Sunday, May 03, 2009

McTeague Hike

Our small family business has been negotiating a long-term deal with another company for about six months. (I’m not allowed to say more about it because of confidentiality clauses.) We had reached a point where we were ready to sign a preliminary term sheet.

We took a walk with their negotiating team today, after meeting them last night for dinner and staying up much too late discussing nuances of the deal without changing (or intending to change) a word of the document.

Our goals were twofold: to cement a bond of understanding and to educate them a little about an area that may have an effect on their end of the deal.

Some say native peoples made these rings of stones thousands of years ago. Others say glaciers left them tens of thousands of years ago as they retreated at the end of the latest ice age. Either way, they’re a fascination and a puzzlement.

We started early at the China Ranch Date Farm, south of Tecopa, California. After a drive through the date farm to inspect the trees, we parked near the store, which was not yet open.

Gambel’s quail was calling out as we arrived, with a distinctive whooping cry. Several were running around on the ground.

As we set off, it was clear where the river was and where the desert began.

Not all the foliage was in bloom, but much was. At several points, we heard the roar of bees swarming out of sight in the underbrush.

At the start of the trail, we were reminded that not everyone makes it to the end of some hikes. Confident in our ability, we left the shovel in the truck.

Here’s a game: It’s called “Can you guess where the spring is?”

The folks who were there the night before had quite a party.

The signs say the ranch was started by a guy from China who disappeared under mysterious circumstances, back around the turn of the last century. We took a look around his house.

Much of our hike followed the grade of the old Tidewater & Tonopah railroad, which went defunct decades ago. It used to carry ore from mines as far north as Goldfield, Nevada, down to Ludlow.

We took a detour up a short tributary to a slot canyon, visible at the end of this wash.

Look closely and you will see fish. The water in this river is intermittent at best. Certain pools, fed by springs, can last year-round, but they may be isolated from each other. As a result, the fish in each pool (and other species) may well be unique to that particular spot on the river. This is a fragile habitat, living on the edge of death by dehydration.

In the desert, a casual glance can leave the impression that spring never touches this place, that it’s dry and dead all year round. A closer look reveals many flowers on all kinds of plants.

This is about as late in the year as we wanted to take this hike. Much later in the season, and the heat would really start beating down. We started around sunup—something like 6:30 a.m.—and finished before noon. Even with that, it was more than warm enough by the time we reached the trail’s end.

Going into the slot.

Two of us scaled this rock and headed toward the light. The rest of us hung around in the shade at the bottom, waiting to help them back down the rock when they returned.

This is the “key” that was removed from the slot canyon, ready to be reinserted if it should be needed.

About 99% of the time, this camera is frustrating, slow, and cranky, refusing to cooperate with me to grab pictures as they flash past. This time, it nailed the shot almost before I was ready. The butterfly is about as big as the nail on your pinky finger.

This little fellow stays busy, scuttling along at a high rate of speed. I couldn’t tell exactly what his business was, but he kept right at it.

An unexplored slot.

Desert trumpet.

Another of these bugs. They seem completely harmless, just busy.

As you can see, this beer is natural. So the can belongs here. (Yes, I retrieved it, along with its mate about a quarter-mile away, plus a can of beans, unopened, that had been sitting there who knows how long. By and large, since this trail gets very little use, we saw almost no litter anywhere, which made me even more happy to cart out the few bits that did disturb the view.)

In shadier nooks down by the water, the foliage got a degree more lush.

At long last, we saw our driver, who had come around to meet us. We were back to civilization, even if it would be hours before we could raise a cell tower to check messages on our phones.

We had a grand old hike, and to celebrate we went up to Shoshone and had us a lunch that could not be beat, then spent the afternoon driving home, restoring vital bodily fluids, electrolytes, phytochemicals, and nacho cheese equilibrium.


Elyse said...

I loved this series of photos. I've never seen anything like this, and I am sure I gained more from these pics than I would have gained with the huff and puff of being there.

Anonymous said...

Wonderful pictures, Doug! I thoroughly enjoyed my armchair hike through some amazing looking scenery. Now where exactly is all this?

Also, I realized that I don't even know what your "small family business" even is. Can you enlighten me?


Kangamoo said...

Beautiful pictures. I had a hard time finding the spring. Spring here involves lots and lots of rain. I am glad those hikers made it back from the light, so you would not have to hike all the way back to the car for the shovels. Too bad the beverages had been consumed before you got there.

I assume you got your nacho cheese equilibrium back in check.