Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Finding a Thesis: A Joshua Tree Aside

South of the Klondyke District (our previous stop on this journey) and just north of Goldfield, one reaches one of the northernmost populations of Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) — or the northernmost population, depending on what range map you use. These unusual plants continue southward past Goldfield toward and beyond Beatty. They occur in dense stands or forests in several places, notably along Highway 93 approaching Caliente, Nevada, and in a few places in the Mojave Desert of California.

To take the pictures I've included here, I drove off Highway 95 onto the Silver Peak Road about three to four miles north of Goldfield. Joshua trees are scattered all along the five to six miles between 95 and Alkali, Nevada.
Looking NNE toward Tonopah and the Klondyke Hills.
Joshua tree with Hasbrouk Peak to the left (reddish hill underlain by Tertiary volcanic rocks) and the Klondyke Hills to the right (brownish hills in front of the volcanic rocks of the southern San Antonio Range).
Joshua trees, especially those near Goldfield, make me think of my Former Mining Company days and Roquemore, who was the head of the Nevada District. (We were divided into four districts for exploration and management purposes, with Nevada being covered by one district’s worth of geologists. Our district, the Western District, covered all Pacific states up and down the coast from SoCal to Alaska, and we claimed Hawaii, though we were never lucky enough to be stationed there). Roquemore told me — years after my thesis-hunting pass through the Goldfield area when we were exploring Mineral Ridge near Silver Peak as part of a Nevada-Western joint venture — that Dusty, a dark-haired young woman working in the Nevada District, always waved at Joshua trees every time she saw one; she would wave while saying, “Hi.” Dusty had claimed that Native American tribes, or a particular tribe, believed the Joshua trees held or were the manifestations of the spirits of their ancestors, an assertion that I haven’t been able to verify by Googling.

While listening to this story on that day gone by, we drove past another two dozen Joshua trees, and Rock waved out the window, saying, “Hi,” in a immitation high-pitched voice.
Wild horses amongst the Joshua trees.
I'm not sure what the Nevada District geo-types were doing in Joshua tree country. We of the Western District would later claim as ours all areas where chollas could be found, and gave this new territory, which went as far north as the Gilbert District in the Monte Cristo Range west of Tonopah, the name “Cholla District.” Possibly the Nevada geos were out looking at something down near Caliente; possibly they had ventured into Goldfield, Silver Peak, or even as far south as Beatty. Nevertheless, every time I see a Joshua tree, I think of Rock saying hi in that high voice, I think of Dusty’s story about the spirits of ancestors in Joshua trees, and I find myself, on occasion, waving.

The Finding A Thesis series will continue onward, past Goldfield and into the Palmetto Mountains.

Read more about Joshua trees at DesertUSA.

Previous Posts in this Series:
Thesis: Finding an Area
Finding a Thesis: Battle Mountain to Austin to Gabbs
Finding a Thesis: Pole Line Road
Finding a Thesis: Pole Line to Belmont
Finding a Thesis: Klondyke District

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