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2010 Trip Report - DE Rendezvous - Ash Meadows

Rondy Trip 2010 Ash Meadows and Devil’s Hole

March 21

Leaders: Marian Johns

One of Neal’s favorite sayings is, “Woman, thy name is indecision”. In this case  it refers to the changes in our departure time for the Ash Meadows trip. First,  our departure time was listed as 9:30, then 10:30, than back to 9:30. Somehow  everyone showed up at 9:30 Sunday morning, except for Dave and Penelope Bullock  and Leonard Friedman. Maybe Dave and Pen didn’t get the word about the time  change, but Rebecca and Hannah Friedman were there ready to go, but no Leonard.  Turns out he went down to Shoshone for Susan Sorrel’s hike and intended to be  back in time to go to Ash Meadows. After waiting for 10 or 15 minutes, Rebecca  said that they would try to catch up with us when Leonard came back. So off we went with: Steve and Debbie Marschke, Ted, Joan, Emily, Katie and Mike  Berger, Mel and Nette Patterson, Bob and Karen Monsen, Mignon Slentz, Alan and  Karen Hodes, Rob Anderson, Ana Romero and Neal and Marian Johns. The Friedman’s  finally caught up with us at lunch time, making a total of 21 people in 10  vehicles. Ash Meadows is a rare desert wetland with over 30 springs and seeps which are  fed by “fossil water” – water which entered the ground water system thousands of  years ago. The springs are home to tiny pupfish which we were eager to see  because we had heard the males were in their silvery blue splendor this time of  year – the spawning season. Initially, we by-passed the main entrance to the Ash Meadows National Wildlife  Refuge and headed for the north entrance, intending to work our way south and  eventually back to Death Valley Junction. Well, what’s that old quote about “The  best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men”? There at the northern entrance we found our  way blocked by a closed gate which was well secured with a brand new padlock.  This called for Plan B - return to the main entrance which we had just passed.  That worked and we spent the next several hours driving from one spring to  another. We visited Roger’s Spring, Longstreet Spring, Crystal Spring, Devil’s  Hole, King’s Pool, Point of Rocks and Jack Rabbit Spring. Every spring we saw has beautiful clear, slightly warm water flowing out of the  ground; all except Devil’s Hole that is. Although Devil’s Hole supports its own  population of pupfish, the water does not flow up and out onto the surface. It  entirely enclosed with protective fencing, with a viewing platform at one end  where it is possible to look down into a deep pit. At the bottom is a small pool  – the opening of a large subterranean, water-filled cavern. My estimate of a two hours trip stretched into four since we couldn’t resist  checking out all the highlights on our official Refuge map. Most of the springs  we saw have board walks which are quite nice since the ground tends to be soggy  in places. At Longstreet Spring we saw Jack Longstreet’s nicely restored rock  cabin. And at the Refuge headquarters at Crystal Springs, we found clean  restrooms and picnic tables which we put to good use since it just happened to  be lunch time. And in several of the springs, especially at King’s Pool, we did  indeed see the blue flashes of male pupfish as they busily darted about chasing  off competitors. Our last stop was Jack Rabbit Spring and from there we headed back to Death  Valley Junction. Neal and I dreaded the drive home because we knew we would get  caught in the Sunday night traffic on I-15. So we tried something new – we  stopped for a long, refreshing nap before we reached Baker, then took our time  having dinner there, and finally drove on home. By that time traffic had thinned  and was much more tolerable.

post script from Mignon Slentz:

Might be interesting to know the story of how some scientists killed most of  the pup fish at Devil's Hole for those of you that were on Marian John's trip to  Ash Meadows. The story goes that a couple of years ago some scientists were  using barrel-shaped fish traps to trap and count the pup fish at Devil's Hole.  When they were done with the job, they stacked the traps up on the rocks. A big  storm blew through sometime later and blew all the traps back into the water.  Nobody checked on the place for quite some time, and when they finally did, they  found the traps full of dead pup fish.