Monthly Archives: November 2012

The Wall Street Mill

After Frank Morgan died Bill Keys ended up owning the Wall Street Mill–and I’m pretty sure that sounds exciting; a tin shack wrapped around a stamp mill, pulverizing rock and squeezing mercury from gold amalgam.  What more would anyone want? He would mill ore from his Desert Queen Mine and other holdings as well as for other miners in the area.  He’d charge by the ton of ore, and the mill was one of many little industries that a desert rat like Bill needed to live in the desert. Worth Bagley claimed that Bill trespassed on his property to get to the mill.  Bagley didn’t like Bill a bit.  One day it came to a head and Keys ended up killing Bagley in self defense.  Bagley was connected to the Sheriff’s office as a former deputy, so things turned against Bill in court and he wound up going to prison. Bill fought and appealed but to no avail–he even turned down parole rather than falsely admit guilt. Keys was gifted, of a sturdy sort and he didn’t let the imprisonment tear him down.  His family had to move on though, and in many ways it was the ruination of the Keys dynasty in what is now Joshua Tree National Park.

Wall Street Mill

What I Heard about the Desert Queen Mine

I’ve heard that Jim McHaney got Charlie Martin to get a man named James to sign over the Desert Queen Mine before Charlie shot and killed him.  Charlie went on trial for the murder, but got off on self-defense. Charlie also was pals with the San Bernardino County Sheriff so that may have helped, and it may have helped Charlie Martin become the Chief of Police in San Bernardino once Charlie decided to settle down.  However, that had nothing to do with Jim McHaney and his band of rustlers, thieves and killers running the Desert Queen into the ground after spending the investors’ money.  McHaney ended up using the gold from the mine to counterfeit twenty dollar gold pieces, which after he got caught and sent to prison where he either died there or ended up sweeping streets in Riverside until he did die. Whoever did own the mine after McHaney lost it didn’t pay Bill Keys for working it, and Keys took over the claim for back wages.  There was about four million of  today’s dollars total in gold that came out of the mine over the 60-70 years that it was in operation.  At least that’s what I heard.

The Desert Queen Mine


A description of green cone pinon nut harvesting.

Indian use of Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands

Originally titled – Role of Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands in Aboriginal Societies of the Desert West
Joel C. Janetski

Gathering of Pine Nuts

Pine nuts were usually gathered in the early fall at about the time of the first frosts. Two methods were employed: green or brown cone harvesting (see Madsen 1986). The former took place before the cones opened. The green cones were either removed from branches using a hook or sometimes branches containing cones were broken off the tree. Once removed the sticky cones were placed in pits and roasted until the cones began to open. They were then pulled out of the fire with sticks, cooled, and opened, and the nuts were removed and tossed in a heap. A graphic account of pine nut harvesting by the green cone method is supplied by Howard Egan in western Nevada in the late 1800’s.

Jack and I were taking a scouting trip high up in the Schell Creek Range of mountains, when we came across an Indian who, with his [wife) and children were busily engaged gathering pine nuts. The man had a long pole with a strong hook fastened to one end. He would reach up in the tree to the pine cones, hook the crook around the branch on which they hung and pull branch and all down, the woman and children carrying them to a place and piling them up in a heap. When they had collected as many as they wanted that day, the [man) has finished his part of the work and could pass the rest of the time sleeping or hunting squirrels just as he pleased.

The women and children gathered a little dry brush which was thrown loosely over the pile of cones and set fire to. The cones are thickly covered all over with pitch, for this reason they make a hot fire, the [woman) watching and stirring it up as needed to keep the nuts from burning, as she rakes them back from the fire as a man would do when drawing charcoal.

When the pitch was all burned off the burs or cones, the [woman) spreads a blanket down close to the pile, then taking up one cone at a time, would press them end ways between her hands, which opens the leaves, under which there were two nuts to every leaf, Then shaking the cones over the blanket area the nuts would all fall out as clean as you please.

When the nuts had all been cleaned from the cones they were put in a large basket that would hold over two bushels and was nearly; full, the [woman) carrying that on her back to a place where they were placed all through the pine-nut grove to save carrying them too far and save time for the harvest does not last long, for a heavy frost will cause the cones to open and the nuts to fall to the ground (Egan 1917:241).

Click here to read the entire paper.

More Birds

Somehow I got off track from the food web and started working on my bird section. It was in need of updating for sure, so I spent sometime bringing that up to speed.  While I was there I decided to work on some of my favorites and see what I could do to improve the pages- Mostly just make the pictures larger.

Western Tanager

Summer Tanager

Vermilion Flycatcher

Canada Geese

When I first moved to the Mojave Desert I found it funny to see these at the local lakes. I thought they had been shipped in to add ambiance to the park atmosphere. I was right–They do make it nice in the parks. But they came on their own.

Bird of the Day – Canada goose

As mentioned, I’ve seen these at the local park fishing lake.  They certainly aren’t as obnoxious as the domestic white geese there.  They will chase you though–and chase you and chase you and chase you.  At least that’s what I seen happen to a little boy trying to bully one. I’ll bet that kid doesn’t do it again.

These geese, there were a Momma, Papa, and five or six little goslings on a tiny island made of rocks in the Colorado River. There was a nice backwater flow and I went around the island several times taking pictures.  Mom and Dad were concerned but not aggressive . I kept my distance and admired the little family.

I think the strangest place I’ve ever seen geese was at Saratoga Springs at the extreme southern end of Death Valley.  I certainly wasn’t expecting that.  Now that I know more about these beautiful creatures it doesn’t seem so odd.  They were probably just taking a break on their way south.



Glossary & the Food Chain

I finally found a graphic I could use for a page on a food pyramid.  I probably could have made one faster, but it was a good excuse for it putting off for a few years.  The food web is a little trickier.  I’ll definitely be making my own illustration for that.  I seen one where someone used one of my images and did a sloppy job of it. It is a same when someone steals your work and uses it as part of something that isn’t worth stealing back.  I can do better. So I will.  That will come in time though.


Food Chain

Food Pyramid

I’m certain that these updates do not appear to be all that complex.  What is interesting is the updates that spring off of these. For instance, associated words such as:

There may be a couple more- but I know for sure that there are a couple that still need to be updated.

Going through these and adding photos has been a trip.  The shots come from various times and places.  In these updates I used all my own photos, and even though some sots were taken of caged animals, they are geographically accurate.  That means I didn’t go to a zoo out of the area to get these photos.  The cougars and sometimes coyotes may look fat and spoiled, and they may well be, however, the park or zoo is geographically located in the same general environment.  There are some exceptions further into the site I can think of, but not now.

I should get back to work on the food web page. It needs a graphic and some relevant information.



Updates: Generally Speaking

I’ve been going through updating sections like popular pages in the glossary. I am hoping to get things uniform and reasonable to navigate.

The important thing with this update is that I’ll be blogging future updates here instead of continually editing and uploading a static page.  Over the years it has become cumbersome and I tend to just let journal updates go. For now I’ve put a notice on the “Features” page redirecting to the “Updates” category  here on the Desert Gazette.

Llano Del Rio

The problem with the Socialist colony at Llano Del Rio was that it wasn’t by a Rio (river). It was during a wet year that the land was purchased and the wash coming out of Big Rock Creek was flowing with water. It didn’t take but a few years for them to realize that the dried-up desert plain they were living on wasn’t more than what it looked like, a dried-up desert plain. Certainly, there were other reasons the colony failed. Probably politics–individual, internal, external or otherwise. Ain’t it always like that though?

I was driving through the area yesterday in the morning. I had to go westward toward Palmdale for an appointment that was sure to take most of the day. There were road crews widening Highway 138 at the site of the ruins. This and that was barricaded and fenced off and dust and paving and whatnot. I had updated the web page I keep on the place a few days before and noticed I only had low-resolution photos I took in probably 1999. I thought it would be a good idea to stop on my way back and get some shots for a photo update.

My meeting went on about an hour longer than I anticipated and I was running late. The sunset light was great, golden, and a little harsh. I could have got some nice shots if I could avoid getting myself into the long shadows. I must admit, in some spots I drove a little fast, but I’d catch myself and mostly I drove safe. I like to think I’d rather get to where I’m going late, but alive rather than early and dead. Now I know the second half of that makes no sense, but when I think of it the word ‘dead’ is a keyword to me and I slow it down.

The sun had just slipped behind the mountain when I arrived. I grabbed the camera and tripod and hiked a hundred yards or so to the site of the ruins. There was some great ambient light going and I had probably about half an hour of shooting. When the sun slips behind the mountains as it does at this time of year it gives a false sunset. It stays light, but the shadows disappear. For me, the light was perfect. I couldn’t have timed it better.

Owens Valley

Features and points of interest in the Owens Valley area

I’ve been trying to eliminate my inconsistencies as a mapmaker and standardize various levels of my maps.  One of the problems over the years has been finding uniform base maps that are okey-dokey to use.  I think I’ve finally come up with something, at least for California, that I can work with.  The less symbols the easier.  I’ve decided to try working with the Owens Valley as one of my first vicinity map areas.  So far I am pleased with the result.

Interactive Owens Valley Map

Wilderness Areas Update: the Day Bob Hope Died and My Boat Motor

I believe the title may not make sense. Good.

A few of these shots in this update were taken on the way to Pahrump, Nevada, the first time Bob Hope was reported as having passed away–and I believe (if my camera was correct) that was June 28, 2003.  But Bob wasn’t dead. At least that’s what he said. It seems some over-exuberant television reporter may have put the information out without checking facts.

The wilderness areas section is being brought up to speed on the pages with photos- The major change, however, is the base map, which was fairly crude.  Now it is all kind of snazzy.  😉  Also, both the alphabetical and numerical index pages have this new interactive map embedded.  The individual wilderness area updates are mostly just enlarging the photos and doing a little clean up. A list of the updated pages follows:

Wilderness Map (alphabetical index)

Wilderness Map (numerical index)

Individual wilderness areas

A couple of years later, in 2005, I had bought a 13 foot, leaking, aluminum fishing boat. My friend Cliff, who owned a canoe and kayak rental at the Topock marina, was going to sell me his Grandfather’s 5 horsepower outboard motor.  So what I did was photograph a few of the wilderness areas along the I-40 freeway on my way out to pick it up.

I’ve heard it said that the two most memorable days in a boat owner’s mind are the day you buy your boat, and the day you sell it. Certainly, I remember the day I sold it–but I can’t recall the day I bought it. Wait … Now I can.  Anyway, I remember the day I bought that motor. That was a lot of fun.  I’ll tell you about the day I got the boat in some other update.

Feedback – 2012

From time to time I get feedback in the form of anonymous comments from visitors to my Digital Desert and Mojave Desert websites.  Most are good–a few bad apples, but I won’t drop them in this bag.  Hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

11/1/2012 – 4:02pm – feedback: As the fourth gen to grow up in the middle of the Mojave (Las Vegas) I was thrilled to learn more about this desert I love by reading your site than I had in my previous 47 years. Thank you! One bit I’d like to add is about the desert burro. Your sources list them only in CA but they also live in So. NV. We’ve regularly seen them near the Spring Mtn./Red Rock area from the time I was little with the most recent time perhaps six or so years ago. Some are rather tame. Don’t know if it’s worth an addition, but wanted to share.

11/1/2012 – 12:15pm:-  feedback: Can’t find the snake I saw. It was a rather slender 36″ long. The first 9″, including the smallish head, was shiny black which quickly faded into a pink-purple color. It slid straight down the mountain side like it was rolling on ball-bearings. I saw this snake in the Coachella Valley.

10/20/2012 – 7:17pm – feedback: Hi Mr Feller, In my seventh grade class we are debating whether the BrightSource solar-thermal plant should be built in the Mojave, and how it affects the environment around it, specifically the endangered Desert Tortoise. I can to this website wondering if you had any information about it, and if so, which side you take on the matter. However, it appears there is little or none about it here, and I suggest that maybe you could have a section for environmental issues and the mojave in your website. However, on other topics I found your website very interesting, and I am learning a lot from it!

9/8/2012 – 5:33pm – feedback: iappreciated tyour chuckwalla comments.

8/8/2012 – 8:21pm – feedback: Hi, I read about the glossy snake on your site and we’ve seen one occasionally where we live in San Bernardino County and have observed and taken pictures of it and I have carefully identified it. The information on the Glossy Snake page suggests that sightings of the Glossy Snake should be verified and recorded. Can you suggest on the page who collects such data and where to report sightings of endangered animals?

7/24/2012 – 7:24pm – feedback: Hi there! I found your page on the Mormon Pioneers, and wanted to let you know how much I appreciated the straightforward, condensed timeline, and offer some help in clarifying a few things. You did a great job of outlining the major events in an unbiased way. On the help side of things, “Mormons” was a nickname first given by detractors, and then later adopted into general use by the church members. When that church was legally organized on April 6, 1830, in Fayette, NY, the official name was The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It is believed that the persecution of the Mormons in Illinois was due to the Illinois residents fearing a Mormon-controlled government (simply due to their eventually outnumbering the non-Mormon residents). Thanks so much for the good info. Have a great week!

6/29/2012 – 4:40pm – feedback: Are ALL ghost towns off limits to metal detecting in southern California?

6/13/2012 – 4:34pm – feedback: Hello! I just discovered your website with the mention of O.D. Gass. What a surprise I am having discovering all the information about him! I am his great, great grandson. I was raised by his son (my great grandfather, Fenton Gass). I am beginning to learn about my family and appreciate the things they went through. Fenton did not talk about his dad. I didn’t learn about him until my mother began to talk about him years later. All we have is one photo of him standing in front of my great grandfather’s orange orchard in Bryn Mawr. A news reporter from Las Vegas came to see my great grandfather one day and asked to see Octavious’ diary. The reporter talked my great grandfather into letting him “borrow” the diary. Reluctantly, the diary was handed over and was never seen again despite the pleadings of my great grandfather. I am trying to track down where the stolen diary might have ended up. Thank you for your time, Tom (withheld).

6/4/2012 – 8:41am – feedback: While walking the old train trail around Lake Mead my daughter found a flowering plant that was white. The whole plant was white stalks and all. The flower petals seemed to have some red or dark brown spots, like a dusting of color. I think they were a five petal plant, the way the plant opened it was very hard to tell. I have been to several different sites trying to name this plant would you help?

5/28/2012 – 10:56am – feedback: Please update your website – the phone number ###-###-#### is no longer Fish & Game, it is my personal phone number. Thanks.

5/24/2012 – 10:35am – feedback: May 18, 2012. Just survived Burdoo Canyon Road in a 4-wheel drive SUV. The impulse to travel this road was inspired by the grandeur of the place, but very wrong-headed. Often, we found ourselves hauling rocks into the “roadbed” to build up drop offs — all while watching the sun drop gradually lower. In retrospect, many many things could have gone wrong — a punctured side wall, an encounter with another vehicle or an abandoned one, a detached tie-rod, the punctured oil pan like that of the vehicle ahead of us that left a telling trail. Burdoo Canyon Road might make a good hiking trail. Maneuvering a vehicle through this natural canyon seems presumptuous. Nature bats last.

5/12/2012 – 3:15pm – feedback: hello from zone 9 in north louisiana. can you put me in touch with a plant company that i can buy desert plants from? i was born in phoenix, ari. and this spring my husband of 5o years visited out west. we loved all the different kinds of plants and would love to plant a few that would live in our zone. most places i have found sell but they are so small. i have several differet kinds and they are thriving so i know planted in certain locations in my yard they will live. please help.

5/1/2012 – 12:59pm – feedback: I am looking for historic information on train employee, passengers, and train hopper deaths between 1902 – 1918 near Barstow Ca. I had a great uncle who died in some sort of accident and is said to be buried in Barstow. I can not find any info on train deaths in that area and time. Just for S&G his name is Hilding Gottrid Svetlund of Minnesota. He was born in 1881 in Sweden. I have searched all the genealogy sites, no luck. If you have any leads I would appreciate it.

4/17/2012 – 3:47pm – feedback: Hello, I would like to know the names of trees that thrive in the desert (Ridgecrest, CA) and fixes nitrogen.

3/25/2012 – 8:47am – feedback: i did not find what i was looking for i need a big food chain OF THE DESERT!!!! ):

3/21/2012 – 1:15am – feedback: your analogy of the race track is close. I but slightly off. The rocks dont slide on top of ice but rather the slick almost like teflon wet surface after rains and high winds. When the playas surface becomes wet with just enough water to cover the surface. the surface becomes very slick with a low density wet mud. when the winds blow across the surface at these periods of wet times it becomes the perfect conditions to slowly push the rocks through the mud, leaving the tracks. I have actually seen this process in action. You explain it as if the rocks were sliding across ice, which is plausible except there wouldn’t be any tracks in the soil if the rocks slid on ice. Ice would also lock the rocks in place until thawed. It is a very interesting site to see when your standing next tom or in a dry lake bed during a storm and watching rocks move as if they have legs. its hard to see this phenomenon in death valley due to the conditions have to be perfect. but in other arid places that receive these conditions more often. you can observe this happening. Most of the time it never leaves tracks due to the the water standing longer. If you want you can email me a response. my name is Jeff. I appreciate your site and would like to thank you for the info you provide. I read a lot about geology and experience most first hand. Some day hopefully i can make it back to school and complete my degree in biology and geology.

3/19/2012 – 12:51pm – feedback: Thank You Walter for all the work you have done with this website. It has been extremely helpful during a research project on the Mojave. It is well organized and very useful. I did find it somewhat awkward that Death Valley is separate from the Mojave on several pages, so integrating the information was a challenge as I tried to relate the smaller Death Valley with the larger Mojave area. I know how much work it takes to build sites like this, just thought I would mention it if you can think of a way to link some of the information together. Thanks!!!

I’ll update this post with any more that may drift in the rest of the year as well as see how far back I’ve kept the comments.

Until then –  Walter

Romance at the Old Mill

— The mental picture commonly held of the “Old Mill,” is one of the water wheel slowly, rhythmically turning, splashing out cool, fresh water from the brook into a blue pool under the weeping willows swaying in a late spring breeze, a picnic, bottle of wine, and of course, thee & some cheese. The reality of the “Old Mill” in the desert, is much, much different as illustrated in the attached photograph.

Stampmill ruins and remnants at dawn

How a Stampmill Works

The Long Way Around – #47

The Long Way Around – #47: Granite. Granite fascinates me. There’s a lot of it exposed throughout the Mojave. If the Joshua tree is the emblematic plant/tree of the Mojave, then plutonic granite is the symbolic rock. Joshua trees, granite, and rats. Lots and lots of rats–rats everywhere–for the snakes.

About Mojave Desert Snakes

I’m not real sure what these are for sure- Mojave (crotalus scutulalus), Southern Pacific (crotalus oreganus helleri), and Speckled (crotalus mitchellii) rattlesnakes, I think. One from out of the area too I believe.


A Rock Garden

This image was shot in Joshua Tree National Park just moments after the sun completely set behind the horizon. I thought it seemed very surreal.  In the post processing, since it was so strange-looking, I decided to try a subliminal composition with slightly increased saturation.  It was my first attempt at doing something with this technique.  If you look closely, you may be able to see just a little bit richer color starting at the yucca at the bottom, then curling up counter-clockwise through the brush and then on to the rocks.

More about Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park

Ubehebe Crater

Ubehebe (yoo-bee-hee-bee) Crater is said to be the basket that the Paiute people emerged from during creation to populate the world. Geologically, Ubebehe is a maar volcano formed by a steam explosion roughly 3,000 years ago. Geographically, the crater is located 5 miles off of Scotty’s Castle road in northern Death Valley National Park.

More about the Ubehebe Craters

Ubehebe Crater