PSR Relax

The much loved Schulman Grove Visitor Center in the White Mountains burned to the ground on September 4, 2008. The world popular attraction was built 10,000 feet high in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest to teach its visitors about the oldest living trees on Earth.

Old Schulman Grove Visitor Center
Photo courtesy Inyo National Forest

The log cabin structure was already completely destroyed when crews arrived. Lost are the interpretive exhibits, a small theater, and the books, maps and art work offered for sale by the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association.  The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest remains open to the public to visit and explore and the Inyo National Forest website reports that staff will be available to assist the public. The Methuselah Trail, however, is temporarily closed, but the Discovery Trail remains open.

Also according to the website supporters are already "thinking and strategizing" on rebuilding the visitor center.

During the week of May 19-21, 2008, the Inyo County Sheriff led a multiagency excavation at the Barker Ranch site, in Sourdough Canyon off Goler Wash in the Southern Panamint Mountains in Death Valley National Park.  The junction of decades old myth and the newest forensic techniques and equipment led to enough evidence to bring about a dig for graves for what were alleged to be undiscovered victims of the Manson gang's killing spree, which ended with their capture at Barker Ranch on October 12, 1969.

Barker Ranch, Death Valley National Park

The story, which was the darling of America's press wires for months, was originally broke in the Mammoth Times Weekly by Lara Kirkner.  I had the pleasure of meeting Lara during my visit to the scene.  Back in January 2008 she wrote about a Mammoth Lakes police officer and his K-9 partner that was trained in advanced, modern techniques for locating old and decayed graves rather than fresh cadavers.

For decades stories about additional Manson family victims at the Barker Ranch have circulated and been kept alive. Several visits by this specially trained dog, backed up by state-of-the-art soil tests by the nation's finest crime labs, yielded inconclusive evidence.  After a couple of months of stewing over the matter, Inyo County decided to conduct an excavation of the suspected grave sites.

Read more: Manson Dig Comes Up Empty

On August 8, 2008, U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii ruled against Inyo County and their 2006 lawsuit claiming rights-of-way for three Death Valley area roads:  Greenwater Valley, Greenwater Canyon, and Last Chance Canyon.  The roads are within the 1994 Park expansion area and were closed by the National Park Service when designated as wilderness by Congress.

Although environmental extremist content that Inyo County was trying to build new highways through the Park when in reality it was seeking only to retain its right to run a blade over the road periodically for high clearance, four-wheel drive access.

Read more: County Loses Roads Suit

Visitors to Death Valley are being especially rewarded during their March visit this year. Now in mid-month, the abundant fields of radiant Desert Gold flowers north of Furnace Creek have past their peak. However, the show spreading to other parts of the park ,such as along Highway 190 near the east entrance of Death Valley National Park. Higher elevations will see fine blooms into late Spring, but now is still the time to see the easiest-to-reach and best roadside shows.

Wildflower experts at Death Valley National Park caution us not to expect a spectacular recurrence of the flower seasons following the 1998 and 2005 El Niño winters. Nonetheless, we think this is the best flower season in at least the past few years, and we encourage you to get way for the weekend and come to Death Valley for a remarkable and colorful experience.

Death Valley National Park periodically updates a flower report on their web site:

Death Valley Area News
The latest news from inside Death Valley National Park