Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tecopa Hot Springs and China Date Ranch

It turned out I decided to have some remodeling done with on my RV (more on that later), so it was going to take a while.  Instead of sitting in the Phoenix area, I decided to travel with a friend and head to Death Valley for the 49er Encampment.  But it was a long drive, so we stopped along the way at Tecopah Hot Springs.
The hot springs are commercial and we stayed in the campground.  The fee is $7 a day unless you are staying in the campground, then it is part of your campground cost.  It is not a coed hot springs.  There are separate male and female areas, each with their own pools.  Since we were staying close by, I made use of the hot springs several times, even though we were only there one night.

About a mile from the commercial hot springs, on BLM land, is this public warm spring.  And I say warm spring because it is not hot, only barely bathtub warm.  People have done a lot to develop this, even adding a couch and a cement pool and piped in water.  

This is one of many abandoned gypsum mines in the area.  We spotted this on the way to China Date Ranch.  The mines, collectively known as the Gypsum Queen, operated between 1915 and 1918.  Over 100,000 tons of gypsum was shipped to Los Angeles for making plaster.  The mines were closed after 2 people were killed in 1918.

China Ranch was named after the Chinese man who settled this canyon in 1890.  He had a successful ranch, raising livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables to help feed the local silver miners.  The "China Man's Ranch" became a popular resting place.  But in 1900, the owner, Ah Foo, mysteriously disappears.  The actual truth will never be known, but it is suspected Ah Foo was run off by gunpoint and his property taken from him.  There is also another story which says he sold the property for 100 gold coins.

A new field of young date trees.

Yum, date shakes.  We actually drove over here twice, just for the date shakes.

They have a nice area for just sitting and enjoying the canyon right outside the gift shop.  In addition to visiting the museum, the date fields and the gift shops, there are hiking trails, too.

They also have much of the equipment dating back to the 1920s, when date farming was first introduced to this canyon.

I had never seen a pomegranate bush before.

But it was growing real pomegranates.

Wandering through the date fields I spotted huge clusters of dates.

Most of the clusters were covered with cloth, which was to help keep the birds away.

The date palms lining this road were planted in the 1920s by Vonola and Alex Modine.  The Modine's bought the property around 1920 with dreams of making the now neglected Chinaman's Ranch, once again a prosperous business.  Vonola read about a new crop which was becoming popular in the Coachella Valley, dates.  They decided to try this new crop and sends off for seeds.  Having never seen the fruit or the tree, she received back a small box of pits and plants them in two long rows alongside the road to home they hoped to build in the future.  But tragedy stuck, and just 4 years later, their son was killed in a fire.  Later their house burned down and they moved away.  But the story isn't over.  In 1979, the property is purchased by a great nephew of Vonola and Alex.  By 1989,  the new owners have once again started planting dates on the property.  In 1991, Vonola, visits her great nephew, Charles, for a family reunion, held at the ranch.  It was the first time since the 1920s that Vonola had been back to this property which brought such tragedy to her family.  Finally in 1996 the China Date Ranch opened to the public.

Fancy got to enjoy the outdoors, wandering about the property.  But she wasn't even interested in sniffing all the dates which had dropped on the ground.  

This coyote was standing on the hill, overlooking the ranch, as we drove out.  I'm glad Fancy was on a leash.

Isn't this true!

Everyone has to make their claim to fame for history.

More of the original date farm equipment.  Diana, you would have loved all the rusty stuff.

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