Saltation

Thin clouds of purest white streaked through the crystalline sky miles above the dune as it glistened and glittered in the morning’s golden sunlight. The ever-present wind swirled down out of its invisibility above grazing the crests of each swell placing a yellow halo at the crown of each and every rise. Soon, these phenomena broadened and covered everything leeward. Never just one grain but nearly an infinite amount of particles bouncing and flying over the top. The sandscape vibrating and flirting with focus and vision. Wave after wave, all as if it were applauding itself, this audience of at least trillions upon trillions upon trillions of its own. This is the way sand dunes travel and comfort themselves.

There is no apparent grand purpose other than subtle providence, yet, that is grand in itself.

After all the commotion, Bug, the darkling beetle, emerged from its hiding place an inch below the surface. Rat, arrived first, however, and it ate Bug. Then Hawk swirled down out of its invisibility high above in the crystal sky and snatched Rat with bloody talons.

Rat knew he had come to his end, for all rats die as does everything else that lives. Rat was pleased that it was Hawk that would consume him. Coyote or Snake would not honor him with such an aerial showing of the vast world he lived in before he was killed.

END
w.feller

END
w.feller

Ghosts & Gold

Mojave Trail

Mojave Trail

Monument at Las Flores Ranch

This secluded valley once bore primitive traffic and knew the lithe tread of native feet. The ancient Indian trail from the Colorado River to the coast led up the Mojave River into the mountains and climbed Sawpit Canyon to the summit of the range. The Piute Indians, using this trail, leaving a pathway that guided a Spanish priest, explorers, and pioneers across the desert waste and over the mountain barrier. When the Mormons came, in 1851, immigrant wagons wore a well-marked road through Cajon Pass. Thereafter, the old Mojave Trail through Summit Valley was little used.

Billy Holcomb Chapter No. 1069, E Clampus Vitus

Thin Window

Lucerne Valley cabin

Through the thin window, I watch the torn-away sky
clouds shredded and stolen as sharpened winds howl by

Spinning wildflowers and tumbling weeds
frantically, frantically spreading their seeds

Two birds in a bush warbling in trills and quavers
it is the lopsided melody the garbled song favors

Trade rats somersaulting across the bare ground
cartwheeling badgers angrily claw as they wheel round and round

Stiff-legged coyotes hobnobbing in play
catching jackrabbits and cottontails that can only jump up, not away

and dust swirls into dust devils then dispersed above
All of this, all of this, lonely, barren, wind-scarred, and loved.

The Fault Route

Click the map to view a larger image

It seems that people have made use of the San Andreas Fault long before automobile or even wagon roads were developed along its seam. Shown is a 1901 U.S.G.S. map where I have traced the route leading from near Blue Cut in the Cajon Pass, just about straight northwest to Valyermo. The dotted line portion shown at the Big Pines saddle may have been either a mule trail or a road possibly impassible or without increased effort by wagon or auto. Indians likely used the features of the fault as a footpath to do as we all do; go from here to there.

The Natural History of a Raindrop

They were twins, airborne, spiraling to earth together. Brothers as brothers can be they remained brothers until they splashed on the divide together and one rolled to the desert and one, the larger of the two, rolled toward the sea. That large raindrop would do fine, however, the small one would have to find its own ocean. Until then the little raindrop did what most other raindrops do and that is to go down.

At this point, many raindrops would soak into the earth joining the stormwater underground. These rainshadow renegades would travel to the aquifers deep into the earth below to ancient, private, and murky waters.

From sticks and dead leaves and rocks and out of crevices other little raindrops dripped to trickle together in intricate alpine streams hastily making way through a myriad of delicate and fragile waterfalls, into pools, then resting a few moments before being pushed out by the increasing deluge behind them.

From these streams to creeks the raindrops gathered rushing rather blindly through boulders and fallen trees in the narrow canyon joined by other smaller canyons and joining itself to larger creeks coming from larger canyons until swirling and twisting, colored with mud and dirty foam, all of a sudden coming together to become a river.

“Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice,” thought the little raindrop. It had found its way–to a river that should by all accounts transport it to the sea.

That didn’t happen, though. The river fell into the quicksands and disappeared into an eerie underworld layered below the clouded skies, under the sands of the empty river, and above the dark and mysterious aquifer.

Later, there was the bright and sunny sky overhead when the raindrop, risking evaporation, surfaced for a breath then soaked back into the safety of the shallows.

Again and one more time again this happened. Finally, there is no finally. The little raindrop simply never came back. After all, it was just a raindrop…

The end.

My First Fossil

There it was–I didn’t even have to sweep it off with the little paleontology brush I just bought.

Finding my first fossil was a much bigger deal than I thought it would have been. There was a lot of excitement and yelling. Running around, too–don’t know why, I mean, it wasn’t going anywhere. There were people from the museums, also. They were standing over in the shade grumbling in muffled mumbles. They coveted the find. However, smiling broadly with all rows of their sharpened teeth showing, they stood next to it for pictures.

In a little more than a whisper from their dark huddle, one could hear, “It should have been us. We are worthy.”

Rainbows Timeless

Ancient rainbows

I like to watch the very end of the day–the last slivers of light seen while everyone has gone home to have their dinner and watch the television. Those last shreds of light must be mine, at least as far as my eyes can see. I see how lovely this light is, nearly, nearly an invisible veil as shear as color. There are final bits of sunlight delicately pulled away from jagged edges in order to begin the evening properly. And here, especially where rainbows once beautiful and bold, now faded and wicked, tear the low light trying to hold on to the day, these olden days past . . .

Rainbow Basin

Cerro Gordo

Cerro Gordo The “fat hill” produced silver, lead, and zinc for a century. At its peak, over 1,000 people lived here working in mines as the San Felipe and Union. At the time the smelters were the best there were. Silver was roasted and formed into bullion, sent down the Yellow Grade road by mule team, then shipped across Owens Lake by steamboat. From the lakeside port of Cartago, the bullion was loaded onto Remi Nadeau‘s freighters and hauled into Los Angeles.

Hole-in-the-Wall

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Hole-in-the-Wall – Mojave National Preserve

About 18.5 million years ago one day everything was blah, blah, blah and then all of a sudden . . . POOOM!

Hot, suffocating ash buried every living thing in the path of the blast. An area of over 600 km2 was covered with ash and rock fragments so hot that they welded together after they reached the ground. The toasted and fossilized remains of birds, mammals, and plants lie entombed beneath the volcanic tuff that forms the colorful cliffs of Hole-in-the-Wall.

https://digital-desert.com/a/hole-in-the-wall/

New Beauty

Someday, I imagine, all beautiful things will have been worn away and become mundane and undesirable to view. Then, I imagine all the ugly things will become unique and beautiful because they are different and exciting to look at. I imagine.

Hear the Wind

Coyote Lake

Mike was alone now. It was just him and the wind in the desert. He wasn’t scared. He would listen to Nature. It would speak to him–tell him what he needed to do. In fact, the wind was trying to touch base with Mike at that very moment. It was saying, “Hey Mike? Mike? Can you hear me, Mike? Mike?” Mike, however, was preoccupied with trying to get a signal. Without water or shelter, Mike was a goner. Too bad for Mike.

River’s End

It is the strangest thing; the river; I follow it downstream and it becomes smaller and smaller and smaller. With every step, it becomes less and less and less. The water diminishes and depletes until it is just a trickle, until a glisten, until just a wet spot surrounded by damp sand, and then nothing. That is how this river ends–not mightily at an ocean, but quietly, subdued in the sand and rubble and stone becoming as if it never were.

Mojave River
https://digital-desert.com/mojave-river/

Trees

There are three ravens in the sky above the oak on the left. The raven on the far right of those three flew in front of me after first cawing and catching my attention. Over the years I have learned when this happens there are two ravens flying safely and quietly behind me. I like to believe they do this as a strategy to distract potential predators.

Broken Lands

Amargosa River at China Ranch

There is a broken land where mountain ranges rise like angry tidal waves in turbulent, slow-motion seas, senselessly wrestling in convection.

Occasionally, countless battalions of clouds march briskly left to right without leaving a drop of water, all saved for a brutal assault in a faraway war.

Broken people–adapt or die–that is all that can be said.

Broken animals and plants living in arrhythmic symbiosis.

and above; thrown into the wind, birds fly incorrectly and confused
then tumble from the sky in mid-breath.

tiny fish in the broken river’s warm water quietly dance an intricately choreographed ballet.

Trees are not trees, . . .
and the rabbit is not in charge as he would have you believe.
remember that.

Bragging coyotes arrogantly squawk after a kill

By-Passing Barstow

Bits from an interesting 1961 article about by-passing downtown Barstow and modernizing transportation infrastructure at the geographical descendant of ‘Forks-in-the-Road‘ of pioneering times. Speaks to the morphology of the transportation corridor from the classic Route 66 to the modern Interstate 15 Freeway. Also, see Sidewinder Road for maps between Victorville and Barstow.

On July 5, nine miles of the Barstow Freeway, known locally as the “Barstow By-Pass”, were opened to traffic by construction contractors Gordon H. Ball and Ball & Simpson.

The project is an extension of the 24-mile freeway from Victorville to Barstow which was opened in January 1959. It makes available the improvement to full freeway standards of an important link of Federal Interstate Route 1 S (U.S. 91) and the first step of freeway improvement of Interstate Route 40 (U.S. 66) toward Needles.

California Highways, Sep/Oct 1961.
Modern ‘Forks-in-the-Road’ junction at Interstate 15 & 40 Freeways
Forks-of-the-Road – Where the Salt Lake Road and Mojave Road come together and become the Mojave River Trail

Historic Victor Valley Wagon Roads

Primary regional road network — USGS 1901

Not all-inclusive, this 1901 map shows basic transportation routes between the Cajon Summit on the west and east from there through either the San Bernardino Mountains or Lucerne Valley to where the two roads meet in the Big Bear Valley.

This map below was made in 1883 and shows an earlier and geographically expanded version of the routes.

1883 map of route network in the upper Mojave River region (note; no railroad)

The 1883 map is more inclusive and contains a couple of items I want to keep track of. There are differences but the road segments look about the same.

I made a copy of the 1883 roads layer and made it red to stand out better.

There are some nuances between the two maps, and right now the Oro Grande Wash area seems considerably off, fiddling with it some I can get a better fit–but not at these rates. The 1901 would be the more accurate depiction of what went on out there even if it were 35 years or so after the fact.

Williams USGS survey map 1853

Note that in the above map the variations of trails from across the valley leading to the Cajon Summit seem not to have been developed at this time and instead the trail along the Mojave River is shown.

1901 trail routes transposed over modern street map through Hesperia

The Northers

Then there were the “Northers,” which the heavy winds that swept down the Cajon Pass from the Mohave desert were called. They were much more severe then and sometimes very cold, blowing for about three days at a time. Many people treated them as they would rainy weather, and by way of derision, they were sometimes called “Mormon rains,” coming as they did by way of San Bernardino. They often came before the rains and when sheep had been pastured in the early summer the surface of the ground was cut into fine dust and we would have a dust storm which would cover the inside of the houses with dust. Since the land was planted and roads oiled, the “Northers” have lost most of their disagreeable features. Being dry they clear the atmosphere and are one of the beneficial features in our healthy climate.

History of San Bernardino County – John Brown Jr., 1922