“Man is a complex being: he makes deserts bloom—and lakes die.” Gil Stern
Carol writes: Some of our best tips about things to see and do come from fellow RVers in our campground homes. One of our fellow campers suggested that we take a short day trip to a little town called Oatman, Arizona, up in the hills a little ways from our campground. Oatman was founded in 1906 as a gold mining town along what was to become famous Route 66.
In Oatman, the gold boom played out for about 35 years and then the mines closed. The sole reason for the town’s existence today is the tourist trade which in turn is attracted to that locale because of its adorable, friendly, photogenic burros.
In the mining days the burros were used for hauling ore, water and supplies, but when mining operations ceased, the burros were released into the surrounding hills where they thrived and multiplied. Burros were everywhere! All traffic yielded to burros! Petting these creatures was irresistible!
Yeah, it was worth a trip to Oatman to mingle with the burros…
After luxuriating in a bit of resort lifestyle in Las Vegas, our next temporary home was in PAHRUMPH, NEVADA, where we parked for a week in a quaint family-owned campground on the grounds of Pahrumph Valley Winery.
Somehow the present owners have found a way to make grapes grow in the desert. The campground amenities included an elegant restaurant with a gourmet menu and, just around the corner, a gift shop/wine-tasting room that offered complimentary tasting (!) of some of their award-winning wines.
treated ourselves to a gourmet meal…
and replenished our wine stash.
Some clever marketing going on at Pahrumph Valley Winery!
Turned out there was a whole lot more to do in the great outdoors nearby…
BIKE RIDE TO HOOVER DAM
When we talked to the park ranger at the Lake Mead Visitor Center, she highly recommended doing the bike trail to—
The trail was along an historic railroad bed that was used during the building of Hoover Dam back in the 1930s. The neat part of the ride was going through a series of 5 railroad tunnels
along the shore of majestic Lake Mead.
Hoover Dam was just as spectacular as we had remembered from previous trips—a true engineering marvel.
However, the sight of the shoreline “bathtub ring” that illustrates how much the water has dropped over the years at Lake Mead was sobering. Water conservation efforts in this part of our country must be a serious way of life.
Biking to Hoover Dam along an historic railroad trail was a superb bike ride all the way around!
Another one of our enjoyable day trips was to Ash Meadows NWR, the largest remaining oasis in the Mojave Desert, where the natural warm springs provide a haven for two dozen species of plant and animal life found nowhere else on the planet. We took a walk along a nature trail next to our picnic site
and had a fortuitous sighting of the rare 1-inch blue pupfish. We had noticed very small fish swimming in this still, clear, spring-fed, idyllic pond.
It was only when the fish turned sideways to the sun that we observed the brilliant blue color and knew we had seen a rare desert pupfish.
It was well worth the trip to Ash Meadows NWR for the neat experience of hiking along the boardwalks of a very special wildlife refuge of incredible natural beauty.
CHINA RANCH DATE FARM
I had never thought much about how dates grow. I buy them in a bag at the supermarket and love using them in sweet breads and hot oatmeal. So, a trip to an actual date farm out in the middle of the Mojave Desert on the flanks of Death Valley sparked our interest.
The entrance to China Ranch Date Farm was an interesting one—down a dry, steep, narrow road,
ending in the oasis below where we found acres and acres of date palms.
This date farm was started by a curious little girl named Viola Modine, who sent away for seeds from a mail order catalog around 1920. Nearly a century later, voila! The present-day farm includes several China Ranch hybrids in addition to varieties from Morocco, Algeria, and Iraq.
Now… what was underneath those white canvas bags handing from the trees?
Ingenious…clusters of ripening dates protected from birds!
The date palm orchard quickly became a photographic delight under the brilliant blue sky of a warm day in late Fall.
Al couldn’t resist climbing a nearby hill
and shooting back on the orchard.
After a picnic lunch including a shared date shake (yum!), we couldn’t resist a gift shop purchase of a date nut loaf and a bag of freshly picked honey dates. The first morning we had fresh, delicious China Ranch dates in our oatmeal, I couldn’t help but look back with fond memories of our visit.
What a pleasant few weeks we had enjoyed in the impressive Mojave Desert. We honestly felt we had purged our bodies of any Las Vegas vices. Now we were poised for a 9-day visit to a long-anticipated destination—Death Valley National Park. We hoped this would be one of the highlights of our first year on the road. Would the memories of our last stay at Death Valley in 1989 prove be accurate ones?
“We won’t have a society if we destroy the environment.” Margaret Mead