Ghosts and Death!

OK, maybe with all that’s going on right now, I shouldn’t tease about Ghosts and Death… couldn’t help myself…


I think it was in 1964 when our family took a travel trailer into Death Valley.  I’m pretty sure about the year, because we had a 21 foot trailer (that was HUGE in the day!) pulled by a white ’64 Pontiac Bonneville Safari station wagon (That info is for you, Lori!)  We drove out of the valley to the east, to a ghost town called Rhyolite.  I remember a nice little museum, full of interesting artifacts.  That’s impressive, since I was only about 11 at the time.  One exhibit involved a wealthy resident who came down with diabetes.  He was good friends with the local Indians, who so valued him they gave him the Indian cure for diabetes – eating ants!  So he had his house staff catch and thoroughly clean a bunch of ants…  The Indians then told him he couldn’t wash them… he had to eat them as they were.  I seem to remember that they worked for that man.  If you Google “eating ants as a cure for diabetes” you will find many references to ants in the diagnosis and treatment of diabetes.  Not too much on effectiveness, though.

So that museum is gone now.  There are only the remains of a few solid buildings.

Gold was discovered in this area in 1905.  By 1906 Rhyolite had grown from a mining camp to a vibrant new town, with far more brick and stone buildings than you usually saw in mining towns.  It was said to feature 4 bakeries, 6 barbers, 8 doctors, 18 grocery stores, 19 lodging houses, 35 gaming tables and 50 saloons! They had indoor plumbing and electricity.

The glamour of Rhyolite was short lived.  By 1910 the mines started failing, then closing, and people moved out.  Within a few more years, most of the buildings were torn down for materials, and Rhyolite faded into an interesting Ghost Town.



As you approach the town today, there is a small (closed) museum building, and another of these spiral maze things.  And weird sculptures in white.



This is supposed to mimic Leonardo DaVinci’s Last Supper.  The figures were formed by draping plaster impregnated cloth over live models.  Hopefully the models could then wiggle out!



I found a teenager tourist willing to recreate the creation of this sculpture. The bike is part of the art…



This pixilated person is supposed to represent an Indian maiden.



I have no story on this bizarre sculpture.



In 1905 Rhyolite, lumber was scarce and expensive.  But there were plenty of saloons.  Tom Kelly spent 6 months collecting about 50,000 bottles, and mortared them together into this three room house.  This was a palace in those days!  He was pushing 80, and decided not to live in his nice bottle house, but to raffle it off for $5 per ticket. The winning family lived there till about 1920.  In 1925 Paramount used it for a movie set. (I’m not sure what movie – anyone who knows, please enlighten me!)  Later it was a museum (maybe when I was there as a kid?).  The inside was all plastered like a normal house, but peering through a window I saw an area where the plaster has broken revealing the bottle matrix.










This prominent building was a bank and jewelry store.  You can still see the massive safe room in the back.






There were once three train lines into Rhyolite.  This one was converted into – wait for it – a museum!  But that was long ago, and it is all boarded up now.  ALL ABOARDed up!




A mine shaft I felt no compulsion to enter…





Death Valley

The story is that in 1849, a huge wagon train headed west a bit too late in the season to attempt crossing the Sierra Nevada mountains.  Many in the group were afraid of ending up like the Donner Party, snowbound and resorting to extreme measures to survive.  So some of these elected to try a shortcut… through a wide valley south of the normal route. They experienced extreme difficulties, but the opposite of the Donner Party – instead of cold and snow, here was heat, terrible terrain and no water.  Even though only one of their party died, as they finally were able to leave, they removed their hats and said “Goodbye, Death Valley”.

Today Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48, and is celebrating its 101st birthday.  There are over 1,000 miles of roads, occasional rest areas, and amazing scenery everywhere.  There are more colors in the mountains than can be imagined (Or accurately photographed).




A name like Death Valley seems to bring out all kinds of other fierce sounding location names… like the Funeral Range of mountains, Coffin Peak, Dante’s View, Desolation Canyon, Hell’s Gate, Devil’s Cornfield, and the Devil’s Golf Course, pictured below.



Natural Bridge is a short hike up a narrow canyon, with rather imposing tall walls.




Many of the colors in the mountains remind me of ice cream… a whole country of Fudge Ripple!




In the Artist’s Palate loop road, the way is rather dippy… no vehicles over 22 feet allowed, due to both dips and very tight corners in narrow canyons.



And finally, we have moved “Home” to Arizona, planning on staying put for a while till this viral menace calms down.



Mercury Rising?


When we were in New Mexico a while back, I played a bit with Star Photography.  I thought I could do the same here, but there is too much light pollution from the big truck stop down the road, and we have had some pretty cloudy nights.

Monday was supposed to be the best day to see 4 planets in a row: Jupiter, Mars, Saturn and possibly even Mercury.  Here are a couple of pictures with the first three (Right to left), but it was way too light before Mercury rose over the horizon.  We knew Mercury would be hard to catch, being so close to the Sun’s rising, but got up to try anyway.




Some other random pictures showing plenty of stars…





The Milky Way was just barely discernible, and I wasn’t able to get a good shot of it.



Next week’s blog will feature highlights of the outskirts of Kingman, Arizona!  Hope you can endure the suspense!










  1. Interesting. We really enjoy Death Valley and have gone up to Rhyolite a few years ago. Tx for the pics of the bottle house. The canyons are beautiful…Mosaic is pretty. One night we went with the Rangers to Golden Canyon for a moon light walk. The moon came up in the East like a huge spotlight and shined down through the canyon. It was so beautiful that we will never forget it. Did you see the new Oasis? We plan to go back, maybe next spring.

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