Escaping the city a bit early, we spent our first night at Calico. Ok, its touristo, but does give you a glimpse of life in a mining town at the turn of the Century, and its only a few hours from LA.
In the event of a fire: GRAB A BUCKET After a night at the Lakeside RV Resort and Casino (formerly Terrible Herbst) it was on to Death Valley Junction, Shoshone and Ash Meadows. The Junction is probably best known for the Amargosa Opera House where dancer Marta Becket entertained as a one woman show for over 40 years. In order to not perform to an empty house she painted the walls with paintings of spectators of a bizarre sort. Her artwork is as famous as her dancing. Today she is in a wheel chair and suffers from dementia, but is still living at the Amargosa Hotel.
I would not recommend the hotel or the nearby cafe. They are struggling and it shows! Above Alan poses with Emmett C. Harder, author of “These Canyons are Full of Ghosts: The Last of the Death Valley Prospectors.” Harder is a writer, lecturer, historian and researcher and taught at Cal State university San Bernardino. He calls himself “an adventurer at heart.”
This trip was to attend the “Rondy” of the Desert Explorers, a club that is affiliated with the Mojave River Valley Museum in Barstow. It is a 4 Wheel Drive club dedicated to exploring desert ghost towns, mining sites, caves, petrogliphs, etc. We camped at the Longstreet Casino, Hotel & RV park and below was the Rondy Potluck dinner and the Saturday night banquet where the speaker gave us the history of Henry Longstreet and his evil ways.
Our Saturday trek involved about 15 cars in the caravan. Our first stop was Beatty for a gas up and then a visit to a Nye County Nevada ghost town called Rhyolite. The town began in 1905, attracting gold seekers from near and far. However, it died as fast as it began and by 1911 was all but abandoned. Today it is a popular movie filming site and tourist attraction. The old depot, casino and bar is pictured below. Our first visit there many years ago Alan bellied up to the bar and said “Give me a red eye.” Today the building is boarded up.
The bank building below is probably one of the most photographed buildings in the desert. Most of our group had visited Rhyolite numberous times, but many of us walked through the local cemetery for the first time. Okay, we’ve had our fun and now it is time to get serious. Damn! We trekked on a 4wd road that was pretty rough and scary and amazingly we all made it to Chloride Canyon without a mishap.
Below our group explores pegtroglyphs, Indian sleeping circles, alcoves, caves and remnants of the area’s days of mining.
We took off on our own Sunday to visit the beautiful Ash Meadows and visit the endangered desert pupfish.
Ash Meadows is a National Wildlife Refuge, a haven for rare native wildlife, Below is the Peterson Reservoir. Treking on the boardwalk to the Longstreet spring and cabin we passed this rock which resembles a sculpture. Longstreet (“and his squaw”) resided in this cabin. Nearby is a lovely spring-fed pool which now is home to many species of desert fish including the pupfish. And now the highlight of our trip. In the 1970s Alan was one of the first to photograph the desert pupbish in its natural habitat. He dove with a team of park rangers who were doing a “count.” Back then his underwater camera was very unsophisticated compared to today’s technology and he took his underwater shots with FLASH BULBS!. The pool is bottomless, crystal clear and constant 92 degrees. SURPRISE. When we reached the area we were shocked to find a team of rangers ready to make a dive.
A TRIP BACK TO THE 70’S WHEN ALAN PHOTOGRAPHED THE DESERT PUPFISH. THE COUNT HOVERED AROUND 400 FISH. TODAY IT IS 30.
Death Valley is a world of adventure, but much of it lies outside the mainstream valley. It was fun to visit Devil’s Hole 40 years after Alan dove there. Once again we will join the movement; SAVE THE PUPFISH!
Between Baker and Barstow is an area we had been wanting to explore. Exiting I15 at Afton Canyon we bounced over a road that was a bit too rough for our trailer. However, we made it to the campground and enjoyed a lovely site with a view of the canyon, a ramada, and surrounded by dozens of empty campsites. A train trestle is nearby and an occasional train rumbled through. This area is for 4WD exploration, which we will do next time we visit this little-known area.