Archive for the ‘trees’ Category

newspaper rock   5 comments

Posted at 5:14 pm in history,trees,Utah

This will be the third to last post about my autumn 2010 travels between eastern Canada and southeast Arizona. For those who are following my journey and wondering where I am right now, I left Arizona on April 1st, and arrived in eastern Ontario on the evening of April 9th. I spent the better part of nine days driving from my starting point in Arizona, through New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York state, to an end point just north of the Canadian border. Quite a number of these states were new to me. I particularly enjoyed my brief stays in New Mexico and Oklahoma. I hope to return to camp in Oklahoma for a few days – perhaps next April.

Gas was costly on this trip, although total mileage was much less than my usual route. As the weather was reasonably warm most of the way, I was able to camp on all eight nights. Campsite fees worked out to about $110 in total. They were very reasonable in the west, and increasingly expensive as I moved east. Sage and Sabrina managed the trip just fine, but I ended it feeling quite tired and stressed. From about Arkansas onward, I found the freeways busy and the parks much more developed than I prefer. Luckily, there weren’t too many other campers, or things would have seemed a lot worse.

I’m glad to have the journey out of the way. Now I’ll try to rest up, take care of some business, buy a few tools and materials, pick up my canoe from friends who have stored it for me for over two years, and head east to work on the old house in Nova Scotia that I acquired about a year ago. I took a lot of photos along my spring route. Once the last of the autumn journey posts is up, I’ll work on a couple of pieces about the high points of this spring’s travels.

By the second week in November (2010), I was moving southward through Utah, on my way to visit Chaco Canyon in New Mexico. The weather was getting cooler and it was only a matter of time until I would have to deal with snow. Before leaving Moab, I spent a morning driving up and down a few canyons to visit petroglyph sites. Later that day, I headed south, returning to camp at Sand Island near Bluff. However, there was one last stop to make along the way — a side trip to see Newspaper Rock in Indian Creek Canyon.

The panel is described as being about 200 square feet, located on an expanse of sandstone which is partly sheltered by a rock overhang. Almost every inch is covered with petroglyphs varying in age from decades to about 2,000 years old. There are many figures of animals, but also geometric shapes, a good many “footprints” and also a number of human type forms.

Of all the images on the panel, the above is my favorite. To me, it resembles some of the petroglyph depictions of the manitou type spirit creatures found up in Ontario.

I studied and shot a number of photos of the panel, then readied to leave. From here, I would drive back out to the interstate and south through Monticello, Blanding, and on to the campground near Bluff. Once again, there were very few campers at that location. We spent a quiet evening camped in the same site we had occupied a week or so earlier.

The cottonwood yet retainedg their bright yellow autumn leaves, but would soon begin to lose them to the winter winds. The tree down below was actually photographed at Moonflower Canyon near Moab. I thought it a particularly beautiful example of a cottonwood in autumn. Click on all of the above photos for larger views.

Written by bev wigney on April 11th, 2011

wildrose charcoal kilns   15 comments

row of ten kilns as seen when approaching from west end of Wildrose Canyon (click on all photos for larger views)

After leaving Lone Pine, a photographer friend and I followed 136 south past Owens Lake – a vast dry lake bed lying between the Inyo Mountains to the east, and the Sierras to the west. Stopping to tour the small town of Keeler, we shot a few photos of older buildings, then continued on our way to the junction with 190. From there, we made our way east, stopping numerous times to photograph the landscape, building ruins, and quite a few rocks (one of my favourite subjects). Deciding to knock off early, we spent the night at the small RV park and campground at Panamint Springs. Once again, we were the only campers, but just before dusk, a lone motorcyclist pulled in to set up his tent. It was a cool but tolerable night. Splurging on an RV spot, we spent the evening recharging batteries for cameras and other gear, and used the wifi connection to catch up on email to those back home. In the morning, I filled the tank on the van, then turned us south onto Panamint Valley Road. At the Trona-Wildrose Road junction, we turned northeast and began the slow climb into the Panamint Range where the highest peaks in Death Valley are located. I’ve decided to spare you my collection of rock photos and limit this post to the main highlight of our small foray into the Death Valley region.

front side of kilns as seen from west end

At around 6,800 feet, the Wildrose charcoal kilns are considered to be the best preserved of their kind in the western states. No doubt, their survival probably has a lot to do with their remote location. They are accessible by car as the road is paved most of the way up, but turns to somewhat bumpy gravel a couple of miles before arriving at the parking lot. From that point onwards, it’s recommended that only higher clearance vehicles should attempt the road on up to the Thorndike and Mahogany Flat campgrounds, and the trail head for Telescope Peak (elev. 11,049 ft). We did drive up to Thorndike (7,400 feet) to take a look around at the campsites, but decided that it was too cold and windy on that day, so spent the night down at the Wildrose campground (4,100 feet).

Although I’d seen photographs of these kilns, I must admit that, as they came into view, I was entirely blown away by their size, shape and state of preservation. Regardless of how one may feel about their significance as industrial artifacts, they are really quite beautiful in a very organic sense – seeming almost like over-sized bee skeps set within a wash of sage and rabbitbrush. Ten in number, they sit arrayed equidistant in a line between the road and the base of the mountain slope. They are made of local rock which has been mortared together. Remnants of the lime kiln, used to make cement for the mortar, may be found a short distance behind the charcoal kilns.

back view of the kilns with openings near the top

I spent a good hour shooting many photos of the exterior and interior of the kilns from many angles, all the while marveling over the incredible precision of the workmanship. The interpretive signage in the parking lot states that the kilns were designed by Swiss engineers and built by Chinese laborers. They were constructed in the mid-eighteen-seventies in order to produce charcoal which was then used to fuel the silver-lead bullion smelters operated by the Modoc Consolidated Mining Company, located approximately twenty-five miles west in the Argus range.

After some searching around on the net to find further information on the kilns, I believe that much of what I’ve read must originate with a booklet entitled Wildrose Charcoal Kilns by Robert J. Murphy, former superintendent of Death Valley Monument (Death Valley Natural History Association, 1972). Here’s a little of what I’ve learned:

The kilns are approximately 25 1/2 feet high, and 32 feet in diameter. The walls are about 24 inches thick at the bottom, thinning to 12 inches near the top. There have been two major restorations of the kilns – the first by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the 1930s, and the second in the early 1970s, when Navajo masons with expertise in working on ruins, came from Arizona to fully restore the stonework. It took 42 cords of wood to fill each of the ten kilns. After a week of burning and a few more days of cooling, each cord would have produced about 45 to 50 bushels of charcoal – or about 2,000 bushels of charcoal per kiln. The charcoal was then moved by wagon by the Cerro Gordo Freighting Company owned by Remi Nadeau. Just a bit of trivia, but from a 2004 newsletter of the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert, I found that Remi Nadeau was a French-Canadian, born in Quebec in 1821. After working in the eastern U.S., he traveled west in 1860 in an attempt to cash in on the gold rush. He started up his Cerro Gordo Freighting Company and became one of the principal operators in eastern California, one reference stating that he operated 80 freight teams. I’ve always found it interesting how much people got around the continent in spite of the slowness of travel in those days.

one of the kilns with its arched doorway – note pointed stones near the peak

According to this page from the Remote Nevada website, the ten kilns averaged 3,000 bushels of charcoal per day. This was transported to the above-mentioned Modoc Consolidated Mining Company smelters owned by George Hearst, father of the newspaper mogul, William Randolph Hearst. At the smelters, the charcoal was used to fire furnaces to produce silver-lead bullion. The kilns appear to have been active between 1876 and 1879, at which time the mines began to run out and became unprofitable. It barely needs to be stated that it required a massive supply of wood to produce charcoal for the mines. It took a team of about 40 woodcutters to keep the kilns supplied with pinyon pine and juniper, cut and carried or skidded from the surrounding area. Talk about environmental impact. It never ceases to amaze what lengths mankind will go to when there’s a buck to be made.

circular stonework in the ceiling of a kiln

Well, enough about the history. As artifacts, the kilns are beautiful structures. There’s something about them that seems almost monastic. It might be the vaulted ceilings and the acoustics when one is standing inside. It could be the way the golden desert sunlight glows in the arched doorways and the single high opening to the back. It could also have much to do with the secluded location. Somehow, it’s difficult to imagine them jammed full of smouldering pinyon logs. When active, it must have been a busy place, with people loading and unloading wood and charcoal. Now, there is just the sound of wind circulating through the kilns and the occasional echo of a voice or footstep. I must admit to being a somewhat surprised at how little time the visitors who trickled in and out would spend examining the kilns. Most drove up, snapped a few photos of themselves by the front door of a couple of domes closest to the parking lot, jumped back in their vehicles and drove away. While several groups came and went, I wandered slowly in and out of each kiln, examining the workmanship, finding many wonderful stones laid in the mortar, and thoroughly fascinated at how often the air vents along the bottom lined up with a vent on the opposite side of the dome. I have no idea if the pointed stones protruding near the peaks of the domes have any practical purpose, but they add just a touch of whimsy to the overall appearance.

One of the vent holes in the three rows near the bottom of the kiln walls

I should make mention of the Wildrose Peak Trail which departs from the parking area for the kilns. It is 4.2 miles one way to the 9,064 foot summit. We didn’t do the hike as dogs are not allowed on trails within Death Valley Monument. On our return from the kilns to the campground, we stopped at the section of pipe mounted next to a sign describing the Skidoo water pipeline. It reads: The Skidoo Pipeline can be seen either north or south of this location. The pipeline, which ran from Birch Spring in Jail Canyon, to the Skidoo millsite 23 miles away, was completed in 1907 at a cost of $250,000. There is some speculation that the slang phrase 23 skidoo may have had its origin in Death Valley:

Death Valley National Park Service interpreters have sometimes given as an explanation that the early 1900s mining town of Skidoo, California required that a water line be dug from the source of water on Telescope Peak to the town – a distance of 23 miles. Most thought it would be easy, but the immensely hard rock along the course made it very difficult; it was eventually accomplished by a determined engineer. The term “23 Skidoo” was then used as a statement of irony, something like “duck soup”: a reference to something ‘apparently easy,’ but actually very difficult.

Whatever, the view down Wildrose Canyon with the Panamint Range beyond is really pretty stunning.

Skidoo Pipeline through Wildrose Canyon with the Panamint Range beyond.

Written by bev on January 27th, 2010