The red hood of our truck reflects a desert scene from the Twenty Mule Team Canyon in Death Valley. The short 2 1/2 mile side trip is one of our favorites in the National Park. Imagine, if you will, driving an 18 mule/2horse team hauling 10 tons of borax over 160 miles of desert. The total weight including wagons was 36 tons and the livestock and wagons stretched for over 180 feet! I asked my 278 horse power truck if it would like to pull such a load through Death Valley. The answer was a resounding no. Having struggled with hauling only myself and gear over the hills and mountains of the Park on my bicycle during my 10,000 mile bike trek, I heartily agreed.
The real treat in driving over the short distance is the almost unreal beauty. Peggy and I stopped the truck several times along the road to get out and take photos. I’ve posted before on the canyon but we took all of these photos on Sunday.
NEXT POST: I’ll conclude our journey through Death Valley National Park.
35 thoughts on “The 20 Mule Team Canyon… Death Valley Interlude”
I can’t imagine what it was like for people back in the 19th Century to travel through that valley!
Especially if you didn’t have a clue of what you were getting into, G. Or if you hit the desert at the wrong time of the year! –Curt
Stark beauty. Such an amazing landscape.
That it is, Peggy. Breath taking! –Curt
Whenever I visit a place like this, I always get to thinking what it must have been like to travel through there back in those days! I don’t think I could handle it… beautiful pictures as always 🙂
Thanks. I’ll bet you could handle it, MB. Having spent a lifetime of taking people on challenging outdoor adventures, I’ve continually been amazed by what people can do. And what I can do, as far as that goes. (Laughing) –Curt
I’m glad you have such faith in me! 🙂
What a weird but dramatic landscape. (We went through Death Valley as kids in a car without AC. Dad had us get up before dawn and drove like crazy to get across before the heat got back…back then you might see people by overheated cars along the side of the road.) I remember that old mule train picture! Thanks for adding that!
You still see people’s cars overheating on occasion. They even have a water tank on the steepest hill, a straight up climb of four miles. I know how tough that hill is because I biked up it on my trip across the country, one painful pedal at a time! 🙂 And yes, Death Valley is not somewhere you want to be in the summer without air-conditioning! I’ll bet your dad was hightailing it. –Curt
Sorry Curt, you and I are 75 [almost] but I suspect most of your readers won’t know the full significance of the phrase 20 Mule Team Borax had in our culture for awhile and the man it employed. But I was thrilled to see these areas too when we visited a few years ago.
Would we be talking about the Ronald? 🙂
Twenty Mule Team reminded me of an old TV commercial, but your adventure is much more exciting.
Was the commercial for Borax, Lulu? One of the teams traveled the nation promoting the company. It even made it to the Rose Bowl Parade. Another possibility is “Death Valley Days,” the TV series that Ronald Reagan hosted before he went into politics. 🙂 –Curt
Maybe Death Valley Days. I have the dimmest of recollections.
Laughing. Mine are pretty dim as well, Lulu. It was a long time ago. I suspect there have been reruns along the way. –Curt
I am fascinated by these stark landscapes and you have shown them off well. I’ve stopped there before, but did not take the 2 1/2 mile side trip. Now I know better.
Stark beauty— the two words hardly seem to go together, but they do in Death Valley, Crystal. And yes, the Twenty Mule Team drive and a hike up Golden Canyon should both be on your itinerary! –Curt
That mule team is something to behold! I can’t even begin to imagine how they controlled them all!
With a very, very long whip. 🙂 Also one of the drivers kept a box of pebbles. He would pelt any misbehaving mules. The mules were well trained, Alison and the two lead mules probably the best trained. In addition to hauling duty, one team traveled the country showing up in parades and at fairs advertising borax. –Curt
I was taking the Death part of your title too literally and saw blood on the road in your first photo. Relieved to find it was the bonnet of your car! New glasses?
Laughing… That would be a scary amount of blood, AC. We are talking elephant-size here!
I’ve wanted to visit Death Valley my whole life, because of the connection with my parents, who stayed there during part of their honeymoon road trip in December of 1948. But it has never been on the forefront of my mind, and never researched. In this modern era, blog-reading so easily introduces images and ideas, moving things from the back of the mind to the front… and your pictures are beautiful and appealing!! Would you venture an opinion about the best time of year to visit?
Here’s a guess — not July or August!
hahahahaha – I did know that much 😉 My husband tells about the one time he was camping there, with four other (crazy) college friends, traveling in a VW bug with no AC. He said they couldn’t decide whether to leave the windows open to the blast furnace, or close them and simply bake.
My first amusing travel experience involved a VW bug. We were headed to Texas from Iowa, pulling a small U-haul trailer. I’d thought it would be all downhill, but no: there are mountains in Oklahoma. That poor car…
I suspect the VW had a few words with you over that, Linda. My first wife and I owned a bug as well in the 70s and had many adventures, which included traveling with an 80 pound basset hound that wagged the vehicle when he got to enthusiastic wagging! –Curt
Definitely not the time to be there! Adding a VW bug to the equation was adding insult to injury. 🙂 Hard to imagine 120 degree weather in a bug. –Curt
There’s kind of a stark beauty here, with nice side lighting to set off the textures. Otherworldly.
Have you visited the museum that highlights the history of the mule teams, the borax trade, and such? I recall that they have one of the wagons the mules pulled, although I can’t remember whether it’s a restored original or a replica.
There’s some amazing history and landscapes out there. Thanks for taking us along on this trip.
I love history this is so amazing
There is a lot of it in Death Valley.
Look at the good pictures this reminds me when I visited south Africa was looking good
Glad you enjoyed it.- Curt