Dreams in the Dust

The old Techatticup gold mine in Eldorado Canyon, Nevada is the site of an eccentric, poorly maintained collection of rundown buildings and derelict vehicles. We drove there from Las Vegas in January, curious about this once-prosperous mine, where tours are now the only activity that generates money. On a winter day under a dull sky, the mine looked as forlorn as the surrounding landscape, a landscape whispering of desiccated wood and dreams blown to dust. Perhaps there’s promise around the next bend.

Paired with these photographs from the Eldorado Canyon mine are images from Valley of Fire State Park, a preserve about 90 minutes north of the mine. The Mohave desert in January has the spare beauty of subtle colors and gritty textures, quite a contrast to Las Vegas, where bright colors and glitter are the rule.

First, a look at the life-giving Colorado River, at the mouth of Eldorado Canyon. This is where ore from the mine was shipped downriver back in the 1800’s. The canyon cuts to the left, out of sight. We’re looking north here, with Nevada to the left and Arizona to the right. Hoover Dam is 15 or 20 miles upriver and Las Vegas is 45 miles northwest.



















































The photos:

  1. The Colorado River at Eagle Wash, outside Nelson, NV.
  2. A Metro van permanently parked at Techatticup Mine, near Nelson, NV. These vans were made by International Harvester, and often used for bread or milk delivery. This one probably dates from 1959 or the early 60’s.
  3. A Dodge bus and an old gas pump at Techatticup Mine. The bus probably dates from about 1940.
  4. A slot canyon in the sandstone on the White Domes trail, Valley of Fire State Park, NV.
  5. Slot canyon, White Domes trail, Valley of Fire State Park.
  6. Fluid Drive chrome on a vintage car at Techatticup Mine. I don’t know what kind of car this was, but Fluid Drive was a Chrysler trademark from the 1940’s.
  7. Did you know that the three chrome portholes that many of us associate with Buick, are called ventiports? They actually vented heat in the beginning, but later, they were purely decorative. This is probably a 1952 model, perhaps an “archetypal” BuickCheck this out!! 
  8. A Valley of Fire roadside scene.
  9. A Valley of Fire roadside scene.
  10. Peering through the back window of a vintage car at the Techatticup Mine, with a few choice VW camper vans in the distance. There’s also a fake, crashed vintage plane at the mine that was used in a Kevin Kostner film.
  11. An old Chevy truck from 1936.  Here’s one that’s been restored – what a beauty! Unfortunately, almost all the vehicles at the mine have been vandalized; many have been painted over and scraper repeatedly. The door on this one says “Chicago Motor Club AAA” but also says “Wyoming.” There must be some great stories there…
  12. A late afternoon vista at Valley of Fire.
  13. Weathered rock formations on the White Domes trail at Valley of Fire. This photo was taken with my phone and processed in Silver Efex and Lightroom.
  14. There is a real mish-mash of objects to peruse as you wait for your mine tour (which I confess I didn’t take).  Tourist tchotchkes and historical artifacts jostle for space in several old wooden buildings. Here, old bottles gather light in a window. The Nehi soda bottle on the right is probably from the 1930’s, the Pepsi bottle from the 1940’s.
  15. A door knob inside the old store at the mine.
  16. A few rocks, and leaves from a Palo Verde tree, have gathered in a sandstone crevice at Valley of Fire.
  17. All that’s left of a desert shrub is this elegant skeleton in the sand, at Valley of Fire.
  18. One of the old mine buildings at Techatticup, with an assortment of rusted parts, animal skulls, and old wooden items scattered about.
  19. The Metro step van seen in #2. Bales of hay have been dumped just in front of the van, so maybe it still runs!
  20. On the road, approaching Valley of Fire State Park. I take a lot photos from the passenger seat, but for this one we stopped and I got out. The road was quiet enough that I could stand in the middle and get low for a more interesting angle. Processed in Silver Efex and Lightroom.
  21. On the road again, threading through a canyon at Valley of Fire State Park. It was almost noon and the sun was bouncing off the sandy road, an effect I emphasized in processing.




    • It is I guess, but I was disappointed by the way everything was helter-skelter and no effort seems to be taken to look after things. On the other hand, it’s good that the owners are preserving this piece of history, so who am I to complain?

  1. Wow, quite a quantum jump from your green, saturated rain forests! I began to feel parched just looking at these, and experienced a strange craving for a chaw of tobacco, a bandana, and a copy of “Treasure of the Sierra Madre.” When it got to “…a landscape whispering of desiccated wood and dreams blown to dust” I could hear that Ennio Morricone whistle from “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”
    But these are beautiful shots – – lots of silver! – the old trucks and chrome detailing, soda bottles, that gleaming doorknob.
    #6 and #21 – the final shot of a silvery road – both qualify as “fluid drive.”
    Excellent album, makes me want to stick a pint of rattlesnake antidote in my back pocket, fire up the ’36 pickup and go prospectin’. 

    • So Robert, next time I’m at a loss for words, I’ll come to you! You’ve just really added to the party here. 🙂 Thank you very much for noticing the abundance of silver – true, and how interesting, given that silver was mined at the mine! And I didn’t connect Fluid Drive with the road either, but you’re right. Thanks for making those associations.

  2. Lynn, I absolutely adore this series! The old vans and trucks, the arid landscape, the fabulous rock formations. How I love this kind of landscape, especially as shown in 8, 9, 12 & 13. This makes me anxious to get out west for my Four Corners trip in May! The black and white series is fabulous as well. Your photography, as always, is amazing and inspiring.
    ~Cathy~ (I’m now writing from my new blog, where I’ll be from now on).

    • You’ll have a great time, Cathy, I’m sure. You should see plenty of equally beautiful landscapes, and if you do your research (which I know you will) you should be able to find a few ghost towns or old mines, to visit, too. I’m glad you enjoyed the post.

      • Oh, Lynn, I’d love to find some ghost towns or old mines. I have planned the major park stops and hikes, but I need to be on the lookout for these off-the-beaten-track places. 🙂

      • Cathy, I KNOW you can find them – just google ghost towns with the names of the areas/counties/towns you’re traveling through – and to narrow it down, you can always find the spot on google maps and zoom in with the satellite view to see what’s actually there. Sometimes a so-called ghost town is only a building. Of course there are the isolated abandoned buildings you pass on the road, too. Hope you’ll be able to stop for some of those!

  3. Of course, I love the cars, even derelict ones. But my favorite shots are of the slot canyon (4 & 5). Again, another excellant series. This was a very productive trip (photographically) for you. Nice work!

    • I certainly thought of you when I photographed and processed those car photos, Ken. I’m pleased you like the slot canton photos – they were a bit difficult, since the light was very harsh at the time. Processing, processing! 😉 Thank you, thank you!!

  4. This is a marvellous series, Lynn! Perfect combination of black and white with reduced colours, fine textures and details. You evoke a completely forlorn atmosphere by your photos, that I especially love.
    And your text again! It is so good to read rich and expressive language. Thank you!

    • So different from anything near you, I imagine. I really appreciate your thoughts about the text, too – it’s a struggle, but I like combining image and text, as I know you do. I’m glad you enjoyed this – thank you, Ule!

  5. I’ve spent a long, long time looking at this post because there’s such a lot to drink in! Very interesting notes, too (I love those Buik Ventiports) – but as usual I wish WordPress had a post format that let’s us automatically slow down and look at each image in isolation, because these are so beautiful, so strong. Now, I click on the first image and view all of the one at a time in the gallery so I can take my time. They’re breathtaking – especially the Mohamed desert. I shall keep coming back to this one!

  6. Goodness, sorry about all the typos. Spell corrector had a field day with this one. I was especially not looking out for ‘Mohave’ becoming ‘Mohamed’! But then again there’s meaning in that, that I hadn’t thought of either.!

    • 🙂 Yes, that was a good one, right? I knew what you meant…and I really appreciate your comments. Thank you!
      BTW, I have a flikr page that might be better for viewing images…I don’t post as much there as here, but there are a lot of images on it…
      And researching details is part of the fun of creating posts for me – believe me, I hadn’t ever heard of ventiports! 😉

    • It can feel pretty desolate, but I suppose the time of year, the weather, and your mood all can make a difference. Still, it’s a very harsh environment, and it must have been really tough on the first people who came out there. I’m glad you enjoyed the post – thank you!

    • It’s b–i–g country! So you can find scenes with a lot of depth without too much trouble. 😉 I appreciate your telling me that the text is helpful – thank you, Ken!

  7. Your picture #7 reminds me of the 1954 Buick I drove in 1964. On a rural Interstate in Maine I briefly took it up to 110 mph, the fastest I’ve ever driven. At that speed the old car made so much noise we couldn’t hear the radio.

    You know I’m always glad to see pictures from the Valley of Fire, a place I hope to return to.

    • OMG, that’s hard to imagine in one of those old cars. We had a 54 Buick at some point, but it was long gone by the time I was driving age. Handsome cars! The Valley of Fire is really beautiful; I didn’t have enough time there either. I do have more photos – maybe I’ll do another post at some point. Thank you, Steve.

    • My old VW Rabbit topped out at around 95 but it took a while for it to get up there. (My nephew broke his arm and I was determined to get him to a hospital as fast as possible). That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

      • We probably shouldn’t get into old car stories, but…I remember a certain ex-spouse whose beloved VW bug (from the 70’s, I think), had a hole in the floor – you could see right through to the road. Yes, it started every time, but in New York winters, one doesn’t like all that fresh air coming in through the floor…

  8. For some time, I’ve been trying to identify what the crepe myrtle scar I photographed reminded me of. I’ve not been able to pinpoint it, until I saw your photo of the doorknob. That’s it. I was tickled by the juxtaposition of the newish “Authorized personnel only” sign and the crumbling mine at Techatticup. Could non-authorized personnel be attempting to bring the mine back into production? Of course not. On the other hand, what would today’s personnel be authorized to do? So many questions! — but it does make me wonder why they didn’t choose a simple “No Trespassing” sign.

    • Yes, the signage was weird there, the whole ambiance was strange. A No Trespassing sign would be more typical for the west, too, so you’re right, it’s bizarre. I think the family that runs the place is a bit strange, but like I mentioned above to someone, who am I to complain? It’s a good thing that they are preserving it, even if I don’t like the aesthetic. 😉

  9. Revisiting I’m never sure what to write Lynn 💫☺️ the colours and the cars and as I look at 10 I see the car with the car in back almost seems like a reflection…the cartoon of the racing woman made me smile yesterday…there is a calm in your photography and the greens yearning green…smiles from snowy etown ❄️❄️❄️☺️

    • That #10 and your observation makes me think it would be interesting to do a series taken through car back windows, focusing on the front window visor, or playing with other places to focus on. In our spare time, right? I’m glad you saw the cartoon, I thought it was so charming…apparebtly the mice coming out ot he portholes referred to actual events, in the beginning, when they vented hot air…maybe in cold weather mice would hide in there at night, then…like when we found a family of raccoons sleeping in the car very early one morning, after leaving the windows open by mistake overnight. And that was within NYC boundaries! 😉 Green thoughts shooting up to snowy etown, Hedy!

    • Thanks Dave! I may have an Arizona post coming up, also with some black and white – that desert landscape and things you find in it, lend themselves to the monochrome treatment. Happy Sunday to you!

  10. I’ve always loved your interesting posts, they very much give the sense of being there. Images I particularly like here are 3 (love the processing too!), 4 ohhh!, 10 ohhh!, 14, 15 >>> and 16 – well seen, the blues do it!!! Great stuff, my friend. A 🙂

    • That’s what I like to do, to give the viewer an immersion into a new place….thanks for your specific comments…I can’t remember what I used for #3, but I was happy with that, it worked for the subject, and that’s what it’s all about, eh? For #16, that’s a very good point. I am so enamored of that kind of scene that I’ll take the picture regardless, but for it to appeal to others, something like the blue rocks makes a big difference. Good to keep in mind. 🙂

  11. How else to describe it but derelict, but intriguing all the same. You have a knack for drawing us into your vision. It will likely come as no surprise that I was most pleased with 1, 9, 12 (!!!) and 17.

    • 🙂 #9 was taken from the car – you see blurring at the bottom. Where #12 is (and I think #17 too) at the Valley of Fire, I’d stepped away from the road into the sand, picking my way among cacti, looking for good subjects. Suddenly the ground gave out under one foot and I tumbled back hard, my head bouncing on the sand. Thank god it was sand?! Knocked the wind out of me, but after sitting there a few minutes, then slowly getting up and brushing myself off, I found I was OK. The sand was riddled with rabbit warrens, no trace above ground. Tracks everywhere, sure, but no way to know which places were hollow underfoot. It was a nice way to shake up the brains and start afresh! 😉

      • Well, the tracks were obvious… 😉 Yeah, I was so grateful for the relatively soft landing. After that I was sliding my foot out carefully, feeling my way ! 😉

  12. Beautiful images and beautiful desert landscape 🙂 . It appears as if a modern civilization, with cars and trucks, recently got extinct and rediscovered again. Such a nice experience.

    • 🙂 Well, it would be even better if you went to the mine outside of tour hours, very early or late in the day. There wouldn’t be anyone around, and the light would be nice. But we do what we can with the experience we have, right?

  13. Many go to Vegas not seeing anything but the casinos, shows, and hotels. Very few even know about Valley of Fire, let alone going there. Your shots and dramatic interpretation of it should make them aware of what they miss.

    • That’s so true, Hien. It would be nice of the city had a push to advertise these places, but they must prefer that people stay in town and spend their money there. 😉

  14. I love these photos from Techatticup gold mine. They tell a story of dreams, abandonment and longing. Some time ago I visited Valley of Fire State Park, but I missed out on the abandoned mining town.

    • You know I’m not as good a storyteller as you are, Otto, so I’m pleased you found that. It’s something I can work on, especially when I’m traveling. The mine might drive you crazy – it’s very hard to find subjects without lots of stuff in the background there. But you’d figure out a way! 😉

  15. Wow, how did I miss this post? Truly wonderful! I would love to visit this place. The road image is awesome. They are all amazing. They really take you there.

  16. What a contrast with the images of flowers, etc, from the Transient-Beauty post! Scrolling down while pondering your words, thought of the book, Angle of Repose, and the hard life of any man or woman who lived during those frontier days.

    I paused and admired those old bottles, and in my mind’s eye, I filled them with water and placed lone stems of flowers in each one!

    • Yes, a contrast – I’ve always been drawn to opposite things, like city streets and wilderness. :-). I don’t know that book – I’ll have to look it up. What a nice fantasy with the bottles…and perhaps one rose would be faded….

  17. The old vehicles work so well in monochrome. That’s what I thought when I saw numbers 2 and 3. But then you throw numbers 6 and 7 at us, and color seems just right. So go ahead! Whatever! I’m sure I’ll like it! Same thing goes for your landscapes. My favorite photograph here is number 16, but also high on the list are 7 (love the colors), 11 (like the tight crop), 12 (that shaft of golden light amid the other subdued colors), 17 (the radiating composition), and 21. I’ve seen hundreds of photographs of curving roads cutting through rocky landscapes, but you manage to make this one special. For me it’s probably because of the high contrast and the sweet side road coming in from the bottom right. Another praiseworthy collection, Lynn.

  18. Thank you for sharing your impressions, Lynn. Every photo tells a story, of the people who once lived here, and of the beautiful but unforgiving land. I love the American West, there is no other place quite like it.

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