19 April 2006 Wednesday

A beautiful cold morning on a ridge, with a snow capped peak on one side of us and the salt basin of Death Valley on the other side.  We did some foraging, we gathered pinion nuts (pine nuts) to roast and eat later.

We drove past stone beehive shaped charcoal kilns on the way out.  These turned pinion pines into charcoal for smelting ore in 1879.  Their remote location and restoration is part of why they still survive.

We drove out to the town of Skidoo and found a lot of nothing.  All we found were rusty cans and a few broken bottles, no structures, no ruins, not even a foundation!  We also saw a mine that had partially collapsed and other mining ruins in the area.  I’ve found that “ghost towns” don’t photograph well without some ruins.

We drove out to Mosaic Canyon, a beautiful, narrow canyon made of marble and a conglomerate stone called “mosaic breccia”.  A beautiful hike, but after the narrows, it opened out and wasn’t as interesting.  We didn’t bring enough water on this hike and it was getting hot fast.  The temperature changes here radically with elevation.  

We stopped for gas before continuing and found it had jumped to $3.74 per gallon!  Inside a park this remote we had few options, we had to just grit our teeth and pay up.  

We stopped at the Harmony Borax Works, a historic borax mine from the early 1900’s.  They called borax the “white gold” of Death Valley and mined it for use in laundry soap and lots of other things.  This is where the “20 Mule Team” logo became famous on some soap powders.  They used 20 mule teams (the actual amount of mules tended to vary) to haul the borax from the mine to market.  

We stopped at an interpretive boardwalk on a salt spring where pupfish live.  This area used to be a fresh water lake and as the water evaporated and the salt and other minerals from the surrounding mountains flowed down, this area became more salty.  Most animals left or died as the water changed, but these pupfish adapted to the salt water.  They were tiny, about the size of my pinky finger.  

We next went to a place for sunset called Zabrinski Point.  This overlooked some incredible multi-colored badlands.  We thought this might be better at sunrise.  We camped nearby down Hole-In-The-Wall canyon.

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