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DesertUSA's Reports and Articles

Organ Mountains in New Mexico

View of the Organ Mountains as you drive up Dripping Springs Road

Lure of the Dripping Springs - It was near this spring, in the 1870s, 15 to 20 miles east of the small communities of Las Cruces and Mesilla, that Colonel Eugene Van Patten chose to build his Van Patten's Mountain Camp resort and, later, that Doctor Nathan Boyd would decide to establish a tuberculosis sanatorium. And it was near this spring, in the late 19th and early 20th century, that the people of the Mesilla Valley experienced both extremes of the spectrum of human experience - from gaiety and celebration to suffering and anguish. Today, standing before the granite surface - sometimes called the "Weeping Wall" - that conducts Dripping Springs' stream of moisture into a small pond, you wonder about the source of the water. Issuing from what appears to be a solid mass of stone above, it seems almost magical. More...

The Comstock Lode

Virginia City, NV

Virginia City, NV - "Even the devil would be homesick in Nevada," opined Mark Twain after his short sojourn in the sagebrush territory destined to become the Silver State. Mark Twain is arguably Virginia City's most famous previous resident. He developed his writing style and adopted his famous penname in an almost two-year stay in booming Virginia City from late 1862 to May, 1864. Virginia City sprang up after the discovery of the Comstock Lode of silver ore in 1859. Thousands of people, Twain included, journeyed to Virginia City to make their fortune in the mines or simply to mine the miners.

The Comstock Lode discovery and subsequent growth of Virginia City is unequaled to the history of the American West. More money was produced by the Comstock Lode than the entire California Gold R ush a decade before. By 1876 Nevada produced over half of all the precious metals in the United States; over 400 million in the coinage of the day coming from Virginia City's mines. The wealth supported the Northern cause during the Civil War and flooded the world monetary markets compelling significant economic change. More...

Retracing a Trip that Could Never Be Repeated

Overlooking the Colorado River

Hiking the Length of California - Be it fate or happenstance, while perusing a flea market's varied offerings I came across a 99ยข copy of an old book, The Thousand-Mile Summer, written by acclaimed author, environmentalist, and backpacking icon, the late Colin Fletcher. Fletcher was best known as the author of The Complete Walker, the comprehensive guide to backpacking that Field and Stream magazine has called 'the hiker's Bible'.

The Thousand-Mile Summer documents Fletcher's adventurous walk across the length of California, from Mexico to the Oregon border, a journey he undertook in 1958. I was so inspired reading about his contemplative hike through the deserts and the Sierra that I decided to celebrate with a 50th-anniversary voyage. I vowed to retrace Fletcher's footsteps and find out if he was right in stating that "this trip could never be repeated". More...

Spectacular Lava Falls

Fossil Falls

Fossil Falls - If you go to Fossil Falls, located just off U. S. Highway 395 on the east side of the southern end of California's Sierra Nevada, don't expect to find either fossils or falls. What you will find, rather, is a spectacular lava flow sculpted by rushing water and wind late in the Ice Ages-a "fossil" of nature's handiwork. As you hike the rocky trail through the formation, you'll wonder at first where the "falls" are because the land immediately before you is relatively flat, but abruptly, you'll come to the chasm that reveals the spectacular lava falls. More...

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DesertUSA is a comprehensive resource about the North American deserts and Southwest destinations. The desert is a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors and to spend time in recreational activities. You can camp, hike, bike, fish or just explore this unique environment found only in the American Southwest. DesertUSA has information on national parks, state parks, BLM land, and the Colorado River and its lakes. We also have articles about the cities and towns located in or near the desert regions. Use DesertUSA.com as a resource to explore the many adventures that await you in the desert.


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