Monday, April 23, 2007


Ah, the utopian wonderland of Los Angeles at the beginning of the 20th century. Frolic in the surf and sandy shores of the Pacific by morning, then scale the alpine heights of Switzer~land by afternoon.


Yep. Time for hike and campout #2 with Dax’s Boy Scout troop 888. This time to Switzer Falls in the San Gabriels Mountains in Los Angeles. Don’t worry, I’m not going to blog about every campout we go on. But this hike is through another historic location only a few of miles from Mt. Lowe.

The Serpent Patrol: Dax, Brandon, Michael, Ryne, and Phillip.

Apparently, what with the “Ye Alpine Tavern” and Switzer~land, turn of the 20th Century Angelinos were in love with the idea of transforming the Sierra Madres into the Swiss alps.

The Switzer Falls area is set in the deep Arroyo Seco canyon and contains a series of waterfalls cascading over smooth rock into rock pools. In warmer weather some of these falls can be used as water slides. But today the water is snowmelt and is far too cold for us to swim in.

The nearby Mt. Waterman is named after Bob Waterman and his new bride when they took a month long honeymoon camping adventure and discovered the falls in 1883. When they returned they told their friend Commodore Perry Switzer all about it (I don’t know where he gets off calling himself “Commodore”, maybe I should adopt such a title! ). Excited by the news of this paradise, Switzer built a trail and packed in tents, food and kitchen equipment, creating the first tourist resort in these mountains.

Very little remains of the original road, so the boys had to make about a dozen stream crossings, balancing on rocks with full packs! Dax discovered that he has a natural ability for this and did quite well (Do I sound like a proud papa?).

Lloyd Austin and his wife bought Switzer's Camp in 1911 and renamed it Switzer~land. With donations, they built Christs Chapel on a rocky outcrop 200 feet above the upper falls. It looks small, but the Chapel and it's amphitheater could seat some 200 people, and was a popular location for weddings, conferences, retreats, and Sunday morning prayer.

Fighting the urge to yodel, I managed to snap this pic of the Chapel site today- minus the Chapel. Once again, the historic structures had to be dynamited by the U.S. Forestry service for safety concerns. Why can't we hang on to our history?

Here you can see some of the remains of the arches laying on the hillside. I don't blame the U.S Forestry Service for doing what they had to do. I blame heartless, ignorant folk who think their actions have no consequences! One of the reasons I believe Scouting to be so important.

Switzer's Camp today is still very beautiful, and is very popular for day hikes and camping. The stream in the deep valley is shaded by white barked alders, tall oaks, sycamores and maple trees, keeping everything nice and cool. We set up camp next to the stream, and although it looks placid in this pic, the stream is actually quite lively and we fell asleep that night to it's calming rushing sound echoing off the valley walls.

Assistant Scoutmaster and Troop Chaplin Tim, tries his luck in one of the many rock pools. And yes, he dined on rainbow trout that night for dinner.

Nice effort early Angeleno's! It looks like it was fun while it lasted. But these days, I guess we can just jet to the real Alps. But really, the Sierra Madres are respectable in their own right, they don't need to be the Alps. There is something to be said about this area reverting back to it's natural state. It made for a mighty nice getaway for us, camping in a relatively remote location and getting away from the electronic world (not the slightest cellphone signal could be found). And with everyones care, it should stay this way for the next 100 years. Or else the U.S. Forestry Service will have to Dynamite the whole dang mountain range to smithereens!!!

Okay! Okay! So I'm not a philosopher! Take it as you want.


Commander Dav

Friday, April 13, 2007

Mo' Mojave!

In part one of Mojave! I mentioned that the desert is a strange place. Here is some more strangeness for you.
Apparently, Mojave is where old airliners go to die. There is a vast graveyard of mothballed aircraft at the Mojave Air and Space Port. What better place for us to mess around until dark?

Click pics to enlarge.
Notice the 747 on the right is missing an engine and the other three are plugged. The McDonnell Douglass aircraft on the left are “wrapped” with some sort of a protective coating.

My daughter Rachelle enjoying her ride in 5th class.

There is a lot of strange stuff in the desert. This one baffled me at first when I saw it. But now I suspect that it has been outfitted to facilitate movie and TV production. Because of Mojave’s relative proximity to Hollywood, a lot of that goes on here.

Mojave also has a nice collection of vintage aircraft.

This one looks about right for our family needs, we’ll take it!

“Hey Buzz! It’s a space port!” Not exactly what I envisioned as a space port, or the rest of America for that matter. But, Mojave is an authentic, bona-fide space port, certified by the Federal Aviation Administration's Associate Administrator for Commercial Space Transportation (FAA-AST)! According to Mojave Airports website “"Mojave is to the emerging space industry what Silicon Valley was to the computer industry. There is a concentration of like-minded businesses here like no where else in the world." Well! I’ll be keeping an eye on this Mojave Air and Spaceport (As well as real estate values in near by Tehachapi)!

The Rotary Rocket. Strange. Described as a six-story traffic cone sprouting helicopter blades, this rocket was well on its way to becoming the worlds first single-stage-to-orbit spacecraft. It’s only failure? Funding.

My good friend Jason Hitchens took these photos when he went to Mojave, September 28, 2004 to witness Spaceshipone winning the Ansari X-Prize for private spaceflight. Above is the Mothership with Spaceshipone attached underneath.

Spaceship one making its historic flight.

Astronaut Mike Melvill after the spaceflight.

More strange stuff. These are very large and very aerodynamic. And there are hundreds of them stored here. But what the heck are they?! They’re not fuselage, they’re not wings. My wife Cindy, proving that she’s more than just good looks, figures it out...

...on the Tehachapi Mountains, overlooking Mojave, there they stand, hundreds of them, silently doing their work: windmill generators. These are the blades for windmill generators! Way to go Cindy (I knew I kept her around for a good reason)!

“As the sun slowly sinks in the west...” our day in the Mojave comes to an end. An interesting and full day to say the least, starting with a glimpse at California’s gold mining past, and ending with a glimpse of California’s aerospace future. A fascinating state indeed.

Coming up on "A California Adventure" we have another boyscout campout planned. This time to Switzer~land! You'll have to tune in to see!


Monday, April 2, 2007


Saturday, March 31st, 2007. The Mojave Desert. The desert is an endlessly strange and interesting place to explore. With the Mojave only 20 minutes away, we took a day trip there.

The road to Randsburg

I have a weakness. I love a good ghost town.

While way too lively to be a ghost town, Randsburg, California comes close with its remoteness, buildings dating back to the early 1900s, some of which are abandoned or in ruin, a population a fraction of what it used to have, and by having the feeling of being lost in time.

Randsburg in the 1920s.

Whats cool about Randsburg is that its far enough off the beaten path to retain most of its “Wild West” appeal, as opposed to the expensive “boutique” ghost towns found on highway 49.

But not far enough off the beaten path. Apparently there are still gold in them thar hills, namely in antique mining equipment. These oar cars fetch a pretty penny. Needless to say, I left Randsburg without one. Maybe someday though... maybe someday.

Do I look convincing as an 1890s hard rock miner?

Prospector Parkie off to try his luck in the mines.

Mines in various states of decay surround the town.

This seems to have been an entire mining company, with shaft, oar bin, mill, tailings pile, company store, and a history of automobiles.

This locomotive hauled oar cars out of the Yellow Aster Mine, the big mine in town. The Yellow Aster was the most prosperous mine in all of southern California. Having abandoned the tunneling method of mining, the Yellow Aster is now a giant open pit mine, processing a rumored 4000 ounces of gold a week, and employing some 80 miners.

There is a whole parking lot with hitching posts for modern day cowboys to hitch their steeds and then mosey over to...

... the White House Saloon. We were ready to eat, so we ventured inside.

The interior of the White House Saloon retains its wild west saloon ambiance. We dined on refreshingly cool hamburgers, and nice warm soda. Just like the old timey prospectors did a hundred years ago!

After a quick visit to the “facilities”, we're ready for more exploring.

No trip to a ghost town is complete without a visit to the the old cemetery.

There are a lot of forgotten souls at this cemetery. The inscriptions on this marker are long lost. Most graves don't even have a marker anymore and all traces are of there even being a grave there are lost to the elements. Even still, someone took the time to commemorate them by placing a flower at each of the grave sites. Spooky...

Welp! They roll up the sidewalks at 5:00pm in Randsburg, so that ends our visit here. I don't want to stick around for when the ghosts take over the town. But this isn't the end of our visit to the Mojave. Our next stop is to a graveyard of a different sort. I'll blog about that in part two. You won't want to miss it!