Magical Nipton - 04/12/2019 Trip Notes

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This page last updated on 04/14/2019
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Town & Area Description: Nipton, California, now referred to as "Magical Niipton" (Fig. 01), is a little piece of unincorporated San Bernardino County, an hour south of Las Vegas via the I-15 and about two miles west of the Nevada state line, 21 miles from Searchlight on NV-163. Nearly a ghost town, this 80 acre aging outpost sits on the bottom of a prehistoric lake bed on the northern edge of the Mojave National Preserve. Scrub brush stretches out for miles to the rim of the long-forgotten lake. This valley is called Ivanpah, meaning sweet water in the Southern Paiute language. It is more of a pull-off on the side of the road than a town. Next to a railroad track there is a gravel parking lot next to the Nipton Trading Post, a general store that sells dry goods, refreshments, and guidebooks; the Whistle Stop CafĂ©; and the Nipton Hotel. Behind the hotel sits a handful of tented ecolodges and a half dozen tee-pees. About a dozen residents live across the road in their trailers. There is no stop sign, no postal service, no gas station, not even a sidewalk. The first thing you notice in Nipton is the silence. On a still day, you don’t hear anything. No cars, no voices, no birds, no airplanes, nothing. This absence of sound is why the Union Pacific freight train is so jarring when it passes through and it pierces the pristine silence. It is so loud that I heard that guests of the town’s various accommodations are handed earplugs upon check-in. To read about how the town of Nipton was born with a history of its owners and milestones achieved over the past 114 years, go to the following page ... Read More - History of Nipton California. But that is all about to change.
Side Note: Purchase of Nipton, California: In September of 2017, American Green, the largest publicly traded cannabis company in the United States, made an offer to buy this tiny town in hopes of creating the country’s first cannabis-friendly, energy-independent hospitality destination. To learn more about this purchase go to ... Read More - Purchase of Nipton CA
04/12/2019 Trip Notes: Though the purpose of our visit today was to locate the Lucy Gray Mine in the mountains northeast of the town, we spent nearly an hour walking around this re-energized town. Since I last visited Nipton nearly four years ago, a lot has happened. The company that made an offer to purchase Nipton has given the town a spit shine. Though the original worn sign still stands next to the cactus garden, it has been replaced with a new sign with dark wood and crisp white lettering (Fig. 01).

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One of the biggest changes so far is the Nipton Trading Post. The dusty convenience shop that once just sold crafts, lotto tickets, and sodas has been swept up and cleaned out. It is now being sold as more of a general store, than a trading post, and is spelled out in those large, wood-and-metal block letters popular in rustic-home decor sections. Candy, cleaning supplies, and toilet paper line the shelves, but small glass bongs and CBC oil are now sold near guidebooks about Mojave Desert snakes. In the back of the store, near a new seating area, hang T-shirts, tote bags, and hats imprinted with the newly branded Magical Nipton logo. Next to the seating area is a cannabis-dispensing vending machine waiting for the day it can be used in California. American Green created the biometric vending machine, which they call the American Green Machine. With the help of a smartphone app and a person’s fingerprint, the machine can verify the cannabis purchaser’s age and identification before dispensing the marijuana (Fig. 02).

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Originally constructed in 1910 and refurbished in 2004, the adobe hotel, built in the Spanish Territorial style with a wrap-around-covered porch (Fig. 02), is advertised as a ‘bed & breakfast’ and has five sleeping rooms, three with double beds and two with twin beds, all featuring central heating and cooling. There is a ‘lobby-like’ open reading and sitting room and two modern bathrooms are found just down the hall. Guest privileges include use of picnic areas, reflection pond, barbecue and food refrigeration facilities. They also again refurbished and renamed the hotel from Nipton Hotel to the California Hotel (Fig. 03).

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They also refurbished and renamed the old El Oasis Cafe to the Whistle Stop Cafe & Saloon (Fig. 04). This rustic cafe offers either shaded outdoor seating areas or cozy, air conditioned inside seating (Fig. 05). Even though they don't yet have a menu available on the Internet, they do have a good limited menu with a variety of offerings.

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It serves up a limited menu of traditional homemade food such as chili, nachos, Cheese dogs, chicken fingers, etc., the ever popular "Nipton Burgers", salads, Add-ons, Sweets, Drinks, Draft and bottled beers.The cafe is open 7-days a week (Fig. 06).

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In addition to the refurbishment of the hotel, they have added more guest accommodations. They added eight tee-pees (Fig. 08) They come furnished and are solar powered (Fig. 07). There is a bathhouse in the camping area with regular toilets, hot water showers, electricity, etc.
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Outside, scattered about the property there are available for viewing several vintage cars, but they aren’t your ordinary freshly painted autos. They must be seen to be appreciated.  Feature artists and cars include: a 1959 Lincoln Continental Mark III painted by Davia King, a 1949 Chevrolet Coupe painted by Gabe Gault, a 1964 Cadillac Fleetwood Limo painted by Kelcey Fisher, and a 1954 Plymouth Cranbrook painted by Kyle Boatwright. Though the conditions of these vary, they are certainly interesting (Fig. 09).

The grounds continue receiving a "clean up". Though the grounds are a "work-in-progress", it is slowly showing improvements. The old cactus garden has received a much needed reorganization. Next to the cactus garden is a colorful basket of vegetables (Fig. 10). It is obvious that things seem to be moving in the right direction. Finally, there is the large-scale outdoor art gallery that have found its way to Nipton. Currently there is a collection of 10 pieces from five different artists - several pieces coming directly from Burning Man. Peter Hazel, Nipton’s Art Curator, is the first of a handful of selected artists to display art in the Mojave Desert.

A huge, colorful ceramic octopus also greets you as you pull into town (Figs. 22 thru 24). Octavius, by Peter Hazel, was just recently on display at Burning Man. It is located next to the road behind the new sign announcing the town Magical Nipton (Fig. 01). In the front of the store parking lot, there is a large yellow Daffodil (also by Hazel) (Figs. 19 thru 21). It is one of the first things you see when pulling in. Daffodil was Peter’s first Burning Man art installation in 2014. His most recent sculpture “Bloom,” viewed by hundreds of thousands at Burning Man 2017 and 2018 (Fig. 11), is a beautiful piece embodying 2,000 recycled, colorful hand-blown glass. K2 engineering helped the team design the internal, interactive steel structure for the enormous jellyfish, which will be covered in 1,400 lineal feet of LEDS to create a beautiful glowing effect. It isn't quite finished and I look forward to seeing it all done. When completed it will be a 40-foot tall jellyfish covered in hand-made recycled glass. The colorful hand-blown glass is amazing. This is a 30-foot tower and will be a magnificent 42-foot tall Jelly Fish when completed (Figs. 12 & 13). Note: This project is currently being held up waiting for the San Bernardino County to approve a concrete pad to support the completed project.

Next is the “Perpetual Consumption”, a creation by Clayton Blake, an award-winning Australian contemporary artist who also recently exhibited at Burning Man. He utilizes metal shopping carts welded together and then erected to challenge and distort the viewer’s preconceptions of structures and space (Figs. 14 & 15). It is awesome and quite impressive.

Then there is “Transcendent Souls” from Nicole Ashton Martin of Truckee, another artist who presented at Burning Man 2018,. This is a structure of two massive hands emerging from the earth tenderly holding a vibrant heart with a swing set into between the sculpture’s wrists (Fig. 16). When examined carefully, one can find dozens of art cutouts woven around the supporting legs (Figs. 17 thru 19). There are additional pieces scattered about the property including the “Fly By”, a 1,800 lb Manta Ray, also by Peter Hazel, made of fused glass and steel that even lights up at night with colorful LEDs (Fig. 25). We definitely want to come back and see this!  (Notes continued below)

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Notes Continued: When viewed collectively, Nipton's art adds culture throughout the town, while providing guests and visitors with introspection as well as interactive activities. With a focus on becoming the largest outdoor art gallery in the world, Magical Nipton has expectations of growing the collection to as many as 25 pieces, complete with private, friendly walking trails and observation areas. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be anyone around that is able to answer questions about the town's plans or ongoing projects that seem to be in various stages of completion. On this visit, after touring the town, we attempted to locate the Lucy Gray Mine. Unfortunately, our search for the mine turned out to be a bust. We got lost in the large wash on the way to the mine, and even nearly got stuck in the soft rocks and sand of the wash. The only thing we ended up with was a few pictures of some desert cactus and wildflowers we passed along the way (Figs. 26 thru 29).

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(Fig. 26) In the background, the Ivanpah Solar Plant is the largest solar thermal power plant in the world. 

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