A recent trip to the Shoshone Area
By Anne Stoll
With the upcoming DE Rondy to be held April 1 – April 3, 2016 in Shoshone, CA, I thought DEers might like a short report on doings in the general area, as we are just back from a December visit out there.
Driving through Baker before our turn to the north, we noticed the town has made a distinct shift to the east. Yes, The Mad Greek is still bustling at the intersection of Main Drag Baker and Highway 127, but to think of Baker permanently without the Bun Boy is still a shock. Thank goodness, I guess, for Dennys. The Alien Beef Jerky place had plenty of cars parked in front and the big thermometer was working – that’s the good news.
We took the road through the “town” of Tecopa on our way in to Delight’s (Tecopa Hot Springs), checking for water in the Amargosa where the road crosses the dip. Yes indeed, there was plenty of the wet stuff. We found out later there had been a brief but violent flash flood through the area a few days before. Seems it had rained hard away to the north (but not in Tecopa) and two days later, a big plug of water flushed through the Amargosa drainage and nearly took out the road at the dip, but not quite, thankfully. The Tecopa microbrewery seems to be a going enterprise – maybe.
We stayed for two nights in Cabin 3 at Delight’s Hot Spa in Tecopa Hot Springs (760 852-4343). As always the hot water was wonderfully therapeutic and the baths seemed very clean, walls freshly painted, no smell of chlorine. Many people now use the baths as day-trippers, frequently coming from Pahrump or Vegas, for $10 a bath. It’s great to have unlimited access to the four private baths when you stay on site in one of Delight’s cabins or rooms, but access must be weighed against the high cost of the accommodations. The good news here is onsite massage is now available by appointment and a new café, Delight’s Death Valley Internet Café, has recently opened at the windmill intersection where you turn. Took them nine years to finish renovations and open for business. They fix a good breakfast and are the most reliable internet for miles.
Didn’t make it to Death Valley Junction on this trip but saw a poster in the café for a performance to be held at the Amargosa Opera House by an apparent protégé of Marta Becket’s. Wish I’d written down her name – sure a good look-alike for the Grand Dame herself, who by the way is still going strong at age 91. We hear a new group, the Tonopah & Tidewater Historical Society, Inc. (www.TandTrr.org 775-751-4608) run by John and Dorothy Slikker (who give a Pahrump residence address) has set up shop in Death Valley Junction and have opened a model T & T railroad museum. Maybe worth a stop during the Rondy? In Shoshone we tried to visit the Shoshone Museum but it was Tuesday and it was closed – oops! Lots of nice jewelry, new books and locally-made products available in the Charles Brown General Store and gas station – they also carry supplies if you’ve forgotten something. The office of the Shoshone Inn appears to be undergoing renovation (760 852-4335). Alas, the little continental café on the south end of town is permanently closed – another ephemeral desert flower gone – beautiful while it lasted.
Highlight of our visit was the hike up through the Amargosa River Canyon – highly recommended as one of the prettiest hikes anywhere. It had been years since we’d attempted it but this time, we had a second car to leave at the far end and the logistics worked perfectly. The trail is well-marked and as it mostly runs along the old railroad berm, it’s almost level for the whole distance from China Ranch to Tecopa – just over six miles total. The first leg leaves from the China Ranch Gift Shop (760 852-4415) and follows the railroad grade past the historic stone saloon (circa 1903) to the intersection with the Amargosa River. At this beautiful wide spot in the canyon you see the remains of Acme Siding, an ore loading site and stop on the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad from 1905 to 1938. Either turn back at this this point for the short hike, or head north and follow the trail along the east side of river up past spectacular colored cliffs, springs and seeps, lush vegetation, and stark mud hills into Tecopa. You emerge near the church and post office.
When you go back to pick up the car you left at China Ranch, be sure to treat yourself to a fresh date shake at the Gift Shop. Tragically, we lost Bonnie Brown this past November from cancer and things may change there in the future. We honor her memory with sincere reverence for the remarkable oasis she and Brian have created in the desert at China Ranch. Long may their date palms bloom.