Saturday, December 29, 2012

Ubehebe Crater

The Death Valley Blogathon continues...after Scotty's Castle, we drove west eight miles to Ubehebe Crater. There's a legend that the name means "big basket" in Shoshone. According to National Park literature, however, the Shoshone name for the crater is actually "Tem-pin-tta-Wo'sah," which means "Coyote's Basket." In any case, it's a spectacular site!

The crater was created by a "Maar volcano." Hot magma rose and hit ground water, causing steam and gas explosions. This one occurred around 3,000 years ago--practically yesterday in geological time. There are clusters of Maar volcanoes in the area, but this is the largest one. All that colorful rock inside the crater is "fanglomerate," an alluvial fan that hardened into rock.
The surrounding area is covered with cinders. In this photo, you can see a bit of the crater to the right of the road. They say the cinders are up to 150 feet thick at the crater rim! The day we were there, it was so windy that we literally almost got blown over. The famous Racetrack is just another 20 miles or so down the's easy to imagine a wind strong enough to push rocks across the playa.
More views of the cinder-covered surrounding area. To me, there is something exhilarating about these remote volcanic landscapes.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

The World Still Turning

Wishing all our blog readers beauty, peace, and happiness in the year ahead.
Cheers, Cynthia and Bill


Dawn, Lathe Arch, Alabama Hills, October 2012 
Photo by Bill Dahl; Poem by Cynthia Anderson

Because of my nights inside,
I miss how the land breathes in the dark—
how the Pleiades call out, Remember 

where you came from, how a rock
holds infinite cold, how that same rock
is shaped until its narrow waist

makes a space for the light to fill.
Because I always look toward the west,
where the solar rose strews petals

on the Sierra, I miss how the divide
between day and night never stops moving—
rooted in darkness, shedding darkness—

and how, to reach this place, I walk
in starlight, shiver among the rocks,
and wait.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Scotty's Castle

Scotty's Castle wasn't on our original Death Valley itinerary. Everything changed, though, after the big storm that dropped a half inch of rain. Badwater Road and Artist's Loop were closed, so we couldn't go back there as hoped. So, we headed north instead, and it turned out to be a good day. No traffic, no crowds, just us, the blue sky, and the open road.
Since the castle was virtually deserted, it was easy to take pictures. We didn't go on the tour--just poked about on our own and ate our lunch at the picnic tables by the parking lot.
We loved the architectural details. Scotty's Castle is so remote, it's quite wonderful to imagine living there. Death Valley Scotty seems to have had the perfect gig, building the castle for a well-heeled desert lover with deep pockets.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Desert Grown

Our garden has been going great guns for a couple of months now. The other day we harvested these beets. Wow! Our first beet seed sprouted on Sept. 28, which put these beauties right on schedule.
We planted our first seeds on Sept. 23. The first thing to come up was the arugula, four days later. Those first plants are still producing like crazy--above middle. There's also some parsley, cilantro and spinach in this shot. We did succession planting every couple of weeks, so right now everything is producing at once. The extra warm weather this winter has helped.
Here's some new lettuces coming on. I love those little bitty butter lettuces--they are the Tom Thumb variety--according to Seeds of Change, it's the oldest variety of lettuce still available in the U.S.
More beets on the way, plus some more mesclun mix. We haven't bought salad greens for a couple of months now. So delicious--it would be hard to go back to store-bought.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Magic at Zabriskie Point

We spent hours at Zabriskie Point and loved every minute of it. Above: the iconic view of Manly Beacon at sunset. Below: the same view at sunrise the next morning. The stormy weather kept things subdued, but it also meant we were the only people on the site at dawn. That was truly special--it's not the kind of place you can usually have all to yourself. (The spot where Bill has his tripod set up is usually teeming with photographers.)
Below: a couple more pictures from our sunset excursion. The yellow hills are known as mudstone, and they were part of an ancient lake bed several million years ago. The lake bottom sediments were uplifted to make what is seen today. The dark layer of rock that caps some of the ridges is basalt lava from volcanic eruptions.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Artist's Drive

Artist's Drive was one of our favorite destinations on the Death Valley trip. Above is the iconic view of Artist's Palette. But there's far more to explore along this incredibly scenic route.
This feature is just to the south of Artist's Palette. We parked off the side of the road and went towards it. I ended up going further, following a wash to its apparent source, this cave-like opening in the rock.
Here's the view from the top of the wash across the valley.
It had rained a bit the night before, giving us a day of lovely clouds. More rain came the next night, dumping a half inch and closing Artist's Drive indefinitely. We had planned to spend another morning exploring other spots along the drive--will have to save that for our next trip.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Badwater and Devil's Golf Course

Our first stop on our first morning in Death Valley was Badwater. Just like the sign says, it's 282 feet below sea level. There's not much water there--this pool was right at the beginning of the walkway. Some rare fish are supposed to make their home in the pool, but we didn't see them. The water is murky-looking, definitely what you might call "bad," at least for people.
We were lucky with the weather--a storm was moving in, and the cloud cover kept temperatures in the 70s. So, ironically, it wasn't hot. Lots of people etch messages into the saltpan. Most are hearts with initials, but we thought this one captured the spirit of the place.
On either side of the long walking area with the etched-in graffiti, Badwater pretty much looks like this. Some adventurous souls wander off into these parts, but we were happy to stay put and take pictures.
The walking's even tougher at Devil's Golf Course, which we elected to view and photograph from the parking area. These mounds of crystallized salts are shaped by wind and rain, and salts are still being deposited by occasional floods. This saltpan has been here since ancient times, and the entire landscape has an ancient feel.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hwy. 190 from Lone Pine to Furnace Creek

Back to the travelogue! After a couple of days in Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills, we took 190 to Furnace Creek. This is just the kind of drive we like--a beautiful drive through remote country. Our first stop on the way was Darwin, a mining town gone bust. It's more or less a ghost town, though a few people still live there. Somebody's got a sense of humor, as evidenced by this figure and horse looking out through the window of an abandoned building.
The overlook at Father Crowley Point gave us our first taste of Death Valley. The plaque placed in his honor says, "In memory of the Padre of the Desert. From the snowy heights of the Sierras beyond the deep shadows of Death Valley. Beloved and trusted by people of all faiths. He led them towards life's wider horizon. He passed this way."
Next stop: the Panamint Playa, famous for its mud flats. Apparently, it had rained in the recent past--the usual mud cracks were largely filled in. However, we did find a few. This area is five miles down a dirt road and utterly silent, with scenic vistas galore and dunes nearby.
There was far more to see off 190 than we had time in one day. We did stop at Mosaic Canyon and walk up a short ways. It's a narrow canyon--the marble sides in the picture above were scoured smooth by water. Below, a detail of the mosaic-like stones that give the canyon its name.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

HOWL Cafe at Copper Mountain College, November 8


November 8, 12-1 pm
Room 401 (art/auto) 

Copper Mountain Community College

Coffee and Scones Served

Hosted by the Cultural Education Enhancement Committee

Sponsored by the Copper Mountain College Foundation


Caryn Davidson is a park ranger at Joshua Tree National Park. She has worked in the education branch for 14 years, presenting environmental education programs in classrooms, and conducting hikes with students in the park. She is also the park liaison for the Artist-in-Residence program. Some of her poetry and prose have been published in The Stone, The Pacific Crest Trailside Reader, GEO (German edition), L.A. Weekly, LAICA Forum, National Geographic’s Trails Illustrated series, and Interpretive Writing.
Phillip Rosenberg writes poetry and groovin' mythopoetic folk-rock you can sink your imagination into. His poetry has been published in Black Moon, Fine Homebuilding, and Hudson View. His book Raised in the Shadow is available in print at and as an ebook through He lives in Joshua Tree with his wife Catherine.
Cynthia Anderson moved to the high desert near Joshua Tree National Park in 2008. Her poems have been published widely and have received several awards. Her collaborations with her husband, Bill Dahl, appear in the books Shared Visions and In the Mojave, available at She is co-editor of A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens (Green Poet Press, 2011), available at

 ++++++++++ PLUS +++++++++++ 

 Selected poems by CMC STUDENT AUTHORS

Friday, October 26, 2012

More Arches in the Alabama Hills, and Where to Find Them

We visited a couple more arches on our trip to the Alabama Hills. Above: "Eye of Alabama." There's a fairly steep uphill walk to this arch, but the view looking back at the Sierras is spectacular--see below.
Above: Heart Arch, which is easily visible from the same parking area on Movie Rd. where you go to visit the Mobius and Lathe arches. It's the rock opening on the left, and it's much more visibly heart-shaped in person than in this photo.
If you're interested in finding these arches, and many more, the book to get is "Arches of the Alabama Hills." As the cover says, this is a complete guide to "72 arches and 23 other features of the Alabama Hills, including GPS coordinates, 10 maps, and 71 color photos." A photographer friend told us about this book, and we were glad she did. The author is a retired schoolteacher named Orlyn Fordham, who self-published this book and did a very thorough job.
Thing is, as of this writing, there is nowhere to buy the book online. You'll have to go to the Rock and Gift Shop on Main St. in Lone Pine. This store is worth a visit in any case--loads of books, gifts, and rocks. I came away with a piece of petrified wood that had been struck by lightning--black in the middle and completely crystalized on both sides.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Mobius and Lathe Arches, Alabama Hills

One of the highlights of our trip was getting up before dawn and walking in the dark to the site of Mobius and Lathe Arches in the Alabama Hills. Getting up was harder than actually getting there. The last time we were there, around eight years ago, the path wasn't marked. Now, the entire path from the parking lot on Movie Rd. is lined with stones, and a cairn marks where to find the arches. Easy! Above: the Eastern Sierra through Lathe Arch. (Mt. Whitney is just out of the frame, to the right) Below: Mobius Arch.
After standing around for between 2-3 hours in the chilly air, we got back in the 4Runner and headed up Whitney Portal Road--a drive we'd never taken. We had the road to ourselves that early, and the climb was both picturesque and steep. Thought we might have breakfast at the top, but decided against it--the menu was too climber-oriented for us, consisting basically of three choices: hubcap-sized pancakes, "meat" (unspecified as to type) and lots of eggs.
So, craving a hot breakfast, we headed back to town and the Alabama Hills Cafe. This proved to be just what we were looking for. Bill got his usual two eggs with potatoes, which came with toasted fresh-baked sourdough (the best bread we've had in a long time); and I had my usual oatmeal. This was the really good stuff, steel-cut--not your typical cafe goop. It's a mom-and-pop place, super-friendly and welcoming. While we were there, a giant apple pie came out of the oven. This was the highest apple pie I've ever seen--the Mt. Whitney of apple pies. When we go back, I'm getting pie!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Macomber Rotary Engine Exhibit at Rand Desert Museum

We just got back from a week's vacation in Lone Pine, Death Valley, and Tecopa. Our first stop along the way was the Rand Desert Museum in the ghost town of Randsburg. Historian Bart Parker (right) has recently put up an exhibit about my great-grandfather, Walter G. Macomber, who worked in the Rand area between 1899-1909--first, as an engineer in the Croesus and Ratcliff mines owned by his wife's uncle, W. W. Godsmark; and later, at the Randsburg Water Company. While employed by the water company, Macomber invented a rotary engine for use in airplanes and cars.
The exhibit takes up three display cases in the back room of the museum--photos above and below. It includes items such as a biography of Walter Macomber, the engine's specifications, and an investors' prospectus for the Eagle-Macomber Car Company, which had a factory in Sandusky, Ohio.
Here are a couple of detail shots from the exhibit--above, an article about the engine's use in early aviation; and below, a promotional ad for the Eagle-Macomber car.
More information about Walter Macomber can be found on previous posts of this blog and also on the Rand Desert Museum website by clicking here. We are very interested in locating an actual Macomber rotary engine and an Eagle-Macomber car. If anyone out there has any leads, please contact Bart Parker at the Rand Desert Museum by clicking here, or contact me through my website,