July 31, 2012

A Stone Unturned: Lost Horse Mine

I'd wanted to hike the Lost Mine Loop trail to the Lost Horse Mine when I visited Joshua Tree back in April 2011, but I saved it for another time. I'd already run to Keys Ranch and hiked to the Desert Queen Mine and to Pine City. I didn't have the energy.

But this time, when I finally made the attempt, I didn't go the way I was supposed to. I was supposed to take the trail clockwise, so the Lost Horse mine would be only two miles in, and from there I could decide if I wanted to complete the entire loop, which clocks in at 6.2 miles.

I had it in my head that I could handle a four mile hike, so when I saw the trailhead sign for Lost Horse Mine at 4.2 miles, I went for it. It didn't occur to me until two or three miles in that I had misinterpreted the sign and gotten my roundtrip vs. oneway numbers mixed up, and that had made my decision for me: I was going to complete the entire loop.

My hiking guidebook warned that the loop should only be attempted by those experienced in backcountry navigation. Apparently I still need to work on my trailhead navigation.

Regardless, going backwards, I embarked on a hike that started out flat and clear for the first couple of miles...

...providing me with the wide open spaces I long for...

...on a broad wash that crossed several loose, gravely roads, but was clearly marked with signage.

The road began its ascent gently, past joshua trees...

...yellow-streaked rocks...

...and berry-bearing juniper bushes.

I hadn't spotted any ruins yet, but it was clear I was in mine country, as the trail steepened and became more rocky...

...turning into a narrow, single track ridge trail as it looped around.

Lost Horse Mine isn't the only mine along the loop trail: remains of the Optimist Mine are clearly visible and right on the trail, including a chimney... well as some old rusty cans.

From the Optimist Mine, the climb to the Lost Horse Mine became more difficult, with clearer views of the valley below.

When I arrived at Lost Horse Mine - whose stamp mill loomed from the hill above - I was taken aback by the vision of a lone, shirtless man, sitting atop a ledge.

It was 10 a.m. and I hadn't seen any other hikers. It was the middle of summer when tourists tackle hikes like this far more infrequently than in cooler weather. And although I had pepper spray in my hiking pack, I decided not to brave an encounter with a desert eccentric. So instead of climbing up to the mill as I normally would, I continued my hike another two miles down the loop...

...until I arrived to the gate which should have been my starting point.

And now I still haven't really experienced Lost Horse Mine, though I've seen it.

Now that I know where I'm going, perhaps I'll give the Lost Horse Mine another chance in the next three weeks that I'll be here. I hate leaving a stone unturned.

Nearby mines & mills:
Wall Street Mill
Mastodon Mine, Cottonwood Springs

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Photo Essay: Desert Center Ghost Town (Updated for 2021)

[Last updated 7/24/21 1:19 PM PT]

Some might argue that Desert Center is not a ghost town.

July 29, 2012

Photo Essay: A Brewery in An Airplane Hangar

It may be a bit off the beaten path, but Hangar 24's brewery in an actual aircraft hangar across the street from the Redlands Airport is cool.

And, near the intersection of the 210 and the 10 freeways, it was on my way to Joshua Tree.

An aviation fan himself, master brewer Ben Cook (a former homebrewer) founded his brewery in the very same hangar where he once gathered with friends for a post-flight beer.

It may be small, but its beers are available by the keg, bottle, and soon by the can (but so far, mostly in Southern California, though as far north as Fresno).

All beers are pretty much made with the same ingredients: water, malted barley, and hops.

What makes the taste difference is the exact balance of those ingredients, any additional spices or botanicals added (as in the case of the deliciously light Orange Wheat), and the fermentation process.

Hangar 24 is a 24/7 brewery, meaning you could stumble upon any stage of the beermaking process...

...which today included letting off come CO2 yield from the yeast fermentation into a plastic bucket receptacle...

...and actual bottling (a rarity at the craft breweries I have visited), on a unique Italian bottling machine whose manual contains instructions only in Italian.

Much to the chagrin of those who must fix it when it breaks down.

In addition to the Orange Wheat, beers range from lager to pale ale to IPAs to an altbier and a chocolate porter, as well as a variety of limited seasonal offerings.

They're all fun to taste while planespotting.

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An Invitation to Return

I don't often go back to the same place. If given the choice of settling into my favorite restaurant or trying someplace new, I'm far more likely to go where I have never been and order the special, which may never be on the menu again.

But this summer, three years after I spent a month in Joshua Tree, Carrie invited me back to The Desert Lily for a few weeks.

Conveniently, once again I am not working full-time. I have a lot of writing and transcribing to do, making the timing perfect.

Even more conveniently, I now have my own car instead of a rental, and instead of flying out, I can just drive.

And I can drive back to LA if I have to.

So here I am, back at The Desert Lily in Joshua Tree, retracing my old steps, trying to remember the back way up the dirt roads to Star Lane without losing a hubcap.

There's some new landscaping to explore, and a new irrigation system will take care of watering the plants for me, but I remember where Carrie keeps the dishes and towels. I remember distant canine moans mixed with quail cackles and the metal rattle of wind sculptures. The red ocotillo trembles in the late day breeze, which at 90 degrees, feels cool.

My feet walk bare across the patio, sun-bleached and sand-smoothed. I wait for the bunnies to arrive in the shadow of the adobe, but the fountain from which they once drank is gone.

I want to sleep outside, but I remember the coyotes and scorpions and think better of it.

My backyard is the Park, my neighbors the desert mountains.

All of this is familiar and comforting, yet still strange and wild, as much now compared to my life in LA as back then three years ago, as compared to my life in New York City.

But as much as Joshua Tree and The Desert Lily are more or less the same, I'm a little different now.

I've vowed to hike the park more, now 30+ pounds lighter than I was back then.

I know it's going to be hot. I know to get up early. But I'm not as in crisis as I was back then.

I'm not running towards or away from anything.

I'm merely accepting an invitation to return.

And just for a change, I'll be sleeping in the one guest room in which I have not yet stayed.

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July 27, 2012

Photo Essay: Historic Fern Dell, Griffith Park

[Last updated 8/11/21 7:16 PM PT]

Locals and tourists alike flock to Griffith Park for its observatory, zoo, museum, theater, and hiking trails that provide clear views of the Hollywood Sign—but in the early 20th Century, Griffith Park's real attraction was Fern Dell. 

Photo Essay: Hyperion Wastewater Treatment Plant

Am I a student? No.

Am I a city employee? No.

I just like to take tours.

Fortunately, Hyperion Treatment Plant - one of four wastewater treatment plants in the city of LA, and the largest west of the Mississippi in terms of volume of wastewater processed (300 million gallons per day) - allowed me to come and take some photos of their facility, something you can only do during the day, during the week.

Fortunately, I'm available during the day, during the week right now.

And there I went.

The plant was originally built in 1925 - a boom decade for Los Angeles - as a screening facility, and opened as a full-fledged secondary treatment plant in 1950. The Clean Water Act of 1972 required Hyperion to make some drastic improvements and modifications to its facility, which took over two decades to complete, and, with varying architecture and industrial design elements, gives the campus a feeling of being three plants in one.

Modern parking structure

Odor control

1950s tanks in the background with modern walkway in foreground

Unused building with modern, colorful exterior piping

Controls inside the Headwaters facility, where wastewater goes first

This probe scoops through the poop to fish out larger, non-organic solids

They try to treat the air to maintain its quality but it still stinks.

Chemical tank: Sodium Hypochlorite

Chemical tank: Ferrous Chloride 

Digester egg w/access tower

Digester egg, where biosolids are digested by bacteria, which destroy pathogens and give off methane

Access tower with anti-reflective windows at the behest of the local community

Lamp post at top of digester egg, with shield to protect local community from light pollution

One row of digester eggs (20 eggs total), the largest field of egg-shaped digesters in the world

Despite being completed in 1998, there are still some rusty relics

Primary Sludge Pump Station

Pipes everywhere

Secondary clarifying tank, empty

Secondary clarifying tank, with water ready for effluent discharge into the ocean, five miles from shore

The Hyperion plant was probably one of the oddest attractions I've visited so far in LA, but it's one of the most integral to our everyday life. And visiting it reminds you that nothing just "goes away" - everything you flush down the toilet or run down the drain ends up somewhere, and depending on where you live, it's likely it ends up at Hyperion, where it's sorted out, chopped up, and sent to a landfill.

Hyperion only processes and treats wastewater, so stormwater is a different matter. What goes into the sewer (sometimes through manholes, which accounts for some of the more bizarre, larger objects they've collected like bowling balls, 2x4s and body parts) goes to Hyperion, gets sorted and treated twice, and once clean, gets pumped out into the ocean, five miles out. What goes in the storm drain goes directly into the ocean, untreated, often right at the shoreline.

So when you throw a candy wrapper out your car window or down the drain, you'll be swimming with it soon enough.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
Photo Essay: Burbank Water and Power Eco-Campus

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