2022: Exploring the Legacy of Borax Mining in the Amargosa River Region and Meeting Interesting People Along the Way
The Amargosa River flows through southern Nevada and eastern California. It’s about 185 miles (298 km) long and runs through the Mojave Desert. It starts in the Amargosa Valley near Beatty, Nevada, and flows southwest into California, emptying into Death Valley, where it disappears into the ground aquifer.
Borax mining used to be big in the Amargosa River region, but it declined due to depleted deposits and more competition. Borax is a natural mineral often used in the production of detergents and glass. Today, borax mining is no longer a major activity in the area, but the legacy of this industry can still be seen in the abandoned mine sites and other remnants of the borax boom.
China Ranch, a date farm and tourist destination, is located along the Amargosa River near Tecopa. It’s popular with birdwatchers and nature lovers and was the start of our hike.
We met John from Denver. He showed and told us a variety of interesting things. The most notable was his tale about a friend who practiced ecstatic dance. She attempted, he said, to reach the other side. She almost succeeded, he added. His appearance and clothing were striking, so I asked if I could take a photo of him with Danna. He was, somewhat unexpectedly, very gracious.
Later, at the natural hot springs, we encountered a man. He had given speeches on top of a hill in Griffith Park, he told us. He had walked from LA to the desert. On his eleventh day of walking, a driver picked him up and brought him to the hot springs. He pointed and said, “It’s that naked guy on top of the hill right there.” Despite his frenetic way of speaking, he seemed calm and non-violent.
I love connecting with those who challenge my assumptions and expand my thinking – the non-normative, as I call them. But there were also interactions with more “typical” people, like the couple from Benton, a place with its own share of good stories. And then there was the couple from Paso Robles, who showed us the stars and planets through the mobile app Sky View. It was a rare night – Mars, Saturn, and Venus were all in alignment.
We listened to Dan Chaon’s latest book, “Sleep Walk,” on our drive. His stories are deep and emotional, focusing on characters on the fringes of society. They have a dark, haunting quality that sticks with you long after you’ve finished reading, leaving you wanting more.
We spent many hours at Delight Hot Spring Resort’s hot mineral pool. The rustic accommodations were more than worth it for the pool, which was in a class of its own. Sitting in the pool under the open sky, surrounded by towering mountains and wide-open spaces, was the perfect escape from the bustle of Los Angeles. One evening, we watched the sunset colors spread across the western horizon, and shortly after, a crescent moon rose. On departure day, we woke up early to watch the sunrise on the eastern side, a captivating display of reddish-purple colors.