Thursday, February 3, 2011

Winter in Quartzsite - 2011

In mid-January, 2011 my brother Paul and I took a trip to a winter rock hound paradise...Quartzsite Arizona.  Where is that you ask?  Look for where Interstate 10 crosses the border of California and Arizona.  The little-bitty print about 20 miles east of Blythe California is Quartzsite.  For something like 50 years, snowbirds have been flocking to Quartzsite to escape cold weather.  The winter high temperatures can be quite pleasant.  And, over time, quite a number of events have been organized.   These include RV shows, car shows, swap-meets, and rock shows.  The shows have been so well established at this point, that fossil and mineral dealers from around the world setup and offer their products...primarily in the month of January.

Paul joined me for a shopping trip to restock Crystal Moon Gallery after Christmas 2010.  The shows are huge, outdoor, events that are nearly always dusty (practically all merchandise requires cleaning after purchase).  Paul's first comment about the shows were that they are "an amazing collection of sub-cultures"...and he is right.  One may encounter dreadlocks or deacons, tattoos or turtlenecks, piercings or Porsches, wheelchairs or (power) walkers.

One of the most interesting items we saw offered for sale was a Radium Rejuvenator.  This piece of medical history dated from the 1920s, and consisted of a piece of crockery, somehow lined with Radium, and fitted with a tap.  Glazed in blue was the recommendation that one drink four glasses of rejuvenated water daily.  Water was placed in the device at the top, then dispensed into drinking-glasses.  The owner of this item overheard me comment that I had a Geiger-counter, and asked me to check whether the rejuvenator was radioactive.  His tent was pretty crowded with people as we worked our way to the rejuvenator.  And initial check of the outside showed little more than background radiation up to about a foot away from the crockery.  But, even then, it only showed about .1 to .3 mR/hr.  Then, the proprietor lifted the lid, and I poked the business end of the device in the hole...what a noise!  The needle registered something like 9 mR/hr, and I immediately jerked my hand away from the crockery.  After a moment to think about the situation, I looked-up, and found only five people left in the tent: the proprietor and his wife, my brother and I, and one woman who was apparently not paying attention.  It is amusing to me that very few people have actually seen a Geiger counter, but thanks to popular media, we all know what one sounds-like.  I did some research after we got home, and learned that the rejuvenator was a piece of medical fraud that led to many illnesses and deaths.

Paul is very fond of hiking, and discovered a place called "Palm Canyon" in the Kofa National Wildlife Refuge.  This very narrow canyon is home of (apparently) the only native palms in all of Arizona.  One drives about 20 miles south of Quartzsite, and about 7 miles east of the pavement to a parking-lot.  The canyon network is apparently a collapsed caldera, and is about as rugged as one would expect of an unimproved volcano.  Most people hike as far as the "palms" sign (see first photo above), take photos, and return to their vehicle.  But, the view of the palms is distant:
Those green spots above the shadow are trees!  But, we encountered a group that had hiked to the palms, which inspired us to try it ourselves.  We had great fun following the obvious path up to the palms, scaling rock walls, and enjoying a moderate hike...when we encountered a sheer wall of rock.  The wall likely makes a spectacular waterfall during the rare rains.  But it was completely beyond our ability to climb.  So, we backtracked most of the distance, and found the 'right' route, a narrow slit of a canyon with a floor of loose rocks:
Only those with rather narrow hips can make it through the gaps in the rock!  But, patience and persistence pays off:

Most of the palms show evidence of a significant fire.  I found it curious that the rocks and palms have burn marks, but not the undergrowth.  Which, suggests to me that quite a number of years have passed since the fire:
Many thinks to Paul for including me in this hike.  I highly recommend both the hike and the site...should you ever find yourself in far western Arizona.

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