Relics, Rust, Rhyolite, and Canyons Resonating with History
LifestyleMJ Adventures February 7, 2023 Del Albright
Death Valley Area Has it All.
I parked the Jeep at the end of desert wash canyon road, alongside some blooming Mesquite bushes, enjoying the spring air in Death Valley. The desert in spring has a fragrance to it you cannot find anyplace else – almost like a vegetarian, sandy, heavenly scent.
Hiking was on my agenda this day, and this colorful canyon’s looming rock walls were my target. I wanted to get some good pics of desert geology, faults, anti-clines, and geologic lifting. You know, cool rock stuff.
Much to my surprise, I found relics I didn’t know were there. Just above my line of sight, with the top prop (bow) showing, perched on an old wagon road was a buggy – or carriage or wagon, the kind pulled by mules or horses in the late 1800s or early 1900s. It was intact and beautiful.
The next day I was headed up Tucki Mountain in Death Valley and stopped for a quick 10-100 out in the creosote bushes. I walked right up on a fender from an old vintage 1930s or 1940 car, hidden under a bush, rusted all to heck but well-defined in its heritage. I could only imagine some poor soul stuck out here back before phones and tow trucks!
Just outside the Park, I came upon the body of an old car, rusted over but full of stories (at least to me). I have lost track of how many old car parts I have stumbled upon in and around Death Valley.
Rhyolite is a building material widespread around Death Valley. There is a whole town named after this mineral. When you find rhyolite, you can almost always find some old mining structure, remnants of a building like a “Cousin Jack,” or other artificially moved rocks to indicate the presence of miners.
Are you ready to find some relics, rust, rhyolite, and history?
Mining remnants like these from the Inyo Mine are pretty common in the back canyons of Death Valley.
“Cousin Jacks” was a term to describe these three-sided structures built into the sidehill to house miners in the old days. Coined by Welch miners, this house was easy and quick to build.
Co-tour guide Jessy Greenland gets in the driver’s seat in this old mining/mill at Cerro Gordo, just outside the Park.
Here are my tips on finding and photographing cool stuff in Death Valley and the desert in general.
First – do a little map work, Google Earth, or whatever you use to pre-plan a trip where you will be looking for cool relics and mining sites. If you are looking for rusty relics and old buildings, then search for mining symbols and old mine sites on your mapping program.
Second – grab a book or two on the places you want to visit. I always seek out history books, geology notes, mining history overviews, and similar research materials that tell me where to start my adventure.
Third – get out of the rig now and then. Imagine what a mining camp or settlement might have looked like 100+ years ago and expand your exploration beyond what you see from the road. It is like deer hunting. The best and biggest deer always hide from the road! Walk around. Find nearby gullies where “trash” might have been discarded. Get on some high ground and use binoculars to expand your search area.
Fourth – always leave relics, and fabulous finds the way you found them. Take all the pics you want. But leave history behind for others to enjoy.
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