January 16, 2016


“Life’s not meant to be lived in one place.”  Gentlemen’s Wisdom

Carol writes:  We had been setting a pretty active pace the past month, so by mutual agreement we felt we needed to find a quiet place for a little down-time around Christmas and New Year’s.  I needed to get started on our annual Christmas letter, catch up on tardy blog posts, and finish making my baby quilt for a special little guy who was due any day.  Most importantly, we both wanted a quiet place to spend the holidays, a place where we could escape the commercial excesses that have come to be associated with the holiday season.  Small military campgrounds have lots of appeal to us.  We have always appreciated the excellent security of a gated community with all the conveniences of daily life!  We would see in the new year in the small town of Ridgecrest, on the western flank of Death Valley, at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake.

Our campsite sure had an awesome view of the mighty Sierra Nevada Mountains in the distance! 

After getting some tips from a very helpful lady at the Ridgecrest Maturango Museum, much to our surprise, we discovered that there were several noteworthy things to check out in the area.  Uh-oh, what about that down-time I needed?  The agreement was that I would get my quilt and blog time on bad-weather days.


We were intrigued when we heard about the Ridgecrest Wild Horse and Burro Facility on the edge of town. 

In cooperation with the Naval Air Weapons Station and Death Valley National Park, this facility is responsible for managing the wild herds of horses and burros in the desert southwest.  Roundups occur throughout the year in order to give vaccinations and conduct checkups to evaluate the health of the animals.  After roundup, the animals are slowly introduced to domestic hay with the hope that as many as possible can eventually be adopted out.  The public is highly encouraged to come on out and pet the animals through their corral fences so that the animals can be acclimated to human interaction.  That’s all I needed to hear to be quite certain that I was going to get a much-needed “pet fix” here! 

The burros were wary and wouldn’t come close,

but they were adorable even at a distance.

The wild horses, on the other hand, practically begged for attention; they trotted up to the fence with little hesitation.

I couldn’t tell if rolling on their backs in the dirt was done for a practical reason or if it was their way to grab our attention by acting out, “Hey, look at me!”


After leaving the horse and burro facility, we headed out into the Mojave Desert to the Trona Pinnacles for a look at a most unusual geologic wonder.

It takes a bit of imagination to realize that these so-called tufa pinnacles of calcium carbonate, some as high as 140 feet, were formed over 10,000 years ago under the surface of an ice age lake.

There was lots of open space out here, and one of the more popular activities was riding cool-looking “dune buggies.”

It wasn’t hard to appreciate why so many science fiction movies have been shot at Trona Pinnacles.  Some of the movies include:  Battlestar Galactica, Lost in Space, Planet of the Apes, and Star Trek:  The Final Frontier.


One of my favorite movies this past summer starred Reese Witherspoon and was titled “The Wild,” a story about a woman who hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail 
from the Mexican to the Canadian border.  For those who hike border-to-border, the 2600-mile trail offers an awesome and challenging personal adventure, one Al has expressed interest in doing ever since I met him.  I think conquests of that kind are sort of behind us now, but a visit to the trail would be nice…

For access to the Pacific Crest Trail, we drove up to Walker Pass.

Al reminded me that I actually hiked a section of the Pacific Crest Trail when we did a 3-day overnight in the Sierra Nevada wilderness shortly before we got married.  My recollection of those three days and nights of backpacking brings back memories of numbing cold, unexpected snow, burnt mittens, yucky powdered milk, nasty rehydrated food, and sore muscles I didn’t know I had.  So, yeah, anyone who hikes the entire trail has my utmost respect.  I have always playfully accused Al of planning three days and nights of backpacking in the Sierras as my “trial by fire” before he actually proposed. 

On the way back down gentle Walker Pass, we took time to enjoy the uniqueness of a Joshua Tree forest!


Number One on our list of local attractions was the National Historic Site called Manzanar,

where a shameful and cruel time in American history played out as a result of an Executive Order signed by President Franklin Roosevelt in February 1942.  The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor resulted in intense racial prejudice and fear of sabotage by Japanese citizens living along the entire west coast.  As a result, over 120,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry were rounded up by federal officials and were herded into 10 war relocation centers established in remote, largely uninhabited areas throughout seven states.

Over 11,000 persons of Japanese ancestry, two-thirds of them American citizens by birth, were processed through Manzanar from 1942 until closure in 1945.  How could something so monstrous and unjust occur at the foot of the glorious Sierra Nevada mountains?

Incredibly, the internees tried to make the best of their awful situation in a land of numbing winter cold and scorching summer heat.  The fact that they had to leave all of their possessions behind, except what they could carry, and were now prisoners behind barbed wire and watch towers—in their own country—must have been heartbreaking.

Once an auditorium, the Visitor Center is one of the few original structures remaining.

This scale model of Manzanar’s 3 dozen blockhouses and community buildings hits one over the head with how much it looks like the prison that it was.

A couple of reconstructed blockhouses

provided an excellent representation of what daily living was like with little individual space and no privacy.

How did the inhabitants of Manzanar find the will to construct an elaborate 3-acre Japanese ornamental garden complete with ponds, lovely bridges, flowers, fruit trees, and a gazebo?  This cherished garden of peace and serenity, long buried over the past seven decades under several feet of blowing sand, was just in the early stage of restoration.


Of the 150 who died while imprisoned at Manzanar, only 6 graves remain today.  Most of the deceased were cremated, or their gravesites were relocated by family over the years.

Al and I were moved by all that we read and saw at Manzanar.  One of the most powerful displays in the old gymnasium was the wall with over 10,000 names of those who were imprisoned at Manzanar.  

The question still keeps jumping out at me:  Have we really learned any lessons?

“We had about one week to dispose of what we owned, except what we could pack and carry for our departure by bus… for Manzanar.”  William Hohri

1 comment:

  1. Well I'm glad you passed the "trial by fire" or I wouldn't be here