Relive & Explore The Past In Public Lands Of New Mexico

Relive the Wild West, explore exotic cultures, return to the dawn of recorded history, and travel back to prehistoric times.

New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe  © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Glance into the future exploring the solar system and far beyond. And enjoy camping, hiking, biking, fishing, boating, birding, picnicking, photography, stargazing and much more. You can do all this and more for bargain prices in the public lands of the Land of Enchantment. New Mexico offers unlimited of unique opportunities.

In an earlier post Vogel Talks RVing discussed the unlimited opportunities available for outdoor recreation and camping at New Mexico’s 35 state parks—24 having ponds, streams, rivers, or lakes.

When planning a weekend getaway or summer vacation, consider coordinating visits to state parks, state museums, state monuments, and national parks in the area.

To get started, check out the following state museums and historical sites.

Bosque Redondo Memorial at Fort Sumner: A unique new museum designed by Navajo architect David Sloan—shaped like a hogan and a tepee—and an interpretive trail, provide information about the tragic history of Fort Sumner and Bosque Redondo Indian Reservation.

Coronado Historic Site
Coronado Historic Site

Coronado Historic Site: In 1540, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado—with 500 soldiers and 2,000 Indian allies—entered the Rio Grande valley near this site. Searching for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold, he instead found a dozen villages inhabited by prosperous native farmers.

El Camino Real Historic Trail Site: Journey along the historic Camino Real, the Royal Road of the Interior Lands. This 1,500-mile historic trade route that extends from Mexico City to Ohkay Owingeh, is one of the oldest trails in the US and, for more than a century, one of the longest.

Fort Selden Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Fort Selden Historic Site © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Fort Selden Historic Site: Fort Selden was established in 1865 in an effort to bring peace to the south central region of present day New Mexico. Built on the banks of the Rio Grande, this adobe fort protected settlers and travelers in the Mesilla Valley from desperados and Apache Indians.

Fort Stanton Historic Site: Fort Stanton is situated on 240 acres and surrounded by 1,300 acres of undeveloped BLM land in south-central New Mexico. There are 88 buildings on this historic site, some dating back to 1855.

Jemez National Historic Landmark: A short drive from Albuquerque and Bernalillo, the Jemez National Historic Landmark is one of the most beautiful historic sites in the Southwest. It includes the stone ruins of a 500-year-old village and the San José de los Jemez church dating to 1621-22.

Lincoln Historic Site: A town made famous by one of the most violent periods in New Mexico history. See the Old Courthouse with exhibits detailing the Lincoln County War. Walk in the footsteps of Billy the Kid, Pat Garrett, and other characters of the Wild West.

Lincoln Historic Site
Lincoln Historic Site

New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors: Originally constructed in the early 17th century as Spain’s seat of government for what is today the American Southwest, the Palace of the Governors chronicles the history of Santa Fe, as well as New Mexico and the region. This adobe structure, now the state’s history museum, was designated a Registered National Historic Landmark in 1960 and an American Treasure in 1999.

New Mexico Museum of Space History: A visit to the Museum of Space History is a trip into the origins of our nation’s space exploration program. The Museum is composed of The Museum of Space History, The International Space Hall of Fame, The John P. Stapp Air & Space Park, Daisy Track, The Clyde W. Tombaugh IMAX Theater, and Astronaut Memorial Garden.

New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum: Located in Las Cruces, the Museum tells the story of agriculture from 800 years ago when Native Americans planted corn, squash, and beans to today’s agribusinesses and family farms. Explore the museum, both inside—where you can see art and other exhibits and outside—where you can meet cattle and other livestock face to face.

Fort Stanton Historic Site
Fort Stanton Historic Site

Museum of Indian Arts & Culture: A premier repository of Native art and material culture, the Museum tells the stories of the people of the Southwest from pre-history through contemporary art. Located in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the museum shares its location with the other museums of Museum Hill: Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian, and Museum of International Folk Art.

Please Note: This is Part 2 of a 3-part series on the Public Lands Of New Mexico

Worth Pondering…

If you ever go to New Mexico, it will itch you for the rest of your life.

—Georgia O’Keeffe

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Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move

What began as an idea formed during a session at the National Council on Public History’s annual conference in 2011 is now a reality.

Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move
Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move

A group of University of Louisiana at Lafayette graduate students created a unique mobile museum exhibit.

It’s only fitting that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette History Department’s Museum on the Move (MoM) is a vintage Airstream, because the iconic brand has such a rich history of their own.

As Professor John Troutman, the history instructor that brought the museum concept to life told Airstream Life, “What vehicle to support a mobile museum is more historical, and timelessly attractive, than an Airstream?”

The university located the 26-foot 1954 Cruiser on an Airstream forum, and Troutman and a colleague picked it up outside of Birmingham, Alabama in February 2013.

Students from the School of Architecture and Design came up with concepts to remake the trailer into a functional and modifiable mobile museum . They hired a local contractor—and Airstream enthusiast—to gut it, rebuild the frame and floor, and rewire it.

All the retro comforts were replaced with wood flooring and industrial framing to accommodate museum panels.

Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move
Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move

Troutman’s graduate students developed the museum’s initial exhibit, “Crossing the Line: Louisiana Women in a Century of Change” during the fall semester of 2013.

Students and Troutman worked out the lighting, exhibit panel mountings, and exhibit “flow,” as well as acquired the show’s artifacts and images, and wrote the explanatory text.

The exhibit features 10 Louisiana women from the late 19th century to the present who created extraordinary change in the state.

The exhibit is based on research provided by students in a Louisiana Women course taught by history professor Mary Farmer-Kaiser. Troutman’s students pared down the list of 40 women to 10 after focusing on a theme of activism.

Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move
Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move

In the spring and fall of 2014, they toured the exhibit all over southern Louisiana—to historical association meetings, local civic group meetings, farmer’s markets, music festivals, and schools.

“That is one of our greatest successes in terms of developing this program—the Airstream draws people in, long before they read the exhibit description outside the door,” says Troutman. “Everyone wants to talk about the Airstream, tells us their Airstream experiences, and asks where we found it. That gets them in the door, so that they can see the exhibits that our students will design and install each year. Buying an Airstream to serve as the exhibit vehicle is the best decision we could have ever made.”

Troutman’s students love the MoM because it gets them professional, hands-on experience in museum work and gets them out in the community—even out into Troutman’s driveway, which he describes as being “ground zero for installing our exhibits in the trailer.”

The academic work for the museum’s next exhibit, covering the history of oil production in Louisiana’s oil-rich state, is now taking place in student seminars. In the fall, Troutman’s graduate student seminar will convert that scholarship into “Oil in Louisiana,” the next traveling exhibit.

Being a history professor, Dr. Troutman is eminently qualified to speak on the place of the Airstream in the historical record: “Airstreams are remarkable: Their popularity reflected the desire of Americans to learn about other parts of our country, and to expand the venues for their family time and their critical family experiences, beyond their homes, and onto the open road. The design aesthetic of these trailers is unmatched and a thing of wondrous beauty.”

Museum-quality beauty, it seems.

Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move
Vintage Airstream: Museum on the Move

Details

Museum on the Move (MoM)

Museum on the Move (MoM) is a project of University of Louisiana at Lafayette History Department.

Public History students outfit a vintage Airstream trailer with an interpretive exhibit that will then hit the road to take history directly out of the classroom and to the public. Exhibits will be created on a rotating basis and require the melding of two courses and a cohort of students.

The first course is a traditional history course where students conduct research projects geared toward the planned exhibit. The next phase of the project is for a Museum Studies course, under the direction of Dr. John Troutman, where students re-craft the research done in the first class to create exhibit components that they will install in the trailer.

Once the exhibit is up and rolling, the trailer will be sent out on short runs to venues around the state where the students’ (and the program’s) work will be on display.

Website: www.museumonthemove.com

Worth Pondering…

You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.

—Maya Angelou

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Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros

Here is our plan: We’ll drive to a town that shouldn’t exist. We’ll travel a twisted ribbon of pavement along Historic Route 66.

Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driving to the historic town of Oatman is a favorite Arizona road trip.

Once a gold-mining boomtown, Oatman hunkers in a craggy gulch of the Black Mountains, 28 miles southwest of Kingman. Rising above town is the jagged peak of white quartz known as Elephant’s Tooth.

Often described as a ghost town, Oatman comes close to fitting the category, considering that it once boasted nearly 20,000 people and now supports just a little over 100 people year-round.

Oatman has about 40 gift, antique, and craft shops, two Old Time Photo Shops, Judy’s Bar, assorted ghosts, and several places to eat and listen to live music.

Though Oatman is only a shadow of its former self, it is well worth a visit to this living ghost town that provides, not only a handful of historic buildings and photo opportunities, but costumed gunfighters and 1890s style ladies strolling the wooden sidewalks, as well as the sights of burros walking the streets.

The burg’s most famous residents are its four-legged ambassadors. Burros from the surrounding hills wander into Oatman daily and mosey around town blocking traffic, greeting visitors, and chomping carrots sold by the shop owners.

Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No matter how tame they seem, the burros are wild animals. Use caution and common sense when feeding them. Do not feed junk food to the burros. Also, it’s best to leave Rover at home. Many burros consider the family pooch nothing more than a coyote with connections.

The burros are descendants of animals used by miners and abandoned when the ore played out.

Oatman owes its place in history to two miners who struck it rich in 1915, uncovering more than $10 million in gold. A tent city soon sprang up as other miners heard of the gold find and flocked to the area; within a year, the town’s population grew to more than 3,500.

By 1930, it was estimated that 36 million dollars worth of gold had come from the mines. The town boasted two banks, seven hotels, twenty saloons, and ten stores.

The town’s name is attributed to Olive Oatman, a young girl kidnapped by Indians and eventually rescued and returned to her family.

More modern events add to the allure of the tiny town, the most famous of which is a visit by Clark Gable and Carol Lombard, who spent their honeymoon in the Oatman Hotel in 1939. The well-used building, listed on the National Historic Building Registry, continues to attract visitors today.

Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you notice folks clustering in the street without a ravenous burro in sight, it signals an impending gunfight. Gunfighter groups stage shootouts at various times throughout the day.

When the mines shuttered, the stream of traffic along Route 66, the main route from the Midwest to California, kept Oatman alive.

Then in 1952, Interstate 40 was constructed from Kingman, Arizona to Needles, California, bypassing this stretch of mountains. Oatman barely hung on.

In the 70s, Laughlin, Nevada started up; and in the late 80s, Route 66 became a popular destination for tourists from around the world.

Today, a half-million people visit this historic outpost each year. Not bad for an old ghost town off the beaten path. The town  just waited for the world to come back around.

Folks start to roll out of town in late afternoon. Even the burros clock out and mosey back into the hills.

Oatman is a day trip full of surprises—of ghost towns and ghost roads, and wild burros. And one of the most scenic drives in the state.

Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Oatman: Living Ghost Town, Gunfighters & Burros © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now that’s something to bray about.

Worth Pondering…

So many ghosts upon the road,
My eyes I swear are playing tricks;
And a voice I hear, it’s Tom Joad,
Near Oatman on Route 66.

—Dave MacLennan

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Legend, History & Intrigue of the Superstitions

Strange secrets lie hidden in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona.

Superstition Mountain Museum
To further understand and appreciate the Superstition Mountains area, its legend, history, and intrigue we recently toured the 12.5-acre Superstition Mountain Museum. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Did a lone miner really discover a fortune in lost gold in this rugged region?

And what strange force caused dozens of adventurers seeking the mine to vanish without a trace never to be seen again?

For legend, history, and intrigue no area in America has the equal of the Superstition Mountains in the Tonto National Forest east of Apache Junction.

The early inhabitants of the area included the Salado, Hohokam, and Apache Indians. Following came the Spanish conquistadors, the first of which was Francisco Vasquez de Coronado who came north from Mexico in 1540 seeking the legendary “Seven Golden Cities of Cibola”.

When the Spaniards searched the mountain for gold, they began to vanish mysteriously. The bodies that were found were mutilated with their heads cut off. Since the terrified survivors refused to return to the mountain, Coronado named the series of peaks, Monte Superstition.

The mountain became a legendary spot to all who followed and was regarded by many as an evil place.

We wandered the entire site with its reproductions of 19th Century businesses including a Wells Fargo office, stage coach stop, barber shop, assay office, and other displays of authentic relics of this era.
We wandered the entire site with its reproductions of 19th Century businesses including a Wells Fargo office, stage coach stop, barber shop, assay office, jail, and other displays of authentic relics of this era. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

American trappers and adventurers migrated to the area; cattlemen and farmers soon followed. Later, the U.S. Cavalry was sent west to establish forts to protect the growing population.

Decades later, miners began searching for what was touted as the richest gold mine in the world. This mine was made famous by Jacob Waltz, known as “the Dutchman”, who took the secret of “his mine” to the grave in 1891.

Treasure hunters continue to scour the mountains searching for the Lost Dutchman Mine, but now share the region with campers, hikers, backpackers, and horseback riders in what is now the Superstition Wilderness Area.

To further understand and appreciate the area, its legend, history, and intrigue we recently toured the 12.5-acre Superstition Mountain Museum.

Located east of Lost Dutchman State Park, the museum collects, preserves, and displays the artifacts and history of the Superstition Mountains, Apache Junction, and the surrounding area.

We traversed the nature trails that crisscross the area surrounding the museum buildings, all located at the base of the West Wall of the beautiful  Superstition Mountain.

We wandered the entire site with its reproductions of 19th Century businesses including a Wells Fargo office, stage coach stop, barber shop, assay office, and other displays of authentic relics of this era.

No western movie set is complete without a stagecoach and driver
No western movie set is complete without a stagecoach and driver. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Museums in their own right, the Elvis Memorial Chapel and the Audie Murphy Barn were moved to the site, piece by piece, nail by nail, and reconstructed following the second fire in 2004 (first fire was in 1969) which destroyed the Apacheland Movie Ranch.

Western motion pictures and television were filmed at Apacheland Movie Ranch over a 45 year period. Movies filmed included Charro, which starred Elvis Presley, The Ballad of Cable Hogue, Arizona Raiders ,The Haunted, The Gambler II, and Blind Justice. Television series included Have Gun Will Travel and Wanted Dead or Alive.

A movie memorabilia museum showing movies that were filmed at Apacheland, the Elvis Memorial Chapel also serves, as it has since it was first constructed, as a wedding chapel. Contact the museum for reservations (SEE Details below)

Twenty eight days were required for five men, all volunteers, to disassemble and move the 20 Stamp Ore Crusher from Albuquerque to the museum site. This mill was state of the art technology for recovering gold in the 1800s.

Another major building spared in both fires has long been called the Rifleman’s Barn since it was located where the TV series, The Rifleman, was produced. The barn also figured prominently in dozens of western films shot at this location.

It was moved in literally hundreds of pieces to the museum’s grounds and reconstructed almost entirely of its original materials. Its loft serves as storage area while the ground level displays wagons, buggies, stage coaches, and other vehicles representing the Old West.

For legend, history, and intrigue no area in America has the equal of the Superstition Mountains in the Tonto National Forest east of Apache Junction.
For legend, history, and intrigue no area in America has the equal of the Superstition Mountains in the Tonto National Forest east of Apache Junction. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be sure to watch your step as you traverse the trails because there are rattlesnakes (yes, we saw one) and other varmints.

Indoors, the museum has many books, documents, artifacts, and maps regarding the Lost Dutchman and his gold.

Details

Superstition Mountain Museum

Location: On Apache Trail (Highway 88)3½ miles northeast of Apache Junction

Address: 4087 N. Apache Trail (Highway 88), Apache Junction, AZ 85119

Phone: (480) 983-4888

Hours: Open daily 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.

Admission: $5.00; seniors 55 and over, $4.00

Website: www.superstitionmountainmuseum.org

Worth Pondering…

History, although sometimes made up of the few acts of the great, is more often shaped by the many acts of the small.

—Mark Yost

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San Xavier del Bac: White Dove of the Desert

One glance, and you know why it’s known as the White Dove of the Desert.

Mission San Xavier del Bac, sometimes called "the Sistine Chapel of the United States" and the "White Dove of the Desert," is considered the finest example of Spanish colonial architecture in the country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Mission San Xavier del Bac, sometimes called “the Sistine Chapel of the United States” and the “White Dove of the Desert,” is considered the finest example of Spanish colonial architecture in the country. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Just imagine, in the late 1600s a stranger on horseback has entered a village. Many of the people gather to see this stranger who is dressed in a dark, flowing robe and large brimmed hat. The people of the village greet the stranger and welcome him.

These people are the Tohono O’odham and the village is Wa:k. The stranger is Jesuit missionary and explorer Eusebio Kino.

A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission when Father Eusebio Kino first came to the O’odham village of Wa:k (which he transcribed as “Bac”) in 1692.

The mission church of San Xavier del Bac, the oldest intact European structure in Arizona, is a stunning example of Mexican baroque architecture. The Baroque architecture style features playful dramatic elements such as theatrical curtain displays, faux doors, marbling, and overall sense of balance.

After Charles III expelled the Jesuits from Spain and all its holdings in 1767, Franciscans took over the mission in Wa:k.

The current church dates from the late 1700s, when Southern Arizona was part of New Spain. Construction began in 1783 and was completed in 1797. Franciscan missionary Fr. Juan Bautista Velderrain began construction on the present structure using money borrowed from a Sonoran rancher. He hired an architect, Ignacio Gaona, and a large workforce of O’odham to create the present church.

Today that structure is the east wing of the mission, next to the east bell tower.

The walls of the Mission's Byzantine-influenced interior are ablaze with frescoes, a religious gallery of work painted directly on its walls by missionaries two centuries ago. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
The walls of the Mission’s Byzantine-influenced interior are ablaze with frescoes, a religious gallery of work painted directly on its walls by missionaries two centuries ago. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1783, Father Juan Bautista Velderrain began construction of the present church, which is made of clay brick, stone, and lime-based mortar.

Father Juan Bautista Llorens took over after Velderrain’s death in 1790 and oversaw much of the interior decoration. Among the exquisite murals and statuary — many made in Mexico and painstakingly transported to the church — you’ll see several recurring motifs, including the Franciscan cord and seashells, St. James’ symbol of pilgrimage.

The church’s interior is filled with marvelous original statuary and mural paintings. It is a place where visitors can truly step back in time and enter an authentic 18th Century space.

Although the friars ran out of money before they could finish one bell tower and decorate one of the largest rooms in the church, the mission opened for services in 1797. The elaborate Mexican baroque exterior and vividly painted interior had the desired effect—to draw native people into the fold.

Following Mexican independence in 1821, San Xavier became part of Mexico. The last resident Franciscan of the 19th Century departed in 1837. With the Gadsden Purchase of 1854, the Mission joined the United States. In 1859 San Xavier became part of the Diocese of Santa Fe. In 1866 Tucson became an incipient diocese and regular services were held at the Mission once again. Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet opened a school at the Mission in 1872.

The Franciscans returned to the Mission in 1913. Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity now teach at the school and reside in the convent.

One glance, and you know why it's known as the White Dove of the Desert
One glance, and you know why it’s known as the White Dove of the Desert. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Although the church was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963 and is open to the public, its primary purpose is to minister to the religious needs of its parishioners.

Restoration of the west tower was recently completed. Work on the east tower and the front facade will proceed as funding allows.

Details

San Xavier del Bac

Location: 9 miles south of downtown Tucson just off of I-19; take exit 92 (San Xavier Road) and follow signs to the Mission

Address: 1950 W. San Xavier Road, Tucson, AZ 85746-7409

Hours: Open 7:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. daily, with occasional closures for special services; Sunday mass at 7:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., and 11:30 p.m.

Admission: Free. Donations are appreciated.

Phone: (520) 294-2624

Website: www.sanxaviermission.org

Worth Pondering…

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.

—Arthur Ashe

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Death Valley National Park: Hottest, Driest, Lowest

Death Valley. The very name repels. So do the superlatives: the hottest (134 degrees in 1913), driest (less than 2 inches of average annual rainfall), and lowest (282 feet below sea level) of the U.S. national parks. Nearly 550 square miles of its area lie below sea level.

Dante's View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley
Dante’s View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley, affords the best overall views of the southern half of the national park including Badwater. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Its forbidding name, suggests a vast stretch of nothingness. Boring. Bleak. Empty. Right?

Dead wrong. Despite its inhospitable name, Death Valley National Park can, in fact, be quite welcoming.

Death Valley National Park has 3.3 million acres of desert and mountains, making it the largest national park in the contiguous United States. The park sits in a low depression east of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Though Death Valley measures in at just 12 miles wide, the expanse covers 130 miles in length. Telescope Peak marks the highest elevation in the park at 11,039 feet, while the lowest spot, Badwater, is down at 282 feet below sea level, the fifth lowest point in the world.

A 600-foot-deep freshwater lake once filled the valley floor, but that water dried up about 10,000 years ago. Now the valley floor is a salt pan, which contributed to the naming of the spot. It is said a man who was sent out to find all the watering holes in Death Valley could not get his horse to drink because of the salt content, and called it “bad water.”

In 1849, pioneers trekked through with covered wagons. Ironically, while some pioneers died while crossing other areas, including the Sierra Nevada, no one died in Death Valley, despite its inhospitable conditions. When a woman said “Goodbye, Death Valley” as she departed, the misnomer stuck.

Furnace Creek Ranch boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world
Furnace Creek Ranch boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world at 214 feet below sea level, tennis courts, spring-fed swimming pools, horseback riding, hiking trails, and carriage rides. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In later years, the area provided a source for borax mined for use in glass, porcelain, ceramics, detergents, and other items. Twenty-mule teams pulled wagonloads of borax from the mines to the railroads. Gold and silver were also mined in the valley.

Contrary to its name, Death Valley teems with life. The Park contains an amazing variety of terrain, historic sites, plants, and animals for outdoor adventurers to explore. Amazingly more than 1,000 species of plants (50 of them found nowhere else in the world), 51 species of mammals, more than 300 types of birds, and even some fish call this area home. And with the darkest nights of any national park, it’s perfect for sky gazing.

The possibilities for discovery are endless. From the magical burst of wildflower blooms in spring to the allure of ghost towns, historic mining operations, and dramatic landscapes of rugged canyons, mountains, and valleys, Death Valley National Park offers something for everyone.

Spring is the most popular time to visit Death Valley. Besides warm and sunny days, the possibility of spring wildflowers is a big attraction. If the previous winter brought rain, the desert can put on an impressive floral display, usually peaking in late March to early April.

Autumn arrives in late October, with warm but pleasant temperatures and generally clear skies. Winter has cool but pleasant days and chilly nights. With snow capping the high peaks and low angled winter light, this season is especially beautiful for exploring the valley. Summer starts early in Death Valley. By May the valley is too hot for many visitors.

Looking out from Zabriskie Point, you are surrounded by one of Death Valley's forbidding, almost unearthly, desert landscapes.
Looking out from Zabriskie Point, you are surrounded by one of Death Valley’s forbidding, almost unearthly, desert landscapes. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Using Wine Ridge RV Resort in Pahrump, Nevada, as our home base, we explored the southeastern portion of Death Valley National Park including stops at Dante’s View, Zabrieski Point, Furnace Creek, and Badwater Basin.

Dante’s View, a 5,450-foot overlook near the edge of the Black Mountains on the eastern border of Death Valley, affords the best overall views of the southern half of the national park including Badwater.

Looking out from Zabriskie Point, you are surrounded by one of Death Valley’s forbidding, almost unearthly, desert landscapes. Everywhere you look, you see bone-dry, finely-sculpted, golden-brown-black badlands.

The National Park Service maintains a large visitors center at Furnace Creek, a good place to begin an exploration of Death Valley. There are several nice campgrounds throughout the valley, but the three at Furnace Creek are the most popular.

Nearby is Furnace Creek Ranch, which boasts the lowest-elevation golf course in the world at 214 feet below sea level, tennis courts, spring-fed swimming pools, horseback riding, hiking trails, and carriage rides.

salt flats at Badwarwe Basin
Walk onto the crusted salt flats at Badwarwe Basin for a short distance to enjoy the expansive views up and down the valley. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eighteen miles south of Furnace Creek at 282 feet below sea level is Badwater, probably the best known and most visited place in Death Valley. Walk onto the crusted salt flats for a short distance to enjoy the expansive views up and down the valley and get a closer look at salt crystals. They feel soft and springy underfoot.

Did You Know?

In 1929, no rain was recorded in Death Valley. From 1931 through 1934, a 40 month period, only 0.64 inches of rain fell.

Details

Death Valley National Park

Established: National Monument, February 11, 1933; National Park, October 31, 1994

Size: 3,372,401.96 acres

Vehicle Entrance Fee: $20 for 7 Days

2013 Visitor Count: 951,972

Worth Pondering…

But it was so hot that swallows in full flight fell to the earth dead and when and I went out to read the thermometer with a wet Turkish towel on my head, it was dry before I returned.

—Oscar Denten, caretaker of what is now the Furnace Creek Ranch on the record hot day of 134°F (56°C) in July 1913

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Discover Hubbell Trading Post Where History Is Made Every Day

Little has changed in more than 135 years at the oldest continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Reservation.

discover this authentic Navajo trading post
Take some time to discover this authentic Navajo trading post and original 160 acre homestead. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is equal parts museum, art gallery, and general store, a place where Native Americans come to sell or trade blankets, rugs, and jewelry for groceries, tools, and clothes.

The post, its thick stone walls protecting visitors from the blazing summers and frigid winters of the high desert, continues to lure buyers and sellers alike.

Many of today’s customers are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of those who traded with John Lorenzo Hubbell, who bought the trading post in 1878.

Hubbell, a 25-year-old clerk and trader, learned much about the Navajos as he traveled the Southwest. He began trading in 1876 and two years later purchased the small post and surrounding land from a man eager to move on.

He acted as a bridge between the Navajos and the rest of the world.

Hubbell had an enduring influence on Navajo rugweaving and silversmithing, for he consistently demanded and promoted excellence in craftsmanship.

The local populace soon embraced Hubbell thanks to his kindness, patience, and generosity. He translated and wrote letters, mediated quarrels and, during the smallpox epidemic in 1886, used his home as a makeshift hospital.

Feel the old wooden floor give slightly and squeak beneath your feet as you enter the oldest, continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Nation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Feel the old wooden floor give slightly and squeak beneath your feet as you enter the oldest, continuously operating trading post on the Navajo Nation. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

His business benefited as a result, and Navajos came to socialize as much as to barter.

Hubbell built a trading empire that included stage and freight lines as well as several trading posts. At various times, he and his two sons, together or separately, owned 24 trading posts, a wholesale house in Winslow, and other business and ranch properties. Beyond question, he was the foremost Navajo trader of his time.

The Hubbell family continued to operate the trading post until 1967, when the National Park Service took over.

Much of the post looks just as it did in century-old photographs, giving visitors a sense of stepping through a portal in time.

The post’s front door opens into the bullpen, a high-ceilinged room where bartering took place. Shelves

High counters and long shelves once crowded with bread, milk, and tins of food, now hold blankets and baskets, clothing and kitchen utensils. jewelry and souvenirs, while harnesses and hardware hang from the wood beams that run the length of the ceiling.

Much of the post looks just as it did in century-old photographs, giving visitors a sense of stepping through a portal in time. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Much of the post looks just as it did in century-old photographs, giving visitors a sense of stepping through a portal in time. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A couple of side rooms hold Navajo rugs, cases of jewelry, paintings, kachinas, sculptures, and other works of art. There’s a good chance you’ll see customers negotiating trades.

Everyone notices the post’s creaky floorboards. Each step brings another groan of protest from the planks. But this isn’t the original floor. When the post was refurbished in the 1970s, contractors took great care to maintain the squeak, as it had become the post’s signature sound.

The trading post is the centerpiece of the 160-acre site. Visitors also can tour the Hubbell house; browse the visitor center (built in 1920 and used originally as a school); and see barns, corrals, wagons, and other historical farm equipment, as well as a variety farm animals, including Churro sheep and their prized wool.

The post hosts two art auctions each year. The next one will be Saturday, September 13. The auctions feature works from many tribes.

Details

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site

Operating Hours: 8 a.m.-5 p.m. daily

Time zone: Unlike Arizona the Navajo Nation observes daylight saving time

Admission: Trading Post, free; Hubbell Home tour, $2/person

Join a tour of the historic Hubbell home, the original home lived in by J. L. Hubbell and his family. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Join a tour of the historic Hubbell home, the original home lived in by J. L. Hubbell and his family. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Elevation: 6,300 feet

Location: 1 mile west of Highway 191 in Ganado, on Highway 264

Camping: No camping facilities

Address: P.O. Box 150, Ganado, Arizona 86505

Phone: (928) 755-3475

Web site: www.nps.gov/hutr

Worth Pondering…

A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike.

—John Steinbeck, author

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Dry Falls: World’s Largest Waterfall

As the name suggests, Dry Falls no longer carries water, but is the remnant of what was once the world’s largest (in water volume) waterfall known to have existed on earth, but that was during the Great Missoula Floods at the end of the last Ice Age.

Dry Falls: World's Largest Waterfall
Dry Falls: World’s Largest Waterfall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today the falls is a massive cirque of basalt: Dry Falls Lake. The site is designated a National Natural Landmark.

Viewing the 3.5 miles of sheer cliffs that drop 400 feet, it is easy to imagine the roar of water pouring over them. Niagara Falls by comparison, is one mile wide with a drop of 165 feet.

The falls were created following the catastrophic collapse of an enormous ice-dam holding back the waters of Glacier Lake Missoula. Water covering three thousand square miles of northwest Montana, about the volume of Lake Ontario, was locked behind this glacial dam until the rising lake penetrated, lifted, and then blew out the ice dam. This massive torrent known as the Missoula Flood ran wild through the Idaho panhandle, the Spokane River Valley, much of eastern Washington, and into Oregon, flooding the area that is now the city of Portland under 400 feet of water.

Reaching the Dry Falls area, this tremendous force swept away earth and rock from a precipice 15 miles south of the falls near Soap Lake, causing the falls to retreat to its present position, now known as Dry Falls. The falls is considered a spectacular example of “headward erosion”. If this is confusing, given the present topography, it also helps to know the falls are on an ancient course of the Columbia River. The river had been diverted this way by the encroaching glaciers. It returned to its present course as the ice retreated.

Dry Falls: World's Largest Waterfall
Dry Falls: World’s Largest Waterfall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, the former waterfall overlooks a desert oasis filled with lakes and abundant wildlife. It is now dry as a bone but water is still present in the Sun Lakes, a haven for fishing, swimming, and boating in this otherwise arid desert landscape.

Dry water channels from the Banks Lake area slide south to the lip of the falls, and then the land falls away in great basaltic cliffs. What was once an ancient splash pool at the base of the falls is now a broad desert meadow dotted with lakes and ponds, swarming with birds and animals of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. This is a uniquely beautiful area to explore, both to delve into the geologic history of the area and to reach out and touch the native flora and fauna of the Washington desert.

Umatilla Rock towers like a giant fin in the middle of Grand Coulee in the basin below Dry Falls. This rock would have been an island in the midst of swirling waters during the great floods.

Today it offers a clear look at the multiple layers of geologic soils and rock that make up these lands. At the junction where the road splits (left to Dry Falls Lake, right to Camp Delany), head left along the gravel road at the southwestern base of Umatilla Rock. Stray off the road and hike cross-country through the open sage prairie and you might spot a few pheasant or quail. In the first mile or so, you’ll pass Perch Lake and climb a small rise for views of the lake basin.

Dry Falls: World's Largest Waterfall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Dry Falls: World’s Largest Waterfall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Camping is very popular in the park, which offers over 150 campsites for RVs and tents. There are also boat rentals in the summer.

The best views of Dry Falls are from the Vista House Overlook. The Dry Falls visitor centre features displays about the geology and natural history of the area and tells the story of this amazing geological phenomenon. From lava flows to the Ice Age floods, and from the Native American legacy to the modern discovery of how Dry Falls was created, the Dry Falls story is revealed to tens of thousands of visitors each year.

A gift shop in the visitor center has a wide selection of books, maps, guides, videos, postcards, film, and other merchandise about Dry Falls and the surrounding area.

Now, that is really climate change. Man made? I don’t think so!

Details

Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park

Sun Lakes-Dry Falls State Park is a 4,027-acre camping park with 73,640 feet of freshwater shoreline at the foot of Dry Falls. The Dry Falls Interpretive Center is located two miles north of the main park on Highway 17.

Dry Falls: World's Largest Waterfall
Dry Falls: World’s Largest Waterfall © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Location: 7 miles southwest of Coulee City in northeast Washington. It is a feature of Grand Coulee Canyon, which is itself part of the Channeled Scablands that cover three-quarters of eastern Washington.

Directions: South of US-2 onto WA-17, and drive to the visitor center which is in sight of the highway, on the east side.

Address: 34875 Park Lake Road NE, Coulee City, WA 99115

Phone: (509) 632-5583

Website: www.parks.wa.gov

Worth Pondering…

Our happiest moments as tourists always seem to come when we stumble upon one thing while in pursuit of something else.

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9 Haunted Halloween Road Trip Destinations

Every town has a ghost story or two, but some places seem to attract more ghostly activity than others.

Salem Haunted HappeningsThe following four destinations are perfect choices for a spooky Halloween road trip this month.

Salem, Massachusetts

There is nowhere in the U.S. like Salem on Halloween! It’s got it all: fabulous fall foliage, New England charm, a horrifying history, and tons of Halloween events and activities.

This town was made famous by its witchcraft trials in 1692, where twenty innocent people were executed on charges of witchcraft. Salem pays tribute year-round to the history of the town with benches commemorating the dead and historic sites detailing the trials and events leading up to them.

Salem goes all out—there are haunted houses, special events at the Witch Museum, the House of Seven Gables, and the Witch House, street performers (often dressed as witches), parades, costume balls—so much is going on.

With most of the revelers dressed up in costumes, every inch of the town decorated for the holiday, and great themed events, you’ll feel like you’ve landed in Halloween Land! It truly is the most Halloween-themed of all of the Halloween destinations out there.

Tombstone, Arizona

Although Tombstone drips of tourism, there are ghost stories to be found.
Tombstone still looks the part of the Wild West when you walk down the old dirt road. Though the town shuts down early, you may be able to see where ‘the Swamper’ lived if you just ask.

The Swamper was a man in Tombstone who dug a tunnel through his living quarters into the mines to find silver. He was eventually caught and murdered.
In addition to the Swamper’s trail, visit the Bird Cage Theatre for a ghostly experience.

Sante Fe, New Mexico

There have been reports of Julia Staab descending this stairway dressed in black
There have been reports of Julia Staab descending this stairway dressed in black.

Santa Fe is full of ghosts. Some you hear about and some you don’t. One of the most famous is Julia Staab, who lives in, or more correctly, haunts the upscale hotel, La Posada. The beautiful Julia was the wife of wealthy Santa Fe merchant, Abraham Staab.

The Staabs were prosperous and abundant. They had seven children. Things went downhill when the eighth child, a son, died soon after his birth.

Reportedly, Julia went into a severe depression and may have even lost her sanity. Her hair is said to have turned white overnight. After several subsequent unsuccessful pregnancies, she took to her room and died in 1896 at the age of 52.

Julia is said to have loved her magnificent home and if you believe the stories, she is still there roaming the halls. Julia is a playful ghost and has been known to turn the faucets on in the bathrooms and move glasses around in the bar.

To read about our Ghost Walking Tour of Santa Fe, click here.

Galveston, Texas

Ashton Villa
Ashton Villa was built by James Moreau Brown, beginning in 1859. The family occupied the house by 1861. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Galveston is full of ghosts, but the best place to get a good dose of them is at the amazing Ashton Villa mansion. Built in the 1860s by James Brown, the 6,000 square foot home is one of the few historical buildings to have survived the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. Even so, the Brown family watched as the water rose up to the tenth step of the grand staircase and flowed through the house like a river. Later it served as a Confederate hospital.

Sounds attributed to the ghost of Jame’s daughter Bettie are a frequent occurrence. Sometimes visitors on tour will hear her playing the piano. Beds will unmake themselves and chests will randomly lock and unlock. Some people claim to have witnessed ghost soldiers marching through the house. A caretaker once reported waking up in the night and witnessing a conversation from the past about marriage from two ghosts, and furniture will sometimes move.

Note: Ashton Villa is now home to the Galveston Island Visitor Information Center

More Haunted Destinations

Here are five additional spooky Halloween holiday destinations.

LanternResvFormLogoIn Decatur, Illinois, the ghosts of bootleggers and theater stagehands haunt buildings throughout the city.

In Athens, Ohio, a former mental hospital is packed with the ghosts of disgruntled patients.

And in Paulding, Michigan, locals report a mysterious phenomenon called the Paulding Light.

The religious separatist community of Zoar, Ohio, disbanded in the late 1800s—but resident spirits remain, at least according to guides with Lantern Tour of the Ghosts of Zoar, who lead haunted walks through town on Fridays and Saturdays through November 1.

Add some extra chills to an already thrilling zipline experience at ZipZone Canopy Tours near Columbus, Ohio. Freaky Flight Nights run Tuesday through Friday, October 28-31, at ZipZone, located at Camp Mary Orton near Worthington.

There is a cursed locale somewhere near you. So, pull out your costume , dust off your GPS, and grab a bag of fun-size candy bars for the road—it’s time for a haunted Halloween road trip!

Be safe and responsible during Halloween fun and travels.

Worth Pondering…

‘Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world.
—William Shakespeare

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Vintage 1917 Packard Motorhome For Sale

A vintage 1917 Packard Twin Six 25-foot motorhome that could be the oldest motorhome in the United States is currently listed for sale at Hemmings, the world’s largest collector car marketplace.

Vintage 1917 Packard Motorhome For Sale
Vintage 1917 Packard Motorhome For Sale

Presently located in Afton, Oklahoma, this vintage motorhome is in very good running condition and available for the bargain price of $99,995.

The twin-six was built in 1917 for the Pickwick Family of Los Angeles by Earl C. Anthony Shops.

The Pickwick family operated over-the-road buses and later merged with Greyhound.

The motorhome was located in southern California until 1981 when the current owner purchased it. He said it has been stored inside since that time and restoration work has been done locally.

According to the description at Hemmings, the motorhome features include:

Twin Six – 424-cubic-inch engine

Three-speed manual transmission

224-inch wheelbase

7:00×20 tires

Air over hydraulic front suspension

Manual brakes with Air Assist

Vintage 1917 Packard Motorhome For Sale
Vintage 1917 Packard Motorhome For Sale

Rear bedroom with convertible sofas

Mid-bath

Front kitchen with two burner gasoline cooktop

Ice box and sink

Wood cabinets

Price: $99,995

Worth Pondering…

Before there were interstates, when everyone drove the old two-lane roads, Burma Shave signs would be posted all over the countryside in farmers’ fields. They were small red signs with white letters. Five signs, about 100 feet apart, each containing one line of a four-line couplet—and the obligatory fifth sign advertising Burma Shave, a popular shaving cream.

Here is one of the actual signs:

No matter the price

No matter how new

The best safety device

In the car is you

BURMA SHAVE

Did this bring back any old memories?

If not, you’re merely a child.

If they do—then you’re old as dirt—LIKE ME!

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