We have learned the hard truth of the desert in Death Valley: vast expanses littered with rock debris that you think you can walk across, only to discover that it was not one mile but five that you had traverse.
But we have also discovered a desert oasis, a micro-climate just south of Death Valley, where Amargosa River feeds a band of greenery at the feet of spectacular desert cliffs and peaks.
We spent Friday night parked at the China Ranch Date Farm near the bottom of a steep canyon. The Amargosa river twists above and under ground through the valley and feeds a narrow swath of green reeds and bushes as it makes it way south.
The ranch gets its name from a Chinese immigrant who settled here in the late 1800s, when several mines and a railroad created a local economy.
After the lead, sliver, gypsum and talc mines went out of business in the 1980s, Brian Brown and his wife laid plans to develop a date farm in the fertile oasis. They imported some exotic varieties from Iraq and other locations and have created hybrids on the farm.
Brian says that the dates they grow are delicate and especially flavorful -- after a few samples, we had to agree! The farm’s Date Shake, made from rich vanilla ice cream and dates is delicious!
When you’re visiting the farm, you can also have fun with the Old West ephemera lying about. Outside the date farm shop, you can see the remnants of the old railway and vintage automobiles from the ‘20s and ‘30s.
We hiked out along the river oasis for miles, beneath steep palisades and piles of rocks in every color imaginable. Here's a very small sample.
Listen as Johnny Cash & Lynn Anderson tear it up.
Where we are today.