Hola, my friends!
2020 continues to be a challenging year. Besides the virus, tragically, as I write this, much of California is burning again.
I'm checking in on all of you and thinking of you...
I thought I would share a few photos from around town and the backyard from the last few months and, also, lo and behold, I got away for a few days to the Eastern Sierra (see the photo above). May these photos offer a tiny respite from the bad news out there.
First off, I have taken some photos around here the last few months and I thought I'd share a few. We have been working at making our backyard a bird haven and we had a fascinating visitor a few weeks back. I took this photo of a majestic Cooper's Hawk back there. Normally we have a few dozen birds the backyard daily - finches, sparrows, crows, Black Phoebes, Western Bluebirds, Mourning Doves and Mockingbirds but- when he (she?) was around they were definitely not.
The next photo is of the nearby High School which was built in the 1930's with an art deco motif. Eerily, of course, no one has been around there for months now. It's a strange world.
Here are a few more photos from my daily walks.
And here are a few from the yard.
A Short Getaway
The following photos are from the McGee Creek area in the eastern Sierra Nevada. I'm sorry to report a few negative things about my little getaway. First, the campground was filled every night and the camp host (she was also the host at Convict Lake which she said was much worse) was nearly in tears. She said that, "this summer is a zoo" and that many people had no idea about social distancing and some even refused to wear masks (while in close proximity to her) even though she explained that she's lost family members to the virus and the she is high risk. She said she's never seen more selfish and disrespectful campers after several years of supplementing her pension by being a camp host. She was exhausted and stressed and said this was probably her last year - it has gotten too hard. I felt damn sorry for her.
Secondly, I had some strange electrical problems with my little trailer which necessitated an early return home. We still haven't figured out exactly what happened, but it is fixed, and thank heavens, all seems OK now - after all, I'm headed to Gaviota in a few weeks.
It was still a relief to finally get out - if only for a few days. McGee Creek is surrounded by Aspens and the photo below is an example.
Here are a few more from the area.
I must admit it was a blessing to be on the road again. It felt good to breathe in open spaces again and go for long walks in the woods. My plan, until there is a vaccine or the virus abates, is to do lots of short trips. In that vein I am going on my annual trip to Gaviota in mid-September. I was able to get the one spot where, even if the campground is full, I will be well away from other campers and the beach there is notoriously and happily uncrowded.
Thanks for allowing me to check in - please check in with me! I always enjoy seeing your comments and getting your emails. How are you holding up?
Let's talk soon, and until then, please be safe and stay well. Much love to all...
“I go to nature to be soothed, healed and have my senses put in order.”– John Burroughs
This is a difficult and harrowing time for so many people. I worry about my family and friends every day. This worry has led me to daily deep contemplation about how I use social media and this blog in particular. I try to use this blog to uplift and bring a small bit of joy to the readers. I do not want to add more despair to the world. I tell a few stories and show photos and do my best to illustrate that this world isn't solely sorrow and suffering and sadness. There is however, even in the best of times, much suffering in our world. The virus and the racial injustice and the environmental degradation just put an exclamation point on it.
The other day on my daily walk I thought, "Life essentially consists of loss, grieving and recovery."
In my life I have suffered breathtakingly deep losses, extended periods of grieving and, thankfully, blessed healing and recovery. The thought of writing about these losses as a process of redemption overwhelms me. I have chosen a different path to find solace. I immerse myself in nature and then share.
I know, if you have lived very long, that you too have experienced breathtaking losses. The longer we live the more they pile up. I often find myself these days thinking about my lost loved ones and dead best friends...perhaps that is the way of old age. I remember my 90 year old uncle telling me he didn't want to live so long - it was too hard to lose everyone. I understand and, I'm guessing, you do too. And now this terrible virus which has already claimed at least 130,000 lives and the grim numbers still grow.
Also, now, we see the ongoing tragic effects of racism in our country. I grew up in the 1960's and saw much civil unrest and this reminds me all too much of 1968. My heart breaks daily and I cannot understand why we are still dealing with these clear issues of right and wrong.
Another of my favorite quotes is; "What defines us is how well we rise after falling".
If falling is loss and we all fall... the question then becomes, "so how well do you rise?"
These days when I feel my heart breaking I fall back on the one thing I know will bring me solace and comfort and hope and healing...nature. I believe that without my loving family and nature I would not have been able to cope with the losses of this life and, candidly, I wouldn't be here.
As you know, I have taken to the road the last several years and that, in turn, has taken me to photography. Now, of course with the damn virus, is a difficult time to hit the road and take photos. Instead, I decided to share two old photos a day on my Twitter account. Besides my backyard it's about as much nature as I'm getting these days. Simply looking through the photos helps me catch my breath and injects a bit of joy into my days. That was my goal in my last post as well. So, perhaps, you might sense a theme.
I am always a bit bemused by seeing which photos get the most attention because rarely are they my favorites. Awhile back my online friend, Chris LaTray posted a magnificent photo that ended up with somewhere near a thousand "likes". And while it was certainly a stunning photo - I wanted to say, "Hey! Have you seen his other stuff?!". It's an old story - often what is popular is not necessarily the best. I always use the McDonald's metaphor - selling billions of burgers doesn't exactly make it fine dining, does it?
Regardless, I thought I'd share what others seem to like. And, in order to lighten our load I offer these revisits from days gone by in hopes that it may bring you a tiny bit of relief from these difficult days.
The following photo, which actually is one of my favorites, garnered some attention. It is of Imperial Point, on the north rim of the Grand Canyon, taken on a late afternoon in July 2018 while on a photo walk with my pal, Liz Kylin.
I admit I was very surprised about this next one being popular - at all. I was all alone with old baby Nikon and took this photo of the Chihuahuan Desert in Big Bend National Park, Texas in spring of 2015. It seems very ordinary to me...
The next one is from one of my many trips to Red Rock Canyon State Park here in California near the old ghost town of Cantil.
Next is a photo of Half Dome in September 2017.
My Casita, my little home away from home, a quiet and chilly night at Red Rock.
Here's old Route 66 near Essex, CA
This is near Johannesburg, CA and one I have framed in my office - it captures a bit of the West of my life...
I took a gazillion photos of Fajada Butte in Chaco with my iphone and shared one - it's a deeply moving place...
Funny enough I realized recently I don't have very many photos of my "home" National Park -Joshua Tree. I've had two trips canceled by the idiots running the government and have also been a bit disgusted by the crowds... but, here's one from a trip a few years back that Lilly was on... Gonna get out there this Fall...
The website "Visit Colorado" picked up this photo of Cliff Palace.
And lastly, to show you how you really can't explain tastes... this one was actually liked...it's a geezer in the High Uinta Mountains of Utah.
Welp, that's it! Thanks for riding along on our trip down memory lane.
I've been making a few photos of our wild Orange County backyard and I hope to have you visit with me back there real soon - at least virtually.
Stay safe. Take care of one another...
I have started multiple blog posts - mostly about the move that Lupe and I made at the end of January and the ensuing nightmares but, in light of the current worldwide crisis, all that seems like minor bullshit. Suffice it to say, don't believe everything your real estate agent tells you. The good news is that I am going to start creating a California native backyard since our property is so large. I also will keep my citrus and avocado trees which was the advice of the native landscape consultant. If we can get through this pandemic I am actually very excited about making our little parcel of land a wild haven - in the midst of suburbia. I also LOVE our new neighborhood. So, all's well that ends well and I look forward to entertaining family and friends and you soon!
I also want to complain here about canceling trips and the lack of baseball but then, come on, we are currently all healthy and that is what is important today.
My thinking on this blog post is that it will be a bit of a stream of consciousness while we are shut in and trying to avoid the horrors that we are seeing right now, for example, in Italy and even in New York City. There is a reason many of us geezers suffer from anxiety and are overly careful - we've seen what the world can do...even in the best times. So, on that negative note let me just say that I hope that everyone reading this can find some joy and hope in each day going forward and that we navigate this difficult time with grace and cool and good fortune. It would be grand if my few words and photos could provide some respite from the mess of the world right now. I believe writing these posts will do exactly that for me. The other night I had a Zoom meeting with my friends from Insight LA and it is crucial we continue to reach out and connect...here's my attempt to do just that...
There is so much fear and worry out there right now...try to remember to breathe.
I've been revisiting some of my old photos and trips and I thought I'd start by sharing a few of those. Perhaps, this will provide a tiny bit of succor from the self-quarantining ennui. I've been throwing them up again on Twitter and that's been fun, too. Thanks for letting me share. Through these words and photos I hope to send out a bit of love during this harrowing time. I'm not sure how else to go about it.
This first photo is from a trip I took to Pinnacles National Park back in 2015. I took this photo on the Bear Gulch trail and was practically alone for the entire hike. That has changed in the last few years as the National Park status has elevated awareness of the Park.
The next photo is of the Smith River in September 2016. I got up very early each day to take photos in this spot in Jedediah Smith State Park.
This next one was taken on an early morning drive along Highway 89 between Sedona and Flagstaff in Oak Creek Canyon. It remains one of my personal favorites over the last few years.
Here is a photo of nearby Santiago Canyon where I used to ride my Triumph Thunderbird regularly.
This next photo is framed and sits above our dining room table. It is of the train track, trestle, beach and pier at Gaviota, north of Santa Barbara. It is a place that I return year after year and have grown to love despite the sometimes gale force winds.
And here is another of my favorite California spots - it's a sunset view of Mugu Rock from Thornhill Broome Beach which is north of Malibu but feels million miles away from everywhere...
Now this is one of my favorite photos from my home away from home in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
The next photo is of a fiery sunset in Yosemite National Park in September of 2017. This was a meaningful trip as it was the last time I went with my long time pal, Jack, who passed away last year. How blessed I was to be able to spend that few days with him.
Here is another from that trip. It's from a misty and quiet morning along the magnificent Merced River.
One last one. This is an iPhone photo of Quitobaquito on the Mexican border in Arizona. It is currently being ravaged and perhaps entirely ruined by a needless wall. Enjoy this image...it's one of the most special places in all of the West.
I have a dream I'd like to tell you about as I end this blog post. It's a simple dream but it seems awfully challenging these days. My dream is this...that everyone who reads these posts regularly and is a friend who shares my love for the land will meet me one day on the road in one of these remarkable places. I'll make the fire for us to sit around and talk about how we all survived the terrible pandemic of 2020. And how, after surviving it, we feel a little more grateful for all that we have and have had. And how life seems a bit sweeter than before.
Much love to all. I'll be back in a few weeks with a few more words and photos.
2019 was an odd year for me. I had some health problems which significantly impacted my time "out there" and I made far fewer images than in 2017 or 2018. It is my hope that through a rigorous diet and daily exercise the year 2020 will be better.
I post many of my photos online and invariably I'm surprised at what photos garner the most attention - rarely are they my favorites. Isn't that interesting? Nevertheless, I always enjoy the feedback and find it educational and encouraging.
So, it's important to note that these are MY favorites...perhaps not yours. Regardless, I hope you'll kick back for a minute or two, look at these photos and take a tiny respite from the rest of your busy life.
We will start with a photo of San Clemente that I took last spring at sunset. It was a peaceful evening after a storm.
Next up is a photo I took from my front porch of the Supermoon in August. I took a series of moon photos this year and, while photographing the moon can be challenging, I like this one.
The following photo was my most popular on social media which doesn't mean much really. But, I kinda like it too. It's the Bare Mountain Range north of Death Valley in Nevada.
Last winter, I went out to the Mitchell Caverns and spent time in the Mojave Preserve. It is, no question, one of my favorite places in all of the West (I say that often, don't I?). The photo below might merit a click. The clouds, after a few days of rain, are clinging to the mountains as if they can't bear leaving. That afternoon was as crisp and beautiful as any desert afternoon I've known - and I've known some almost painfully beautiful desert afternoons.
Another magnificent desert spot I visited last winter was Anza Borrego State Park with my two kind and handsome sons. One afternoon my oldest son, Jordan, and I drove around the park and stopped here at Clark Dry Lake. I enjoy this photo not just visually but because it also reminds me of the fine company I had that day.
Last September my daughter started attending Oregon State University and I drove the truck up with her things to help get her settled in. On my way home I drove east through Oregon on my way to Highway 395. One morning I found a quiet lake with clouds hovering above it between Corvallis and Bend. I stayed for an hour watching the clouds slowly lift.
Speaking of clouds ... early one morning I found myself on Highway 1 just south of Big Sur and saw this view of the marine layer and sun. I even kind of like the lens flare in this one. It reminded me of my youth driving the Rim of the World Highway (Highway 18) near Lake Arrowhead overlooking the valley.
On my southbound drive last autumn from Oregon I stopped along US 95 in the wee hours and made this photo which is near Tonopah, NV. I liked it so much I even made new personal cards with this image.
This year, 2019, will be the year I'll remember that I fell in love unexpectedly. For many reasons I am in love with Colonel Allensworth Historic State Park in California's great Central Valley. I have at least 15 photos that I'd like to share from Allensworth State Park! I will, however, only share two and they are both from my first trip. You'll be seeing many more of that area in the future. The first is an iphone black and white photo that I took while out walking and a storm began to build in the north.
The last photo of my favorites is also from the Central Valley and I call it, "Rage Against the Dying of the Light". It is my favorite photo of the year - the sun's last light as it beams through the Tule fog and shines on two trees, together, but alone.
So, there are my top 10 favorite photos from this year.
Of course, you know I have a western theme that I also love - it's roads, and rails, and telephone poles. Each of those symbolize the West of my heart and my dreams and I will leave you with one of my favorites of those motifs as well.
I wish you all the best for 2020. May it be the best year of your life.
For several months my two pals, Steve and Marty, had planned on meeting in Big Sur in November at good old Plaskett Creek Campground. I surrounded that trip with short stays in Morro Bay and Allensworth State Park (my new favorite) for a pure California trip. Sadly, Marty got sick and couldn't make it. I hope he's reading this so he'll realize how much he was missed. I know he was bummed about not going so we'll just need to schedule another trip soon.
I share lots of photos of Morro Bay on this website so I will only share a few more. I am on a "health kick" these days ('bout time, don't ya think?) and I did go on a ten mile walk one day while I was here - from the State Park to the Rock and then all around town. This time of year things are quiet in this sleepy beach town - reminds me of California past...
The next photos are from the hike near the State Park and into the estuary. Posting the photo of the Turkey Vulture online got a lot of responses. It reminded me when I went to a "talk" on them at the Grand Canyon two summers ago the Park Ranger put a photo up on the large projector screen and a kid yelled, "Oh, GROSS!" Cracked us all up and you may see what he means...
Here are a few more photos from magnificent Morro Bay.
After two nice days I drove the short distance to Plaskett Creek Campground which is south of Big Sur and north of Ragged Point on the California coast. Nearby is Sand Dollar Beach. It is one of the few remaining places that has ZERO cell reception which at first is strange and then worrisome and finally - so relaxing. I think we all need an electronics break and it's hard to take one so I suggest camping at Plaskett Creek as soon as possible! The first photo is a view of the sun and the marine layer from a stop along the Coast Highway. It reminded me of my days, long ago, driving across the Rim of the World Highway near Lake Arrowhead...the good old days.
Here are some photos of and from Sand Dollar Beach.
A few more photos of the area near Plaskett Creek.
My dear friend Steve arrived for the weekend. Recently he and I lost someone who we both loved very much. We spent time together connecting in the way that only people who have shared a mutual loss can. We walked and talked and remembered. It was a poignant and meaningful time together.
Luckily Steve brought his guitar and so we serenaded our nearby neighbors with songs of Slaid Cleaves and Jason Isbell. We also loudly proclaimed our thoughts on the band, Queen. One of us is a fan and one of us is not (me).
I didn't focus much on photography. That will be for another time. I'm grateful that Steve and I had that time together.
Here are a few black and white photos from the area.
You may recall that last spring I visited a State Historic Park in Central California in which I fell in love. On this trip I returned and my love affair deepened. I do have a request though -this place is off the beaten track and I'm worried that I talked too much about it online. So, let's keep this a secret just for us?
When I arrived at Allensworth I was only the second camper. The Ranger came by and wanted to talk about my Casita - while we did that she shared more about how I might be able to support the Park. When I came home I joined the "Friends of Allensworth" and made a small donation. I don't necessarily believe in reincarnation but I certainly feel at home here in some strange and reminiscent way.
Each day out there was glorious and I did get out to the local Wildlife Refuges as well.
Here are some photos of the buildings at Allensworth which have been faithfully restored.
Trains roll by on the regular. I love the sound of horns and the hum of the clickety clack as the freight trains roll slowly by. It lulls me into a calm and contemplative state like nothing else. I breathe easier.
On one particularly fine day I got up early and walked 6 miles all around the Park - made a lunch to go, jumped in the truck and drove to the Kern Wildlife Refuge. After meeting with the Ranger I took a few photos and then headed to Pixley Wildlife Refuge which is close to Allensworth for sunset. It was one of the very best days. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them...
Many of my favorite photos of the last few years are of telephone poles and solitary roads. This place was heavenly in that regard.
I will leave you with a few photos of my last sunset in my Central Valley paradise. Thanks for coming along on my western journeys. I love to travel alone knowing I get to share with you on my return.
My daughter Lilly, the very light of my life, went off to college this fall. She is my youngest child and my only daughter. Old sentimental sap that I am, I'm trying not to to cry as I write this.
I miss her.
I took the truck, with her belongings, to school in Corvallis, Oregon, and on the way home, to assuage my sadness, made a road trip out of it. I saw some places new and old and nature, as it always does, provided me with comfort and succor.
From Corvallis I headed east on magnificent Oregon Highway 20 through the Willamette National Forest. Over hills and through the mountains with water everywhere. Lost Lake, Foster Lake and the Santiam Creek were highlights.
The Highway 20 black and whites.
After driving through Bend to Burns I spent a day in and around the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Unfortunately, this magnificent place may be more well known for the welfare rancher Ammon Bundy and his crazy, gun toting freaky followers and their month long occupation of the refuge back in January of 2016 than for being a natural splendor. It's too bad, of course, because Malheur is also renowned for the birds that visit and call it home as well as other wildlife and, of course, the Eastern Oregon scenic beauty. I found it stunning.
From Burns I took a leisurely drive down Highway 395 and went to visit a place I've seen on the map, all my life, and never visited - the very northeast corner of California. There are some huge lakes up there - Gigantic Goose Lake straddles the border and Lake Abert and Honey Lake are also near the highway. I'd been picturing it in my mind's eyes for a long time and it certainly was better than anything I could have imagined.
I drove to Virginia City in Nevada. My mom and grandmother took me there around 1967 and I hadn't been back since. It's a novel town that focuses on its history and, in 50 some odd years, it hasn't changed much at all. It's exactly as I remembered it and I think that's the idea.
Since I had no reason to rush I took my own sweet time to come home and was able to stop and make some photos that I think capture the everlasting Nevada of my youth.
Another trip and another chapter ending and a new one beginning. And the seasons go round and round... Thank you for coming along.
My health improved enough for me to get my backside back on the road at the end of August. Yee haw! The physical therapist, diet and daily exercises have really helped. Of course at my age the Dr. keeps finding things he wants to test and it looks like that'll continue for awhile but in the meantime... let's take a quick jaunt to a couple of my my favorite central coast haunts.
First, without pain, I took my little trailer up to Gaviota State Beach where my camping pal, the inimitable, entertaining and hilarious Marty, met me. I wasn't quite as mobile as I will be but I did take a few photos of the pier and Gaviota Creek.
After Marty left I drove up to Morro Bay State Park. That drive is spectacular and has been a favorite of mine since childhood. Highway 101 from Santa Barbara along the coast and then, when it turns inland into the California Oak savannah country, inspires me for a number of reasons. It's beautiful, of course, but it always feels like I'm finally leaving Southern California behind and moving on to a new and wonderful place.
And I am...
The weather at Morro Bay was alternatively sunny and foggy. I did a few touristy things this trip. I took the "Sub View" tour which is a lot like the old glass bottomed boat in Catalina. You only go out a little way into the harbor and they chum for smelt. It was simple but still fun. The next day I decided to go on the whale watching tour and, for only the second time in my life, I got sea sick. There was a large swell and it got to me. Sigh. That wasn't expected or welcomed. I was miserable and since I wasn't feeling great I only took a few photos.
The whales though...magnificent.
Here are some photos of my first day on the water.
That afternoon I drove over to one of the last remaining old fashioned California beach towns, Cayucos, and make a few photos. As I was parking I noticed many pelicans on the water. Some old guy, seeing my camera, ran up to me and shouted, "Get some pictures of the storks!". Cracked me up. I did take his advice.
Here are a few photos from the rest of the trip.
The black and white images.
Thanks for coming along on this short trip. Tomorrow I leave for Corvallis, OR as I take my daughter's things to her dorm room. It's bittersweet. I'm so proud of her but I'll miss her like crazy.
My hunch is I'll take some photos of the countryside.
We'll talk soon!
It's been an odd summer and I feel the need to check in and say hello.
Let me start by saying that if there is one single lesson I have learned in this lifetime it is this:
ALL things are temporary.
As one gets older and friends and family pass away one's own mortality becomes a center focus of daily life. This is not morbid or bad - it is the truth. As far as I know I'm only getting this one crazy and beautiful life and, as I get older, runaway time seems to become more precious.
I lost my best friend Richard in 1983. I lost my Mom in 1995 and my Dad in 2004. My mentors, John Fitzpatrick, Bill Dickson and Bill Slout are gone in the last 5 years. My uncles and aunts and cousins are now nearly all dead. So, I work to remind myself that this too will be my fate and it 's always too soon, isn't it?
Everything changes all the time. This June my youngest child, my daughter, graduated from high school and is heading off to college in Oregon this fall. Man, I'll miss her.
All things are temporary.
Perhaps it was the accumulation of events or simply random but I had some minor health problems start in May that precluded me from traveling. Now, to be sure, I've suffered with mental health problems in my life - depression, alcoholism and even PTSD - but this was different, each day was physically painful, and it scared me and worried me and motivated me to start doing things I want to do before it is "my time" or until I am no longer physically able to do what I can do now.
I missed my summer trip to the Grand Canyon and I know I'll never get this summer back again. It bummed me out.
Life is different in your 60's. When I was young and I had to miss some experience it was not big deal, after all, I had years to make up for it. I no longer have that luxury.
So... this summer, while going to physical therapy and doctor appointments and diagnostic tests, I have been travel planning in earnest. Life is short and I want to get a good look around before I go! As Simone de Beauvoir said,
"Change your life today. Don't gamble on the future, act now, without delay".
So, we have to get cracking. As my grandfather would say, "we're burning daylight".
I have big plans for 2020. Let's hit the road.
Next year, I have 4 major trips planned. In the Spring I'll do a southwest tour in Arizona and New Mexico, and in July I'll be at the SABR (Society for American Baseball Research) convention in the beautiful city of Baltimore and in August I'll be in the Northern Rockies. And also...
In June, I'll potentially be meeting a few friends in Chicago and then driving the "Mother Road" all the way back to Los Angeles. I will be finalizing the dates and plans and sharing them with my friends who follow the southwest dude's travels on my blog and through social media. Why don't you plan on meeting me in the Windy City and we'll all motor Route 66 back? You can join the gypsy caravan. My plan is to take 12-14 days to drive the whole enchilada. Of course, that may not be your cup of tea and that's cool - I'll take you along vicariously and share my photos when I return whether you like it or not!
Of course, I have many other ideas for traveling next year, too. I'll certainly have my desert time and I'll be at Death Valley in January.
But how about the rest of this year? Well, I am starting to feel better. It seems like the physical therapy is working. In a few weeks, if I'm OK, I'll be taking my annual central coast trip to Gaviota and Morro Bay. I'll be going to San Diego to see my Dodgers play the Padres with my pal Tracy, and then I'll be helping move my sweet daughter to her college dorm room in Corvallis, OR and taking a leisurely road trip home. In November, I'll be meeting the two best camping buddies a guy could have in Big Sur and in December I'll go visit my Bay Area family who I miss and love so very much.
Then...it's 2020 and what promises to be an epic travel year.
“So have adventures. Go exploring. Drive around at midnight. Feel the wind running through your hair.
Life is so short, my darling. And there's no day like today.”
― Morgan Matson
All things are temporary.
Last month I took a quick jaunt down to San Clemente State Beach.
My friend Dell was supposed to join me. Turns out, he stayed one night in San Clemente but had scheduled work. With my plans to camp with him dashed I took a few photos and decided to go home the following day because I felt like Hell.
I woke up the next morning - reminded myself that life is short - and decided, what the Hell, to drive to an obscure State Park which I had recently heard about in the California Central Valley.
Interstate 5 and Highway 99 are notorious in California. Recognized as either the "most boring" or simply "ugliest" drives in California they are only to be used to get from one place to another in the quickest manner. I used to subscribe to this notion, too - especially when I was younger.
My 4th grade teacher, Eve Boram (yep, her last name was pronounced BORE 'EM) instilled in me a bit of California love. In particular, she loved to pull down the map and talk about "The Great Valley" and its impact on American agriculture and how it fed Americans. She talked about the "hot Mediterranean climate" and said the valley had its own special beauty.
I never really saw that - after all, Yosemite is east of the valley and Big Sur is west - and well - that's BEAUTY. But you know....I realize now - she was right.
So, let's go. The weather was perfect and I had a leisurely drive up 5 to the 99 to Earlimart and then to Colonel Allensworth State Park. Do you know the story of this place?
"Established on August 3, 1908, the town of Allensworth was the vision of Lt. Colonel Allen Allensworth. Born in 1842, Allensworth escaped slavery during the civil war and joined the Union Navy. In 1886, he became the chaplain of the 24th Infantry Regiment, retiring in 1906 as the highest ranking African American officer in the US Army.
On June 30, 1908, Colonel Allensworth, Professor William Payne, Dr. W. H. Peck, Harry Mitchell, and J. W. Palmer formed the California Colony and Home Promoting Association. They purchased land at this location to build the town of Allensworth - the only town in California founded, built, governed and populated entirely by African Americans."
Here is the link to state website.
The town, due to water problems, slowly dwindled in population. By the 1950s Allensworth was an impoverished area without drinkable water. Colonel Allensworth himself had been hit and tragically killed by a motorcyclist in 1914 in Monrovia, CA.
In 1968, Cornelius "Ed" Pope, a former Allensworth resident, helped restore the area to a state historical site. In 1976, the site was established as a State Historic Park. The preserved town features nine restored buildings, including a schoolhouse, a hotel, a general store, and library and several homes.
In my life there have been 4 places where the feelings I had upon arriving were psychically overwhelming. I experienced an energetic calm and a feeling that I was exactly where I was supposed to be. Those four places? Arches National Park, Chiricahua National Monument, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, and, strangely, Colonel Allensworth State Park. The isolated, stark, flat beauty of the Park was different than any of the places I've visited over the last 10 years. The air was clean and birds were everywhere.
As I was setting up camp one of these birds was raising hell with me with sharp and shrill chirps and an odd display of its feathers. It looked like a plover to me but I'm not well versed in bird identification. After I got the campsite ready I walked over to see why the bird was being so aggressive and, after nearly stepping on her eggs, I discovered why she was acting that way.
I took a photograph of the bird and the eggs and posted them on iNaturalist. Since this park is renowned for birding opportunities I assumed they'd get back to me quickly and, in 24 hours, I found out the bird was a Kildeer (indeed a type of Plover) and they often nest and lay their eggs right on the ground. Further, they engage in a "broken wing display" to draw predators away from the nest. In this scenario, I was, of course, the threat and the photo below was Mom's response to get my attention.
In my short time at Allensworth I fell in love with this Mama Kildeer and kept a sharp lookout for any people (or animals) who might get near her nest. I do believe we became friends and that she knew she could trust me before I left because she was calm around me and stopped using the broken wing display. I loved her.
Additionally, this place - besides the history - was, to me, a photographers dream. I have already made reservations to go back in November. I hope you will enjoy the following gallery of photos.
Abandoned roads, clouds, trains and telephone poles. Southwest Dude stuff.
One late afternoon the famed Tule fog started rolling in from the northwest. The sun was slightly obscured and made a photo that I enjoy.
Here are some other color photos of the Park.
I'm definitely not trying to sell this Park. It isn't for everyone, but it is just as "California" as the beach or Sierra Nevada. If you find yourself on old Highway 99, I would certainly encourage a quiet and reflective respite where, despite an overwhelmingly daunting past, one man, Colonel Allen Allensworth, an old escaped slave and war hero, had a dream and dared to make it a reality.
Each spring Lupe and I try to go on a short trip during her spring break. This year we decided to take the Coast Starlight from Anaheim to Seattle to see her brother and his beautiful family and to take in the sights and a Mariners game.
I love everything about trains. The sights that you see from the train window are different than those of the interstates and offer glimpses into real Americana. Train rides are like glorious road trips...with no driving. The Coast Starlight is a well known and scenic route from LA Union Station to King Station in Seattle. I first took this trip to celebrate getting my doctorate at USC in the early 2000's. I should point out that trains are NOT for everyone - there are always inevitable delays and if you're in a rush to get somewhere trains will make you crazy.
On the first day of the trip we left from Anaheim and headed up the coast in our "roomette". I enjoy the train horn but it seemed like the engineer was a bit fanatic about it - it was constantly blowing. When we got to San Luis Obispo we understood - the horn was stuck in the on position! It necessitated a delay while we got another locomotive. It put us about an hour behind schedule but no big deal. Here are some photos from the train window and from the stop in San Luis Obispo on our first day (yep - that is Gaviota from the trestle that I have so often photographed and shared on this blog):
We slept fitfully on the train that night and I'm not convinced, although she's been kind about it, that my wife enjoyed the accommodations. After we arrived in Seattle we did some sight seeing with my brother in law as tour guide - went to Top Pot Donuts, the Space Needle and the Chihuly Garden with some of the most distinct and lovely glass art I've seen.
We also took our niece to the Gasworks Park. Fascinating place - marvelous views and quite the urban oddity. It reminded me of one of my favorite songs by Ewan MacColl about Dublin. "I met my love by the gasworks wall/ dreamed a dream by the old canal/ I kissed my girl by the factory wall/ Dirty Old Town."
We spent the next day at the Museum of Flight which was terrific. I had seen the Apollo 11 command module at Smithsonian some years ago and it was at the museum in Seattle as part of an exhibition. In addition, the Amazon mega-rich guy, Jeff Bezos, funded a project to locate pieces of the Apollo missions in the Atlantic Ocean and many of those components were also on display. I was a child during the years of the Space Program and I still think it's easily the best thing humanity has done in my lifetime. A giant wave of bad and ill informed and wrong has been done by mankind in the last 62 years but there's that shining moonshot....
That night we took the convenient train from our hotel to what is now called T-Mobile Park (it was called Safeco) to see the Seattle Mariners game. Man, I like being a Dodger fan - our stadium doesn't change names every few years due to corporate sponsorship (see San Francisco for the most egregious example). Anyway, we had dinner before the game at the stadium and enjoyed a chilly night watching the Mariners roll over the Rangers. The stadium is a beauty. It was a kick.
Responsibilities were calling so the next day we got back on the train and headed back home. I can't describe the ride as it wended its way through quintessential California landscapes... I'll show you photos instead.
In conclusion - if you're ever interested in taking a trip on Amtrak I have one thing to say - Do it! Thanks for coming along...
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.