For our next podcast series, we’re going back – way, way back. We’re calling it Backtracks. This series, we’re reading The White Heart of Mojave, by Edna Brush Perkins, and adding plenty of commentary along the way.
Usually, when we’re out on the road, we hate turning back. It feels like admitting failure, like giving in and giving up. But often, there’s some good stuff back there, stuff we missed on the way out, and we appreciate the chance to see it again with new eyes.
A hundred years ago, it was considered by most to be foolish, absurd, unthinkable for two women to travel on their own, especially to an undeveloped place like Death Valley. A hundred years later, anyone who thinks that idea is foolish – well, they are the ones considered absurd now.
A hundred years ago, in the early 1920s, Edna Brush Perkins and Charlotte Hannahs Jordan, both in their early 40s, went to find the heart of the desert in Death Valley, CA. A hundred years later, in the early 2020s, I, on the verge of 40, found the book Edna wrote about the experience, The White Heart of Mojave. As I devoured it, I wondered why it didn’t have a more prominent spot on the shelf of adventure classics. This is my attempt to make that book and these two women more widely known and to modernize this classic adventure narrative on the centennial of its publication.
Have you ever read a mashup novel like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or watched a Mystery Science Theater 3000 riff on a movie? This is going to be similar – I’m taking an existing story that’s in the public domain, reading it, and adding my thoughts, experiences, and some historical perspective along the way.
The White Heart of Mojave has a total of twelve chapters that I’ll be releasing two at a time, every two to three weeks.
The first two chapters are out today! Subscribe to Road Tripping in America now on your favorite podcast app to ensure you don’t miss an episode.
See you on the road!
Photos and captions from 2011 visits ;)
Want to be the only ones around? Just park your car and take a few steps.
Badwater basin at sunrise.
The road through Twenty Mule Team Canyon felt a bit like driving on the surface of the moon.
Badwater and Telescope Mountain.
Sunset across Panamint Valley, where the camping and dining were interesting, to say the least.
In one of the many washes in Twenty Mule Team Canyon.
Darwin Falls…insert joke about water in the desert here.
Sunset across the valley.
Light in the canyon.
Ashford Mill, in Death Valley. Lonely ruins of a gold mill.
And the light.
Scouting a route.
View back towards the valley from the first dip.
Leave the car behind and explore!
The school house.
The bottle house’s windows were made of regular glass.
The sign is new, the building is old.
From one bank to another.
They had gold on the brain.
It’s now so desolate, it’s hard to imagine 10,000 people living here.
The narrow beginning of the canyon.
A luxurious outhouse.
The miners’ homes. Our theory on the holes in the walls: people looking for hidden stashes.
Imagine living in this lonely, desolate valley.
Interior of one of the homes.
One of the mine entrances.
Another mine shaft.
An older, more rustic shanty.
The mill used to separate the gold from other materials.
Poor, abused car.
Bed, bedside table.
There’s evidence of mining all over this valley.
The miners’ car.
Some past attempt at paving the canyon floor.
A great weathered trail marker.
The mountain goat trail under Manly Beacon.
A clue that you’re getting closer to the mining areas.
Towards the end of Gower Gulch.
The view from the final dryfall.
Storm clouds blew in Monday night, but there was no wind on the ground…yet.
Monday’s stormy sunset was the most beautiful one we saw in the park.
Tuesday brought dust storms and dirt devils.
Paul on the moon.