Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stump Spring to Resting Springs: Retracing an 1849 Journey

This is a continuation of my retracing George Q. Cannon's 1849 journey. On Monday, November 26, 1849, the Rich and Hunt companies left Mountain Springs and descended 1,300 feet into the Pahrump Valley. Toward evening they reached Stump Spring which, Addison Pratt noted, was in a “dry bed of a creek with one or two large willow trees on it and some water standing in holes.” They startled some jackrabbits near the spring and Addison Pratt shot one which he kept for dinner later that evening. Henry Bigler noted that they “thought of camping [there] but what little feed thare had been was eat off.” During the days journey the Rich company on horseback had gone ahead of the Hunt company wagons, but the Hunt company caught up with them at Stump Spring.

Four years later, on August 13, 1853, Gwinn Harris Heap, referred to Stump Spring as Agua Escarbada, Spanish for water obtained by digging. When I visited Stump Spring, the ground was damp and I saw evidence of holes being dug by others to look for water.
When I returned to the area in November 2010,  I found a large sign-post with information about Stump Spring, but no directions on how to find it. I did not have my map or directions to see if the dirt road that leads to it is still there and open.
Both companies continued on another three miles. At a dry creek bed running through a ravine, the Rich company left the Old Spanish Trail to follow the creek bed. After about a mile George Q. Cannon noted that they found some "excellent bunch grass of very fine quality" and decided to camp. Addison Pratt cooked and ate his rabbit which he called a "godsend." The Hunt company of wagons stayed on the Old Spanish Trail.

The next morning, Tuesday, November 27, 1849, Peter Fife and Henry Gibson of the Rich company started out early to find water and found some one and a half miles further west down the creek bed. They notified the rest of the company which joined them there for breakfast. After breakfast, the Rich company retraced their route east, back up the creek bed, to the Old Spanish Trail. There, Pratt noted, they “overtook the [Hunt] wagons just as they were yoking up.” The Rich company, still including Addison Pratt, who normally was with the Hunt company, went ahead of the wagons across the Pahrump Valley. They “saw a half dozen head of horses and cattle that had been left by those that were ahead of [them], some were dead and others were nearly so, one horse [they] drove along.” Henry Bigler noted, I “saw one live ox so poor he had give out. I felt sorrow for him when I seen him standing alone with no other cattle about and was perhaps at least 5 m. from water. Yokes and kags was lieing along by the way.” Below, a view looking south from Stump Spring, across the Pahrump Valley.
A view of Mount Charleston from the Pahrump Valley, which is northwest of Stump Spring.
They crossed over a low divide which separates the Pahrump and California Valleys, and went down into the California Valley. Below, a picture of the low divide, looking from the California Valley north toward the Pahrump Valley.
In the California Valley, it appears they may have gone between a couple of small hills (based on my observations of the direction of the trail from Emigrant Pass). Below, the hills, from the north looking south.
From Emigrant Pass area, looking back toward the same hills, from the south, looking north.
From the nearly level California Valley, the trail went steeply up the Nopah Range to Emigrant Pass. There was an earlier horse trail, still visible, and a later trail for wagons. I walked the visible horse trail, the one likely used by the George Q. Cannon, from Emigrant Pass down into the California Valley. Below, the trail is visible as a dark rut running vertically up a portion of the left side of the picture, skirting some rough rocks to the right. The trail then proceeds up the hill in the center.
From the top of the hill, looking back (north) into the California Valley. The trail is visible in the foreground (right/center) of the picture. The trail went just to the left of the ridge-line, then angled toward the left down into the California Valley.
The Rich company reached the base of the Nopah Range about noon. Addison Pratt noted that “The road over it was stony and steep [and] as we were some way ahead of the wagons, we went to cleaning stones out of the road, and by the time they came up we had it so well cleaned that they went over [the pass] without doubling teams.” From the small ridge pictured above, the trail traversed across the side of the mountain to Emigrant Pass. Below, the trail is visible in the right foreground and also in the center of the picture. A white Old Spanish Trail signpost is barely visible toward the upper left.
Looking back, the trail is visible is it comes down from the ridge and in the left foreground.
From the white signpost at Emigrant Pass, the trail goes down toward Resting Springs, goring down through the valley to the right.
Below, further south at Emigrant Pass, the white signpost is visible and the old horsetrail can be seen angling diagonally toward the left of the picture.
From this angle, the horsetrail is more visible, angling downhill toward the bottom of the picture.
A different perspective of the valley they followed after Emigrant Pass.
Below, from further south at Emigrant Pass, the Resting Springs Range (horizontal mountains in the center of the picture) can be seen in the Amargosa River Valley. Resting Springs is located at the far left of the range and is not visible.
The picture below is of the wagon trail going up Emigrant's Pass, looking north across the California Valley. This trail was built later than the horse trail and is further south in Emigrant's Pass. The trail is still faintly visible. The question is whether the Rich company built this trail up the pass, or made the existing horse trail more wagon friendly. My guess is that they worked on the existing horse trail because there is no indication they re-located the trail to make it better for the wagons.
Below, the wagon trail viewed from below as it goes up Emigrant's Pass.
From Emigrant's Pass, looking in more of a north-easterly direction across the California Valley.
From Emigrant Pass, Cannon noted, they "travelled about five miles and camped upon a spring with very good feed[,] but very strongly impregnated like all the grass in this country with saleratus." This was Resting Springs. Below, as they entered into the Amargosa River Valley the left end of the Resting Springs Range became visible, and particularly the greenery around Resting Springs.
A view of the greenery at Resting Springs as you get closer.
From Resting Springs, looking north toward Emigrant's Pass.

A view of resting springs from the east.
From Resting Springs, looking east. Note how desolate the country is. Joseph Hamelin, who stayed at Resting Springs a month later, wrote that it had “sulphur” water and was surrounded by a “large salaratus plain.” As far as the eyes could see, the “surface of the earth was covered with alkali.”
The Rich company reached Resting Springs about 8:00 p.m. and found live coals in the campfires and clothing which had been left by wagons ahead of them. The Hunt wagons arrived an hour later around 9:00 p.m. They traveled about 22 miles that day. The story of John C. Fremont and Kit Carson finding two murdered New Mexicans at this place, five years earlier, was well known among the travelers. Many of them referred to the spring as "Hernandez Spring," what Fremont had labeled it in honor of Pablo Hernandez's father who was murdered here. The Rich and Hunt companies discussed that grizzly story that evening around the campfire (see the Amargosa River post).

Henry Bigler wrote that it “rained in the night” and continued “cloudy and cool” during the day, which was Wednesday, November 28, 1849. Charles Rich recorded in his journal that they “lay in camp all day to recruit [their] animals.” Bigler also stated that the Rich company, who had been “living on rashions,” examined their provisions. They had only “4 days provisions” and determined it would take them “at least 8 days before [they could] reach the settlements. Bro. Rich let [them] have 23 lbs of flower and 3 of hard bread. One man of the wagon train killed a beef and [they] got 43 lbs at 8 cts. Per pound so that [they then had] 8 days provisions.” George Q. Cannon noted that they "dried the beef." Addison Pratt, who was always looking for wild game, noted “hares [jack rabbits], conies [cottontail rabbits], and quails about” the spring.

When I visited Resting Springs, it was a privately owned by Harry and Jo Godshall. They graciously gave me a tour of the property and answered my questions.
The spring is at the base of a large red hill and is found in a tangle of brush and trees.
The hill.
Water from the spring has been diverted to a pond on the property.
According to the Godshalls, the water is a constant 79 degrees.
From Resting Springs, the Amargosa River Canyon area is visible to the south, below.
On Thursday, November 29, 1849, the Rich company left Resting Springs about noon for the Amargosa River. The view of Resting Springs from the southeast, looking back.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Barbeque Hoisin Duck

On Mother's Day, in addition to the Peking duck, I decided to do a barbequed duck as I didn't think the Peking duck would be enough to feed us all. I used the Hoisin Barbecued Duck recipe #116164 from For my Peking duck, I used a fresh duck with head, legs and tail still intact. For this, I used a frozen duck with the extremities removed.

I removed the excess fat from both ends of the duck, around the tail and the neck. Then I pricked the duck skin with a knife, going sideways, being careful to avoid going into the meat. This helps to remove excess fat during the boiling process. Then I put the duck into a boiling pot of water and then simmered it. Because I had not adequately thawed the duck, I couldn't remove the giblets and neck from the body cavity before boiling. So, whereas the recipe called for boiling it for 15 minutes, I boiled it for 10 or 12 minutes, then removed it from the water to remove the giblets and neck, then boiled it an additional 8 or 10 minutes. This was not ideal and dried out the meat more than it should have. I patted the duck dry with paper towels, inside and out, then seasoned it, inside and out, with salt and pepper. I did not tie the legs together as the recipe suggested.

I placed the duck on the outdoor grill, with the two outside burners on and the two inside burners off, so the duck would not be under direct heat. I grilled it on high heat for 45 minutes, then removed the duck and brushed it all over with 2 tablespoons of hoisin sauce. I grilled it another 10 minutes, then removed it and let it sit another 10 minutes.
We ate it alongside the Peking duck, with Chinese pancake, scallion and hoisin sauce. Below, the carved up bird

and the carved off meat and intact legs and wings.

It was good, but not anywhere near as good as the Peking duck (which was also a lot more work to prepare). I intend to use this recipe again, because it was not as good as it would have been if I had adequately thawed the bird. It was not as juicy as it would have been. It is definately an easier preparation than the Peking duck.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Spanish Canyon: Retracing an 1849 Journey

This is a continuation of my retracing George Q. Cannon's 1849 journey. On Sunday, December 2, 1849, the Rich company set out from Bitter Springs about 8:00 a.m. As indicated in the post for the prior day, George Q. Cannon, Joseph Cain and Henry Phelps stayed behind to try and salvage several horses, but they ultimately had to leave the horses about 3 miles from Bitter Springs. They traveled southwest to the foot of Alvord Mountain and ascended the mountain to a ridge at the head of Spanish Canyon, 12 miles from Bitter Springs. Below, the view is looking up toward the ridge of Alvord Mountain.

Part way up Alvord Mountain, looking back toward Bitter Springs. Bitter Springs is behind the first mountain ridge in the upper center of the picture.

At the top of the ridge, they caught sight of the San Bernardino Mountains in the distance, which Cannon referred to as the Sierra Nevadas. After passing over the ridge, they descended into Spanish Canyon. Below, Spanish Canyon is in the foreground and the San Bernardino Mountains are visible in the distance.

After passing over the ridge, they descended through Spanish Canyon. They found some water and stopped to let the horses feed. The picture below is looking back up Spanish Canyon, the way they had just come.

Henry Bigler noticed some sign of gold and did a little prospecting. After two hours of rest, they left another horse that could not go further, and continued on down Spanish Canyon then on through open desert toward the Mojave River. Below, looking back north toward Spanish Canyon and Alvord Mountain.

19 miles from the head of Spanish Canyon, they reached the Mojave River about 10:00 p.m. and found "plenty of feed and water." After this 31 mile day, Bigler noted in his journal that he was "tired and hungry" and "such tramps and fatigues" will "make men old before their days are half gone." George Q. Cannon noted a "considerable quantity of timber" and "an abundance of grasses. There was no water in the bed" of the Mojave, but they found water standing in pools.

Hunt Company:

Two days later, on Tuesday, December 4th, the Hunt company had to make the same ascent up Alvord Mountain. However, they did so in a cold rain, that turned to snow, accompanied by a strong wind. About 6 miles from the summit, one of Addison Pratt's oxen gave out and refused to get up. Pratt, some distance ahead, ordered Hiram Blackwell to shoot the ox, but Blackwell was unable to, claiming he was too discouraged. James Brown borrowed Pratt's pistol and went back to shoot the ox himself and to remove and bring up the yoke. Years later, Brown reminisced:

"We had to shoot one of brother Pratt’s oxen to end its suffering. This act fell to my lot. Oh, how inhuman and cruel it seemed to me, to drive the patient and faithful dumb animal into a barren desert, where there is neither food nor drink, to goad him on until he falls from sheer exhaustion, so that he bears any punishment, that his master sees fit to inflict, without giving a single moan, to make him rise, then to walk around and calmly look him in the face and fire the deadly missile into his brain, then leave his carcass to the loathsome wolves and birds of prey! In looking back over a period of fifty years since then, [I] cannot call to memory a single act in [my] life that seemed so cruel and ungrateful as that; and still there was no earthly means to save the poor creature from a more horrible death, which would come if he had been left in that driving snowstorm, when his whole frame shook with cold, there to lie and starve – one of the most miserable deaths that the human mind can conceive of. Of the two evils, we chose the least by ending the suffering in a moment, when it would have taken hours if it had not been for this act of mercy, as we call it, after taking in [to account] the whole situation."

The snow continued to fall and Pratt, with the strongest set of oxen, and Jefferson Hunt, just ahead, marking the trail, reached the summit at 11:00 p.m., in two feet of snow. Hunt directed Pratt to go down the other side into Spanish Canyon and at the first place they found feed for the stock, build fires and prepare for the rest of the wagons. Hunt went back to encourage the other wagons up the mountain. The canyon was deep and sheltered from the wind and they soon found a spot where the snow melted when it hit the ground. James Brown brought up the spare yoke, made of black walnut, and used it to start a fire in a frying pan in the bed of the wagon. As their matches were all damp, they had to use flint and steel to start the fire. They had plenty of fuel and soon had a large fire blazing outside the wagon.

Finding Spanish Canyon:

Today, the area between the Mojave River and Spanish Canyon is criss-crossed with dirt roads and the exact route is not obvious. However, the approximate route can be found by taking the Harvard Road exit off of the I-15. On the north side of the I-15, turn left onto paved Hacienda Road and travel about four miles west to a dirt road on the right which begins just before Hacienda Road turns into Coyote Lake Road and veers to the left (south) across the I-15. The dirt road goes north for about a mile and then connects into the dirt pipeline road which travels in a straight line to the northeast. The pipeline road is easy to pinpoint because large electric towers mark its course. After following the pipeline road about nine miles, turn left (north) on another dirt road toward Alvord Mountain. The mouth of Spanish Canyon is about two miles up this dirt road. A four-wheel drive vehicle may be necessary to negotiate the sand in Spanish Canyon and will definitely be necessary to climb the last 30 yards to the summit ridge. A more direct access to Spanish Canyon can be found by taking the Harvard Road exit and continuing north on a dirt road to connect into the pipeline road and turn to the right.

The ridge of Alvord Mountain where the Old Spanish Trail enters into Spanish Canyon is not the summit of Alvord Mountain. The actual summit is further to the west. A monument, apparently erected by a scout troop as part of an Eagle Scout project in 1969, marks the ridge.

Andrew and Sam sit next to the monument.

About one mile north past the ridge is a sign indicating the Fort Irwin Military Installation and travel beyond that point is not allowed without permission. The name mountain seems a misnomer when applied Alvord Mountain. From the north, Alvord Mountain appears to be an unimposing hill. However, the appearance is deceptive, as the distance is great and the ascent is unyielding and unforgiving to those having to travel it.

Below, the monument marking the ridge is visible at the top of the rutted trail down into Spanish Canyon.

A close-up of the older, more rutted, portion of the route from the ridge.

In areas of Spanish Canyon, the sand is so loose that my Jeep, in four-wheel drive, struggled to get through. At the mouth of Spanish Canyon, the vast Mojave River valley spreads out for miles in the distance.

The area of the Mojave where the Rich company camped was known as the "Fork of Roads" because the Old Spanish Trail and another trail that headed east toward Arizona intersected there. It is about four miles east of Yermo, just south of the I-15 and east of Minneola Road.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Organ Pipe Cactus

The organ pipe cactus is primarily found in Mexico, but can be found in the U.S. in southern Arizona in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The name presumably comes from the stems which rise vertically from the base with the appearance of pipes on an organ.
The organ pipe is slow growing and does not reach maturity for 150 years.

Most of them have relatively straight stems, but I found some that had the look of octupus arms

or kelp.

A young organ pipe.

A close-up of the ridged skin and spines.

Looking within the cactus. Note the dead stems.

A look at the base. Quite often the base will provide refuge for other animals that use them for shade or to burrow beneath.

A younger stem growing on a more mature tree.

The woody skeleton of a dead organ pipe.

The organ pipe flowers in April, May and June. When I got to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in late May I was disappointed because I thought I was too early for the bloom. Then I heard a ranger at the visitor's center mention that they only bloom at night. Fortunately, I was camped in Alamo campground with an organ pipe very close to my campsite.

The underside of a flower with a ladybug.

A particular organ pipe may only have one or two blooming flowers at a time.

The flowers are pollinated by lesser long-nosed bats.

I was fortunate to see a bat pollinating a flower at my campsite as I was first going to photograph it (I saw it when I flashed my headlamp on the flower). I was quite startled, both to see the bat and to see how large it was (they have a 13 to 15 inch wingspan). Unfortunately I did not get a picture of the bat.

The flowers do stay open for a short time after dawn, but then close up for the day.

Some organ pipes are found on the flats, but they tend to like rocky hillsides. They are often solitary, but occasionally you will see them in bunches.

The presence of these and saguaro cactus make you feel like you are in a real desert. Unfortunately, our California deserts do not have them. They are one of the reasons I like this southern Arizona desert so much.