth it. It’s rated as an easier trail but it is rocky and uneven. Make sure to take a lot of water as it was 89 degrees while we were there this month. Make sure to watch for rains as there are flash floods anytime and the trail runs on a wash. There are petroglyphs and pioneer records on the walls in areas of this trail. I thoroughly enjoyed this hike and was invigorated when finished. The down side as I see it was the total disrespect for the petroglyphs as modern vandals (no other word for it) have ruined many of them by carving their names and dates. Too bad.

Our next adventure was the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. This area is one of the most remote in the United States and dinosaur fossils are still being found near there. The latest was found in 2013 and has been dated as 75 million years old. Human settlers have been in the area since the Basketmaker era AD 500. The first white settlers was Captain James Andrus in 1866, when he led group of cavalry to the headwaters of the Escalante River. The Mormons on the 1879 San Juan Expedition passed through the Monument, answering the call to start colonies in southeastern Utah. We visited the Hole-In-The-Rock Museum and it was fascinating.

Some of the roads in the Monument were closed due to late snows but we enjoyed what we could see.

This was a marvelous adventure and I recommend visiting this area. Next up: Kanab, Utah… Bryce Canyon and Zion…. Stay tuned!

Part II: Blanding, Utah: Sand Island Petroglyphs and Monument Valley

Locals had told us about visiting Sand Island Park, home of a campground on the San Juan River and the Sand Island Petroglyphs. This area has a 100 yards panel full of petroglyphs, some dating to 6500 BC. We took some time, sat on a rock and just viewed them. The longer we sat, the more we saw. It’s a must see if you are interested in ancient art and petroglyphs. Instead of labeling these, I’ll just let you look and see what you can discover in this magnificent art.

Our last excursion near Blanding was Monument Valley, on the Navajo Nation Reservation. The Navajo refer to it as “valley of the rocks.” The Valley is 5000 to 6000 feet above sea level with the monuments rising another 1000 feet above the valley floor. The sandstone buttes are vast and part of the Colorado Plateau. The red color comes from iron oxides and the blue-gray colors from magnesium oxide. The buttes cover 5 square miles and were made famous by John Ford in his westerns starting from the 1930s.

While there we met several members of the Navajo Nation. They were skilled artisans and jewelry makers. Gracious, friendly and accommodating. I was able to purchase a few items and get photos of the artisans, with their permission. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit and learning about Navajo culture, history and the history of the valley.

We had a very large time on this adventure. I enjoy learning about cultures, both modern and ancient and studying history. There is so much to learn if you are open to it. History is an important tool to avoid mistakes of the past. Learn and grow, no matter what your age.

Next up: Moab, Utah and the many adventures there. Stay tuned!

Outstanding Adventure: Blanding, Utah April 2-5

Our base of operations was Blanding RV Resort ($28/night with Good Sams). This was a pretty central location for all of our day trips. We would leave early in the morning and return around dusk.

First caper: Edge of Cedars Museum and ancient pueblo, a state of Utah run park on the outskirts of Blanding. The ancient pueblo was built and occupied from AD 825 to about 1225 AD. The museum has a vast collection of Anasazi (Ancient Puebloan) artifacts. The most fascinating was a macaw sash from around 850 AD, which had survived in full color and form. Many sculptures are on the grounds and they are marvelous. There is a 1000 year old restored Kiva (ceremonial building) and one can enter through the roof by ladder. I’m so glad we put this on our lists of must sees!

On the way to Natural Bridges National Monument we made a few additional stops for hiking. The first stop was Butler Wash Ruins, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). It was a hike over rugged desert terrain and shear rock and about 1.75 round trip. Ray hiked part of the way but due to altitude and breathing issues he stopped and waited for me. I made it up to the cliff dwelling ruins that dated from about 950 AD to 1130 AD. They too were abandoned but experts aren’t sure of the reason. Modern Hopi’s claim them as ancestors and continue with their cultural ways. The Hopi ask that you treat the Ancient Pueblos with respect as they are sacred grounds. The hike is worth it, just remember to pace yourself and take plenty of water.

Second Stop: Mule Canyon Ruins, managed by the BLM. Some covers have been built to help preserve these over 700 year old ruins. They were also abandoned around 1025 AD.

Natural Bridges National Monument, established in 1908, is Utah’s first monument. The three bridges are named to honor the Ancient Puebloans:
“Kachina,” “Owachomo” and “Sipapu.” The area of the bridges was a sea about 100 million years ago. Striations in the rock show this. Shell and fossil sea creatures have been found here. The bridges were cause by erosion from running water after the plates collided some 10 million years ago. This is a great place to hike for views. Spectacular! Sipapu Bridge:

On the way to Kachina Bridge, we stopped so that I could hike the Horse Collar Ruin Trail (1 mile round trip). It was an interesting trail with some areas walking on slick rock with no barrier on the cliffs. Horse Ruins are Ancient Puebloan structures on a cliff above the Colorado River drainage. These ruins were also deserted around 1025 AD. Possibly part of a mass migration due to many years of drought.

Then, there we were at Kachina Bridge!

Owachomo Bridge:

On to the next shenanigans! We took the Moki Dugaway access to Valley of the Gods. The Moki Dugaway reminded me of the Road to Hana on Maui, without the lush tropical seascapes. The Moki was shorter, in the desert and completely dangerous, especially if you met a car on the narrow dirt lane. The Moki was built in 1958 by a mining company out of Texas. It is 3 miles of dirt switchbacks. It was exhilarating and exhausting….. no kidding.

With adrenaline pumping, we made it to The Valley of the Gods, a sandstone valley in San Juan County, Utah. This ancient landscape has buttes, mesas, columns, and balanced rocks. As of December 2017 it is no longer part of Bear’s Ears National Monument but is still protected by the BLM. The road through the Valley is 17 miles of bumpy dirt roads. We were fortunate to be there with just a few other tourists. It’s worth a look and I enjoyed it, right down to meeting a German tourist who was spending months here to complete his bucket list as he had just finished cancer treatment. He was around 40 years old and had an awesome attitude about living life.

Next stop: Sand Island

Tijeras/Albuquerque New Mexico March 24-31 Awesome Adventure……

Our base of operations (capers) was Hidden Valley Resort ($16.50 with Coast to Coast) in Tijeras, New Mexico. It was a wonderful place complete with swimming pool. Issue was that there was late snow in the area. We didn’t have time for the amenities anyway because there was too much to see in the surrounding area. The place is beautiful.

We went to Taos the first day and it wasn’t quite a bust because we saw interesting things. We wanted to go to the pueblo but due to unforeseen circumstances they were closed to visitors. Good thing was the Turquoise Trail, which I loved for the beautiful scenery along the Rio Grand and it went “right smack dab” through Madrid. What a place. It’s remote, artsy, eclectic, friendly and I’ve not seen any place like it. The movie Wild Hogs was filmed there and now I know why. Check it out, it’s where all the old hippies are. Truly!

The next day was Pueblo of Acoma (Sky City). It was a beautiful drive to the reservation and the Pueblo did not disappoint. The Pueblo is on the National Registry of Historic Places and is one of the longest occupied places in the United States. The Acoma tribe has occupied this mesa for over 2000 years. Currently 35 people still live there with no electricity or running water. There are 3 rock cisterns that collected water for the community.

You can’t visit without a guide but that is a good thing as it controls access and preserves the the place. Our guide’s ancestral home is there and she shared a lot of information. Acoma language is Keresan but most speak English as well. The elders also speak Spanish as they were forced to do so under Spanish occupation. We met several of the people living there and I bought a wedding vase made by Nancy Thompson, an elder. She graciously let me photograph her, she was a lovely and gracious Acoma woman.

The Acoma are descendants of the Ancient Puebloans and Mogollan cultures with the oldest buildings in Sky City being built around 1044. The Spanish tried to claim the area in 1539 but the Acoma were wary. Spanish officer Juan de Zaldivar was eventually killed by the tribe so on December 20, 1598, when Oñate learned of the death, he planned an attack of revenge on the tribe. The attack was encouraged by the friars of the area to teach other pueblos a lesson. The Spanish came to Acoma with 70 soldiers and the Acoma Massacre went on for three days. 800 Acoma people were killed and 500 were imprisoned. The Spanish ordered that all Acoma men over 25 years old have their right foot chopped off and they were forced into 20 years of slavery. Males aged 12–25 and females over 12 were taken away from their parents and forced into slavery for 20 years. Philip III of Spain later exiled Oñate from New Mexico for mismanagement, false reporting, and cruelty. European settlers? What can I say? And, they thought the Native Americans were the savages.

The tribe was then forced into Catholicism and if they were caught practicing their ceremonial heritage, they were executed. The Acoma learned to hide their Kivas (ceremonial spaces) inside homes and had a network of lookouts so they could still practice what they really believed. Who were the savages? Just a thought.

This is a great place to learn a little history. Go if you can.

After filling our brains with Acoma history we decided to take a day for the Petroglyphs. Ray woke up “under the weather” so I headed out on my own. The Rangers recommended Piedras Marcadas Canyon (Canyon of Marked Rocks) so with map in hand I drove over. The map and the ranger indicated that the trail was 1.5 miles round trip. It was more like 2.4 according to my fit bit. This is desert terrain with hills, rocks and wildlife. I was fortunate enough to have the place mostly to myself, which allowed me to meditate and really absorb what I was seeing. One recommendation is to take a lot of water and take your time so that you can see everything. I was there for about 3 hours. If you run from point a to b on the map you will miss the experience.

Paleo-Indians were in the area over 12,000 years ago. The petroglyphs span a period of 3,000 to 300 years old. After contact with the Spanish, petroglyphs showed men on horseback. It’s all quite interesting and I find viewing petroglyphs is a spiritual experience.

Next up, Pueblo Cultural Center. Great place to learn about the pueblo peoples. The museum is outstanding. I am a big fan of the storyteller figures. Each one tells a story.

Santa Fe is a beautiful arts community and has a lot to offer. We ate a marvelous lunch at Tia Sophia’s. Highly recommend the Chili Rellenos. Be prepared for the spice. The Georgia O’Keefe Museum is a must see, we were blown away at her mastery of art and life. I managed to purchase a beautiful Navajo inlaid dragonfly pendant, which means a lot to me. Take some time and explore this great place.

We spent a day at Bandelier National Monument. What a cool place with cliff dwellings, ancient pueblos, petroglyphs and pictographs all in one location. It’s an easy hike, moderate climb and you must take a lot of water. This place is exceptional. While Paleo-Indians were in the area as long as 10,000 years ago, the ancient puebloans didn’t build permanent structures here until 1150 AD. The monument is located in Frijoles Canyon on the slopes of the Jemez Volcanic field and covers 50 square miles. I was reminded to define petroglyphs (etchings and pickings on stone) and Pictographs (drawings with dyes), Bandelier has both.

I hope you have enjoyed these escapades! Stay tuned for Aztec New Mexico!

Benson/Tuscon Arizona March 7-12 Saguaro-Chiricahua and other capers!

Our base of operations for the next few days was the Red Barn Campground ($16.66/night) Benson, Arizona. It’s close to Tuscon and several sites that we had on our bucket list. After setting up we went over to the Holy Trinity Monastery in St. David.

The Monastery was founded in 1974 on 132 acres by the Olivetan Benedictine Order. It is a place of spiritual retreat and a bird sanctuary. It contains Our Lady of Guadeloupe Church, lovely grounds, training facilities, cloisters and and meditation gardens. The Monastery was ordered closed by the Abbot General in February 2017 and is now being run by volunteers of the order. It’s a beautiful, meditative place.

Our Lady of Guadeloupe Chapel

On March 8th we left early for Saguaro National Park, 92,000 acres of mountains and Sonoran Desert wilderness. The desert is home to the giant Saguaro Cactus that can live 250 years. These cactus grow as a straight cylinder until they are 75 years old and start getting branches. Early inhabitants of the area were the Hohokam, Sobaipuri, Tohono O’odham and Apache tribes. While I really enjoyed the landscape and those fabulous cacti, my favorite area was the Signal Hill Trail which took us up to the petroglyphs. Dozens of them from 200-1450 AD. I didn’t want to leave.

Next up was the San Xavier Mission, nine miles from Tuscon on the
Tohono O’odham (Desert People) Reservation. It was founded in 1692 with the current Mission being built on the site 1783-1797. It is also known for centuries as The White Dove in the Desert. It is the oldest intact European architecture in Arizona. The statues and murals are original in this Spanish Colonial/Baroque designed mission. Tohono O’odham tribe members set up branch booths on the ground and sell fry bread cooked right on sight. It’s worth taking some time and exploring this area.

The next day we went to Historic Tombstone. There is a gunfight at the OK Corral on the hour and plenty of places to spend your tourists dollars. We had a good time there but it reminded me of the tourists traps in Cherokee, NC from times past. One interesting tidbit: the shootout wasn’t in the OK Corral, it was actually on a vacant lot on Fremont Street. Another place to check out is Big Nose Kate’s Saloon. Mary Katherine Horony-Cummings, aka Big Nose Kate, was a prostitute and common law wife of Doc Holliday.

We headed to Bisbee on the afternoon of the 9th. Bisbee is an old mining town, which was saved by the hippies after the mines played out. It is an eclectic and artsy place that I thoroughly enjoyed. While we were there they were having the “Return of the Turkey Vulture Festival.” What a hoot, complete with parade and street closings for music and dance. We planned to explore for a couple of hours and stayed all afternoon into early evening.

On March 10th we left early for Chiricahua National Monument, which is the result of volcanic activity 27 million years ago. It covers 17 square miles and has 17 miles of trails. This is a beautiful place full of balancing rocks, hoodoos, and Faraway ranch. Go and take a trail or two and see this beautiful geology. Amazing place.

The last place we visited was the University of Arizona Museum of Archaeology. It’s a very nice museum of prehistoric to current Native American artifacts and history.

This was a fun, history, learning and awe of nature jammed packed few days. Loved, loved, loved this area. Off to the next caper. Stay tuned!