Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Geo 730: March 19, Day 443: Eternal Shower

The shower house at the Virgin Valley Campground is a kick. Anyone who's done desert camping knows how the scarcity of water can lead to, shall we say, some sticky (and stinky) situations. Personal hygiene with a shortage of water is not trivial. Often one ends up paying for a metered shower which gets one enough time to lather up, then paying again to rinse off. Or else what amounts to a rinse in some natural source of water that one doesn't want to contaminate with soap/shampoo. This location was a CCC camp where I imagine a fair number of young men (though I have no clue just how many) were doing hard labor under the hot desert sun; you know they weren't going to be happy about staying unwashed for any significant amount of time.

The solution? Shove pipes down into the same warm aquifer that feeds the pool. Yes, it's tepid, lukewarm at best, and the flow isn't large, but this shower house has a pair of heads that run literally continuously. As in all the time. Forever (in human terms). It's a real pleasure to stay in a free desert campground  to begin with; add an eternal shower, (not to mention the warm pool) and I'm practically drooling. Also, note to the right of the "Do Not Wash Vehicles" sign, on the back side of the concrete pad, is a standing spigot. This taps into the same aquifer, so the water is lukewarm. I've mentioned before that it's a good idea to carry plenty of water when you're toddling around in arid environments; it's also a good idea to know where sources of safe water are available. This is one. When I've camped here, I've made a point of topping off our containers before leaving.

As best as I can tell, the CCC operation that created this camp- and undoubtedly the shower house and improvements to the spring- was a quarrying and stone working operation. If you enlarge the picture and look carefully at the blocks making up the walls of the building, you will see they're made of an attractive, pink, nicely laminated tuffaceous siltstone. You'll find similar rock in buildings throughout the region, and I suspect this location is the source of all of it. I've only been to the spot once, out of the maybe fifteen times I've visited the area, but the quarry is here, a couple miles north of the camp. I'm not sure whether it's okay to visit; the cabled-off gate doesn't make it clear whether the road is simply closed to vehicles, or to pedestrians as well. We walked in, and some of the equipment from the operation- very rusted and nonfunctional- was still present at the time (this would've been late 80's). One could get a pretty good idea of how the dimension stone was carved out and removed. In addition, the overburden of the target stone was full of rounded obsidian clasts, as we saw in the road gravel at the rhyolite outcrop. However, it was clear from the disuse that this spot is not the source of gravel used on current roads. Should you visit the quarry, treat it as an archeological site, because that's what it is. Don't mess with, break, or remove any artifacts, and don't leave anything behind. It's a fascinating spot that records a brief period of US history, and along with the campground and other structures, is a part of our collective heritage.
Backing out a bit, and putting everything into perspective, this is the layout of the area. I'll discuss Thousand Creek Canyon, which looks to me like an antecedent stream carved into a horst block, tomorrow. And a final note: Despite there being one shown, the road goes from the camp up to the mouth of the canyon, but does NOT cross the stream. And the road segment between the quarry area (which is close to the refuge headquarters) and the mouth of the canyon is closed off.

Photo unmodified. August 19, 2011. FlashEarth Location.

1 comment:

Cujo359 said...

It's a wonderful place. Glad to have had the opportunity to see it.