On consecutive weekends last month my wife & I traveled to Phoenix for a wedding and then to Death Valley for a car camping trip with family and friends. This entry is to make note of a highlight from each trip to help me remember and also FYI.
We landed at the Phoenix airport mid morning the day before the wedding, and had most of the day to be tourists. Some years earlier I’d read a lukewarm review of a new museum in Phoenix, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM). It struck me as different enough to be interesting (to me at least), so we asked the airport concierge about its location and whether he felt it worthwhile. “Absolutely” he said, going on to say he volunteered there at least 10 hrs/week and loved it, and that we’d need 4 or so hours to take it in. Plus MIM had a really good restaurant.
After enduring a traffic jam at the car rental counter, we headed north to the MIM. Arriving at noon or so, we first visited its restaurant, open to all and which was very, very good. It features fresh, local ingredients in a nice variety and a large, comfortable, serene patio.
With 200,000 square feet, MIM represents itself as “the World’s Only Global Musical Instrument Museum” and offers a large instrument collection organized by country – with a collection of over
15,000 instruments, those of over 200 countries are displayed along with signage on the country & instruments. Most exhibits have short video clips which run continuously and whose sound is picked up wirelessly by one’s free (with admission) headset. A pleasurable, educational experience.
MIM’s genesis is one man’s vision and mission, and his ability to enlist others to bring it to fruition. MIM was founded by Robert J. Ulrich, former CEO and chairman emeritus of Target. He provided a large seed funding gift and took on the leadership of raising additional funding, which, so far, has reached well into 9 figures.
We started through the museum with what was in front of us, the South America section, and worked our way through perhaps 100 countries by the 5 PM closing. Before exiting, we upgraded our 1 day ticket to a 2 day ticket, and returned on Sunday on our way back to the airport for lunch and another 3 or so hours in the museum! Lots more on the MIM at TheMIM.org. Highly recommended.
The following weekend was a car camping trip in Death Valley National Park with 16 or so friends & family. Let it be said, first, that Death Valley is a beautiful, striking place. Yes, it’s warm to scorching hot much of the year and dry, especially this drought year. But the landscape is grand and the shapes and geology are awesome. These attributes help make what otherwise would be long driving distances a pleasure and provide the raw material for spectacular hiking.
(We camped for 3 nights. Had two really good, fairly short day hikes, Golden Canyon and Mosaic Canyon.)
After Mosaic, on the way back to our campsite at Furnace Creek, we stopped at the Salt Creek Interpretive Trail, a well done, most interesting walkway.
The Interpretive Trail offers a beautiful walk on elevated decking over a meandering Creek that’s home to the small (approx 1 inch), endangered Death Valley Pupfish. Also known as the Salt Creek Pupfish, this fish is one of the 10 or so varieties of Cyprinodons, several of which are extinct. It is a close relative to the Devil’s Hole Pupfish (DHP), perhaps the world’s most endangered fish, whose only natural habitat is 37 miles east of Salt Creek. Considering its small size (average = .75 inch) and population (now under 100 individuals), the DHP one of the more intensely observed creatures around. Most impressively, it was the central character in a strenuously litigated lawsuit.
In 1976, the Supreme Court (Cappaert v. United States, 426 U.S. 128 (1976)) ruled that the Devil’s Hole Pupfish had prior water rights and that a minimum level must be preserved in the Hole in order to ensure their protection. This decision helped build support for passage of the visionary U.S. environmental legislation of the 1970’s, stimulated creation of the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, assisted in the transformation of Death Valley into a National Park, and was a primary force behind formation of the Desert Fishes Council (begun in November 1969).*
This paragraph is from the Lewis Center for Educational Research. A second excellent resource on the DHP is the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. These sites provide more background and up to date information on the DHP, which, at the time of this writing, are still in business, notwithstanding their precarious lifestyle.