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. 

June 12, 2021

A Midnight Mating Party for California's Most Exhibitionistic Fish

For 10 years since moving to LA, I'd wanted to go check out a coastal wildlife phenomenon known as the "grunion run."

And for 10 years, I'd put it off because I didn't like the idea of hauling my cookies to the beach late at night to witness a group of small, sardine-sized fish (the California grunion, Leuresthes tenuis) that may or may show up.  

But no matter how much of a crapshoot it may be, I knew I'd never see this summertime spawning event if I didn't at least show up and try.


June 09, 2021

Photo Essay: Secret Site of the 'Mystery Mine' Mill in the Verdugo Mountains—Revealed!

Back in 2016, I'd taken a hike up Hostetter Fire Road with the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley to view the remains of a former graphite mine operation up in the Verdugo Mountains of Los Angeles.  

But there wasn't actually that much left of the former Hostetter Mine to see up the hill. 

There was, however, a significant mill site that remained down the hill—only it was so hidden in the underbrush and the overgrowth, I couldn't get to it after lagging too far behind the group. 

Five years later, I had another chance to go see it, after some volunteers had bushwhacked their way through and tried to re-establish a trail to it. 

June 07, 2021

Photo Essay: The Manufacturing of Midway Magic at Herschell Carrousel Factory in Western New York

Over 3,000 hand-carved, wooden carousels were manufactured at the Herschell Carrousel Factory in North Tonawanda, New York. 

That was from 1915—when it moved into the former home of King Lumber Company—until 1953, when the company was sold and moved from the suburbs into the city of Buffalo proper. 


June 06, 2021

Photo Essay: The Ever-Evolving Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour, 2021 Edition

I'd been to Universal Studios Hollywood twice as a tourist since 2015—but they were both at night, which meant I felt like I was missing out on the daytime experience. 

Especially when it came to the actual studio tour. 

June 01, 2021

Photo Essay: The Stained Glass in Forest Lawn Glendale's Extensive Art Collection

One of the most remarkable aspects of Forest Lawn Memorial Park's Glendale, California location is its stunning collection of stained glass.

And not just the circa 1931 stained-glass replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s "The Last Supper," located in the Great Mausoleum's Memorial Court of Honor.