Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fall Break: Death Valley Day 2

On our second and last full day at Death Valley we hiked to the Red Cathedral, a geological formation of red colored rocks visible from several lookout points at the park.

The kids enjoyed climbing atop rocks along the trail like they had done at Joshua Tree. Unfortunately, these rocks formation were made of shale stone and deteriorated very easily so we had to discourage them from straying off of the path.

The hike was 1.5 miles each way along a canyon narrows which shaded our path most of the way up and back.  There was little elevation gain which helped immensely as Todd was carrying a 35 lbs pack with Andrew on his back.

After the hike we drove through 20 Mule Team Canyon, the road that the Borax company used to travel to haul borax from Furnace Creek in Death Valley to the rail head near Mojave. They strongly discourage vehicles 25 ft in length and longer to travel along this dirt road because of the narrow walls on either side and how winding it is. Later the next day we saw the wagons the mule team pulled, they were longer than 25 feet and  as tall as an recreational vehicle. I have no idea how they managed to get around some of the narrow stretches of road.

After our drive through the canyon we headed back to camp and spent the hottest part of the day at the Furnace Creek visitor center near our campsite viewing an orientation video on the history of the park, passing off Jr. Ranger badges and buying souvenirs.

In the mid afternoon we decided to once again get into our cars to view a couple of more spots. The park is so big that everything takes a long time to get to.

We visited Zabriskie Point named after the Vice President of the Borax company who managed the company's operations for decades and later helped transition Death Valley from private land, to a tourist destination and later a National Monument.

Dante's View was our last lookout of the day. The viewpoint is aprox 5,400 ft in height directly above Badwater. We were there right at sunset and enjoyed the beautiful colors across the mountains in front of us.

The Borax company is an intricate part of the modern day history of the park. It was one of the only few mining successes in the area. The Borax company only operated for 5 years but there are still remnants of its presence through out the park.

On Saturday, before leaving the park we stopped at an interpretive trail a short distance from where we were staying where the Borax was processed and distilled prior to being shipped out.

Geology is sometimes hard to grasp, but the challenge for people to live, work and thrive in the desert is something I can more easily understand. The area was inhabited by Chinese immigrants who would work by scraping borax from the surface of the ground and loading it into wagons. They were paid $1.30 day minus the cost of food and clothing.

The workers then refined borax by separating the mineral from the unwanted mud and salts prior to loading it into large wagons weighting up to 36 tons including a tank with 1,200 gallons of drinking water. The wagons were seven feet high and up to 100 feet long.

The drive home was uneventful but long. We finished listening to a Treasure Hunter book by James Peterson and listen to some Brother Grimm tales on audio book. By the end, the kids and grown ups were all glad to be home.

I have to say that Andrew was a trooper. He was content the entire drive and only fussed if he was hungry or the sun was in his eyes. I was so grateful for that.