Archive for the ‘history’ Category

a visit to bodie, california   10 comments

Posted at 12:24 pm in california,history

From the outset of this journey, there was never a true “plan” of where it might lead, or when it would end. As I sit here writing this post, I can’t tell you what comes next after I leave southeast Arizona in mid-march. The only certainty is that I have to cross back into Canada by mid-April — that’s the limit for visiting the U.S. without a visa allowing for a longer stay.

As you know from reading earlier posts on this blog, the route that I eventually decided upon was to try to beat the autumn snows by going west to British Columbia, then turning down to cross through Idaho and Washington. With the threat of snow out of the way, I slowed down to spend time along rivers in Oregon and California. By mid-November, the cool rainy weather on the California coast soon drove me east over the Trinity Alps into the central valley, and then further east over the Sierras to cut across the corner of Nevada before continuing onwards into the Mojave desert region of southern California.

Although my plans were always very fluid, there was one particular place that I had hoped to visit along the way and that was the abandoned mining town of Bodie. That choice required taking a route that was somewhat off the beaten path — but then, that was my general rule of thumb in any case — to travel roads where I would encounter very little traffic and few people. On the eleventh of November, I left Carson City, Nevada, taking highway 395, bound for Ridgecrest, California. My intention was to make a side trip up to Bodie, although I knew that would make for a long day of driving. As described in my last post, the weather along that route was looking somewhat chancy. At several points, there were signs denoting highway closures due to snow in the passes at higher elevations. The Bodie Road is seasonal, and subject to closure at the beginning of winter. However, I was in luck on this day. There had been light snow over that range, but not enough to close the road down for the season. Turning through the gates, we traveled the 13 or so miles up to the town which lies at an elevation of about 8,400 feet. The final three or four miles were pretty washboardy. Sabrina stood with her head pushed into the space between the front seats, lifting and dropping my right arm with her nose — her usual strategy to discourage me from driving on bumpy roads. I told her to try to hang on as it wasn’t much further.

Rounding the last bend in the steadily climbing road, I was surprised to find quite a number of buildings spread out across a large, gently dipping hollow between the surrounding rounded peaks. In the past, I’d seen photos shot at Bodie, but they were almost always of the same pair of buildings (see below – click on all images for larger views), or of a particular rusted car, the gas pumps in front of an old garage, and so on. I wasn’t expecting to find the standing remains of so many buildings, although the town is certainly just a shadow of its former self – as described in the above-linked wikipedia page.

It was windy and cold, and the ground was strewn with a thin layer of snow. Sabrina stuck her head out the sliding side door of the van, looked around for a few seconds, then turned and curled up on her warm, comfy sleeping bag. I took that to mean, “No, I don’t feel like walking around with you for a couple of hours while you shoot photos.” So, I pulled on a hat and an extra layer of clothes, grabbed my camera, and wandered off to explore the town. Although I’m not much for living by the clock, I gave myself ninety minutes to tour around before pushing on with our day’s journey. I found very few fellow visitors there that afternoon. Most that I encountered seemed to be part of a German-speaking group that arrived in several SUVs. As we dispersed down the various pathways leading between buildings, I found myself pretty much alone for most of my visit.

That day, I decided to try out a new camera that I’d bought while in Oregon. My regular camera had seemed to be acting up for a few days, so I decided to get a new back-up camera as “insurance” for the rest of my travels (a Canon G10). It made for some interesting and occasionally frustrating shooting, but I came away with a group of reasonably decent photos considering the dull weather. I’ve put most of them up in an online gallery. If you’re interested, just click on any image that you wish to see and it will bring up a larger version. There’s a small-medium-large-original choice of links below each image once it comes up. “Original” is the largest version. As you can see, I focussed mainly on rusty machinery and other objects, close-ups of wood and brick textures, doors, wheels, and a few other things that happen to interest me. However, I have put up some shots of whole buildings as well as images of objects displayed in store fronts.

As the afternoon ticked away, I kept one eye on the sky, watching for any change in the weather. In the end, I cut my stay a bit short as the odd snowflake spun by on the wind. It was just as well that we got on our way as it turned out that my time and distance calculations for that day’s travel were way off base — but more about that in my next post. Vowing to try to come back this way for a longer visit at some future date, I steered us back down the washboard road and, to Sabrina’s relief, onto smooth pavement to continue on our way south to that evening’s destination at Ridgecrest. More coming up soon…

Written by bev on February 1st, 2009

mountains and rivers – part 2   7 comments

Posted at 2:54 pm in california,history,rivers

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

The next leg of my eastward trek crossed the landscape of cinder cones and volcanic rock debris leading into Lassen National Forest. Under better weather conditions, I would have lingered at Mt. Lassen. Unfortunately, my timing was off as, for the second time in two years, my plans for a visit were scrapped due to somewhat hostile weather. On this occasion, the roadway was lined with low snowbanks and the entire area looked deserted. I made some brief calculations of time and distance and decided that a side trip into the park was probably a nice but bad idea. This day’s plan, hatched the previous evening at my friends’ house, was to travel east to Susanville, then turn south, roughly heading for Carson City while looking for a park or campground along the way. Unfortunately, that turned out to be something of a fool’s errand as the weather was much colder than anticipated – even to this canuck who is known to have little respect for the cold. As I traveled south, the snow-topped peaks of the sierras to the west reminded me that it was getting a little late in the season to consider camping, even in this region.

Eventually, I broke down and decided to find a motel room in Carson City, Nevada. That night, shortly after dark, Sabrina insisted on going out for a walk. Other than the busy boulevard, there was no nearby place to walk other than in a desolate lot — the kind you seem to find next to almost every urban motel across North America. While attempting to avoid countless shards of broken glass and very nasty stickers, I managed to drop one of the two keys to my van which I had, thus far, worn like a sacred talisman on a sturdy cord about my neck. The next morning, after discovering this grave loss (for so it seemed), I spent a good half hour wandering around in the lot trying to find my key before checking out of the motel. Alas, despite searching almost every square foot of that depressing area, during which time I discovered such delightful objects as empty whisky bottles, a number of condom wrappers, and no less than three empty packages of deer urine “guaranteed to attract a big buck”, my key remained MIA. I wondered if there might be some lurid connection between the found objects noted above, but decided that was far too bizarre to contemplate.

Feeling a bit shaken up by my stupidity at having lost one of my precious van keys (for once I had pocketed it rather than putting the cord over my neck), I finished loading the van and stopped by the office to check out. On the off chance that someone might have turned in my key, I asked the clerk if he had seen a key like the one in my hand. He looked puzzled and mumbled something that led me to realize that he couldn’t speak much english. I then pointed to the cord on my travel wallet, and held my hands apart to show how long the cords was, then pointed to my key once more. Comprehending my meaning, he broke into a happy grin and pulled my key on its cord out of a drawer beneath the counter, and cheerfully handed it to me. Although he was unable to tell me the story of how it was found, my best guess is that some fine soul, probably a fellow wayfarer attempting to walk his dog through the broken glass and stickers, must have discovered my key and turned it in at the motel office. As I got into the van, I told Sabrina that maybe, just maybe, our luck was changing — hopefully for the better.

From Carson City, we continued south on 395, crossing back into California by Topaz Lake in the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest region. We stopped to stretch our legs at a picnic area along the Walker River (above photo), once a place renowned for its population of Lahontan Cutthroat Trout (see top photo of interpretive sign – click on it for a larger view). As on so many occasions along the way, we had the place to ourselves — one of the positive aspects of traveling a little off the beaten path so late in the season.

From the outset of this entire journey, I had it in my mind to try to visit Bodie, a ghost town up in the mountains about 50 miles north of Mammoth Lakes. Passing several signs announcing snow closures of roads through certain mountain passes, I realized that there was a good possibility that the road up to Bodie would also be closed for the winter. In truth, due to the time wasted searching for my lost key, and then the route taking longer than expected — a fact of life that I was now getting used to — stopping to wander around at Bodie was beginning to seem like a side trip that I should probably leave for another time.

However, when we reached the Bodie turn-off, there were no closure signs at the highway and the gates were open a mile or two up the access road. I checked the time and decided to give myself two hours to drive up to and tour the town before resuming our southward trek. Thinking ahead, I had made reservations at a motel in Ridgecrest, which looked to be a comfortable day’s driving distance allowing for the side trip to Bodie (wrong!). A sign on Bodie Road noted that the pavement ended some 9 miles further along, and that it was rough road beyond. Once again, my time calculations went out the window as we hit the dirt section and found that it was like a washboard. Sabrina has a great dislike for those kinds of roads and has a very unique way of letting me know. If I don’t respond to her decidedly sad face, ears held to the sides with tips drooping (how in heck does she do that?!), she resorts to poking her head over the console between the front seats, then repeatedly lifting and dropping my right arm with her long nose. She was doing that steadily up the last 3 or 4 miles of Bodie Road. Somewhere along the way, I stopped to snap a photo of the Bodie Range (see below). At this altitude, somewhere around 8400 feet, there were remnants of a recent snowfall. I wondered if this might be one of the last days before the access road would be closed for the season.

(coming up next — photos of Bodie).

Written by bev on January 25th, 2009

return to the redwoods – part 3   11 comments

Posted at 4:33 pm in california,history,loss,sabrina,trees

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

In the last post, I wrote about my thoughts on traveling alone. Of course, I was never truly alone, as Sabrina has been with me on every step of a journey that began long before we left our home in Ontario. I haven’t said much about all that took place during the previous year of Don’s illness, but it was a very difficult time for all of us, including Sabrina. Being a smart and sensitive dog, she quickly intuited changes in Don’s health status, particularly during the final weeks of his life. As his health deteriorated, Sabrina spent an increasing part of her day lying next to him. Eventually, she became so worried that it was difficult to get her to eat, so her health gradually began to fail too. Two days after Don’s death, she was so weak and unsteady that I had to help her get up onto her feet. Over the next six weeks, I tried to get her eating and up moving around to rebuild her strength. However, it was clear that she was grieving in her own way and resisted most of my efforts.

When I first contemplated leaving for the west, I was concerned about Sabrina’s condition. Would she be able to cope with long days of traveling in the van? Could I provide the kind of food she was accustomed to at home? I was a little worried about the logistics of preparing the fresh food she was used to receiving. As the day for our departure drew near, I was still feeling uncertain about how we would manage once on the road. What would I do if Sabrina grew weaker after we were a few thousand kilometers from home? The morning of our departure, as I finished packing, she lay on the ground in front of the sliding side door of the van, refusing to move. Clearly, she was worried about being left behind. I took that as a sign that she too was anxious to be “on the road”. For both of us, I believe that our journey to the west turned out to be the right thing to do as it forced us to move, at least marginally, beyond the sad events of the previous year.

Once on the road, it was interesting to see how Sabrina reacted to each new place or situation. I felt a little bad for her each time we checked into a motel along our route. In the past, Sabrina and I would wait in the van while Don picked up our key at the front desk, then opened the room for us. As I assumed that part of the process, I noticed how Sabrina would rush into each new motel room, quickly searching every corner including looking up on top of the bed. After discovering that it was “just us”, she would flop down, stretch out her neck with her head on the carpet as she gave me the longest of long faces as only a collie can do. I would comment, “Yes, I know.” Those motel room check-ins were among the most difficult moments of our journey and one of the reasons that, whenever possible, I preferred to stay at campsites.

When we reached the redwoods, I was very curious to see how Sabrina would react to what must have seemed a very odd landscape. Along our entire trip, I noticed how carefully she inspected earth and plants. No doubt, her olfactory senses were sending her odd messages about these strange new places. After spending the night at the Burlington campsite in the Humboldt Redwoods, we visited the California Federation of Women’s Club grove before continuing on with our journey. Some of you may remember me writing about The Hearthstone designed by the architect, Julia Morgan, during my autumn 2007 trip through the west. I decided to return to the site in the hope of shooting better photos than on my previous visit. As we walked along the trails of that grove, Sabrina seemed eager to explore and, in her own canine way, expressed awe at the surroundings. Several times, I caught her inspecting a gargantuan mushroom, or gazing up and then back at me as if to see whether I’d taken note of the trees towering above. For both of us, this “new territory” was a good place to explore, far distant from home trails now strewn with countless memory land mines.

After leaving the redwood groves, we stopped at the historic lumber mill town of Scotia. During last year’s trip, I had taken only a few pathetic photos due to rain and a camera malfunction. This time, weather and cameras cooperated well enough to capture a few photos of the unique architecture along the main street. The Scotia museum (above), with its redwood interpretation of the columns and portico of a Greek temple, and the all-redwood Winema Theatre (below) are reminders of those bygone days when it seemed that logging of the redwoods could go on forever. Of course, that notion proved to be false, as evidenced by the many decommissioned mills and abandoned wigwam burners throughout the Pacific northwest.

Under gray skies, we left Scotia, retracing our trail northwards a little before turning east, now bound for Arizona. There will be more about that leg of our journey coming up very soon.

Written by bev on January 18th, 2009

courage highway   8 comments

Posted at 1:35 pm in history

Note: I’ve moved this blog to a new location as it suddenly started to have problems with navigation and the comment feature (comments no longer displaying). Please visit the new location to read this and more recent posts. Sorry for the inconvenience. – Bev

In my last post, I described how the van was running so badly during the final stretch heading west to Thunder Bay. I guess that could be regarded as something of a cliffhanger. The saga continues…

The van’s engine sounded like it wasn’t going to make it, but with a bit of encouragement — mainly pressing down a bit on the gas pedal to keep it from konking out — we reached the last few miles leading to the city of Thunder Bay, which lies at the western edge of Lake Superior. That section of the route is known as the Terry Fox Courage Highway and those marker signs began to appear as we chugged and sputtered past Nipigon. I was a little stressed, but began to relax as we neared the city limits. My friends back at the cabin had told me that there was a great view from the Terry Fox memorial park before Thunder Bay, so I turned off there to rest and take a few photos. Arriving just as a couple of other vehicles were leaving the parking lot, I had the place to myself. Walking to the look-off, I planned to take a few photos of the countryside from this high vantage point. However, the statue of Terry Fox, backlit by the grey morning sky, immediately drew my attention. On this drizzly morning, and in my frame of mind, the statue struck an odd note with me — almost as though it was alive — as though Terry was running the last stretch of highway where he was forced to end his run just short of Thunder Bay.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope, it was in this place that he had to abandon his run due to the return of his cancer. From the above linked article by Leslie Scrivener, for The Toronto Star:

And so it went that glorious summer of 1980 – he ran 5,374 kilometres (3,339 miles) in 143 days. And then, on September 1st, 11 kilometres (seven miles) outside Thunder Bay, Ontario, something felt terribly wrong in his chest. The pains were so bad, he wondered if he was having a heart attack, but whatever it was, he needed to see a doctor. The doctor confirmed his worst fears – the cancer was back, this time in his lungs. Terry had run his last mile – The Marathon of Hope – was over.

I suspect that just about every Canadian old enough to have been following the Marathon of Hope on our televisions, will remember the CBC broadcast when Terry announced that he would retire from the run. But that wasn’t the end of the Marathon of Hope. From the CBC “The Greatest Canadian” pages:

Terry Fox died, with his family beside him, on June 28, 1981. That September, the first Terry Fox Run was held in Canada and around the world. More than 300,000 people participated, raising $3.5 million. Terry Fox Runs are held yearly in 60 countries now and more than 360 million have been raised for cancer research. His legacy lives on.

For me, the Terry Fox monument was a reminder of how much determination it takes to keep moving on while living with cancer.

* More about Terry Fox here.
* CBC media archives on Terry Fox (12 television clips, 8 radio clips).

[Note: I arrived in Thunder Bay on Thanksgiving Day, was not able to get the van fixed, so continued west. More about that in a subsequent post.]

Written by bev on October 25th, 2008