So I called the resort by phone, remembering what a cool place it was, and asked for a job. “Great”, they said, “Come anytime.” The Panamint Valley Resort is located in Panamint Valley. It’s the one you get to before Death Valley on the west side. Odd as I thought it was that they asked me nothing in the way of references or skills, or where I expected to live, I was jacked to go and got ready to leave from Portland as soon as possible. I had no idea what to expect from the death valley area so I joined a chat room to inquire about the dangers of such extremes and the hazards for dogs.
One man wrote back to me by the name of “Turtle Jim”, I later discovered the name came from the fact that he drove really slow. He was thorough in answering questions via email and had lived in the area for quite some time. I had to admit it might be good to know someone when I arrived.
Turtle Jim lived in the town of Keeler, Ca. which isn’t really a town, more like a cluster of houses, with a post office open once a week, and the most glorious retired talc mill. Turtle Jim lived on the property of the Talc Mill and actually parked his truck inside the bay at the far end. There is a rich little community in Keeler, Ca. stashed away in this small series of streets, it’s a very well kept secret.
So I sent Turtle Jim a picture of my camper and an estimated time of arrival. Whether I actually met him or not would be up in the air; I’m not as forthcoming with strangers met online!. I made the journey South and around the lower end of the Sierra Nevada range and went north toward Lone Pine, you know…the town where they filmed the Lone Ranger, gobs of westerns, and a Star Trek episode or 20. The town of Lone Pine would be my last gas station before I turned towards the valley so I pulled in to fill up. Suddenly, a beefed up bouncy little Toyota pick-up pulled in toward me. A 70 year old man got out and said,”Are you Shy-reese?”
Not exactly the pronunciation I was looking for but whooda knew it was Turtle Jim tracking me at the gas station?….meant to be? He recognized my truck and camper from a photo. Given his age of late 60’s I knew I could take him if he tried anything weird so I decided to follow him home. Thank goodness I did! Over time we became friends and he took me 4 wheelin’ in his modified truck that had gadgets and gauges for temperatures and all determinations. I’ve never seen anything like it. He could practically tell how many beads of sweat I had while we climbed what was left of a mule trail up to Cerro Gordo Mine. The hill was so steep that my dog, in the back of the truck, was standing upright on the tail gate! Each tire seemed to move independently as the truck nearly walked over boulders and mounds of alluvial fans, across canyon sized ruts and deep sandy soil. Making it to the top, for me,was the equivalent of climbing Mount Everest.
We met the man who bought the mine a few years earlier and was restoring it. It was so interesting I spent the next several months researching the rich mountains of the valley. There is so much history there.
To be continued….