Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween from Gold Point Ghost Town

(William the Assayer)

(Sheriff Stone and us)

(our lodging)

(Gold Point Ghost Town, Gold Point, Nevada, 2005)

In the spirit of Halloween (no pun intended) I'm posting photos from our trip in April, 2005 to Death Valley National Park to see the 100-year wildflower bloom. I hemmed and hawed about taking a last-minute road trip without overnight reservations to a destination six hours from home."I'm going to see the wildflowers!" William said. I wasn't about to be left behind.

Death Valley was packed. Every campsite, motel, and hotel for miles, full. We found a room on Friday night at the Amargosa Opera House Hotel (that deserves its own blog post) at the park's outskirts. With the help of a hotel clerk we located lodging for Saturday night at the closest place we could book: a bed and breakfast 50 miles away off of Star Route 30 in Gold Point, Nevada.

Gold Point, a former mining town set on a high desert plain, with a magnificent view of distant snow-capped mountains, turned out to be a ghost town. Population: 27 (living folks, that is). Sheriff Stone runs the Gold Point Bed & Breakfast & More. He served up delicious chow (including homemade ice cream for dessert) and even better conversation, and almost convinced me of the existence of an animal that prowled the plain called a jackalope.

We dined with other guests in the sheriff's main house then retired to an old miner's cabin to sleep. The picturesque shack was a little drafty and a bit spooky, but fun!

After the trip Juliana, then 11, said, "Staying in that ghost town was the best part!"

Driving to Nevada and staying overnight in Gold Point was one of those pleasant surprises that happen on a spontaneous road trip. I'm glad I went along.

For more information about Gold Point or Sheriff Stone's B & B, click here.


Saturday, October 25, 2008

Monday, October 20, 2008

Mourning dove nesting in a prickly pear cactus

(Twentynine Palms, May 2006)

Just outside the window of my in-laws' den at their Twentynine Palms home, a mourning dove made a nest inside the branches of a huge prickly pear cactus. She sat on her eggs night and day. The baby birds finally hatched and a few days later disappeared.

That's true love--sitting in a cactus in 90 plus degree weather to protect her young. A mother' s dedication!

Monday, October 13, 2008


(tarantula, Joshua Tree National Park, 2004)

When you come across a tarantula in the desert, the huge, hairy arachnid can look menacing. Brown or black, with 2-3 inch bodies and 4 inch legs, tarantulas are actually shy. They will only bite a human as a last resort and their venom is no stronger than a bee's.

Tarantulas chase their prey--beetles, small lizards and mice--rather than catch them in webs. The sensitive hairs that cover their bodies allow them to detect a potential victim. When cornered by a predator a tarantula will rub its hinds legs over its abdomen and brush hairs into the predator's eyes.

The solitary, prolific spiders, who live one to a burrow, mate in the fall with a litter of 500-1,000! While females may live for 20 years or longer, males may be eaten during mating.

In Joshua Tree National Park you might see a tarantula at the Oasis of Mara, Split Rock, or Wilson Canyon. We saw this particular tarantula off the JTNP road near the 29 Palms entrance. We watched for cars and made sure the spider made it safely across.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

literature of the desert

(Ruth & Allison, October 4, 2008)

There's a lot lot going on in the desert in terms of writing and literature. The Riverside Public Library hosts the Inlandia Institute that offers writing workshops, readings, and author discussions.

Inlandia is the name coined for Southern California's Inland Empire (the "IE," gateway to our local deserts). In 2006, Berkeley-based Heyday Books published an anthology of work by writers from the area called Inlandia: A Literary Journey through California's Inland Empire. In 2010 Heyday Books will publish an anthology of desert writings.

At the library on Saturday, I attended a celebration launch of Phantom Seed issue #2, a literary journal of the desert edited by my friend Ruth Nolan, associate writing professor at College of the Desert in Palm Desert. Phantom Seed is a wonderful compilation of writings from desert poets and writers. And it's growing in size. Can't wait to see issue #3!

Ten or more writers, mostly poets, read their pieces from the journal. I read part of my interview with Donna Charpied, a desert conservationist/activist who for 21 years with her husband Larry has fought the creation of the world's largest garbage dump on the border of Joshua Tree National Park. The two-part interview appeared on my blog last February.

After the reading, a panel of desert writers discussed whether a sub-genre of desert writing called "desert noir" exists. We all agreed that there is a "desert noir" as the desert with its size and sometimes less-than-welcoming environment is host to all kinds of odd characters and events. I heard the phrase: "That could only happen in the desert."

Our community of desert writers is growing. Rumor has it that next year the Riverside Public Library may host a desert writers conference or large scale event. Stay tuned!

For more information about upcoming events at the Inlandia Institute, click here.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Phantom Seed reading/Discussion of Desert Noir

Saturday, October 4, 2008
1:00 PM
: readings by contributors to Phantom Seed
2:30 PM: discussion: Is there a "desert noir" in California desert literature?

Riverside Public Library
3581 Mission Inn Avenue
Riverside, CA 92501
(909) 826-5213

My friend Ruth Nolan, associate English professor at College of the Desert, is hosting the release celebration of the literary journal Phantom Seed (issue #2) that she edits. Ruth is also editing an anthology of poetry of the desert to be released by Heyday Books in 2010.

Contributors to Phantom Seed (including me) will read excerpts. For more information check here. Hope to see you there!