Tuesday, December 21, 2010

And to the other side of Death Valley

We've now arrived back at our lot in SoCal, just south of Corona and are "enjoying" the rains, 4 days and it's still coming down. A wonderful treat for the dry southwestern deserts, but not too great for areas scarred by the summer wildfires. Fortunately, we're only inconvenienced by a few roads closed by seasonal high water.

Before we came south last Friday, we managed another side trip 180 miles across Death Valley National Park to the Owen's Valley and to the Lone Pine and Independence areas along the eastern Sierra mountains. We enjoyed sunny and cold weather, snow on the peaks but none of the notorious winds usually so prevalent. One of our interests was to visit the Mazanar Internment/Concentration Camp which was now a national park. This camp was one of 10 that was used to "intern" Japanese-Americans during WWII. At it's peak Mazanar was designed to hold 10,000 men, women and children from the coastal areas of southern and central CA. The exhibits and buildings showed a stark world brought to life by the internees on this windswept valley. It also showed an hysterical and prejudiced nation which felt it necessary to "protect" itself from these people, many fellow US citizens. It also showed examples of many Americans who supported their Nissei friends and looked after their properties until the internment was over. Overall it was a very sobering experience. And quite chilling as well to read newspaper columns and opinions from then which can almost be seen today by simply substituting "Muslim" for "Japanese". But we have come some way since then, there are no more Mazanars being built, though Guantamo Bay may come close.

Later we went on up to Independence and the Museum of the Eastern Sierras. There we enjoyed the excellent collections of the historical society on the history and peoples of the Owens Valley, the controversial takeover/theft of the Owens River and Lake systems by the LosAngeles
Power and Water District in the early part of the 20th century and an incredible collection of over 400 baskets by the Piute and Shoshone. All manner of burden, storage and fancy baskets were on display. Very definitely worth the visit. ( (Monument Inscription at Mazanar cemetery: the "Soul Consoling Tower")

Our last stop in the area for this trip, was the Alabama Hills. A wide open geological tumble of granite at the base of the sierras which was the site of over 300 films, and most all of the early westerns from Republic Studios. You know, the ones we watched faithfully on Saturdays with Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and the rest. A lot of the early John Wayne movies, along with classics like High Sierra with Bogart and Gungha Din with Cary Grant were also set there. A relatively close 4 hours from Hollywood and a world apart it made for a great backdrop...and we enjoyed the views. Happy trails and Happy Holidays wherever you roam.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Las Vegas side trip

We've had a wonderful stay here in Tecopa, as you've probably noted by our absence from these pages. Not only have we enjoyed the hot baths, the quiet sounds of the desert, the deep, dark night skies, but also a few diversions to other places. We spent a couple of days haunting thrift stores, Ethiopian restaurants, the Rio Night Club and Casino and even a pawn shop in LasVegas. It was the Gold and Silver Pawn Shop on Las Vegas Blvd. made famous by the History Channel show, Pawn Stars. The only "stars" we noticed were on the door along with the hundreds of other gawkers like us seeking a view of Chumley and the crew. We also managed a genuine LasVegas "magic show" with Penn and Teller at the Rio. Amazing! is all I can say. Sleight of hand and mind taken to incredible ends. We also enjoyed a photo op at the Belagio as a Christmas treat while they assembled the Conservatory Christmas themed show. More interesting to see how they build the set, assemble the props and maneuver the materials around. In spite of the wonderful time, we also managed to bring back our first serious cold in over 5 years. Laid us both right out with cough, head and chest congestion and just plain yuk. We're finally on the mend, but it's slow and brings back the old meaning of the word "hacking".

That's it for tonight. Hope you're enjoying the season wherever you are.

Christmas Setup at the Belagio Casino, Las Vegas, Nevada

Sunday, December 5, 2010

On the road to Tecopa

Well we finally moved along from the lot and projects at Glen Eden after a month plus of delays and just "one more project". It wasn't until a week before Thanksgiving that we actually started the engine and turned our gazes to I-15 and 4 hours north to Tecopa, CA, just 50 miles north of Baker along a scenic secondary backroad route to Las Vegas and also Death Vally National Park. This is a favorite desert hot spring village we've been visiting regularly since our first trip here in 1995. We spent Thanksgiving with other desert dwellers at the local Community center and managed to soak daily in the famous Tecopa hot baths. Weather has been cooler than normal and winds have been more prevalent than we remember...something that gets your attention when the RV is rocked and buffeted by 25 mph winds first from the southwest, then from the north. But, it's part of the experience.
Tom managed a couple of hikes with the local Conservancy. One to an old gold mining area at Salt Creek and another was along the Amargosa River, recently granted a Wild and Scenic River designation. For those of us from the east, our picture of a wild river is a lot different than here in the desert southwest, though in times of heavy summer rains, wild is a mild term, torrential is often more appropriate. But for the most part this "river" is more like a small creek by our eastern experience. Yet, it is a lifeline for desert flora and fauna. But like much of the west, it's being choked by the invasion of the Salt Cedar or Tamarisk, a bush like tree imported from the Near East at the turn of the 20th century for erosion control. The dark side of this salt tolerant plant is that it outcompetes and displaces native plants such as the willow and cottonwood and draws a lot more of the precious water, many times drying up riparian areas. Efforts are underway in many areas including the Amargosa to eradicate the plant, but it is wildly successful adapter, tenacious and expensive to accomplish. Many local groups such as the Conservancy are working with and "pushing" the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) to continue the eradication efforts before it is too late or too overwelming. Hope to be here for a few more weeks. Will post some more from Las Vegas and elsewhere in the region. Sunshine and warmer temps have returned. Even some rain last night! Great...until next time.

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