Death Valley: Mines, Dunes & Craters

This was the first visit to Death Valley in which we had a 4-wheel drive, high clearance vehicle to explore the off-the-beaten path. This allowed us to see and do a bunch of "firsts".


Our first stop for today was to learn about Pete Aguereberry, a Basque Frenchman, born in 1874. At an early age he read about the wonderful gold discoveries in California and begged his father to let him come to the United States. When he turned 16 his father relented, and Pete sailed for America in 1890.
Long story short, in 1905 Pete found himself in Death Valley and established the Eureka Mine, working it from 1907 until the early 1930’s when his health was failing him. Except for some help from his nephew in his later years, the Eureka mine was built and worked by Pete alone. Pete died in 1945 and is buried in Lone Pine, California.
We explored Aguereberry Camp where we found Pete’s original cabin built in 1907. It is a two room structure containing a gas stove and refrigerator (far right). Pete lived here from 1907 until his death in 1945. The middle cabin was built in 1941 as a guest house and the cabin to the left was built around 1946 for an unknown reason. The toilet was dated 1957 so who knows who was living there then.

Pete event had a two seat Outhouse... also for guests?

I love to scavenge places like Pete's to see what unique items of a life lived I can find. I loved this shoe sole. It was full of nails and two layers of leather. I suspect Pete got his money's worth from that pair of boots.
What an interesting glimpse into a unique Death Valley icon.
We loved the sand dunes here. Many first time visitors to Death Valley are surprised it is not covered with a sea of sand. Less than one percent of the desert is covered with dunes, yet the shadowed ripples and stark, graceful curves define "desert" in our imaginations.
For dunes to exist there must be a source of sand, prevailing winds to move the sand, and a place for the sand to collect. The eroded canyons and washes provide plenty of sand, the wind seems to always blow (especially in the springtime), but there are only a few areas in the park where the sand is "trapped" by geographic features such as mountains. The Mesquite Dunes are the easiest to get to. Although the highest dune rises only about 100 feet, the dunes actually cover a vast area. Mesquite trees have created large hummocks that provide stable habitats for wildlife.
We saw many tracks in the sand and had a hard time figuring this one out until we saw the ant carrying its 'prize'. So very cool.
Our last stop was at Ubehebe Crater. Steve has hiked to the bottom of it, twice, but today was my first foray down. This hole is a large volcanic crater 600 feet deep and half a mile across.

Going down to the bottom is a piece of cake. It is a pretty far view from the bottom, as Steve is showing where our camper is parked. It is walking back up, in the cinders (a loose rock), that makes the ascension a little harder than going down. I did great, though and we had fun doing it.
Here we are showing you proof that we're at the bottom where the pink and brown mud flat is the site of many short-lived lakes.
I think what today really showed us is Death Valley's diversity. There is truly something for everyone and we loved it all.

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2 comments:

Karen Booth said...

Did Steve go in the mine? How big was that ant that it left visible tracks??? I'm impressed that you went down in that crater (knowing that you had to get back out). I would have been waving from the Arctic Fox. I don't know that I saw pink and brown mud in the photo from the bottom, but Steve's hand is pink and his leg is brown :)

Nick and Deb's Excellent Adventure said...

Wow how cool? I bet it was fun if you got to go into the mine! Great pictures!

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