Death Valley

20-Mule-Team Borax

What a difference a day makes. Yesterday, when we arrived in Death Valley, I was a tad bit grumpy. I was grumpy because it was hot. How hot was it? 108 degrees by the car and 114 degrees by the park service thermometer. Now, that’s hot!

Anyway, today was better, even though it was hotter still. First, I got a shower. The first in three days. Then there was the pool. It turns out that there is water in the desert, if you know where to look for it. Death Valley may be the driest and the hottest desert in America, but we’ve seen flowing water, with fish in it too.

We are staying at a resort, the Oasis in Death Valley. The place is shaded by palm trees. There is the pool that I’ve mentioned, plus a golf course, if you are into that sort of thing. As it turns out, there is plenty of surface water for all of this, without resorting to ever mining the aquifer.

Back in the 19th-century mining borax was big business here. I still remember watching the TV show, Death Valley Days, with its sponsor, 20-Mule-Team Borax. It turns out that this was a thing here. Each team would take ten days to haul 36 tons, the 164 miles to Mojave. That’s more than one-and-a-half tons per mule.

Later, a train replaced the mules. When the borax ran out, the mining company decided to switch to tourism and used the train to haul in tourists. In the 1930s they built this resort, including the cabin that we are staying in here. It’s a little bit funky and it is slated to be replaced next year, but it is fine for us.

Today, we got up early, at dawn, before it got real hot and did a few hikes. We started in the sand dunes and then hiked a slot canyon and then the rim of a recent volcano. These were both at altitude and so were relatively cool. Finished with a salt marsh on the valley floor, which was both hot and buggy. I’m writing this while we siesta during the afternoon. In the evening we’ll do a photo safari during the magic hour and finish things up doing the backstroke and watching the stars tonight, poolside.

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