The Power of Wishful Thinking

Saratoga Spring, Death Valley, CA. Maybe it’s the water here that spurred all that wishful thinking. Or the lovely view of the Saratoga Spring ponds against austere desert that caused people to flock to this remote southeastern corner of the Black Mountains.

The first wave began in 1902 when hundreds of people and agencies made a frenzied dash to mine nitrates. This might sound reasonable (especially if, like me, your most in-depth knowledge contains hazy images of plant food) except that Saratoga Springs was pretty inaccessible and niter was cheap. It would never pay off.

Saratoga Mine

Photo Credit Laina Babb

The second wave a few years later had people clinging to tales of gold in the valley even beyond their normally wild dreams. The theory went that since everyone wanted there to be lots of gold in the hills—that fabled gold would also have washed down to the valley floor through erosion. This too might sound like a decent theory except that apparently gold traveling downhill breaks into a gold flour and disperses. It would literally slip through your fingers.

Saratoga Mine Rail

Photo Credit Laina Babb

What did exist in the area was talc, but as I pointed out in an earlier post, talc mining just doesn’t have that same allure. Maybe Death Valley miners were early adopters of the power of positive thinking, but even all that visualizing didn’t make riches appear.

On a gorgeous summer day in February we have the place to ourselves. My friends and I take a short stroll up a hill and there they are: the Saratoga Springs, shining and marvelous among fields of cane. All the history must have rubbed off on us because, at that moment, we’re rich.

Saratoga Springs

Photo Credit Laina Babb

Saratoga Springs Close Up

Photo Credit Lloyd Tanner

Copyright Jenna Blough
Some of this material to appear in Moon Death Valley Guidebook 2015

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