DATES AND DEATH VALLEY — PART I
By Barry Zander, Edited by Monique Zander*, the Never-Bored RVers
This is a two-part blog, beginning with our off-the-beaten path near Tecopa, California, in Death Valley (a mere 85 miles west of Las Vegas) to the China Ranch Date Farm in an oasis among America’s most arid tract of land. I’ll post Part 2 in a couple of days, describing our return to the Death Valley 49ers Encampment, and I conclude with a golf tale, which I call “Why I’m glad I four-putted the 18th green.”
PART 1, THE DATE FARM – For those of you who have never experienced the nothingness of the vast Western deserts, trekking across broad sandy basins lined with jagged mountains holds more interest than you might realize. Last year we drove and hiked through several unique scenic venues, including the beautiful Artists Palette trail, the Devil’s Golf Course and the lowest point in North America.
This year, we pulled out a day early from among the long lines of RVs parked at Furnace Creek for the 49ers Encampment heading for the legendary China Ranch date farm. It was harvest time, the perfect time to visit. “What have we gotten
ourselves into?” we wondered as we left the blacktop side road and urged our trailer onto a winding dirt road cut through steep cliffs and serrated hills. Despite sharp turns on the narrow road, it looked worse than it was.
Before long the labyrinth wound past acres of palm trees all dressed in the apparel of ghosts, white-robed spirits hanging beneath palm fronds. Why, we wondered, but not for long. While traipsing on foot through the
rows of palms, we happened upon Brian Brown, owner of the orchard, who was just packing up the last hampers of dates after a long day of harvesting by hand.
He explained that the “ghosts” we were surrounded by were actually bunches of the precious dates draped in sheets to protect them from ravenous birds. Interestingly, he said that most of the fabric used at China Ranch is from worn-out or ripped sheets donated by inns.
For us, the Never-Bored RVers, experiencing the date farm is one of the things we love most about our RV lifestyle. I’m not into statistics, but I found it fascinating to learn that China Ranch grows and sells 15 different varieties of dates. The sales are brisk in the gift shop and online, naturally.
We loaded up with dates, cookies and one date float, the specialty of the house.
These are delicious transitorial memories of our visit. We were in the orchards, in the packing and shipping areas and walking through historical areas of the property. What’s most satisfying is that we took the time to see what was on the other side of the hills, to expand our horizons just a bit more.
Check back in a few days for Part 2, the Death Valley 49ers Encampment.
*Any errors in this article are mine. Monique is minding our cabin this week while I travel via Amtrak to see my new granddaughter in Louisiana.
From the “Never-Bored RVers,” We’ll see you on down the road.
© All photos by Barry Zander. All rights reserved