Craziness and Cowardice in the Desert
Recently I read a story, in High Country News, about a campground in Colorado that was overrun by gun "enthusiasts". It sounded pretty bad and reminded me of a trip I took to Mojave a year or so ago.
I was camped in the site you see above at Hole-in-the-Wall campground. It was quiet and calm and fairly private. One late afternoon, while entering the trailer, I grabbed a small exterior handle to hoist myself inside and didn't see that a bee had decided to latch on to the back of handle. I felt a burning sensation and then - DAMMIT! I'd been stung. I saw the poor dying bee, sticking to the side of my hand, but felt little sympathy for the SOB. I went to the first aid kit and got the tweezers, pulled the stinger out of the side of my hand but it immediately started swelling. I took three aspirin, ate a pain filled dinner and iced up my hand.
At about 8:30 that night I decided I'd better turn in but, wimp that I am, my hand was hurting and continuing to swell and I couldn't fall asleep. I read and listened to the radio and finally, I'm guessing around 11:00 fell asleep.
At around midnight I awoke to a light, bright as day, shining in my trailer. I then heard the gunning of engines and went to open the door and my campsite was bathed in light from some jerk's spotlight that he had mounted on his Jeep. I was pissed. I decided to get dressed and have a word with my new neighbor. As I was getting my pants on I heard several more vehicles drive around the campground and started to get a little nervous. Still, I was mad and with adrenaline kicking in decided to confront these morons.
Charging out of my trailer I heard the "Pop-pop-pop" of gunfire. I stopped. Directly across from my campsite there were four or five men armed with rifles and shooting at something in the vast darkness.
OK - new plan.
I high-tailed it back to the trailer and locked the door (which I never do) and looked for my bear spray and machete. Yeah, that's me...I bring bear spray and jungle clearing implements to a gunfight.
The gunfire, now sporadic and accompanied by loud, drunken shouting continued for probably 20 minutes. I decided, at that very instant, to become a pacifist and not confront these "people". I tried to go back to sleep and the throbbing in my hand really kicked in (from the adrenaline kick I'd guess). I had the persistent thought that I might have to go to the emergency room, an hour away in Needles, if the swelling continued. After awhile the gunfire stopped completely although my campsite was still lit up like Fifth Avenue and 45th street. Around 3:30 or 4:00 AM, I eventually fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning to the racing of engines and more loud voices. I looked out the window and there were probably 6 or 7 Jeeps and maybe a dozen guys packing them up. I made coffee, fretted a bit about my hand, and stepped out into the sunlight. I heard these guys talking and discussing their plans for the day. They were talking about a route on the old Mojave Road. As they got ready to leave one guy, with a minor conscience, I suppose, walked over and said, "I'd tell ya I was sorry about the noise last night but we're all retired cops and we don't apologize- hahaha". I didn't say a word. I did give him a bad ass glare, however.
They were gone within 30 minutes. I jumped into my truck and drove to the nearest Ranger Station to report these community pillars.
It was closed and locked.
My hand got better.
First Stop: Point Mugu
It's time for the beach. Each year, at least once, I head north up the coast. Last year I foolishly went in June and was socked in with the marine layer for almost 10 days. This year I had none of the "May Gray" and it was sunny and warm and, well, damn near perfect.
The trip started out at good old Point Mugu and Thornhill Broome Beach which lies between Malibu and Oxnard. As a young man I lived in Ventura and attended UCSB but would work for my Dad in his typesetting shop in Los Alamitos on the weekends. I didn't enjoy taking the 101 to the 405 so I took the longer, more leisurely and exceptionally scenic route through to Malibu. That route went directly by Point Mugu. I'd look down at the people camping literally on the sand and think, "Man, that's the life - one day when I don't have to work 7 days a week I'm gonna camp there." I made good on that promise to myself. I counted and I may have missed a trip or two but I believe this was my tenth trip.
Even if you haven't been you to Point Mugu you've seen it. It's featured on about half the car commercials these days. I adore the area. On my first night my Brazilian musician and poet friend Mauro came to visit and we made a fire and and barbecued tri-tip. We chatted and listened to music well into the night...
The last photo is kind of random but across from my campsite was a padlock in the fence separating the highway from the campground. I was fascinated by it - how long had it been there? Why had someone locked it and left it? It's a dang oddity. Love those...
One of my photography influences is Dennis Stock. Back in the '60's he took what I consider to be the best shot perhaps ever made of the Southern California beach scene near San Diego. There are a few spots on PCH I consider quintessential California but, alas, they're changing as development and other changes impact the landscape and the road. Nevertheless, I did go looking for a few spots to make photos and was nearly hit by a small and swerving grocery truck. You have to sacrifice for art, right? I like these photos anyway.
The following photos are just up the road a bit from the campground and I've spent many an hour in that very spot. I always say, "It feels a million miles away from LA".
Second Stop: Gaviota State Beach
After 4 days at Point Mugu I drove North to my old standby Gaviota. While there I went looking for some railroad photos and visited the first place I ever taught - De Anza Junior High School in Ventura as a long term substitute in Autumn of 1981. I also went to visit an old house - the house we were living in when my wonderful son, Jordan was born in April 1983. I enjoyed it. I often wish I could transport myself back to that time - knowing what I know now - I'd do many things differently. Regrets? I have a few...
The hills around Gaviota were lush and covered in mustard.
The coast in Santa Barbara county is much different than the coast I grew up with in Southern California. Shale dominates here.
A train trestle runs across Gaviota and invites you to explore. So I followed the tracks north...
Here are some additional photos of my time at Gaviota. I'll be back in August. I can't seem to get enough of the place.
Final Stop: Morro Bay
I scheduled a Morro Bay State Park trip for last Fall but it was canceled by them after a freak storm brought down several trees in the campground. I love Morro Bay - have ever since I was about 12 and my grandmother brought me here to meet her old bachelor cousin who had lived here for 30 some odd years. He was a poor, salty old fisherman who lived in a small apartment about a block from the bay. I never forgot him. A bad ass, independent, crotchety, profane "pescadero viejo". My kind of guy.
Normally, when I've visited the last several years it has only been for a few days and I haven't really explored the nearby wetlands or Elfin Forest which are close to the south end of town, I made up for that omission on this trip.
I was, finally able to visit the Elfin Forest which is near Los Osos, CA and just across the National Morro Bay Estuary from the campground. I left for my hike about 2:00 in the afternoon and it was cloudy - by the time I hit the trail the sun had emerged and the light was not great for photography. Of course, that didn't stop me from taking photos and I decided, then and there, that I had to come back in the Fall since this was such an extraordinary place.
I hope, through these photos, you get some idea about how splendid Morro Bay is and that you will, if you find yourself on the California central coast (and you should find yourself there) , check it out. Wait until you see how you feel there.
I hope you enjoyed looking at these photos as much as I enjoyed taking them. Next stop is the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. See ya on the road...
To my mother's lifelong chagrin I'm not and never was a religious person. I was a skeptic at a ridiculously early age. Of course, over the years, one would hope we evolve. While I'm still fiercely skeptical I allow for, and try to be open to, new insights and experiences - call them religious or spiritual, or what you will.
In my life I've had two of, I guess, what one would call "out of body" experiences. Not surprisingly they were both in nature and both in the great Southwest and, no, I wasn't drinking at the time. The first was in Arches National Park in 1994 and the other in Southeastern Arizona just a few years ago. In both instances, as I drove into Arches National Park and Chiricahua National Monument I had to pull over to the side of the road because I felt light headed. Then, after taking a deep breath, I actually felt as if something deep inside of me was rising out of my body and expanding into the outdoors. Weird, huh? Here's the thing though - it was a deeply "connected" spiritual experience.
The great playwright (and my favorite) Eugene O'Neill described this much more poetically and eloquently than I can when he wrote in, "Long day's Journey into Night" the following:
"You've just told me some high spots in your memories. Want to hear mine? They're all connected with the sea. Here's one. When I was on the Squarehead square rigger, bound for Buenos Aires. Full moon in the Trades. The old hooker driving fourteen knots. I lay on the bowsprit, facing astern, with the water foaming into spume under me, the masts with every sail white in the moonlight, towering high above me. I became drunk with the beauty and singing rhythm of it, and for a moment I lost myself -- actually lost my life. I was set free! I dissolved in the sea, became white sails and flying spray, became beauty and rhythm, became moonlight and the ship and the high dim-starred sky! I belonged, without past or future, within peace and unity and a wild joy, within something greater than my own life, or the life of Man, to Life itself! To God, if you want to put it that way."
O'Neill gets it precisely right. I felt as if I was dissolving for a few minutes. Of course, both times, after I felt myself come back into myself, I was overwhelmed and tearful and grateful and full of humility and love for having this gift of life bestowed on me. What a literal mind-blower.
You know, of course, I've tried to get that to happen again and it hasn't and I doubt it will. It's not something I can will to happen - it is organic and ethereal and can't be manufactured.
It's so weird, of course, that I seldom, if ever, discuss this with anyone. Yet, here I am writing a blog post about it! Old age has clearly corrupted me and now I'm probably oversharing and it's TMI and all but I don't give a damn. It happened.
The irony is that one of my worst Ranger interactions happened in Chiricahua the very next time I went to visit. In fact, if my first visit was a "peak" experience let's call this one a "valley". I'd planned on camping and pulled into a site and began unloading my camp stove when a Ranger walked up and said, "You can't leave any of that stuff outside your truck". I was momentarily confused and the Ranger said, "We have a strict policy. Nothing left outside - either in your vehicle or tent". I explained that I had to remove some things because I slept in the back of my truck and couldn't fit all my gear in the cab of my truck. Ranger said, "Well, then, I don't know what to tell you but it doesn't look like you can camp here".
I understood why Edward Abbey called them the "Tree Fuzz" (despite being one himself for a couple of years). I've camped all over the West and never met a more obnoxious and unhelpful Ranger. In fact, I love most of them I meet. They're underpaid and under appreciated and protectors of our most cherished places.
Still, it was apparent that this particular Ranger hadn't gotten the customer service memo. So, I thought, to Hell with it. I'll just drive back to Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoons. Of course, before I did I wanted to drive up the road and go to the Visitor Center to express my dismay. As I pulled out of the campground, at say, 15 mph, another Ranger with his window rolled down, gave me the universal "slow down" sign by moving his hand up and down. I couldn't believe it. I could only go slower by stopping. Two fools in one 15 minute period. I drove to the Visitor Center and they said the "Head Ranger" would call me.
He did call the next day. He left two messages. The first was actually to me when he said that, "while we have no bears we follow best practices for camping" and the second, was when he apparently, dialed the wrong number, and was all about personal information that I had no business knowing. Honestly. Talk about weird and inept and disheartening.
So there you have it. Life in a nutshell - lots of weirdness, banality, oddities and a few moments of existential bliss.
Of course, I've been back to Chiricahua. I took Lupe and then actually made reservations to camp there with the Casita. One week before my arrival date I received an email telling me that, due to construction issues, the campground would be closed despite my reservations. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised.
Oh land of Chiricahua - how I love thee.
The humans? Not so much.
Of course, I'll be back. And soon.
So there you have it. As the great Jeffrey Lebowski said, "Strikes and gutters, my friends, strikes and gutters."
My entire working life I dreamed of, one day, having the time to be on the open road and live the life of a part time vagabond and traveler of the American West. The last few years, I suppose one could say, I've been truly "living the dream". I thought it would be enjoyable to recap those years in terms of my personal experiences both as an exercise in re-living many of my trips and, perhaps, to stimulate my readers minds to visit some of the same places. I will recall my funniest moments, happiest moments, coldest moments, strangest, etc. This, my saddest moment, is the first post of the endeavor.
I was motivated to do this blog project while listening to the free book on Audible.com called "The Home Front: Life in America during WW2" (which I highly, highly recommend). Stories of Japanese Americans who were incarcerated at concentration camps (euphemistically called internment camps) all over America reminded me of the most crushing moment of my travels when I visited the Manzanar concentration camp off Highway 395 near the Eastern Sierra Nevada.
I have, perhaps like many others of us, experienced deep and profound injustice and loss in my life and as I walked around the camp I immersed myself in thinking about what life must have been for these people, torn from their homes, belongings sold or absconded, and the simple plain horror of that. The historical site, designated in 1992, has now built similar barracks and other features of the camp to help people, like me, fully comprehend the plight of those of Japanese ancestry in our country at the onset of World War II until 1945. It is a deeply touching and profound experience. As I meandered around on that typically windy and hot day I was overcome by sadness and frustration with our world and my country.
At the end of my visit I decided to check out the visitor center and bookstore. When I walked in I was surprised to find many families of Japanese ancestry in the Center. I spoke to the Rangers at the front desk and began wandering through the bookstore when I saw a young Japanese family, a mother , father and their small, perhaps 5 year old, son near one of the bookshelves. The father was stooped over explaining to his son that his grandfather had been held at Manazar. The little boy looked very confused and then softly said, "But, why Daddy, why?" The father simply looked away with tears in his eyes.
I was overwhelmed with sadness and grief and anger at the injustice. As I write this today I still am.
In the next few weeks (months?) I'll be listing some of my favorite memories of my life on the road. I hope you'll enjoy reading them as much as I will sharing them.
In the meantime, especially in today's political milieu, you might consider a visit to one of our great National Historical Monuments - Manzanar wouldn't be a bad place to start.
I've included some photos that I took that day. Since my photography is a bit better these days I need to go back and do it justice. In the meantime...
I love baseball. During my working years I lost touch with the game a bit. Devoting too much time to work and caring about what other people think comes with a cost. Often that cost is putting many things one loves on a back-burner and thinking, "one day I'll spend more time with that". Well, "one day" has arrived. I have finally returned to immersing myself in my favorite sport.
I had always told myself that, after retirement, I would go spend a week at Dodgers Spring Training Camp. When they left Florida to train in Arizona it made the idea even sweeter (I like Florida but it ain't Arizona). I figured I'd take my little trailer and find a place, close to Phoenix, and go watch my team prepare for the season.
Sometimes reality is better than our dreams.
Lake Pleasant, a short drive from Phoenix proper, was a terrific place to camp and sight-see and lounge. In addition to making it my "baseball home base" I found a sweet little gem of outdoors fun.
What a gorgeous place and, not only that, but a fellow I've known and admired on social media for quite some time was able to come and meet me and hang out around a campfire for an evening. Mr. R. Scott Jones drove up and, bringing firewood and beverages, sat down and we talked, and talked, and talked. In fact, I didn't crawl into the sack until well after midnight which hasn't happened to me while camping in, say, 35 years.
Scott is a remarkable guy. He champions. "travel quests" and walks his talk. He has visited more places than I will be ever be able to get around to and has motivated me to do my own "quest" (more on that later).
As I sat there listening to his exploits and plans I grew to admire him even more. In my lifetime I've only known perhaps a handful of people who live the life they damn well want to live. It seems most of us, especially in our youth, are caught up in making money and moving up the ladder and all that other crap we're "supposed" to be doing. I count myself as one of those people. The biggest regrets in my life all surround not taking better care of my personal hopes and dreams and not spending more time with my precious family, all in the name of "success" (i.e. ego).
My hunch is that Scott will not have similar regrets. He lives with energy and vigor and outdoors loving zeal. He understands and appreciates the importance of our few remaining wild places and environmental issues. He's on the right side of history and he lives precisely the way he believes his life ought to be lived.
One of the coolest things about Scott is that he encourages all of us to get out and "Hike our own hike". In other words, we don't have to be a "quest' person or anything else - we should just be true to ourselves but get out there! Love it. What a guy. I look forward to spending more time with him down the road. The man inspires me to go for it.
In fact, after originally dismissing the notion of "quests" I thought I'd try one myself. This baseball season (it always comes back to that, doesn't it?) I'm going to visit each of the California League's venues and go to at least one game in each minor league park. Man, I think that's going to be fun.
Speaking of baseball the next component of this post will be solely devoted to the Dodgers and Spring Training. So, if you hate baseball or the Dodgers I wouldn't be hurt if you stop reading right here. However, I think I got some cool shots of the Boys in Blue and I'd love it if you took a look.
Baseball is known as the "thinking man's game". There are many cultural and historical aspects of the game as well as a deeply complex and technical strategical component. I love history and so it's natural that I would be a bit of a baseball historian. I'm happy and proud to be a Dodger fan because of the franchise's storied history. Of course, the Dodgers and Jackie Robinson broke the "color barrier" and the Dodgers were the undisputed champions of civil rights in sports. Maury Wills and Lou Johnson and other African-American players have spoken about how they loved playing for the Dodgers for that very reason.
I'm tempted to wrote a treatise here but I'll stop and simply point out, since we're talking history, the Dodgers currently employ one of the greatest left handed pitchers in the long history of baseball - Clayton Kershaw. I went to three games at Camelback Ranch but didn't want to drag my camera around the park so I only brought it to the game that Clayton was rumored to be starting. Turned out it was a good choice. Here is the superstar and his windup.
As soon as Spring Training tickets went on sale I got mine and so my seats were fabulous for each game and hence my photos are pretty up close and personal.
The Dodger's MVP last year, in my opinion, was Justin Turner. No one works harder or has a better attitude. Unfortunately, he was hit by a pitch toward the end of Spring Training and will be out for 6-8 weeks. Here are some photos of JT.
Enrique Hernandez is a passionate ball of energy and will need to step up this year in JT's absence. A native Puerto Rican he recently asked the Dodger's ownership to assist with the Puerto Rican Hurricane Relief Fund and they stepped up to the tune of 2 million dollars. That's my team!
Great things have been predicted for Dodger Joc Pederson. Unfortunately, at this point, he hasn't lived up to the hopes of the Dodger faithful. He's still young though. Here's Jocko.
Former Dodger All Star, Matt Kemp seen below, has returned to the team for this season.
The old man of the team, 39 year old Chase Utley, also known as the "Silver Fox" just signed a 2 year deal and is a stabilizing influence in the clubhouse.
The Dodgers skipper, Dave Roberts, was a fine player and is well liked by the players. His pitching changes make me nuts but I can't argue his success.
Even more than a "Dodger fan" I'm a baseball fan. I love the sport and enjoy watching all the teams (ok - maybe not the Giants or Yankees- no, actually even them). Since I love baseball so much I've become a fan of our local college team - the University of California, Irvine which is a little weird considering I attended four universities and UCI wasn't one of them. Of course when USC and UCSB play them I pull for my old schools but I am sincerely enjoying going to the "Anteater's" games. Last year they had a player, Keston Hiura, who hit a remarkable .442 and he was drafted by the Brewers. Sure enough I got to see him in that Brewer uniform and he hit a bomb off the batter's eye in dead center.
Can you tell I had some fun? It was a wonderful trip for many reasons. I took lots of photos and had so much dang fun I'm going back next year.
Here's to a great 2018 season and I'll see you at the ballgame!
“All at once the desert was everywhere, and I was overcome with a feeling of relief. Sand, rocks, hills—the whole landscape was tinted the same shade of orange as the sky.”
― Jasmin Darznik, Song of a Captive Bird
Few places I know would merit a return in the same season but Red Rock Canyon State Park in California certainly does. My camping family/friends, Marty and Steve and I had decided, after last year, to go to Death Valley again this year, but after a storm last Fall, our favorite campground was closed. I suggested Red Rock as an alternative and so...we went.
The only problem? It was too damn cold. Steve and I have had 3 frigid camping trips - Calaveras Big Trees, Death Valley and now Red Rock. One morning it was 21F (and the furnace quit working of course) and it never got over 50. We also had to contend with sleet and rain one night. We still hiked a bit and the evenings inside the trailer were filled with drunken and loud singing and musical and political arguments (we had no neighbors- thankfully).
These two guys, from my perspective, are about the two best camping buddies a guy could have. They're fun and funny and smart, love the outdoors, and are forgiving of my quirks. Who could ask for more? The photo above is from our short walk at Fossil Falls off Highway 395 north of Red Rock. The photos below are my black and whites from the trip and I'm enjoying moving more to that medium lately.
The following photos were taken in the tiny old mining town of Randsburg. Fascinating place. The road and railroad photos above were taken on our drive there. My favorite photos these days, if you couldn't tell, are typically roads, sage, train tracks and desert sky. This is the West of my memories and my dreams.
The following images are from Red Rock Canyon State Park itself. I still can't believe I lived so many years of my life not even knowing about this Mojave gem which is just a couple hours north of LA.
We drove up Highway 395 after a late winter snow and visited Fossil Falls on the recommendation from, of all people, my dentist. It's a fascinating place from a geological and scenery perspectives and it didn't disappoint. Thanks Doc Evans!
After a cold week at Red Rock I went home for a few days and prepared to venture to Arizona for Dodger Spring Training as well as visiting Homolovi State Park in the Hopi lands. I knew it had to be hotter there and I was ready for shorts, t-shirts and sandals weather. Oh how wrong I was! Ha!
One of the great gifts of social media is finding cool people that you share common interests with - in the last year I was able to meet a fellow rail-fan (train fanatic) and Southwest lover, Liz Kylin on Twitter. When she read I was going to visit Homolovi she offered to show me around a bit and have lunch at "The Turquoise Room" in the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, AZ (maybe my favorite Southwest restaurant).
It's 525 miles to Homolovi from El Rancho Hubbardo and when I arrived I was exhausted from dragging my trailer around and avoiding the ubiquitous tractor trailers. I got my gear set up, ate some pea soup, watched a movie on my iPad and turned in very early. I awoke and was ridiculously cold. I keep an indoor/outdoor thermometer in the trailer and turned on the light to see the temperature which was a stupidly frigid 14F. Oh, man. So much for shorts and sandals! The next morning I checked in with the Ranger and told him it was 14F. He replied, "14? No, sir, it was 9F last night". Oh, OK, I stood miserably corrected.
The day did begin to warm a bit and Liz arrived at 10:00 AM and proceeded to show me the ruins in the Park. Although partly cloudy, it was getting warmer and I was grateful.
After a lovely walk and drive in the Park we made the short jaunt to Winslow and ate lunch. The La Posada is the home of an old "Harvey House" and the trains run just outside the back door. Liz was somehow able to determine that there was a freight headed our way and so we scurried out to her car and drove to a bridge overlooking the tracks and Interstate 40. Sure enough...here came our train. We even got the whistle!
Liz told me there was one more place that she had to show me...the Little Painted Desert. It was just north of Homolovi and - wow - what a place. Liz was quite the tour guide! I can't thank her enough.
After an extraordinary day Liz headed back to Flagstaff and I got ready to move south to Phoenix and my beloved Dodgers and some warm weather! My next blog post will be for baseball lovers and features the redoubtable R. Scott Jones and some photos of the Boys in Blue. Until then...
After being away from the desert for several months I almost couldn't bear it anymore. I planned a trip to Mojave but the idiots in Washington DC were threatening another government shutdown which would essentially shut down the Mojave Preserve.
After kvetching about this online my friend and Desert Expert Extraordinaire, Lori Carey said, "just get up to Red Rock Canyon". So, I did. The above photo shows the spot that I was able to secure for several days of desert bliss. Red Rock Canyon is only two hours north of Los Angeles but it certainly seems as if you're in another state, or another planet. It is about 80 miles from Bakersfield and 25 miles from the town of Mojave. The State Park link is here.
There is not a lot of civilization nearby this piece of unusual rock formation. As a result, it's uncrowded and provides solitude despite its proximity to Los Angeles. Many old Westerns have used this as a filming locale and it does have it's own unique charm. One day I jumped in the truck and decided to check out the local towns. The highway and the railroad tracks were lonesome on a late autumn afternoon. Just the way I like them. Have you ever felt "in your element" too? I
The weather was terrific. Highs during the day reached the upper 60s. It did get chilly at night but I was nestled in my little home away from home.
There are multiple hiking trails in the area. A highlight of the trip is the short Hagen Canyon Loop Trail. It's only a little over a mile but every bend leads off to another scenic spot which will tempt you into exploring. I spent an entire afternoon out there walking, wandering, resting, and making photographs. The geology is quite spectacular and there are some species of wildflowers that are only found here. It feels unique because it is...certainly no other place like it in California. At times, I found myself marveling at how much it looked like southern Utah.
My annual Death Valley Trip has been altered due to the Mesquite Spring Campground being closed from storm damage and I'm meeting my dear Bay Area family right back here in February. It certainly has on "Old West" feel. On the next trip I'll spend more time in the nearby El Paso Mountains and the Trona Pinnacles are just an hour away.
Thanks for joining me on this little Western getaway. We'll be back soon.
"Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best"
– Henry Van Dyke
At the end of each year it is enjoyable to look back and review the places I've visited. I also enjoy looking through old photos and remembering the fine times I had in each scenic spot.
My viewpoint of photography is changing and evolving on a regular basis. What I like today I may not be fond of a year from now. As my friend and fellow photographer, PJ Finn, has helped me realize, it's all about finding my "voice", just as I did as an actor and director when I was working in the field of Dramatic Art. Indeed, just as all artists should do.
In the next few years I believe my photos will be more of what I LIKE to photograph as opposed to what I think I SHOULD photograph. This is a leap for me but, at my age, what do I have to lose?
The photo above is on a deserted road near the tiny town of Cantil, CA. It's my personal favorite as, to me, it captures that lonesome western highway feel.
This photo below is taken from the Ajo Mountain Drive in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument one evening toward dusk in January.
My next trip was to Death Valley. I made several photos that I liked there and this simple black and white captures the stark and barren yet beautiful landscape of Death Valley near Zabriskie Point.
The next photo is of the Grapevine Mountains from the Valley floor the day after a rare winter storm.
After a soggy winter (finally) I decided to visit Steinbeck Country in Central California in March. This afternoon photo was taken along the Fremont Peak trail overlooking the city of Salinas. This trail was one of Steinbeck's favorites as a youth.
In April I was asked to make some photos of a United Farm Workers March in Madera, CA. I was proud to do so.
Lupe and I went to Chicago in April also and I got to see legendary Wrigley Field. We fell in love with the city and its Midwestern friendly vibe.
In May I was blessed to have been able to camp in Utah with my son, his wonderful wife and her brother, and my itty-bitty grandchildren. It was sheer heaven. The photo below shows Zion Red Rock in a layer of clouds. When I posted it on social media only a few folks "liked" it. But I like it quite a bit.
I don't normally make or show too many photos of people but when they're the two cutest people in the world whats a guy supposed to do? These are my grandchildren, Finley and Joaquin, at Kodachrome State Park in Utah.
Marty and I had a terrific time, as usual, at Gaviota on our annual trip there.
My daughter and I spent a few fantastic days in Pismo in June. Every day spent with the apple of my eye is a blessing.
In June I was at one of my favorite spots in California, Point Mugu State Park, and took this photo directly from my campsite at sunset.
In the summer I took my daughter Lilly and her friend Kennedy to the Giant Sequoia National Monument in the Sierra Nevada. I admire the stubborn independence of that solitary pine.
Lupe and I also visited the state we love the best, New Mexico. These are ruins in the Juniper country of Bandelier National Monument.
In early Fall I visited sublime and renowned Yosemite National Park with my dear Bay Area family.
in November I visited Pismo Beach once again. Man, I love the Central Coast.
I spent a fascinating day with the BLM and Mojave Desert Land Trust exploring George Patton's old WWII Training Center. The photo below is from an old place of worship near Camp Ironwood.
This last photo is another personal favorite that I recently took near the ghost town of Garlock, CA.
I thank you for coming along and wish each of you the most marvelous of years in 2018. Cheers! See you on the road...
Most Americans are familiar with the great WWII general, George Patton. Certainly any student of that war can probably tell you, chapter and verse, of his exploits. There is no question he is one of the most colorful characters in American history.
My father's second cousin was General Omar Bradley, the "Soldier's General" and so we always felt that Bradley was the superior general on moral grounds alone but there is no question that Patton was a "genius for war". His daring leadership, especially of the 3rd Army as they roared through France and Germany, is legendary. He also possessed tremendous foresight and predicted that mechanized warfare would be decisive in the next major war after his service in WWI. He was, of course, right as his German counterpart, Erwin Rommel, the Desert Fox, would emphatically demonstrate at the outbreak of WWII in North Africa as well as the German onslaught of the European low countries. There is much to say about old George and if you're interested in reading more about him I recommend, "Patton: A Genius for War" by Carlo D'Este and "War As I Knew It" by Patton himself.
Patton grew up in San Gabriel and knew the Mojave Desert. The following is from the Wikipedia page about the Desert Training Center:
Major General George S. Patton Jr. came to Camp Young as the first commanding general of the DTC. As a native of southern California, Patton knew the area well from his youth and from having participated in army maneuvers in the Mojave Desert in the 1930s. His first orders were to select other areas within the desert that would be suitable for the large-scale maneuvers necessary to prepare American soldiers for combat against the German Afrika Korps in the North African desert.
As a WWII history aficionado I had known of the training ground and visited Camp Young and the Patton Museum near Chiriaco Summit in the desert but hadn't gone to any of the other "camps". Fortunately for me, the wonderful people at the Mojave Desert Land Trust sponsored a tour to two of the Desert Training Center Camps, Camp Iron Mountain and Camp Granite. We were met by a terrific BLM archaeologist who knew the area and its history quite well. This was the first spot we went to near Camp Iron Mountain. I was told by military personnel that this was probably an "OP" or observation post. Perhaps old Patton himself climbed the hill and looked over his troops from this vantage point?
The next spot we stopped was at Camp Iron Mountain at the foot of the Iron Mountains. I was fascinated by the remnants of the camp from, lo, those many years ago which included a spot for religious services. In particular the line wire and other debris left by our troops as they prepared to fight overseas and, for some, to experience an early death in sacrifice for not just our American freedom but for the freedom of the world.
A couple of desert creatures also caught my eye. I could write more about the gentle tarantula (the only spider I like!) but I'll save that for another post. Here is a big boy out looking for love and a well camouflaged lizard.
We ate a small and delicious lunch and visited our last stop at Granite Camp where the Desert Shrine was still beautifully intact. Apparently, the troops had to go miles to find the proper rock for the construction of these sanctuaries.
It was a beautiful desert day. The weather was perfect and a few clouds rolled in at the end of the day. I couldn't help but pull myself away for some landscape photos. The first is a panorama and then I made some black and whites that I hope you'll enjoy as they seem to capture some essence of the Mojave to me.
I also made some good old color photos too. In reviewing these photos I was reminded how easy it is to breathe and why I receive such solace in wide open spaces.
I had a wonderful time on this one day trip but it made me hunger for a longer stay. Next trip will be to the Mojave Preserve at the beginning of December. Thanks for coming along.
The Los Angeles Dodgers interrupted my travel plans.
I had planned on heading east but my team decided to make a run at the World Championship.
I grew up just south of LA in a small suburb and in the 1960's few things occupied my thoughts and affection like my beloved Dodgers. I've been a Dodger fan literally since I can remember. I was born in 1957 and the Dodgers came west in 1958. I don't remember the Dodgers winning the Series in 1959 against the "Go Go Sox" in the Coliseum but I have vague memories of our glorious sweep of the Yankees in 1963 and I remember every out of the 1965 Series when the Dodgers beat the Twins. The first time the Dodgers broke my heart was 1966 and not simply because they were swept in the World Series by the Baltimore Orioles. Sandy Koufax retired at the end of that season.
My sports hero of the 1960's is still my hero at age 60. My words will fail, tremendously, at trying to describe my adoration, appreciation, and respect for the great Sandy Koufax. In my childhood, Sandy was the most dominant force in major league baseball. He was the classiest, most humble, courageous, kindest, smartest, player in the game. He remains simply coolest athlete in my lifetime. In fact, no one else comes close.
Sandy was forced to retire in 1966 due to an arthritic elbow. I still remember hearing the news on the radio and I was in a state of disbelief for a long time. I grieved his loss to the Dodgers and to the game...still do.
Anyway enough about baseball...perhaps I'll save my discussion of Jackie Robinson, Maury Wills, Lou Johnson, Claude Osteen, Don Drysdale, Ron Cey, John Roseboro, Davey Lopes, Orel Hershiser, Roy Campanella and Corey Seager for another post strictly devoted to my favorite sport in the coming months or so... Just know...I love the Los Angeles/Brooklyn Dodgers.
Suffice it to say, the Dodgers did make it to the Series this year and lost in the seventh game. I stayed home and watched and don't regret that decision. It was a marvelous post season (wait 'til next year!).
I was, however, itchy to get back on the road. I had reserved last May a few days at North Beach campground in Pismo Beach (planning months ahead is required these days). Although rather "urban" by my standards, it's still a long time favorite. I used to take my boys there when they were young and Lupe said she could join me thanks to the Veterans Day holiday. I arrived a day early to set up camp and realized that the Monarch Butterflies were just arriving for their yearly migration to Pismo. I spoke to a docent who shared that the numbers of butterflies has decreased dramatically in the last few years due to climate change.
Nevertheless, those butterflies are a sight to behold. If you get a chance...
The weather in Pismo was spectacular. I awoke the first morning to the sound of rain on the roof of the little trailer. I turned on the tiny furnace, warmed the trailer to about 70 degrees and made a pot of coffee. I spent the next few hours reading, drinking coffee and staring out the window at the steady rain. It was, in other words, a perfect morning. At about 11:00 AM the sun burst through the clouds and it became warm and clear and utterly delightful. Lupe arrived and I did make a few photos of the campground and nearby dunes. The sea water meanders through, behind, and around the dunes which are typically fairly crowded. I did manage to get few photos without people.
The central coast of California draws me back, again and again. Less crowded and commercialized than Southern California it captures some nostalgic, old California charm for me. In reviewing these pages you may find my deep affection for the place...in the meantime I'll keep returning. I've already scheduled a trip for the Rincon, Gaviota, Point Mugu and Morro Bay for the spring. Thanks for coming along...maybe we'll run into each other on some lonely dune near Cayucos one of these days...
This will mostly be a journal of my travels. I may include other items that interest me. Feel free to join in.
All content (C) Jeffrey C. Hubbard. No re-use without express written permission