Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Death Valley - Thanksgiving 2014 - Part One

please remember you can click on a photo to see a larger version 

Bits of History and a lot of geology

It was dark. A new moon and a thin cloud layer dimmed the star light; it was dark. We were walking down Lemoigne Canyon Road on our night excursion. Digonnet, in his Death Valley Hiking Guide, has this to say about the road, "This road is so rough that it makes most of the park's backcountry roads look like freeways." Its never ending rocks also impeded us on this dark night walk. It would be good to have a better view for foot placement. I turned on my headlamp in the red mode to not impact our night vision. Turning on a light is something we rarely do. We were instantly greeted by a wonderful surprise - two glowing bright red eyes looking back at us, most likely a kit fox. It shadowed us for quite a ways as we continued, paralleling our route down the huge alluvial fan. Finally our friend moved on to find something new to investigate.

As we walked I returned to a familiar topic. "Why do you like this so much, our trips, our camper, being out here?" I asked the Lady.
"It is so quiet," she answered as she snuggled close. "There is no noise. We are alone. It is just the two of us."

Earlier, we had arrived at our favorite spot near road's end mid afternoon. Our last visit here was in April 2012. We had some unfinished business and we were off as soon as set up chores were completed.

We were looking for a rock with an inscription. I had a good idea where it was, at least within a mile, but further research had hit pay dirt. A past visitor had published a photo with a sky line. All we had to do was match it up on the ground. It took effort, as any worthwhile quest should. It was still a bit of a hike over uneven terrain. When the sky line matched up with the photo, our search was over.

Rood was a member of the Jayhawker group of the 49ers who discovered the consequences of taking a "shortcut" and ended up in what is now called Death Valley. More information on Rood can be found here - William B. Rood's Inscriptions.

As the shadows grew long, the Lady scanned with her "see mores".
"Way out there," she pointed, "I see a street sign."
Wouldn't you check it out?

The Lady continued to scan.

We would get back to camp after dark.

But, as we are prone to ask each other, "Would we rather be here or back at camp?"

Sunrise the next morning found us already outside.

We searched for a couple hours and came up empty. There is something else out here we want to find. I've found recent photos but with no sky lines. Good, a more demanding challenge for us.

We returned to camp for breakfast.

We were perched on the edge of the main wash falling out of Lemoigne Canyon. In this parched, dry place there is amazing evidence all around of past movements of massive amounts of water.


Today we were exploring up Lemoigne Canyon.

Jean LeMoigne's story is intriguing. Born in France, well educated and mannered, a gentleman, he came to Death Valley on the invitation of a friend who ran the Eagle Borax Works. When Jean arrived, he found his friend had committed suicide and no employment awaited him. Trained as a mining engineer, he got to work. It is believed his love for a quiet life spent in Death Valley took over and fitted him. He had cabin and a mine up the canyon that now bears his name. Digonnet has an excellent short narrative in his book and more can be found here - Wild Men of Death Valley - scroll down to find him.

LeMoigne died in 1919 while crossing Death Valley. He got off his wagon and tied his mules to a mesquite before passing. He was buried where he was found, days later. His mules had also died. It is said that his wagon was returned to his canyon.

We had fun up this canyon. It was a great exploration.

The wonders of geology were all around.

We explored side canyons and other forks.

As always, the Lady kept us "found" on her map.

We reached LeMoigne's old cabin. It is built into the hillside and it is collapsing.

There is an eyesore, a more modern cabin right above LeMoigne's, built when others tried to make a profit expanding LeMoigne's workings after his death. I found some of the period reading material interesting.

Those "Adam and Eve" bags look like just the ticket. We remember back to the old days when orders were mailed in, long before Cyber Monday.

LeMoigne did have a wonderful view from his place.

Just below the cabin was evidence of a simpler stone structure. If you are curious what this structure looked like in 1949, take a look at the December 1949 issue of Desert Magazine found here - Desert Magazine - scroll down to page 13.

The canyon was littered with the usual junk. At least a good portion of it was older. There were several iron single bed frames. The headboards were iron rods radiating from a central hub, a familiar old design.

There is much more to explore up here and we'll probably return. Now it was time to head back down. We had something more to search for.

It is said that LeMoigne had a different way into his canyon. We had investigated this on our last trip here. We climbed out of the canyon and up to a saddle. There was no evident trail up, but if you look closely on the other side a faint old trail bed can be found.

We followed the trail through new geology.

We found the two inscriptions, our search subjects, in a tight slot. One has a arrow pointing up hill.

The other reads "Emegrant" (likely a misspelling of Emigrant) with the arrow pointing down in the direction of Emigrant Wash.

The shadows were spreading across the valley as we dropped back into the main wash and continued on to camp. The telephoto lens compresses the view. Our camper is in the lower left with Stove Pipe Wells beyond.

I did get something special for my birthday, a new pair of boots. This was the first full day wearing them, getting them broke in.

The Lady likes the blue color. I do too if the color was the reason for $140 off. She calls them "the blue suede's." I simplify it to "Elvis boots."

The soles on my old boots were almost gone.............

...................and I got through the summer with broken seams by gluing things back together with shoe goo - think of it as liquid duct tape but so much better.

I bought my first pair of Lowa boots in 1969, back in my pre geezer days.

The amount of daylight is short this time of year. Backed up against the east side of the Cottonwood Mountains, our campsite was in shadow by 3:30 pm.  We had seen no one else this day. We were again alone at our campsite as the shadows marched across the valley..........................

.........................................alone, except for the fox with the glowing red eyes.

Continued in the next installment. Please click here for - PartTwo.


  1. Wonderful story, full of rich history and a bit of mystery too.
    Looking forward to Part II

    Andy & SR

  2. Thanks for sharing. Interesting story with great pictures - as always