Monday, November 10, 2008

Death Valley-49ers Encampment

After leaving Golden Shores, I headed towards California's Death Valley. It was the time of year for the 49ers Encampment. Didn't really know what it was all about, but had heard it was something to see. So I went. Back up through Las Vegas, then west through Pahrump, before heading down into Death Valley. Now Death Valley is known for several things, such as: the old western TV show, Death Valley Days; 20 Mule Team Borax for cleaning; being the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere; and for the 49ers, those illustrious pioneers who crossed in 1849 headed for the gold fields of California. The 49ers Encampment is a celebration of the 49ers, complete with a wagon train and riders who arrive in the middle of the celebration. Don't know exactly how far the wagon train came, but talking to some of the riders, they rode for 6 days, and 130 miles to arrive at Death Valley.

Along with the Encampment is lots of cowboy music, cowboy poetry, cowboy artists, a gem and crafts show and films about Death Valley. There were fiddlin' contests, pickin' contests and even a parade. But there was also time to sightsee as well. One day a group of us took off for Titus Canyon and along they way stopped at the old ghost town of Rhyolite. But what I thought was most intersting was about borax. I had only heard of this mineral in the 20 Mule Team Borax or now known as Borateem. It is a cleaning agent and laundry booster. But in the museum I learned that only 5% of all borax is used in cleaning products. Most of it is used in the making of fiberglass and pottery glazes, as well as some other industrial uses.

All in all, I had a great time. Glad I went. Will go again. Did not get to see all that there was to see of Death Valley, so I have things to look forward too when I return. Here are some memories of my trip.

Going into the park.

Outside of Furnace Creek Ranch, across from the campground.

The old train depot at Rhyolite. The mining town lasted only three years from about 1903-1906 with a top population of 10,000, but by the 1920s had only 20 people left.

This is the famous Tom Kelly's bottle house. He built this around 1905 and used 32,000 bottles. Someone asked if he drank all the beer for the bottles. Seeing as how he built the house in less than 3 years, he would have had to drink 195 bottles a day. I don't think so....

The group who went to Titus Canyon.

Coming out of the canyon.

Looking across one of the intersecting valley while driving through the canyon.

Back at Furnace Creek in the Date Palms.

The wagon train coming in.

Snowcapped mountains surrounding Death Valley. We had a storm the last night there with winds up to 50 mph and some rain, which was snow in the higher elevations.


Barbara and Ron said...

That's something neither of us has done. I'd love to see the wagon train especially. Great shots.

McBean said...

I enjoyed reading your blurb about your first experience at the encampment. I am currently the Keepsake Director, Webmaster and one of the musical performers for the DV '49ers organization. I am glad you had fun, and speaking for all of us in the organization, we look forward to seeing you in Death Valley in November.