July 27, 2021

Photo Essay: Orange County's Oldest Private Cemetery (And All That's Left of the Yorba Rancho)

Since I often get overwhelmed by huge, sprawling cemeteries, sometimes the most interesting ones for me are those created for just families and friends. At least then, all those buried there are somehow connected.

And it can be a nice break from the star-studded nature of "Hollywood"-style cemeteries like Hollywood Forever and Forest Lawn, where tourists make pilgrimages to the headstones of their favorite celebrities like they would the stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. 

At the historic Yorba Cemetery in Yorba Linda, California, members of its founding family were of great renown—at least, in present-day Orange County (and, to a lesser extent, San Diego County). 

They were the family members and close associates of the pioneer Yorba family—eponymous founders of the town of Yorba Linda and the cemetery therein. 

July 24, 2021

Photo Essay: Paying Tribute Aboard A Restored Navy Swift Boat, the Only Vietnam Memorial You Can Ride

With no plans with family or friends on Memorial Day Weekend this year, I jumped at the chance to drive down to San Diego and take the annual Swift Boat Naval History tour of the Bay with the Maritime Museum

July 20, 2021

Photo Essay: A Whale of a Time in Dana Point, the First Whale Heritage Site in the U.S.

When you live 8 miles from the Pacific Ocean, you might be expected to spend a lot of time at sea.

But me, I like to spend most of my time inland—where no tide will tear the sunglasses off my face or try to envelop me in a salty coffin made of sea foam and regret. 

Last weekend, though, I had the chance to join Capt. Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari—which departs out of Dana Point, named the first Whale Heritage Site in the U.S. earlier this year. It seemed like if I was going to try whale watching again, this was the place to do it. 

July 05, 2021

Photo Essay: World's Most Expensive Stadium Lands in Inglewood, City of Champions

During pandemic closures, it felt as though much of the world had stopped.

But it turned out to be a great time for construction projects—considered essential business, exempt from lockdowns—like the new SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.  

July 03, 2021

Photo Essay: Roycroft, the Utopian Colony of Philosophy and Decorative Arts

After I moved to LA and began exploring Southern California, I learned about the Arts and Crafts Movement by visiting The Gamble House, the Judson family's historic stained glass studio, and Ernest Batchelder's Pasadena home, adjacent to Bungalow Heaven. 

It never occurred to me that there'd be any Arts and Crafts activity anywhere in New York State, where I grew up. (I guess I forgot about Stickley.) 

But as I was traveling in and out of Buffalo on my way to make a hometown visit to Syracuse a couple of months ago, I arranged a visit to what I discovered is a federally recognized center of the American Arts and Crafts Movement. 

It's the national historic landmark (designated 1986) known as "The Roycroft Shops" (1895-1938)—located in the Buffalo suburb of East Aurora, in Western New York.

July 02, 2021

Photo Essay: Garden Grove's Time Capsule Town at the Stanley-Ware Ranch (Where You Can Find the 'Disney Garage')

The more that our historical town centers get gobbled up by high-rise hotels and other new developments, the more I really appreciate when historical societies save and relocate old buildings to create their own historical villages. 

Case in point: Garden Grove Historical Society's time capsule town, located on 2 acres of the former Stanley Ranch, where local pioneer Edward G. Ware settled in 1876 after relocating from Massachusetts. 

June 29, 2021

Photo Essay: Kayaking Across the Eastern Sierra 'Volcano Lake' That Baffled Scientists (Until 2015)

I've pretty much come to terms with the fact that there are some places on my Bucket List I'll never be able to cross off—maybe because I haven't got the means to get there, nor the will to keep trying. 

Or maybe some of those places will simply cease to exist before I get to them—from burning down, being torn down, or simply washing away. 

So, when a friend invited me on a trip up the 395 to visit the hard-to-reach and only seasonally visible Crowley Lake columns in Mono County, of course I said "yes"—and of course I prepared for abject failure. 

June 27, 2021

As Cerro Gordo Ghost Town Rises From the Ashes of a 2020 Fire, It Turns Away Visitors

I almost didn't write about this adventure because it felt like a failure. But I guess it was actually a partial success. 

And since I'm not exactly sure when I'll be able to ever complete the mission, I've decided not to wait—and share what I've got now, even though I found it a bit disappointing. 

But let me back up for a moment. 

In a constant boom-bust cycle that lasted nearly 100 years, the mining town of Cerro Gordo—in the Inyo Mountains of the northern Mojave Desert, near the 395 to the west of Death Valley—produced silver, lead (galena), and zinc ore at one time or another between 1866 and 1957.

I can't remember when I first heard of it. But I know I first tried to go sometime after 2013, after I'd begun working as a field agent for Atlas Obscura and thought that it would make for a great—albeit far-flung—excursion for our group.

June 25, 2021

Photo Essay: A World-Class Trout Farm In the Sierra Nevada, Closed by Mudslide

When it opened in 1917, the Mt. Whitney Fish Hatchery near the town of Independence was one of the first of its kind to raise trout (even the rare golden trout, California's state freshwater fish) to stock in California's lakes and streams (including those in the High Sierra backcountry) for fishermen to catch. 

The Eastern Sierra had begun "opening up" to visitors, as road improvements along old prospector trails—like El Camino Sierra, or what was to become the Sierra Highway—made "the Alps of California" more accessible than ever by car, from Los Angeles all the way north to Tahoe. 

There was a great and growing demand to not only attract but also keep tourists in the area by facilitating their thirst for the outdoors—and their appetite for angling.  


June 24, 2021

The Power of Quitting

Nobody likes a quitter. 

We're expected to stick with whatever life hands us, no matter how much it sucks.

People quote Winston Churchill saying, "If you're going through hell, keep going" like some kind of encouragement. 

Not me. I'll be a quitter till the day I die.