Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Death Valley National Park


























Death Valley National Park



Early spring is just about the last time of the year to enjoy comfortable daytime temperatures in Death Valley.  In this desolate region of the Southwest, the thermometer moves well into the triple digit range long before summer.  By the time the first week of June rolls around, Death Valley is relegated as being hell on earth! 
I can personally attest to how extremely hot this destination can be, because I was contracted to work at a resort in Death Valley a few years ago from June through August.  The official weather station temperatures at my job site ranged between 118ºF and 132ºF from early June till mid July.  The month of August is only a couple of degrees cooler, so that is not even enough relief to mention. 
The extremely hot air temperatures in Death Valley actually are mild when compared to the ground temperature index.  During the summer season, the official ground temperature index usually ranges from 165ºF to 185ºF.  These ground temperatures are hot enough to melt the rubber soles on a pair of sneakers or fry an egg on the blacktop!  
Needless to say, Death Valley visitors need to take precautions, especially when setting out on foot. Death Valley is the largest National Park in the lower 48 states, so it is easy to stray into areas that are basically no man’s land. If one becomes lost or stranded, any chance of rescue will require a long wait. Therefore, packing a couple days of emergency food and water is a necessity, even when just doing a scenic drive. Fuel management is also critical, because the gas stations in this region are few and far between. 
Sometimes the winter can be mighty chilly in the Desert Southwest and plenty of snow can land on the higher elevations within this park.  Some of the low elevation areas get a little bit of rainfall when winter storms pass through and such was the case back in 2016.  When it rains in the desert, the desert literally comes to life with colorful wildflower blooms, which are a spectacular sight to see!  The winter of 2016 brought enough rain to Death Valley to cause one of the biggest wildflower blooms in history.  During that spring, many areas of Death Valley were literally blanketed with wildflowers as far as the eyes could see.  
Death Valley National Park is a very diverse environment.  Both the highest mountain and lowest elevation in the lower 48 states are located in this National Park. There are places where wildlife thrives in alkaline water by the vast salt flats. There are many hidden pockets in Death Valley that have their own unique micro environment and the local animal species are well adapted to the harshest of conditions. Colorful mineral deposits can be seen on the bare mountainsides and the old mining operations that were abandoned long ago still stand. 
Winter is definitely the choice time of year to visit Death Valley National Park, especially if you plan to take on the hiking trails. With the cooler temperatures, the chances of perishing from heat stroke are much less likely and water supplies will last longer. It can take weeks to experience all that this National Park has to offer, so camping is a nice option for extended stays during the winter season. During the summer, just forget about camping, because the night time temperatures rarely fall below 100ºF even after midnight. 
Death Valley is a destination that should be experienced at least once in a lifetime. There is no other place on earth like Death Valley and few climates around the globe come close to being as harsh. This National Park is the land of extremes and there are many surprises in store. Death Valley is an extreme adventure like no other and that is a good enough reason to get up and go!

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Tombstone
























Tombstone



Try to imagine walking down a creaky wooden sidewalk on a dusty dirt street in an old historic wild west town that many legendary gunslingers made famous.  The feeling is quite intimidating, even if you happen to be a bit rough around the edges.  One simply cannot help but to be preoccupied with the ghosts of the past when standing on the same ground that legends like Wyatt Earp, Ike Clanton and Doc Holiday once trod upon. This is what makes Tombstone such a great wild west destination to experience!  
“What was it like to settle disputes with a sixgun and a lever action rifle?  Were the lawmen really the criminals?  Were the so called outlaw cowboys really in the right?  What were the chances of living more than five minutes in Tombstone if a top gunslinger had it out for you?”  … Questions like these certainly have a way of crossing the mind while touring downtown Tombstone!  
It only take a few minutes to realize that this town certainly lived up to its namesake way back in the day.  Even in modern times, the gunfighting reputation of Tombstone supersedes all else in every tourism brochure.  Oddly enough, the name of this wild west town originally had nothing to do with gunfights.  The name came from a prospector that risked life and limb when searching for ore deposits out in the Apache territory.  Since most folks back then said that all he would discover would be his own tombstone, the name for the silver deposit the prospector discovered was predetermined. By 1879 the mining camp of Tombstone was officially on the map.
Tombstone was a mining camp gone wild just like so many other western boom towns, but Tombstone also had a few cards up the sleeve that some of the other wild west towns had no privilege to.  Tombstone had many lucrative angles for illicit income that dubious characters could prosper from. The local silver mining industry could well have been considered to be a guise for the higher grossing illicit trades.  Because of the proximity of Tombstone to Mexico and the lack of upstanding lawmen, criminal acts like cattle rustling and smuggling operations were rampant in this old west town.  Of course bootlegging, brothels, saloons and gambling halls all flourished in Tombstone too.  If one did not lose one’s own life the hard way, then one would certainly lose one’s own fortune playing Faro in Tombstone, especially if the table banker was Wyatt Earp or Doc Holiday. 
Modern day Tombstone still has the classic old west look and feel.  The early morning hours are filled with deathly silence in this place. The main street area is still unpaved dirt and the storefront awnings cover sidewalks that are made of wooden planks.  When walking in cowboy boots, the heels make a thud sound and the old boards have a spooky creak.  While standing in the shade of one of the cottonwood trees, there is no breeze to rustle the leaves.  No birds chirp and even the ravens keep their distance.  Nary is a stray dog and there are no mice to invite cats.  Empty and eerily lifeless with the blinding sunlight gleaming down, while the trees are green enough to be in a still life painting.  Strolling around historic downtown Tombstone early in the morning is like stepping into the past and this definitely is a very eerie experience!
Winter is the best season of the year to visit Tombstone, because the extreme heat of summer this far south in Arizona is hot enough to melt the soles of sneakers while walking around. Tombstone is relatively easy to find on a map and it is close to a major highway.  When traveling on Interstate Highway 10 in Arizona, all that needs to be done is to exit the freeway in Benson, then follow the signs south to Tombstone.  This old west town is close to the Mexico Border, so do not be surprised to see U.S. Border Patrol checkpoints along the way.  
Once in Tombstone, visitors will see plenty of business themes that revolve around the legend of the “Shootout At The O.K. Corral.”  Anything and everything cowboy western can be found in this town, so be prepared to stock up on some cool western goods! There are a few native art and jewelry shops that have one of a kind items too. Plenty of old west antique prospecting can be done in this area, so be prepared to shop till you drop!  
When the first steps are taken on the dirt streets of Tombstone, it is like stepping back in time.  When looking all around, it is as if the past has come back to life.  The original Bird Cage Theatre and the Grand Hotel still stand. The old famous watering hole Big Nose Kate’s Saloon is conveniently located in the center of it all.  Of course the legendary O.K. Corral is still there and it is now a pay per view attraction with real live shootout reenactments. 
Tombstone definitely is a a wild west destination that belongs high on the lifetime travel bucket list!  It is not just the raw history or the legendary wild west gunfights that took place in this town that beckons visitors from afar.  Superficially, modern Tombstone may be geared up for captivated tourists, but underneath it all, this wild west town is still downright intimidating in a paranormal sense.  The ghosts of the past certainly do haunt the streets of “The Town Too Tough To Die.”  The legends of the old west definitely are alive and well in Tombstone in this modern age!