Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Photo Essay: Deep Into the Tecopa Basin Through China Ranch, Just Outside Death Valley

There are plenty of fascinating areas just outside Death Valley - say, like Trona Pinnacles - but sometimes you really have to look for them. Driving along any of the bordering highways, the desert seems to be a vast wasteland.



But if you turn off the highway in Tecopa - known better for its hot springs - you can reach a number of historic hiking trails by way of China Ranch, an old resting stop founded in the 1890s by Ah Foo from China, and now a working date farm that you traverse to get to a number of hiking trails...



...some through a slot canyon...



...some along a mesa.



I decided to walk down the canyon along the "Crack Trail..."



...in search of traces of the old Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad...



...and the Amargosa River, which fosters a tremendous amount of wildlife in the greater Death Valley region.



Past an overgrown field which resembled a marshland...



...and an old fence that probably pre-dates the BLM...





...eventually the trail opens up...



...into a vast canyon of rolling hills...



...with threatening skies above that are at once grey-shadowing and golden-beaming.



Signs of the Amargosa River are everywhere, from the lush vegetation at the beginning of the hike (a couple of miles away)...



...to the mineral deposits underfoot.



Other signs of life include abandoned cars...



...footprints and hoofprints...



...and various other rusty debris.



But make no mistake: this trail is in the middle of the desert...



...no matter how blustery the wind blows.



But it's a desert that once sustained a thriving railway...



...enough to house a saloon for workers and passers-by...



...though it now stands crumbling...



...windowless and doorless...



...over a century old...



...baking in the sun.



The undulating trail is easy enough to follow...



...past fields of broken glass...



...towards the south end of the Tecopa Valley, into the Tecopa Basin, surrounded by the Tecopa Hot Springs...



...just outside the southeast corner of Death Valley National Park.

Stay tuned for photos of the rest of the Crack Trail, along the old railroad bed and down to the Amargosa River's waterfall.

Related Post:
Photo Essay: Amargosa Opera House & Hotel, Death Valley Junction

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