A Lifetime Visiting the Desert,
A Conversation with Bob Greenawalt                               By George Huxtable
Bob has passed his 80th birthday and has been hiking and exploring around Death Valley and the western U.S. for much of his life.  I've known Bob for many years and many miles together with the Death Valley Hikers Association.  He maintains and active hiking schedule driven by his boundless enthusiasm and fascination with the desert.  I spent the morning of January 28th, 2003, with Bob at his home in Rosemead, California.  Join me now as we talk through what he's been up to since his early days.
GH:  You've lived in Southern California as long as I've known you, is that where you grew up?

BG:  I've been in Rosemead all my days.  Can you imagine?  My old home place is down from here, about two blocks from where I live now.

GH:  Is that where you were born?

BG:  I was born in Los Angeles, delivered in Los Angeles because there was no hospital around here.  My folks came here in 1920.  It was a different scene.  But, I went to school locally and I've been here ever since.  Never left the place, like a crazy nut.

GH:  What did your parents do?

BG:  My dad worked for Railway Express in Los Angeles.  He started with Wells Fargo in Los Angeles in 1906.  Okay, now thats a long time ago.  My dad was born in 1881, if you can imagine.  I'm the only offspring.  He came to Los Angeles in 1906 and he hired in with Wells Fargo and stayed with them for the whole round.  If you know Wells Fargo history, in 1918 in WWI the government took over all the railroads, including the express companies, and Wells Fargo was dissolved in favor of American Railway Express Company.  Do you know about that? 

GH:  I do yeah.

BG:  Okay.  That lasted until 1929 and the it became Railway Express Agency, and it was owned by something like 62 railroads and it continued into the 1970s when they went bankrupt.  When trains were taken off, and the trucks took over.  Railway Express is a dead pigeon. 

GH:  Did you go out and make desert trips from Southern California when you were young?

BG:  Oh, Yeah.  I started as a teenager.  The first time I went to Death Valley was in 1937.  My folks took me, we were going up from Baker.  It looks the same.  I remember it the very same, it hasn't changed a bit.  Well, I'll never forget the first trip.  Here we're going up above Baker maybe five or six miles, and here comes the motorcar  M100 of the Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad!  My dad related to me then what happened in 1907.....   The Rhyolite boom.  Welll, that boom in Rhyolite was going on in 1907, so his boss said, "Hey why don't you go up to Rhyolite and see if there's any express business up there."  So, he went and got on the Tonopah and Tidewater (T&T).

GH:  Where did he catch it?

BG:  It started at Ludlow.  That's where the T&T takes off from the Santa Fe.

GH:  Did he take the T&T all the way to Rhyolite?

BG:  Yeah.  Pretty exciting.

GH:  Rhyolite would have been booming at that time.  Did he describe it to you?

BG:  We went to Rhyolite together during that same trip in 1937 and he related that he was up there in 1907.  He was right there, right there when the stock exchange was operating!  My mother was also with us.  She worked at L.A. Creamery as a bookeeper.  They got married in 1917.  Anyway, my mother had this job at the creamery and if you go to Rhyolite, you'll see the old building of HD & LD Porter.  Okay, well she said, "My golly, I used to bill things to Rhyolite for the Porter mercantile outfit."  She was so surprised to see the old ruins there in 1937.  And so, it was a very eventful thing for me to go up there.  I didn't know what it was about then, and so, now I've been enriched with all these years of thinking about it,its a very vivid experience.  If you can imagine, they had several mines, probably a half dozen or more active mines, the rest were know as prospects.  Rhyolite was built on prospects.  The stockbrokers would get in there and set up an office and put big advertisements in the eastern papers.  All they were doing was based on prospects that things might go well.  It's almost tearful to go there and see.... people had dreams, put money in there, and they thought they were gonna have a nice town.  It only lasted a few years and the whole thing went bust.

GH:  Tell me again about the T&T bolo tie you wear.  I think you told me that came from the button of a T&T railroad conductor's coat.

BG:  That is it, (Bob shows me the bolo tie he's wearing) this is a conductor's brass coat button.  The conductor had very flashy... well just like all the old railroads of a hundred years ago, every company was trying to outdo the other... in finery, they call it varnish, rail varnish.  They tried to make it really nice.  The dining cars were the best.  I'm talking about big railroads, New York Central, Pennsylvania-they were always compeating to see who could have the best.  It's just like new cars now, who can make the best, pretties cars.  Well, the old dining cars were one of the biggest.  They tried to out do the... it's called livery, the livery of the rolling stock.  They  wanted gaudy colors, they wanted beautiful trains.

GH:  These were on the main lines?

BG: On the main lines.  Well, T&T was an industrail railroad to start with.  Before that, nobody was going up there, mainly because there were no railroads and a guy couldn't go very far with a burro or wagon.  After they got the Tonopah & Goldfield Railroad in, prospectors started to take off and go everywhere.  That's what started the early twentieth century mining boom in Nevada, because they had access to get there.  So, all the stock speculators were coming in too!  Like Greenwater, the same kind of thing.

GH:  When did they build the T&T line?

BG:  Okay, they finished it in 1907.  It was the third one into (or near) Rhyolite.  The first one was the Las Vegas & Tonopah and then the Bullfrog Goldfield.

GH:  Didn't the two of them compete, the T&T and the Las Vegas & Tonopah?

BG:  They were all competing to get up there, they thought it was the land of plenty.  Borax Smith wanted his route to go from Las Vegas, with Senator Clark who financed the Las Vegas & Tonopah.  They got into some kind of scrap and so Borax Smith goes and says, " I don't  want to do business with you,  I'll start my own."  So, he went down to Ludlow, off the Santa Fe.  The Las Vegas & Tonopah was the one that built the nice station in Rhyolite, which remains today.

GH:  How long did the T&T run?

BG:  Up until 1940.  They were losing money all the time.  Borax Smith was the president of the Pacifi Coast Borax Company and you'll see his name all over the T&T.  It lasted until 1940 when the government said , "Hey we need steel for the war effort" and they went and tore it up.  There's still some ties around, theres still a couple of tie fields that are quite unknown, except to people that like to hike.

GH:  You mentioned it was an industrial line, but didn't it also take passengers?

BG:  It was a common carrier, but the real reason for it, besides the gold mining boom, was the Lila C borate mine.    It went through new Death Valley Junction where there was a 7-mile spur back to the Lila C.  Have you been to Lila C?

GH:  Yes.

BG:  It's very interesting.   Later, the Death Valley Railroad took off.  In 1914,  Harry Gower, if you've heard of Gower... Gower Gulch.  He go out of USC as a civil engineer and went out there and ended up locating the Death Valley Railroad.

GH:  Where did it go?

BG:  From Death Valley Junction to Ryan.

GH:  Yes, right.  It must have shared some of the track with the Lila C spur.

BG:  Yeah, it operated dual gage.  They had regular standard gage and narrow.  At a place called Horton, its three miles west of Death Valley Junction, the Death Valley Railroad kept going narrow gage and then that's where the standard one goes down to the Lila C.  I just happen to have something that's really neat....

GH:  Oh, a timetable.  (Bob hands me an original timetable dated June 1, 1922 for the Tonopah & Tidewater Railroad Company.)  This shows it starting in Ludlow.

BG:  Yeah, Ludlow and it goes on up to Baker.  Okay, that's named after Lord Baker.  He was the leader of Borax Consolidated, Ltd. in London.  The T&T stops were Silver Lake, Riggs, Valjean, Dumont, Sperry, Acme, Tecopa, Zabriskie, Shoshone, Evelyn, Death Valley Junction, Scranton, Jenifer, Leeland, Ashton, Carrara, and Beatty.  (The Bullfrog Goldfield line continued to Goldfield.)

GH:  Then to get to Rhyolite they took off from Beatty?

BG:  Actually Gold Center, south of Beatty.

GH:  Your first trip to Death Valley was in 1937 with your folks, you would have been about 16 years old.  I assume you traveled by car?

BG:  Yeah.  We went to Death Valley in a 1929 Model A Ford.  It was a four door sedan with an accessory called a "Kari-Keen" trunk on the back.  A metal trunk atop the rear bumper that folded outward to make quite a place to haul luggage.  My dad wanted to see Rhyolite, so we went there.  That was my first encounter with Death Valley.

GH:  Where did you stay?

BG:  It was an auto sight-seeing trip for maybe three or four days.  I think it was around Thaksgiving.

GH:  You were camping I assume?

BG:  Probably.  I don't remember that part, but I sure remember going to Rhyolite the first time.  We drove down to Badwater, and took in the Devil's Golf Course, and up to Scotty's Castle.  We probably had a tent.  I don't recall.

GH:  What sor of things did you bring?  I'm curious in terms of things you would have brought with you for that trip in your car?

BG:  A card table.  (laughs)

GH:  A card table?

BG:  Yeah, you want to eat on something, so you bring your own table.  But, it was a very wonderful trip for me and that's what got me started and the more I go out there, the more I have a special love affair.  I guess you do too.

GH:  Do you remember what was at the Furnace Creek Ranch when you were there?

BG:  Yeah, Old Dinah was out in front.  No pool. Furnace Creek Inn was there.  It started in what, 1929 or 1930.

GH:  I guess the motel was not there?

BG:  As I recall, there were cabins, but it's not like it is today.  The dates were being harvested.  Furnace Creek itself was running and it's one the the grandest things that I know of.  Furnace Creek is the lifeblood of the whole area there.  It comes right out of the ground up above Furnace Creek Wash, its a great thing.  If that spring weren't there furnishing water there would be nothing out there.  There was a little Visitors Center, but it wasn't much of anything.

Harry Gower is probably one of the most recognized names around Death Valley because he was the Superintendent of the whole borax works.  George, he started out in the teens and was there until 1960s.  Anyway, I got to see Harry around 1964.  I think he passed away the next year. 

GH:  How did you happen to meet him?

BG:  I wanted to meet Harry, so I pursued it and wrote him a letter and found out where he lived, and he said, "Come on over."  I told him I was a fan of the Death Valley area there.  He was very nice.  I was with him all afternoon.  I took a lady friend with me over there.  I have that book of his,  50 Years in Death Valley.  Very interesting!  Harry was the guy that was out there, he spent a lot of time out there, his house is still there if you go to Death Valley Junction.  That two story home west of the hotel, it's still occupied, it's a beautiful place.

GH:  So, on your trip again.  What were some of your impressions?

BG:  I just became interested in the area, and I have been ever since.

GH:  What interested you about it, what made you want to come back?

BG:  Oh, you once told me before, the "mystique,"  what did you call it, you had a word for it.  You said, "Its the illusion or something."  I don't know what it is.  It's the sense of, I guess, you'd call it freedom.  You get the views to look out there and you're... and I don't know what the word is.  I can't say the word.  You feel great, it's like us going the other day to Ibex Spring.  Here we were up there at the mine with all that excavation up there and then you go down the road and here you come to that elegant spring with all the palms there, what a setting!

GH:  Do you think people go to the desert now for different reasons than they used to?

BG:  There are too many motorhome people, they won't get out and walk.  They are afraid to walk.  But the people that like to walk, like the freedom out there.  Its just like going on your hikes, you plan such spectacular hikes.  There are so many places I'd still like to visit.

GH:  Can you tell me about the trip you made many years ago the the Black Magic Mine near Owl Hole Springs in the Owlshead Mountains?

BG:  I was a teenager.  I had a friend, he only lived to be 50 years old when he passed away.  He had an old car and I had an old car and we where taking desert trips together.

GH:  This was in 1940?

BG:  Yeah, in 1939 to about 1942.  One trip we wanted to do was to go to Leach Lake.  It's right there where Fort Irwin is now.  This was before Fort Irwin was established, so you could go through there.  There was a place called Leach Springs a few miles away and it had an abandoned cabin.  We drove up there from Rosemead like a couple of nuts.  That time we went out of Barstow.  The main road to Death Valley used to be from Barstow, and you went over Avawatz Pass at a place called Cave Springs.

GH:  So, you took the road out of Barstow and went north?

BG:  Yes, we must have taken the Barstow Ballarat road to the Randsburgh Death Valley road.  But, it's all in Fort Irwin now.  We came out at Leach Lake and then over by Owl Hole Springs.  We were way out there in an old 1928 Chevy.  Two of us, we didn't know what we were doing, we were just having fun.  Chevys were know for breaking axles back then and we carried a spare one under the seat.  His name was Bob Smith.  We grew up and went to grammar school together.  He liked the desert and I liked it, so we made a good team, we made some good trips together.

GH:  The roads couldn't have been very good.

BG:  They were trails, just trails.  Some were graded, like the Barstow Death Valley road.  It was a popular route to Death Valley.

GH:  So, tell me more about the route you took in 1940. 

BG:  Okay, there's an area called Superior Valley, north of Barstow.  Old maps show Crutt's post office and Fisk school.

GH:  How do you get into Leach?

BG:  Looks like we used the Randsburg Death Valley road that eventually goes by Confidence Mill. 

GH:  Where did you go from Leach Lake? 

BG:  Then we went east.   There's nothing out there.  If you break down, you wait till somebody comes along.  We stayed at Leach all night in the cabin, then we went to Owl Hole Springs. 

GH:  What cabins were out there?

BG:  A nice stone cabin.

GH:  An abandoned cabin like you see out there these days?

BG:  I don't think it was abandoned, it was a prospector's cabin still in good repair.   There was even a broom in there and it had a nice concrete floor.  It was a great place.  There's Owl Lake there (pointing on a map).  So, there's the Black Magic Mine, that's the one we went to.

GH:  You stopped, you pulled in there with your friend...

BG:  We pulled in there, and there was a bunch of dirty guys around, covered with black dust.  Pyrolusite is a powder, black powder, and that's what they were messing with there, you get it all over you like coal dust.

GH:  You started talking to them, asking what they were doing?

BG:  Just talking to them, they were in the mess hall there.   They had a tent mess hall with a wooden floor. 

GH:  How many men were working there?

BG:  Probably twenty.

GH:  What time of the year was this?

BG:  I don't know, probably fal, I don't know what time of year.  It wasn't hot, it was pleasant.  One guy said, "Do you want a job?"

GH:  Where they surprised to see you?

BG:  Yeah, sure they were surprised, "What are you doing out here?"  and stuff like that.

GH:  I don't imagine they would have seen many people out there.

BG:  It's just like today, you don't see many people out there.  There were at least two of these guys we talked to.  They said they needed some help in the kitchen and if we would like to work in the mess hall, probably serving, cooking or doing dishes.  It was between meals, so the long wooden plank tables didn't have food on them.  The miners were working.  They would pay us each $60 a month plus board.  I mean the room was a tent.

GH:  Did they have tents there where the miners stayed?

BG:  Yeah, they had tents with wooden floors in them.  They weren't bad, a miner has to have certain amenities, he needs a wooden floor, that's the first thing.

GH:  Where did your trip go from there?

BG:  We made a loop, it was a long weekend affair.  We typically left Friday night, or sometimes we had three days and we'd go out there on a junket.  I'd take my car once in a wile.  I had a Ford Model A pickup, and we'd take turns.

GH:  What kind of food did you bring?

BG:  Canned milk, always.

GH:  Canned milk?

BG:  Hey, when you talk food, it was mostly canned.  Dinty Moore stew and that kinda stuff.  Like canned stews and meats.

GH:  Did you ever bring coolers with ice?

BG:  No, never any of that.

GH:  You would have a campfire at night, I'm sure?

BG:  Oh, yeah, you have to have that.

GH:  Did you ever barbeque or did you heat canned food?

BG:  Take it out of the can, put it in the pot and put it over the coals and let the pot get black.  The food was never any big deal.

GH:  No sodas I guess?

BG:  No, no sodas.

GH:  What did you drink?  Did you drink beer?

BG:  No, no just water.  We might have had chocolate or something, we never had fancy stuff. (laughs)

GH:  What were you doing later, after high school?

BG:  Well, three years I was in the army, I was away from home.  I was at UCLA going to school, and later Berkeley, so there were a number of years in there that I wasn't even in the desert.

GH:  Where did you go to school?

BG:  When I got out of El Monte High School, I went to Pasadena JC, and later transfered to UCLA.  I was in the army for three years, then I went back to UCLA and took civil engineering.  They didn't have a four-year engineering school, so I went to Berkeley, and was there for one year and one summer session.  I finally finished in 1947.

GH:  So, you graduated from Berkeley in 1947 with a degree in.......

BG:  In Civil Engineering, BS.

GH:  What years were you in the Army?

BG:  1943 to 1946, Army Air Corps (Air Force).

GH:  What did you do there?

BG:  I went up to Yale University, they had a tech school there, and it was called Maintenance Engineering.  Well, engineering is a loose term in the Air Force.  It doesn't mean your doing much engineering.  But anyhow, I got to go to Yale, and I was there about eight months.  I was there in Vanderbilt Hall and Connecticut Hall, where Nathan Hale went to school.  My first assignment was one month at a little airbase called Liberal Army Air Field, in Liberal, Kansas.  They had B-24s.  I was suppose to learn something about B24 aircraft, what are you going to learn in one month?  But, I learned something and was assigned to Muroc, which is now Edwards AFB.  I didn't get scratched or anything, I never went overseas.  So, the whole Air Force thing was fine, I enjoyed it.

GH:  What did you do when you got out of Berkeley in 1947?

BG:  The immediate thing I did, was get on a motorcycle and go to Virginia City, Nevada.  Lucius Beebe was a big author and he had his private rail car, called the Gold Coast, there at Virginia City and I got to see the car.  He's written a lot of books.  If you ever see Clegg and Beebe, foremost writers of rail books, they were up there and they spent a couple of years writing. Then I came down to Owens Valley and visited Bodie and Keeler.  I got over there and the Southern Pacific narrow gage railroad was still running.  I got acquainted with some of the guys there and went back several times afterwards.  It quit running in 1960.  I got to know the trainmen and they welcomed people, they would let you ride right up in the cab with them.  And the engineer, Walter Ferguson was his name, he'd advise you to come there and get in the cab and ride up there to Owenyo, or some of those little places.  It's unthought of today.

GH:  That was in Keeler, in Owens Valley, right?

BG:  Keeler is at the east side of Owens Lake.  Its one of the worst places you can be, because that dust blows, I mean its miserable.  The roads were all dirt, on a motorcycle.  Well, the main Highway 395 had been paved, but when you get out there by Keeler and around there, it was all dirt.

GH:  Do you remember what kind of motorcycle it was?

BG:  Yeah, Indian Junior Scout.  I saw one here about six months ago, a gal had it, a beautiful piece.  I had a war surplus one when I got to Muroc, I bought it for three hundred bucks from a guy there.

GH:  You've been a Death Valley 49ers member for many years.

BG:  In 1949, I went with my Model A pickup and took my same friend of pre war days and we went out to the first Encampment in 1949, that was a great thing.

GH:  The very first one, you were there?

BG:  The first one.  I've been going to them ever since.

GH:  That was a big crowd wasn't it, I understand the actor Jimmy Stewart was the keynote speaker.

BG:  It's so big you can't imagine.  It's the biggest crowd ever assembled in Death Valley.  They ran out of gas promptly and people couldn't mover and there's no bathroom.  Things go to the dogs.  Anyway, it was a tremendous event, it was the best event that ever happened out there.  Las Vegas engaged busses from there and they brought people in.  That encampment spectacle was four miles down from Furnace Creek Inn, in Desolation Canyon.  They had big bleachers set up there, I don't know how many thousands it held, but it was packed in there.  What a grand event.  I'm sure glad I saw that thing!  The main purpose for the celebration at the time was the 100th Aniversary of the 49ers, from 1849 to 1949.

GH:  What did you do when you moved back to Southern California after Berkely?

BG:  I worked for the City Building Department in Los Angeles.  I worked there for five and a half years.  I later landed at Bechtel, where I retired from.

GH:  Tell me about the desert peaks you climb with the Sierra Club.

BG:  The Desert Peak Section is designed for hikers that like to go to the desert.  We have over a couple hundred members, and I first got with the group in 1954, which is a long time ago.  The first desert trip I went on was down to a place called Mopah Peak, which is down near Vidal Junction near Parker, Arizona.  Okay, the interesting part is that a girlfriend of mine in the Sierra Club invited me to go on the Desert Peaks Section trip.  She was one of the few women that had a 4-wheel drive Willys station wagon at the time.  She's still an unuaual gal.

GH:  So, how many peaks are there?

BG:  Right now we have a list of 98 selected peaks in the southwestern U.S.  It was 97 and we just added a new one called Bridge Mountain, if you know where the Red Rock area is west of Las Vegas.  Its a tremendous peak, it's a spooky thing, it's got a lot of exposure and... I kinda chickened....  I made it, but I was scared.

GH:  How many of the 98 peaks have you done?

BG:  I've done them all.

GH:  You've done all 98?

BG:  Yeah, it took me about 35 years to do it.

GH:  When did you finish?

BG:  I finished the list in 1993 I think it was.  And since then there has been a couple of peaks added.  So, I did those two later.

GH:  How many of the peaks are in Death Valley?

BG:  Well naturally Telescope is the biggest one, it's one of my favorite all time peaks.  Have you done Telescope yet? 

GH:  Oh, yes.

BG:  Well, another is Pyramid Peak.  West of Death Valley Junction, that's a very imposing peak.  South of Death Valley Junction is Brown Mountain.  It shouldn't be named that, because if you go to the top of Brown Mountain you'll see a USGS benchmark there, and it says "Evelyn" on it, named for Borax Smith's wife.  There's an Evelyn siding on the old T&T, right there on the east foot of Brown Mountain.  So, I actually proposed to the Sierra Club that we change the name of Brown Mountain to Evelyn.  There are over a half dozen Desert Peaks that overlook Death Valley.

GH:  Were ther any trips that you've been on where you really got in over your head or where you really got concerned?

BG:  Yes.  I was up on Mt. Hood several years ago and I thought I was a goner.  I was really praying as much as I have ever prayed in my life.

GH:  Tell me a bit about that.

BG:  Well, there were four of us and we wanted to do Mt. Hood.  I belong to the Highpointers Club.  One of the gals was in the Sierra Club with me and she said she knew two guys that wanted to climb Mt. Hood.  So, she said we could all meet at 2:00 a.m. on a certain day.  This was only about four years ago. 

GH:  2:00 a. m.?

BG:  2:00 a.m.  Yeah.  I drove up there and about 10:00 at night, sacked out in the back of the Blazer.  About  2:00 a.m. she and the others knocked on the window, so I got my backpack and everything and we started climbing.  I had borrowed  some crampons.  Well, that was the misdoing.  I didn't know what I was in for.  I rented some plastic boots at REI.  Don't rent boots!  We started going up there and one of the canvas straps on the crampons breaks.  I got that fixed with some strapping that I had, some cord, got that going.  We got about half way up there and Edna says, "I'm so pooped I can't do anymore."  The guy with her, Pete, her friend, says, "I'm tired, I'm not going to go any farther either."  So, the guy from Simi Valley, that I didn't know before, and I said, "Well, we're going on."  Well, there was a lenticular cloud on the top of Mt. Hood, and I didn't know about clouds like that.

GH:  What time of year were you doing this?

BG:  Summer, July.

GH:  What time of day was it? 

BG:  Oh, about 10:00 in the morning.  We're well on our way up there and all of a sudden we see this cloud.  My friend that I just met, I think he saved my life.  He says, "There's a cloud, I don't know if we ought to go in that or not."  I said, "Oh, yeah, let's go it won't be that bad."  And that was a major misdoing.  Suddenly, about ten or twelve climbers pass us going up.  They said, "This is pretty bad, it's all foggy and it's colder then heck and the wind is blowing about sixty and watch out because there's a bergschrund up here."   Do you know what a bergschrund is?  Well, it'll scare the pee out of ya!  When there's a glacier, for some reason the top of the glacier clings to the rock, but right below it will part, and there will be a big cavity there due to gravity.  We got to that thing and it would hold about three boxcars!  Well, we had to go around.  Those things can open up anytime.  I mean gravity, your weight and all of a sudden the thing might crack on you.  We tried to follow the other group of hikers but we lost trck of them in a hurry, so we tried to follow their footsteps.

GH:  How were you finding your route?

BG:  Just picking around, it was all foggy there and you could see maybe fifteen feet ahead of you!  We just kept going.  We were close to the top, we were going to turn around now.  Well, what we should have done was turn around about an hour before then.  We got up there, it was colder than heck and the wind was blowing lickity bang and you can't see anything.  We couldn't even see the summit where we were!  We were on a flat place, we knew we were on top, but couldn't see anything around there.  We soon started back.

GH:  You were unable to follow your own footprints back?

BG:  It was so miserable.  I said, "We're going to get into trouble here I'm afraid" and he said, "Yeah, there's one thing we gotta do.  We're all sweaty and we gotta take our shirts off and put on dry clothes."  I said, "I don't know, were in bad trouble here."  About then, my other crampon strap broke.  I mean we're in misery and I said, "I don't know if we're going to make it out of here or not!"  He said, "Keep tring, keep your cool," and I did that.  I was plenty cool.  So, we're alone there fighting the mountain.  I had to take my crampons off, they wouldn't stay on.  I was carrying them, and that's so dangerous.  I fell down and a crampon hit and cut me, luckily it didn't hit me in the eye.  But a spike got me and cut me in several places.

GH:  On the side of your face?

BG:  Yeah, on the side of my face.  It was miserable George, anyhow, finally we found where we thought we were going and finally got down when I looked at my right leg and the back was all pure open flesh from that boot chafing, I was so cold I didn't know it.  After that I thought my feet were freezing because my boots were leaking.  I had never been in that situation before.  But, we finally got out of that cloud, we should never have gone in there.  I was so close to what I thought would be my death, I've never been that close before!  What an experience, I've thought about it since and I never want to go through a thing like that agian.

GH:  What is the Highpointers Club?

BG:  The Highpointers Club is a group with almost 2,000 people in the country that think it's fun to be on the high point of each state.  We have fifty states, so we have fifty highpoints. 

GH:  This is unrelated to the Sierra Club? 

BG:  Nothing to do with the Sierra Club, it's the Highpointers Club.  It's a great club and I have been a member for about seven or eight years.   The idea is to find yourself at the high point of each state.  Well, I have 46.  I will never get Alaska.  I have tried Mt. Rainier five times, excuse me three times.  Rainier is so tough I will never make it.

GH:  You've done 46 of the 50 states?

BG:  Yeah.  The ones that are left are so tough.  The Montana one is a bear.  I did that three years ago.

GH:  You have traveled all over the country doing this.

BG:  Yeah, I know.

GH:  There must be something about mountain tops that attract you.  Your involvement in Highpointers Club and the Desert Peak Sections of the Sierra Club.

BG:  What I like is, when you get out there on the summit and look out, you have freedom.  It's just like being on Owl Lake (near Death Valley).  There you're on the bottom, but you still have freedom.  Owl Lake is spectacular, the whole thing is beautiful out there.  Now, most people wouldn't think it is, but you think it is, or you wouldn't be going out there.  There must be some attraction that causes you to like the area.

GH:  What really interests you most about the Death Valley area?

BG:  The history is what does it.  The history, and then getting to go out there and see what happened.  That's what I like.  Like the trip you and I did to Ibex Spring.

GH:  Stock certificates are a big hobby of yours I know, how did you get involved?

BG:  In 1962 I became interested in old stock certificates.  Mainly mining and railroad.  I started to pursue the hobby  I've been at it for forty years, and as a result I've collected many certificates.  I want to show you some of them.

GH:  How did you get interested in 1962?

BG:  When I was in the service, back in Chicago, there was a coin shop.  Like laundry, they had a little exhibit, they had bonds with clothspins on this string.  They were two-bits a piece.  I looked at one very gaudy bond, very beautiful thing.  The documents fascinated me and I thought I'm gonna pick up one of those bonds.  So, in 1943 it was, I bought one for 25 cents, and I still have it.

I have always been fascinated by old documents.  For example, that thing there (pointing to an old framed membership certificate) is my grandfather's  He was a steam engineer, which meant that he tended boilers.  He belonged to an organization called the Association of Stationary Engineers.  Stationary engineers means a steam engine, not a locomotive.  So, that was his certificate of membership in Los Angeles in 1904.

Here's something you might relate to.  My mother was born in Tipton, California.  Do you know where Tipton is?  Where Tulare is, in the San Joaquin Valley, it's ten miles south.  So, she was born on a ranch and my grandfather was a blacksmith in Tipton.  She got out of high school (she attended twelve grades of school in one room) and decided to go to business college.  She went to Chestnutwoods in Santa Cruz.  This is her diploma, isn't that a fancy thing?  Beautiful, big!  The diploma says, "Intelligent and Competent Accountant," and as such, "cheerfuly recommend to the favor of the business communtiy."  That's great.  Here's the diploma with a ribbon.  It is a real old one, dated the 19th of June, 1901.  She got out of business school, I think it was two years.

So, there's a guy, there's a guy in Los Angeles by the name of H.A. Bingham, and he had a creamery.  And for some reason my grandfather, her father, knew Bingham and he needed somebody for an accounting job in Los Angeles.  So he says, "How would you like to come to Los Angeles?"  Well, the whole family moved down there.  Her and her little brother, she had a brother, twelve years younger.  So, all four of them moved to Los Angeles in 1901.  Chestnutwoods is still going.  It's a business college now called Heald College, in San Francisco. 

So, old documents sorta grab me for some reason.  Maps, too, I like maps.  It makes life interesting.  So, as a packrat, I have a lot of this stuff around.  Now, if you want to say that's the conclusion of the tape recording, I'll show you some fun things.  Well, this is fun too, but I'll show some funner things. 





Bob and I head to his den and look through many of his old mining and railroad certificates.  He keeps them in meticulous order, in labeled binders stored in one of his three fire-protective cabinets.

Bob sometimes talks about "ole pappy time"  catching up to him someday, but it's hard to imagine that happening anytime soon.   
A picture of Bob Greenawalt pointing out the beauty of the geology in the Funeral Mountains.
The Death Valley 49ers in cooperation with the California Centennials Commission presented the spectacular Death Valley Centennial Celebration pageant in Desolation Canyon on December 3, 1949.  The original planners had grandstand seating for 5,000 but more than 65,000 people showed up.  It was a great success.
The pageant included reenactments of events of 1849 with music by Ferde Grofe and the Hollywood Symphony Orchestra.  The narration of all the proceedings was given by James Stewart, the actor.  The photo shows the orchestra on the hill in the background, the wagons of the pageant in the middle and the overflow crowd standing on the hillside in the foreground.

This phot shows the cars  parked at Desolation Canyon.  The photo does not show it, but cars were backed up on the highway for miles, lined four accross, with people setting up camp right where they ended up stopping.

The following article was written and submitted for publication in Desert Magazine                                                   by Robert O. Greenawalt, August, 1959
                                   The Ever Lovin' Hip Hole

        Somewhere along the way when we were exposed to plane geometry, we were told a circle is tangent to a straight line at only one point.  This digested, and in terms of solid geometry, we learned that a cylinder, resting on its side on a horizontal plane surface, touches it along a straight line.  This is know as "line bearing".

         Think of a locomotive wheel parked on its track in the same manner.  In theory, line bearing exists, but this cannot be so, as the developed contact pressure would be infinite.  Sumpin's gotta give, so actually both surfaces tend to yield a bit--creating enough surface area to support the loco's weight.  Here, the physics term is pressure = force/area, or p = f/a.

        On our overnight DVHA backpack trips, it is essential that we acquire the best rest possible.  So we are usually gleeful to make camp in a dry, flat, sandy wash.  Once there, consider ourselves to be prostrate cylinders lying atop such an environment.  Ugh!

         The beauty of the hip hole lies in its concavity and produces a lower f/a, since there is no longer any line bearing.  All of one's weight is distributed over a wide area.  Better sleep follows. 

          Don't just settle for a small hip hole, either.  Rather, scoop out with your boot or rock, a rounded trench about three or four inches deep, and nearly as long as your height.  Then pile the booted earth towards the head end for use as a pillow.  Such excavation approximates the shape of a hemi-cylinder--a clylinder cleaved down its middle. 

          Spotting a tent over single or multiple hip holes can be troublesome.  I say to leave the tent at home, if possible.   Yes, it is fine in damp weather, and a friend for wind, warmth, bugs, privacy; but, I generally deem it excess baggage.  Even with the luxury of a tent, the hip hole is not too good in wet weather.

         Sleeping in the bed of a pickup truck is a no-no= excessive line bearing and is not conductive to tender sleep.  The thought might even apply to a hemi-cylindrical casket, affording a better Eternal rest!

         I also tend to think our Creator designed the feet of most all animals to conform to a constant static pressure (f/a).  Divide your weight by the cross-sectional area of both your footprints and you will arrive at a general pressure figure.  Compare this number with other creatures!  This subject does make for great evening after-dinner talk.  May we share many more happy ones together!

         So, next time out try a hip hole, if you haven't already---I am sure you will like it.

"Drycamp" Greenawalt
July 2007