Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My Etsy Store Travels to Joshua Tree, CA

Joshua Tree National Park

We finally reached California and we are the the desert. I am more a beach person to say the least so I wasn't sure how I would like Joshua Tree National Park.  It seemed to be in a remote area of southeaster California.    It is designated wilderness area.  It has 2 ecosystems--the higher Mohaje Desert and lower Colorado desert.  The park is slightly larger than Rhodes Island. 

The park has several spectacular vistas.  From one you can see Palm Springs .  It is easy to spot--a lot of green in the desert.  To the left of  Palm Springs the Salton Sea was visible.  It looks like a huge lake.  It is actually a vast geological depression, a dry bed, that was once referred to as the “Colorado Desert” throughout the Spanish period of California's history. A flood in 1905 poured the Colorado River into the sink, and by the time authorities managed to stop the flooding two years later, the largest lake in California had already formed.  It is amazing to see what man creates in the desert!

Cholla Cactus Tree Garden
Another sight to behold there is the Cholla Cactus Tree Garden.  These are man size cactus.

Joshua Tree (Yucca brevifolia)
It is the vegetation that makes this park so interesting. The Joshua tree for which the park is named. It is another amazing plant that thrives there.  It grows great in the  higher and cooler Mojave Desert.
Also, I found all kinds of abandoned things in the park.  I couldn't resisit having my photo taken by the old, rusted automobile.  I wonder what stories this car could tell, if it could talk.

Since I work with gold an silver when making my Bay Moon Design jewelry, I found it really interesting that for the first half of the 20th century, the desert land now known as Joshua Tree National Park was scattered with miners on the hunt for gold and silver.  When ore was mined, it was sent to a mill to be crushed and have the precious metal extracted. The ore from Desert Queen Mine and other mining operations passed through Wall Street Mill, which is located in Queen Valley.   Today Wall Street Mill is considered the best-preserved gold mill in Joshua Tree and listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Wall Street Mill

The history of the mill’s proprietor, Bill Keys, is interesting too. He had a property disputer with his neighbor, Worth Bagley, over control of the road accessing the mill. Their argument escalated was and Mr. Bagley was killed with a gun. Following this real western shootout, Keys was convicted of murder and sent away to San Quentin Prison. He was released after five years when a judge pardoned Keys, ruling that Bagley had been killed in self-defense.

During the Depression, the mining regions here experienced a second gold rush. As miners arrived, long-time rancher-miner Bill Keys recognized the need for a gold processing mill. In 1930 he bought the Wall Street Mill site, which had an existing well.  Keys gathered the stamp mill and other machinery from area mine and mill sites to assemble his mill. For a fee, he processed ore for small-mine operations. When the gold was removed from the ore, it went back to the miner, to a smelter in Mojave, or to the U.S. Mint in San Francisco. Keys ran the mill on an as-needed basis, last using it in 1966.  What a story!  It is hard to believe that this was all happening up to a year before I graduated from high school.  This kind of history makes me think about the changes that have taken place during my lifetime. 

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