Rhyolite Ghost Town near Death Valley

First it was the rivers and civilization began to flourish around the banks. Then came the railroads and new townships blossomed near the tracks. Then it was the lure of gold and untold riches that lured the faithful to build an organic hub of activity far away from rivers and deep in terrains that were rough and hostile. Sometimes dreams die young- Silicon valley startup boom and bust?

Rhyolite one of many ghost towns, not as famous or commercial as Bodie, yet with a history of its own. This was the largest town in the Death Valley and at one time the third largest in Nevada, with a population of over 10,000 during its years of existence between 1905-1911. At its peak the town boasted of 53 saloons, 18 stores, 19 lodging houses,8 doctors, two dentists , a stock exchange and even an opera! In December 1906 the first train rolled into Rhyolite. There were 3 railroad lines into Rhyolite. By 1917  the town was dying, the rails were pulled out so as to reuse the iron in WW1. In 1930 the depot was sold for 100 Dollars and later resold in 1935 to make way for the “Rhyolite Ghost Casino”. Today this is in a stage of decay!

Caboose Union Pacific Railroad

Caboose Union Pacific Railroad

Cook Bank is the most famous relic. A 3 story 43 foot  building this was constructed by Mr Cook and completed by 1908. Mr Cook built a bank with all the trappings of luxury. Marble floors from Italy, mahogany woodwork, electric lights, plumbing and even a working telephone; this one set him back by over $90,000. Soon thereafter the bank was acquired by the First National Bank. The Rhyolite Post Office leased space in the basement of this Bank.

Cook Bank

Cook Bank

Kelly was a colorful character in Rhyolite. At the ripe age of 76 he decided to build a bottle house! With 53 saloons bottles were not in short supply and he used anything he could lay his hands including medicine bottles which were never in short supply either. For in those days opium was a key ingredient in most medicines! Water being in short supply these bottles found their way unwashed into the bottle house. How many bottles- over 30,000! The inside of the house was plastered.  Kelly never lived in this 3 bedroom house. he raffled it for $5 per ticket. The Bennet family won the raffle and the house.

Bottle House

Bottle House

The desert is a rough terrain and as the town decayed people left with everything stripping homes and buildings of wood and everything that could be reused- wood in a desert being as precious as water!

Hut

Intact roof

Abandoned truck

Abandoned truck

Trucks and cars that had seen better days!

Abandoned Impala

Abandoned Impala

Porter House sold practically everything but liquor. Large glass windows offered a view of everything in the store! The store closed in 1910 four years after it was built

Porter house

Porter house

Tin cans

Tin cans

Dreams died young! There was no gold and life was no longer golden!

Golden dreams

Golden dreams

The saloons and pleasure pens closed and soon this was just another ghost town:

Rhyolite Ghost Town

Rhyolite Ghost Town

Posted in Nevada Arizona Parks | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DEATH VALLEY

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs and gleams.”- Antoine de Saint-Exupery, The Little Prince.

(Death Valley pictures at surendra.smugmug.com)

Death Valley

Death Valley sky lights (surendra.smugmug.com)

So why would you go to Death Valley where summer temperature can soar to 135 degrees F? A question I was asked. Here’s why…

Zabrinskie Point sunrise

Zabriskie Point sunrise surendra.smugmug.com

It is only in the desert that all elements of nature come together to paint a canvas silently and all too quickly, as if there was an artist painting and then rethinking and repainting:

Zabriskie Point at sunrise

Zabriskie Point at sunrise surendra.smugmug.com

and when nature cooperates the impact can be breathtaking

Mesquite sand Dunes at dawn

Mesquite sand Dunes at dawn surendra.smugmug.com

and surreal:

Mesquite Sand Dunes at dawn   surendra.smugmug.com

Mesquite Sand Dunes at dawn surendra.smugmug.com

Mesquite Sand Dunes at dawn surendra.smugmug.com

Mesquite Sand Dunes at dawn surendra.smugmug.com

where life can flourish

Life in the Desert

Life in the Desert

even bloom:

Blooms in the dunes surendra.smugmug.com

Blooms in the dunes
surendra.smugmug.com

or bravely lie dormant not dead:

Dormant not dead in the dunes. surendra.smugmug.com

Dormant not dead in the dunes. surendra.smugmug.com

..where oxidized minerals (iron salts,manganese,mica) produce an artists palette

Artists palette surendra.smugmug.com

Artists palette
surendra.smugmug.com

and slot canyons (Mosaic Canyon) with layers of breccia and marble:

Mosaic Canyon Marble surendra.smugmug.com

Mosaic Canyon Marble
surendra.smugmug.com

…while Cottonball marsh (how I missed my gum boots) a huge expanse of mud, salt and water provides interesting landscapes:

Cottonball marsh surendra.smugmug.com

Cottonball marsh
surendra.smugmug.com

and interesting reflections. This is where snow peaks, salty marsh and slush come together!

Cottonball Marsh surendra.smugmug.com

Cottonball Marsh
surendra.smugmug.com

Who can miss the sunset 282 feet below sea level in the Badwater landscape..

bad1

Badwater at sunset
surendra.smugmug.com

The desert can be a lonely place and as I made my way back I noticed I was low on gas, frightfully low as I noticed the warning glow. I drove on and on and then I picked up my phone to find myself in an”Oh shit” moment as good ol’ AT&T proudly proclaimed no signal! No traffic in the desert either… miraculously the GPS indicated a gas station a few miles ahead! Lessons noted – where possible fill those tanks! Or else you may have another interesting story to tell!

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Hiking Mount Diablo, Stargazing at Mount Hamilton

Mount Diablo State Park in the East Bay (Silicon Valley) offers a rich tapestry of plants, geological formations – Jurassic age rocks, fossilized sea shells from the ocean near the summit of this 3800 foot mountain- so as you go higher you meet older and older rock , animals- mountain lions,fox, bobcat, coyotes, deer, tarantula arachnids, snakes, bald and golden eagles, scorpions and miles and miles of trails leading to the summit. Walk, bike, drive all options are on the table.  A place to get lost and enjoy.

Life finds a way to flourish in the rockiest patch

So what if life is harsh all around-Rock City Mount Diablo

So what if the conditions are harsh all around-Rock City Mount Diablo

When the going gets tough -the tough stand tall:

Standing tall

Life ain’t easy but hey there’s a great view from over here- Rock City Mount Diablo

What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand (OK sit) and stare:

Golden moments

Golden moments-  Rock City Mount Diablo

Climbing after a hike- boy that’s rough- but nothing beats reaching the top:

Climbing Sentinel Rocks - Rock City Mount Diablo

Climbing Sentinel Rocks – Rock City Mount Diablo

…and as you hike pause and soak it in:

Hiking through the park - Mount Diablo

Hiking through the park – Mount Diablo

The feet may protest the heart is all in- keep going:

Walk in the woods- Mount Diablo

Walk in the woods- Mount Diablo

“The amen of nature is always a flower” – Oliver Wendell Holmes
Believe that life is worth living....

Earth laughs in Flowers- Ralph Waldo Emerson   – Rock City Mount Diablo

Summit Mount Diablo

Summit Mount Diablo with a view of the Sierra Nevada

Sunset is not the end of the day but a restful preparation for a new dawn

Sunset from Mount Diablo

Sunset from Mount Diablo

Sunset from Mount Hamilton -home of the Lick Observatory

Sunset from Mount Hamilton -home of the Lick Observatory

Silicon Valley from the Lick Observatory Mount Hamilton

Silicon Valley from the Lick Observatory Mount Hamilton

Telescope - Lick Observatory

The Dome and Telescope – Lick Observatory

The Lick Observatory

The Lick Observatory

The Lick Observatory Mount Hamilton

The Lick Observatory Mount Hamilton

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Hearst Castle San Simeon California

Hearst Castle,San Simeon

Hearst Castle,San Simeon (surendra.smugmug.com for more pictures)

Over the years I have driven past “the castle”, this time I stayed overnight at San Simeon, the castle was only 4 miles out and little reason to give it a miss. I had little time, the tour was abridged so there was really no excuse to avoid this pleasure pen of once one of the most influential personalities in America. Doubt that – go watch Citizen Kane a dramatization of an interesting personality.

Hearst castle is a ranch, a 160 plus room residence which took almost 28 years to build. This is a place where Hearst entertained the whos who that mattered.

Guest House, Hearst Castle San Simeon

Guest House, Hearst Castle San Simeon

An avid admirer of European art and architecture, European influence is visible and the castle has original art:

Art in the Hearst Castle

Art in the Hearst Castle

Hearst kept his guests entertained with a zoo with exotic animals from all over the world. Zebras still roam the ranch. Imagine Cary Grant or Clark Gable or even Franklin Roosevelt enjoying themselves in the outdoor Neptune pool or the indoor Roman pool

Roman Pool, Hearst Castle

Roman Pool, Hearst Castle

Neptune pool Hearst Castle

Neptune pool Hearst Castle

and then having a meal with the host and his entourage:

Dining Room Hearst Castle

Dining Room Hearst Castle

or just chatting around a fountain:

Fountain, Hearst Castle

Fountain, Hearst Castle

Hearst maintained an immaculate property, bringing in a huge variety of flora and plants in particular many desert plants:

Plants in Hearst Castle

Plants Hearst Castle

Plants Hearst Castle

Plants Hearst Castle

Plants, Hearst Castle

Plants, Hearst Castle

Plants Hearst Castle

Plants Hearst Castle

Atop a hilltop the castle offers spectacular views:

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

Spend as much or as little time there is something for everyone to enjoy, except when it gets too hot…that pool is out of bounds.

For more pictures visit surendra.smugmug.com.

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California Coastline Highway 1 Road Trip Santa Cruz to Morro Bay

I have done sections of this at various times, met with thick clouds, sometimes rain. This day was clear as I drove down a 200 mile stretch from my home to to Morro Bay. Morro was not the destination, I had always wanted to experience Highway 1 and I was on my way to LA a longer way to get there; that was what I wanted to do- get on this section of the road trip a twisting, turning, cliff hugging beach hopping experience. Highway 17 gives you an indication of things to come, there was not a stitch of fog on Highway 17 and Highway 1 was clear and good to go. As I drove past Santa Cruz I took a breather at Moss Landing- the gateway to Big Sur or the land of the giant waves and many a surfer’s paradise,120 miles of scattered surfing beaches.

Moss Landing

Moss Landing

Monterey,with its Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row and Aquarium were a distraction but for this trip avoidable. However, the 17 mile drive leading to Carmel could not be missed. That was a much desired detour off Highway 1.

Seal Point

Seal Point 17 Mile Drive. More Pictures of this at surendra.smugmug.com Album Highway 1 Santa Cruz to Morro Bay

Home to the Pebble Beach Golf Course,the 17 mile drive offers picturesque rest stops, flora and fauna. Seal point is where an army of seals have their siesta. The lone Cypress is another hallmark of the 17 mile drive:

The Lone Cypress Tree

The Lone Cypress Tree

One day I would love to get this picture at sunset! Carmel is a quaint little town with galleries and artists. But I had miles ahead of me and I was heading for Point Lobos State Reserve 4 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1. Point Lobos is a 500 acre reserve and one could spend a day and I could not help spending more time than what I had in my plan. Which meant that other parks such as the Garrapata State Park would have to be missed. Point Lobos has coves, headlands, meadows, tide pools, bird island, cypress trees and numerous trails.

Point Lobos State Reserve

Point Lobos State Reserve.
Tide pools and giant waves

Rocks can be alluring but the waves have their way and it is best to keep that safe distance.

Bird Island

Bird Island Point Lobos

Bird Island and Point Lobos State Reserve is home to a wide variety of birds. Spring and summer are the best times to see a huge flock of birds. Hundreds and hundreds of Brandt’s cormorants inhabit Bird Island, Black Crown Night Herons, Pelicans can be spotted at many a place in the park. Along the trail you pass China Cove (pictures at http://surendra.smugmug.com/Highway-1-Santa-Cruz-to-Morro/) and Gibson Beach.

With time running out and an early sunset predicted I had to skip the Big Sur, Garrapata State Park and a quaint Old Coast Road as I made my way ont a cliff hugging road to the Bixby Bridge. A single span concrete arch this is an iconic much photographed bridge, home to many a car commercial.

Bixby Bridge

Bixby Bridge

By now I was hungry and went past Hurricane point and the point Sur Lighthouse and Andrew Molera State Park. Big views but for another day! However I could not miss Pfeiffer Beach. This is easily missed as the Sycamore Canyon Road is not properly marked. If you reach the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park going South then you would miss this fascinating landmark. Best times is sunset between mid December and mid January as the sun set rays travel through the arch. I have yet to get that lucky shot:

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach

By now hunger took over and I made a well deserved break at Nepenthe a restaurant, on Highway 1, with a view :

Nepenthe Restaurant

Nepenthe Restaurant

Refreshed I made my way back South on Highway 1 to the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State park for the iconic McWay Falls:

McWay Falls

McWay Falls

For a while there is a stretch of one way traffic only and by then the sun was setting:

Sun set on Highway 1

Sun set on Highway 1

And the sun dipped further down:

Sunset on Highway 1

Sunset on Highway 1

Even the golden yellow foliage on the mountain changed its hue:

Sunset on Highway 1

Sunset on Highway 1

As the sun set gave way  to the golden hour the scene transformed to a surreal painting:

Golden Hour Highway 1

Golden Hour Highway 1

By now it was pitch dark and I made a pit stop at the Cavalier Ocean Front resort in San Simeon. Up early I was hoping for some early sunrise moments:

San Simeon Beach

San Simeon Beach

San Simeon is home to the Hearst castle so I took a tour of this 115 room guest house and playground for Randolph Hearst.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

(Many many more pictures of the Hearst castle at http://surendra.smugmug.com/Hearst-Castle )

Hearst Castle indoor swimming pool

Hearst Castle indoor swimming pool

Well kept the castle also has a huge variety of cactus, flowers and plants

Plants at the Hearst Castle

Plants at the Hearst Castle (many more fascinating plants in the album HEARST CASTLE in surendra.smugmug.com)

Morro Bay was the last stop on this trip along Highway 1:

Morro Bay

Morro Bay

For me though there was another 200 miles to go to LA, more beaches on that stretch but not for this trip. Some other time….

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Delhi-Qutab Minar, Humayun Tomb, Lotus Temple, RaisinaHill

(More pictures from Delhi at surendra.smugmug.com)

I lived in Delhi for over 15 years, I have been away for over 21 years. Delhi to me defies definition. Like Rome, Delhi has history, Like New York – a settlement of nationalities, Delhi is a mini India. Yet, New York has a pulse, Mumbai has a vibe, Calcuttans love Kolkata- Delhi and a Delhiite defies definition. As someone mentioned Delhi belongs to all yet no one belongs to Delhi.

Delhi is about power, raw power, proxy power, palace power, palace intrigues and anyone is just three degrees of freedom to someone who know someone who wields some power.

North Block

North Block- Center of Power (surendra.smugmug.com)

Parliament House

Parliament House- Corridors of power

President's House

President’s House- ceremonial power (surendra.smugmug.com)

Delhi has been a power center for centuries. Qutab-ud-din Aibak razed some 27 Jain and Hindu temples to construct his tower of glory the imposing Qutab Minar in 1193 AD., leaving it to his successors to complete this monument. Dynasties have always wielded real power in  Delhi (to this date). Qutab ud-din Aibak’s son in law Iltutmish took power after Qutab leaving the throne to his daughter Raziya when in a palace coup Rukumuddin Firuz, Raziya’s brother was installed King. Firuz being incompetent his mother Shah Turkhan became the proxy ruler of Delhi. Things have not changed much have they?

Qutab Minar

Qutab Minar built between 1193-1386 AD (surendra.smugmug.com)

Iron Pillar- Qutab Minar

Iron Pillar -Qutab Minar built by Chandragupta Vikramaditya  375-413 AD a 6 tonne piece of wrought iron that has withstood nature, yet shows no sign of rust

Humayun took over the Mughal Empire after his father’s death. Power, though kept him literally intoxicated and opium and wine were his undoing. Not surprisingly palace intrigues with nobles planning and plotting kept him on his toes – most of the time in exile.

Humayun's Tomb

Humayun’s Tomb built by his wife Hamida Bano Begum (surendra.smugmug.com)

Chamber Dome - Humayun's Tomb

Chamber Dome – Humayun’s Tomb

Isa Khan Niyazi'sTomb

Isa Khan Niyazi’s Tomb (surendra.smugmug.com)

Isa Khan'sMosque

Isa Khan’s Mosque (surendra.smugmug.com)

Gurdwara View from Humayun's Tomb

Gurdwara View from Humayun’s Tomb (surendra.smugmug.com)

Yet, there is one place, one place in Delhi that stirs some real emotion- Amar Jawan Jyoti and India Gate. To me that is India, though so not Delhi:

India Gate & Amar Jawan Jyoti

India Gate & Amar Jawan Jyoti (surendra.smugmug.com)

True, Delhi is a mini India with people from all corners of the country and all religions. That by itself brings all together in their day to day existence. Delhi while still a cultural ghetto does have elements of inclusion. Nothing exemplifies this than the magnificent Bahaai Lotus Temple – one of the most inclusive monument that accommodates people from any faith to enjoy that moment with their chosen one.

Bahaai Lotus Temple

Bahaai Lotus Temple (surendra.smugmug.com)

This is what I believe Khushwant Singh once stated about Delhi:

 A Paradise, that’s Delhi by Khushwant Singh 
Humpty Dumpty, hocus pocus, hurly burly
If there is a paradise on earth, it is Delhi
Full of people, overflowing
Markets onto the road going 
Full of fumes, full of gases
Full of ultra modern asses
Full of shining, made-up faces
Full of heart and cancer cases
Car and truck and motorcycle
Full of vehicle on the vehicle
Full of jolting, full of stoking
Full of lanes and bylanes choking
Full of housing haywire going
Full of sewage into Jamuna flowing
Full of callous indifference breeding
Full of pastures fast receding
Full of power, and still power crisis
Full of smoothly rising prices
Full of girth and grime and mirth
Our Delhi is a paradise on earth.
Then again it was Mirza Ghalib who once said:
I asked my soul:  What is Delhi?
She replied: The world is the body and Delhi it’s life

……..and every time I come to Delhi I see a renewal, a Delhi that I can barely recognize, change both good and bad, and the only things that tie me back to the Delhi are the relics of the past. This time I had just one day to wander around Delhi, more when I get more time.

For those from Delhi – your views on Delhi?

More pictures at surendra.smugmug.com

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Naini Tal – jewel in the hills of Kumaon

For hundreds of years this was a well kept secret. Naini Tal a hill town in the foothill of the Himalayas and part of Kumaon region known for over 60 Lakes was a sacred place. The earliest known reference of this town is in the ancient book of Manas Khand in the Skanda Purana where 3 sages are claimed to have drawn water from the Mansarovar to form the Lake. Before the Brits discovered the town this was a sacred place. Another legend states that Lord Shiva carried the dead body of Sati and her left eye fell in what is now the lake in Nainital- derived from Naina -or eyes and Tal meaning lake. The Brits made several attempts to discover Nainital and tricked their way in by 1817.

Naina Devi Temple

Shiva Ling @ Naina Devi Temple

NainiTal

Naini Tal

A valley, Naini Tal is surrounded by a few peaks that provide an excellent view of the snow clad Himalayas. The tallest peak is Naini Peak also known as China Peak:

Naini Peak

Naini Peak

Naini Peak also provides a great view of Naini Tal. Other peaks include: Snow View another great place for a view of the snow capped Himalayas, Camel’s Back, Lands End and Tiffin Top where the Dorothy seat provides a good eye view of Naini Tal and St. Joseph’s College.

For me this was a homecoming over 30 years in the making. It was here that we were taught  by some of the finest educators- the Irish brothers who dedicated their lives for the sole purpose of instilling a value:  “Certa Bonum Certamen” (Fight the good fight) -of course strict discipline was enforced by all means including sticks or Knuckles. The school St. Joseph’s College stands on a peak with its iconic towers:

St. Joseph's College

St. Joseph’s College, Naini Tal celebrating 125 years

St. Joseph's College celebrating 125 years

St. Joseph’s College celebrating 125 years

Misty, cloudy, sunny – the weather is unpredictable though spring from March or fall in October are the best times to be there. However as the day progresses Naini Tal transforms:

Naini Tal at dawn

Naini Tal at dawn

Naini Tal at night

Naini Tal at night

Naini Tal is not far from the Corbett National park, a tiger preserve- Jim Corbett lived in Kaladhungi not far from Naini Tal. The Kumaon region has over 60 lakes, the closest to Naini Tal being Bhimtal, Sattal and Khurpatal.

Bhimtal

Bhimtal

The hills are green with an abundance of flora and fauna.:

Mushrooms

Mushrooms (For more pictures visit the Album at surendra.smugmug.com )

Wild flowers

Wild flowers (more at surendra.smugmug.com)

There is deer, tigers, cheetahs and bears but the most visible are monkeys and langurs:

Monkey

Monkey

More pictures of Naini Tal, Flora and Fauna at surendra.smugmug.com

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