Friday, December 20, 2013

DEVA NP – Part 4


Our second week at the park, the weather warmed up enough that we could start our training as...

                CSI techs.  That's right!  Struggle to contain your envy.

If you want, we'll be happy to share what we have learned about cleaning 80+ year old broken shovels and pick axes (ahem... artifacts) with a paint brush and hepa vacuum.  Curb your excitement.  Your enthusiasm is overwhelming.

Seriously, though, isn't that a killer before and after?!  Here's a hint: The left side of the shovel is prettier.  Really, it is.

                 The Titanic in Death Valley?

By the way, did you know that less than 1% of museum artifacts are ever seen by the public? When we were done, we filed the shovel we were working on amongst the many others like it on a shelf in one of the archive buildings.  Baring any major shovel destroying catastrophes, it will most likely remain there, on a shelf, for at least another fifty years and then some.  So essentially, these pictures of the shovel will be seen more than the actual shovel will over the course of the next half century.  Sure hope someone drops by now and then to dust it off.  We wouldn't want all of our work to be in vain if this shovel ever really does get to have its day!

All kidding aside, we are learning a LOT and really enjoying this new area of volunteering.

Speaking of volunteering, check this out.

This guy has been reading our blog and communicating with us for a while now.  Turns out, it was little ole us who opened up the world of volunteering to him with one of our posts on campground hosting.   Now he's volunteering only three miles from us.  What a small world!

Not something you see every day.  This poor fella took a header of the worst kind.  Talk about a crash landing.

We figured it was either that or he got stuck while taking a drink.  Either way, it didn't end well.

                           Desert Holly, just in time for the Holidays.

By the way... did you know that National Parks are typically identified by the first two letters of the first two words in their name?  That's why we're known as DEVA's (and we didn't even have to learn how to sing).  Unfortunately for some the whole idea can be really LAME (Lake Mead) or in other cases a real bunch of CACA (Carlsbad Caverns).  Oh the things you learn at Beer Thirty!

                                         Palm Trees in Death Valley.  Awesome! 

Well, we should be wrapping this up.  We're only in town for a couple of days and then it's back into the wild.  Before we sign off we were wondering if anyone out there knows what do you do when you cut open your onion and...

                                       it looks at you like this?!

Our answer was to cut our tomato, of course.

                Seriously!?  We're going to have to stop while we're a-head!

And, with that... we bid adieu and head back to the valley (which isn't really a valley, by the way).  SEE YA NEXT YEAR!!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

DEVA NP – Part 3


While we are in Death Valley we'll be working with the museum curators at both Scotty's Castle (pictured below) and another location down south near our housing area.


Having already toured areas of the castle not open to the public and seen some of the storage locations for the historical artifacts, all that we can say is that the museum and conservation side of such an endeavor is way more involved than we had ever imagined.

No, there is not a mirror in this photo. This is one of many storage areas for artifacts in Death Valley National Park. The total number is (drum roll please) 1.4 million artifacts!

     Can you see the old wagon behind the fence? That's good, because our camera did not.

Upon arrival at the castle we were due to spend five weeks cleaning all of the exterior lighting and changing out the bulbs to ones more conducive to the night sky program.

ere's a different angle of the grounds taken from the clock tower. The stables are in the far distance and off to the left on the near hillside is the solar (Yes, solar in the 1920's!) water heater.

The iron, wood and other work throughout the castle is unique and very detail oriented.

The iron work on this door for the swimming pool changing area is Nicole's favorite. Each hinge is different. You can probably see the seabirds and cloud in the top hinge and the small starfish and waves on the middle one.

  How about the seahorse with seashells door handle.

                                Or the dolphins on the bottom hinge.

The hinges on this door are like spring flowers blooming (hint: lay your head to the left).

Wood shutters on the windows are also decorative and allow light through even when closed.

We've had some beautiful weather where we live (at only a few feet above sea level). To get to the castle, however, we hop on the employee shuttle van and ride one hour north and ascend 3000 feet.  Alas, the weather turned too cold to work outside with water cleaning lights (highs of 40) so instead we became involved with the indoor activity of cataloging historical photos of the castle's construction.

The photos in this album are from the late 1920's. They document not only the construction of the castle and the people involved but also cover local historical events such as the last train to leave the Bonnie Claire Flats. In yet another album we found photos of local prospectors know by names like The Guardian Angel of Death Valley or Old Man Gillian of Ballarat. Awesome! We sure are getting a kick out of going through them.

We try to make a point of going on walkabouts as often as possible.

f you know anything about us, and our “It's the journey not the destination.... Hey, look at that neat grain of sand!” kind of foot travel, you know that we do not cover a large amount of ground each time.

                 Still, we see a lot of very amazing and beautiful things on these walks.

     Especially coyotes. Lots of them. Actually, we typically see more coyotes than people.

              Mostly we are taken by the constantly changing scenery.

                         Every angle of view is completely different from the next.

                         And the light changes things here almost minute to minute.


                          Alas, there is still more. Continue on to DEVA NP – Part 4...

DEVA NP – Part 2


Where were we?

Ah, yes.... water, water, everywhere.

It seems an oddity given the desert mindset that the words Death Valley bring, doesn't it? But springs literally pour out of the mountains here. The one up at Scotty's Castle does so at a rate of some 300 gallons per minute!


The colors observed painting the mountain sides (like the white above and the orange below) are mineral deposits that are leached to the surface via the groundwater.


It's no wonder that this area was a mining haven back in the day. This is the location of the famous 20 Mule Team Borax era, by the way. They actually used teams of 20 mules to pull the wagon loads, hence the name.


Check out the variations of color in the above photo going from white (most likely borax or salt) to yellows (typically sulfur) to the mix of greens, reds, purples and many other colors of the mountains in the far distance.

                   We have been captured by the beautiful scenery here at the park


and taken by a vastness that harbors a sense of peaceful calm and hosts deafening silence.




There is so much to this park and it seems that every part of it is different in some way.


We've heard that it is a geologists dream location.

                                                 One example is Mars Hill.

        NASA has utilized this location to practice with the rover vehicles.

In the interest of our very slow internet connection, there's more on yet another page!

Continue on to DEVA NP – Part 3...

DEVA NP – Part 1


As the start date of our new volunteer assignment drew near excitement got the best of us and we opted to drive into Death Valley after the sun had already set one night instead of waiting until the morning.


We settled into our new digs, happily plugged in our little electric heater, cozied up for the evening and wondered what we'd see as the sun came up.

This was the view from our windows when we awoke. Not a bad way to start a new gig.

After a bit more settling in it was time for a walkabout. Before we could even leave our little compound a couple of locals strolled merrily by and checked us out.


We were surprised by a lot of what we found on that first walk in a place called Death Valley.








          Flowers thriving year round in one of the many spring fed creeks.


Did we mention the springs?

Continue to DEVA NP – Part 2 on the next page for more details...

Monday, November 25, 2013

The DeVa’s are Heading into The Valley…


Here’s a quote we recently read about our 2013 / 2014 winter home:

“Lots of people say, 'I can do this,' but if a person can't just be happy sitting with themselves for an evening, then they can't do it here.”


                              All photos are ‘borrowed’… we haven’t seen it yet!  


Here’s a few facts:

The hottest, driest and lowest point in North America.

The largest national park in the lower 48 states.

Ninety five percent of the park is a designated wilderness area.

The park has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve.

It is home to the greatest elevation gradient in the contiguous United States.

Home to over 1,000 species of plants; 50 of which are found nowhere else.

One of the premier night-sky destinations in the country.

* Sixty miles one way to the nearest town / grocery store.

* Additional sixty miles one way (away from said town & store) to our volunteer site and our potential campsite location for the second half of our experience.


                            DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, HERE WE COME!


Note to readers:  We’re not really sure if our cell phone will work - we’ve heard anything from probably not to maybe a little bit.  We plan to make the 120 mile round trip drive to the store next to never - maybe twice in two or three months. 

Translation:  There is a good chance a significant lag will occur in blog postings, phone and email response.  If you want, go ahead and contact us.  We’ll receive it and get back to you… eventually (or sooner if we discover other opportunities).


And… We’re Off!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Joshua Trees not in Joshua Tree


Did you know, there are actually fewer Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park than there are in the Mojave National Preserve?


                                                   We didn’t!

                                             But there are!

Besides having a bunch of other cool stuff like singing sand dunes, dry lake beds, lava flows, volcanic cinder cones and caverns (closed to the public), Mojave National Preserve’s is home to one of the largest and densest Joshua tree forests in the world.



If you look closely, you can see ‘dots’ all the way to the mountains.  Those are Joshua Trees!  The numbers were staggering in comparison to anything we’ve seen before.


The trees were also a bit different looking than others we have seen.  Skinnier, maybe.  More ‘tree’ like.  Not sure how to describe it but one person told us they were a different variety called ‘broccoli’ (as of yet unconfirmed).


We didn’t spend time exploring the other aspects of the park this time around so trees are all we’ve got for you.  Well, we do also have this cool photo of a Black Throated Sparrow!


                                      And, then we’re back to trees…


             Oh!  We got stuck in the desert the other day.  SIX TIMES!

Buried up to the axles which this photo does not clearly show since we had already dug her out and surrounded her with ‘traction’ of found variety.  Just picture the bottom half of our tire / rim covered in sand.  We worked for five hours digging, depositing traction and then making it anywhere from one foot to six feet before she dug herself in again.  Just before dark some guys showed up to ride their ATV’s, they used their truck to give us the final pull we needed and off we rode into the sunset.  The lesson here was… just because you drove over it once, doesn’t mean you can drive over it again!

                                          Cue the tree photo.