Desert Gazette

Mojave Desert - True Facts, Legends, & Lies

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Little Autumn

Little Autumn
by Walter Feller
to sit among the cottonwood trees
and hear the crackle and clatter
from the bright leaves
from the bright leaves
that is all that seems to matter
in the autumn breeze

The Tropico Gold Mine

Los Angeles, California, where the streets were paved with Gold!

In 1896, Ezra Hamilton owned a brick factory in Los Angeles. He made brick pavers for the streets of the growing city. He began to notice flecks of gold in the clay and thought it worth checking out. He traveled to where the material was dug out of the ground and panned in the washes until he found some gold float. He followed the gold dust trail up into a canyon and discovered a rich vein of gold. He called the claim, Tropico. Through the years since the Tropico gold mine has been the richest producing gold mine in the western Mojave Desert.

More about:

The History of the Tropico Gold Mine


My Little Friends

Yeah, I know ...

I haven’t paid too much attention to my little scurrying friends in the last couple years. But lately I found that if I move slow, and talk low, I can sit down right beside them and have a nice little one-sided chat.

This first one is a common side-blotched lizard I became acquainted with during a hike to Keane Springs in Death Valley.

Just behind the right front leg is the identifying side-blotch. It looks sort of like a halfmoon, or boat shape just inside the shadow. I was sitting about 3 feet from him/her. I told the tiny creature (about 6 inches long) that I wasn’t interested in eating right then and thank you for the photo op.

This is another common side-blotched lizard I found roaming around while I was hiking at Amboy Crater in the eastern Mojave.

This creature apparently had been attacked, maybe a year or so ago. Most lizards have regenerating, breakaway tails. This comes in handy when a predator grabs it by the tail. The lizard releases the end portion and runs off. The predator gets a little lizard snack instead of a full meal. The tail eventually grows back as can be seen by the difference in texture on this itty-bitty beast. Almost seems like a win-win for both predator and prey. Again the identifying side-blotch can be seen on the body just behind the front leg. The lizard was about 8 inches long. Notice the difference between the design on the back of this lizard and the one from Death Valley above. I told this animal that their home was in a beautiful place and thanked them for letting me enjoy it with them. I was kneeling about 3 feet away.

This last lizard is a Mojave fringe-toed lizard I sat next to in a remote sand dune field in the east Mojave.

This lizard was about 9-10 inches long. I sat about 2 feet from it while talking about how it was the longest, fattest, juciest, looking lizard of its kind I ever seen. Notice the fringed, or extra long toes on the feet. These act sort of as snowshoes keeping the tiny little feet from sinking in the sand. Other features include reversed nostrils and interlocking eyelids. Both of these help the reptile when under the sand, which they often are to regulate their sensitive body temperature.

I’ve never ate a lizard, but someday I might.

More about desert lizards

Death in Death Valley

Originally reported in an August, 1911 issue of the Inyo County Independent, by Phillip I. Earl

Death Valley is perhaps the West’s most aptly named geographical feature and over the years it has taken the lives of countless thousands of travelers, prospectors, treasure hunters and others who have ventured into its tortured, arid wilderness.

The circumstances of these deaths are roughly similar: horses died, they ran out of water, got lost, became delirious with the heat etc., but at least one of the valley’s victims left behind a more accurate account of his last days on earth.

Al William’s body was found on the morning of August 3, 1911 in Sharpe’s Camp a sometime spring a few miles southeast of Darwin, California. A Nevada inspector who had traversed Death Valley many times in the heat, Williams apparently lost his horse and then lost himself on this trip. He had set out from Coso Springs on May 18 and nothing more was heard of him until his body was found, though his freinds had searched for him earlier in the summer. Sick and unable to leave his camp, Williams apparently waited day by day for someone to come and rescue him. As he waited, he recorded his condition and thoughts in the following dairy which was found on his body:

Lost Gold!

Red Rock, Garlock & Lost Gold

Red Rock Canyon is the result of the grinding together of two geomorphic regions, the Mojave Desert and Great Basin. This uplifting takes place along the Garlock fault, which is what is known as a left lateral strike-slip fault. This means that the far side of the shot is moving to the left, and the part I’m standing on is moving to the right (slowly ). I believe the actual faultline is running somewhat through the middle of the shot.

The Garlock fault is the geologic dividing line between the Great Basin Desert, which extends from here north and east encompassing Nevada and western Utah. The Mojave Desert geo-range extends from here south and east to the Baja of California and east to the Colorado River. Botanically, I’m in the Mojave though, and the vegetation series extends north about 150 miles. However, immediately to the west is the Sierra Nevada range (southern).

The haze in the Cantil Valley beyond is the evaporate lifting from Koehn dry lake as it rained rain two days before. Somewhere in the area of the shot there are two caches of 1800s lost silver and gold. The silver was washed from a stagecoach that got caught in one of the canyons during a flash flood and was never found. Charlie Koehn’s lost stash of gold nuggets and jewelry is presumed to be buried in the valley, or foothills. He went to prison for trying to bomb a judge that had ruled against him in a lawsuit. He died in jail, but not until after he had tried to tell his best friend where his gold was. His buddy never found it.

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Lone Pine Canyon

About This Canyon

Lone Pine Canyon is a young, or new, canyon formed by the San Andreas fault which separates the Southern California and Mojave Desert regions. The fault runs pretty much down the center of the long canyon, follows the edge of the foothills across the ridge in the distance and passes to the left of San Jacinto Mountain furthest away in the shot. At the base of San Jacinto Mountain lies Palm Springs.

Visibility in this photo is about 60 miles. The high mountain to the left is the 10,000 ft. ridge and Mount San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino National Forest. San Gorgonio sits on the North American continental plate while San Jacinto sits upon the Pacific plate. San Jacinto will someday, millions of years from now, move west along the transverse range and sit to the right of where I’m now standing- The Lone Pine Canyon saddle.

A Moment of Silence

The Hottest Day
by Walter Feller

It was the morning of the hottest day
the warm, thick air began to weigh
heavy on God's creatures one and all
and hugging the slight shadows however small
they found a hole to scurry in
before the hottest day would begin

The Blackhawk Slide

Geo-Excitement & Thrills

The well defined bench beyond the pistachio farm midshot was once a towering mountain sitting on top of the mine in the distance and Blackhawk Mountain to its right. One day 17,000-20,000 years ago, for cause not known to us now, the mountain collapsed, crumbled into dust and slid down the slope. Spreading two miles wide and five miles long the totality of the event lasted 80 seconds. A popular theory indicates that the crumbled material rode on a cushion of air compressed under the slide, gliding across the desert before coming to a stop.


I Might be a Poet & Didn't Noet

Camping by a Desert Spring
by Walter Feller

I like this spring,
the one right here
I'd like to spend
the night right near
There is no water
not even a tree
But this old bed spring
is fine by me