Getting antsy … making plans

Getting antsy … making plans

We’ve been in Las Vegas since mid-January. Here it is early April and we’re still here. For some people that would not be unusual. For us … well, it seems like quite awhile in one place. There’s moss growing on the north side of our hiking boots! The backyard deck is finished and though Blue needs lots of work, he’s raring to go. We’re getting antsy to be on the road again.

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Want a date? China Ranch Date Farm

No, it's not a social media dating site. The China Ranch Date Farm actually grows, harvests and sells dates. We learned about the farm during our recent visit to the Springs Preserve and decided it would make a good day trip from Las Vegas. Located in Tecopa, California, it's a 90-mile drive along the Old Spanish Trail Highway, the old trade route between Santa Fe, NM and Los Angeles, CA. Once out of Las Vegas, we traveled through the aptly named Red Rock Canyon and over the Mountain Springs Summit (alt. 5502') and felt our ears pop. The mountaintops were snow-covered and picturesque. Snow is always more picturesque at a distance and when it doesn't require shoveling.

snow covered mountains nevada california


As we ventured further into the Mojave Desert, the landscape changed significantly. Joshua trees, sage, scrub and cacti took over the land. Houses and towns are few and far between in this area. We watched the temperature plummet from near 70F in the city to the mid-40s in the high desert. We crossed the state line into California quite unceremoniously.

We arrived at the road to China Ranch Date Farm and it seemed an unlikely place for a date palm orchard. The last two miles was a winding, steep, gravel road through surreal sandstone cliffs. Erosion has created windows on the cliff tops.

sandstone windows in california

Old gypsum mine shaft entrances were plentiful and fenced off to keep curious visitors at bay.

mine shaft in california

The date palms came into sight quite unexpectedly … a huge orchard of them. Dates hung invitingly as we wandered around and between the luxuriant palms. Bird song was everywhere. We observed two coyotes on the prowl, but they disappeared once they spied us.

So … a little date trivia. The date palm, native to northern Africa and the Middle East, first came to the US in the 1890s. They thrived in the deserts of Nevada, California and Arizona and currently, “the USA date industry produces more than 60 million pounds of fruit annually. Iraq is the world's largest producer of dates.”

date palms

Now, what about the name: China Ranch Date Farm? Well, it appears that a Chinese borax mine worker (Ah Foo ??) came to the area some time in the mid-late 1800s. He developed the water source, planted fruits and veggies and raised cattle to supply the local miners. The locals predictably called it Chinaman's Ranch. Along came a guy named Morrison c. 1900 who ran off the Chinese fellow at gunpoint and claimed the developed land as his own. The land has had many owners since and has been used for several different purposes. In 1970, the Brown-Sorrells family purchased the land and it remains in the families today.

After a stroll through the orchard, we visited the gift shop from which enticing smells were emanating.

china date ranch california

Freshly baked date bread, date muffins and cookies were on offer and several varieties of dates were available for sampling. Karen tried several and reported them all delicious. It was, however, the rather unusual date milkshake that finally lured all three of us in. Different and delicious, but filling and very, very sweet.

china ranch date farm date samples

We sat outside the gift shop at a picnic table on a small outdoor patio. Anna's hummingbirds hovered above us as we sipped our milkshakes and appreciated the warm sunshine.

anna's hummingbird china ranch date farm

The surrounding area was definitely photo-worthy.

old truck on china ranch date farm

view from china ranch date farm

There are several hiking paths and trails along the Amargosa River, but we were not prepared for a long hike, so instead we visited the ranch's “Modest Museum”. Actually, “modest” was probably too complimentary of the tiny 2-room ramshackle cabin which contained more cobwebs and spiders than photos or memorabilia. The “tour” didn't take long, but did provide a laugh or two.

modest museum at china ranch date farm

All in all, we found the day trip to China Ranch Date Farm to be a pleasant diversion. Next time, we'll be prepared for a little hiking ... to walk off the date milkshakes.

Land Life in the Desert

It doesn't take long to settle back into life on land. We don't miss the long morning treks to the toilets and showers, and doing the laundry is pretty easy. Jumping in the car to head to the grocery or hardware store is a snap. Instead of boat chores, there are house chores to attend to, but they're not all that time-consuming, so we're spending our time on other things. David is studying for his Nevada Master Electrician's Exam and I'm working on our 2016 IRS returns. I've also just volunteered to be on the planning committee for an upcoming high school class reunion. On a friend's recommendation, we're looking into some free on-line courses that might be fun. All take up a considerable amount of time and we're enjoying the change of pace.

studying for master electrician course

We do appreciate the long morning walks around the Stallion Mountain Golf Course. We've got a pleasant routine of waking in the morning around 5:30, having a cuppa, checking the morning temps in Vegas and Chesapeake, reading the news (always alarming lately) and then heading out for our walk. The paved walk around the golf course is about 3.5 miles long and if we head out before sunrise, we miss the early morning golfers. I particularly enjoy seeing the local animals ... desert cottontails, herons, coots and ducks … they all seem to be waking up then, too. There's a falcon that sits in the same spot everyday, patiently waiting for an opportunity to swoop down on an unsuspecting bunny. Sometimes, we see the resident coyotes trotting along on the hillside, heading for their daytime retreat.

coyote in las vegas nevada

The views of the Strip when the early morning sun reflects off the buildings are quite beautiful. It's hard to imagine while we're enjoying the quiet and peace of our walk, that we're so close to the hustle-bustle of the Strip. It's walkable if we chose to make the trek. Heck, we can see the Linq's High Roller, currently the world's tallest Ferris wheel, from our front yard.

las vegas nevada strip view

David has planned several outdoor tasks including staining the new raised planters that he and Paul built on our last visit. Mary and Karen are looking forward to planting veggies soon. The backyard irrigation system is complete and with our newly acquired knowledge about native plants, trips to the local nursery have been on the agenda. It's like a scavenger hunt finding just the right plants to achieve our goals of beauty and color combined with low maintenance, xeriscaping and reasonable cost.

raised planter beds

We've been up making the rounds of local doctors and dentists for past-due check-ups and physicals, having lab work done and generally catching up on healthcare that we've delayed. The verdict? We're healthy … must be our crazy lifestyle.

We've taken the time to visit a few local places that we've not seen before. This year's Chinese New Year display at the Bellagio was a pleasant hour spent. Our day at the Springs Preserve was outstanding and we plan to return soon and probably buy a membership. We've revisited places we especially enjoy like the Clark County Wetlands Park, one of my favorite places in Las Vegas. We saw a roadrunner there the other day. We plan to head to the Henderson Bird Preserve one morning soon, too.

roadrunner at clark county wetlands park las vegas nevada

Added to the agenda, we've recently learned about the China Ranch Date Farm, which is only about 1-1/2 hours away. It sounds interesting, so I've put it on our local “to-see & do” list. I mean, what do we know about dates? Could be a fun, learning experience.

Yes, we're keeping busy. Land life is certainly a different kind of life than we're used to, but we're easily adaptable and, for the most part, we find it enjoyable. It's a relief not worrying about whether the anchor will drag or what the wind is going to do tonight or tomorrow. On the other hand … we've scheduled our return trip to Nine of Cups at the end of February. Can't get too used to this land life nor being anchored in the same spot for too long!