Monday, June 22, 2020


Dublin Gulch, California. Cave home doors and stove pipes.
While staying home during the COVID-19 pandemic, my friend and fellow children’s book author Caroline Hatton wrote about this past trip to help readers make plans for when travel is possible again. She took all the photos in this post.

When my friend Hélène visited from France in April 2018, my husband and I took her to Joshua Tree National Park, Death Valley National Park, and the Ancient Bristlecone Forest, a rich itinerary in only three nights away from Los Angeles. Like all our foreign friends, she had long been fascinated by what she had read about world famous Death Valley, its heat records, salt flats below sea level, and other extremes. Like all those friends, she was stunned to learn that it is only half a day’s drive from Los Angeles.

But Death Valley is not what I choose to write about. You can read Owen Floody’sblog post about it.

The desert. Antique rusty cans and broken glass in Dublin Gulch.
I choose to write about a much lesser-known curiosity. After waking up in the small town of Shoshone, we were about to drive into Death Valley when we remembered a roadside sign we had passed the evening before. The sign pointed toward Dublin Gulch, a place none of us had heard of before. We had only one day to visit the immensity of Death Valley. Should we spend precious time exploring Dublin Gulch? “Oui !” said Hélène, as we hoped she would.

To her, everything is interesting until proven otherwise. For curiosity and open-mindedness about our world, she is my role model. This is no surprise, since she has been a guiding presence in my life since my teens. I met her when I was a pharmacy student in Paris and she was an instructor. I became a pharmacist, she became a professor, and we became friends.
Doors are locked, but openings allow a look inside.
Driving the short dirt road into Dublin Gulch, we stopped to read the sign describing how, in the 1920s, miners dug cave homes in the clay cliffs. Like other ghost towns in the American West, this one developed during a local mining boom, for silver. It was last occupied in the 1970s.

An open tunnel into a small bare cave.
Visiting was free! Dublin Gulch was fun to explore, especially as the only visitors. Wooden doors closed every opening except for one tunnel ending in a small room and another to a garage. The doors were locked, but we looked inside through screened holes.

The garage.
I wondered, did each miner dig his own home or did they team up? If two neighbors each carved their own room side by side, did the faster worker end up with a bigger room? How did they make sure to leave thick enough rock walls between rooms? Did any nosy resident scrape his wall to thin it and eavesdrop on his neighbors’ conversations?

Two-seat outhouse (not available for use).
The place felt like a playground for the child in each of us, not literally since all cave doors were locked and we couldn’t play house, but in our minds. We shone flashlights into the carved rock interiors to reveal sizes and shapes, and imagined where to put table and chair and bed, daily routines, and wanderings across the open desert. Hélène’s willingness to take a look at anything and our willingness to follow her lead rewarded us all.


drjanebolton said...

Delightful read! I love this: "To her, everything is interesting until proven otherwise."

Unknown said...

Fascinating. You not only inspire a yearning for travel, you illustrate how to get the most out of travels.