Saturday, December 31, 2011

Sedona Views

Thanks to our friends Carla and Rick, our visit to Sedona included a hike around Little Bell Rock. These photos were taken along the trail, which has vistas in all directions. Above: a view of Cathedral Rock. Below: a couple of other views.

We also stopped at Chapel of the Holy Cross, which is dramatically set right into the red rocks. Click here for photos and more info. I remember visiting this church in the 1960s, when my grandparents lived in Sedona. It's still an extremely popular tourist destination. On this visit, I enjoyed the art both inside and out. Above: a statue of St. Francis. People love to throw coins all around the outside of this church.

The artwork inside includes a historic statue of the Archangel Michael from Mexico, above, and a statue of Christ from Chartres Cathedral in France, below.

From the Chapel website: "In our transient existence, in good times and bad, we are here to be united with all in faith and purpose. To live in peace and unity with all our brothers and sisters." Hear, hear!

Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Sedona: Tlaquepaque

After spending Thanksgiving with family in Prescott, Arizona, we drove up to Sedona to visit friends. One of our favorite places there is Tlaquepaque (pronounced Tla-keh-pah-keh), a picturesque arts and crafts "village" whose design is reminiscent of Mexico. Above: the chapel interior; right, the chapel tower.

While there are over 40 shops and galleries, we generally don't go to Tlaquepaque to shop--just to wander around, take photos, and soak up the atmosphere. There are cobblestone walkways, arches, fountains, loads of outdoor sculpture, and flowers everywhere. For us, it's a great place to stretch our legs after the drive and surround ourselves with visual beauty.

They call it "the art and soul of Sedona." For more information, click here. Hope you enjoy the rest of the photos in this post. Happy Holidays to all!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kick-Off Reading: A Bird Black As the Sun

On Sunday, November 13, the kick-off reading for the anthology "A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens" was held at the Faulkner Gallery, Santa Barbara Public Library. We had a full house--an audience of over 120! The textile exhibit in the gallery provided a colorful backdrop.

Our host and anthology contributor, poet Paul Fericano, kept the audience entertained with running jokes about Russell Crowe. That's me cracking up on the far left, along with poets Joan Fallert and Cathryn Andresen.

Editors Enid Osborn and myself, giving our thank yous at the podium. Thirty-seven poets from the anthology attended and read their poems. We were both grateful and overwhelmed!

We had a reunion of organizers from the Santa Barbara Poetry Festival back in the early 1990s. From left: me, Katie Goodridge Ingram, Sojourner Kincaid-Rolle, and Abigail Brandt (Albrecht).

We sold 200 copies at the kick-off! The anthology, which includes over 80 California poets, is available for $15 online at and, or at Chaucer's Bookstore in Santa Barbara and Rainbow Stew in Yucca Valley (at Hwy. 62 and Inca Trail). For more information, including a complete list of contributors, click here for the Green Poet Press website.

Thanks to Werner Brandt for the photos in this post.

Friday, December 9, 2011


The area around Ridgecrest saw lots of mining activity around the turn of the last century. There are remnants of this former boom all over the surrounding desert. Randsburg serves as a "living ghost town" and a tourist draw--but in a small way. The main street is just a few blocks long, and the various emporiums are mostly open only on weekends. The locals are friendly, and the vibe is very low-key.

At "Randsburg Inn, Lodging/Antiques," we scored an original Woodstock typewriter--significant because Bill's mother once worked at that typewriter factory in Illinois. Woodstock typewriters are not that easy to find. This one was on the porch and completely rusted out, but it was ours for $5 and a warning, "Make sure there aren't any black widow spiders in there!"

The General Store is the local gathering place--if you have questions about anything, someone in there might have the answer. There's drinks, food, and memorabilia, too.

Our primary destination was the Randsburg Museum, where we were looking for items related to my relatives who lived in the area between 1898-1909. We were in luck: above, a photo of the Croesus Mine in Johannesburg, the next town over. My great-grandfather, Walter Macomber, came out to California to work as an engineer at this mine, which was owned by my great-grandmother's uncle, W. W. Godsmark.

Above: the Johannesburg Hotel, 1898. Godsmark became part owner of this hotel in 1900. It remained open for some years--Edna Brush Perkins, author of "The White Heart of Mojave," stayed there in 1920 on her Mojave adventure.

If you have any interest in these old mining towns, Randsburg and especially the Randsburg Museum are well worth a visit.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Ballarat and Trona

East of Ridgecrest, in the middle of nowhere, there's a ghost town called Ballarat. We especially wanted to see it because over 100 years ago, way up in those hills in the picture above, my great-grandfather was working as an engineer at the Ratcliff Mine. Ballarat was a supply town for the mines in its heyday.

There's not much left to see in Ballarat. Above is the general store, which is run by Rocky Novak. There are a couple of broken-down buildings and a broken-down truck. Behind the truck, in the picture below, you can see some RVs--some workers at the nearby Briggs Mine live out here.

Ballarat had a legendary resident, an old prospector named Seldom Seen Slim who said, "Me lonely? Hell no! I'm half coyote and half wild burro." In the 1960s, Charles Manson and his gang lived on a nearby ranch for awhile. The movie Easy Rider has a scene filmed in Ballarat--the one where Peter Fonda's character, Wyatt, takes off his Rolex and throws it away.

We also stopped at Trona. It was the weekend of the annual gem and mineral show, and the place was hopping! We took a bus tour of the massive mineral plant above, which has its own coal-fired power plant.

The main attraction in beautiful downtown Trona is the Old Guest House Museum, which has extensive displays about the region's mining history. Well worth a visit for a look into the many-storied past! I couldn't resist buying the refrigerator magnet below, which pretty much says it all.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fossil Falls

North of Ridgecrest, just off the 395 to the east, Fossil Falls provides a fascinating window to the past. The cinder cone above is located on the road in. (It's being mined for cinders--the red rock called scoria that is used in landscaping, etc. The photo above carefully does not show the mining operation.)

12,000 years ago, volcanic activity dammed the Owens River and caused it to flow through this area. The water polished black basalt rocks and sculpted them into fantastic shapes. The falls themselves drop 40 feet. The drama of it all is hard to capture in a picture--one would have to climb to the bottom of the falls and shoot upwards, a daunting proposition.

Here's a long view to give you an idea of what the landscape looks like. Ancient people inhabited this place from Pleistocene times. It had everything--abundant water, plenty of food sources and even an obsidian quarry nearby for making arrowheads.

Ever on the lookout for petroglyphs, we busily scoured the area but had no luck until a friendly fellow pointed out this one of a bighorn sheep. It was right on the side of the falls in a depression just large enough for one person. Not surprisingly, the style of the petroglyph exactly matches what we've seen in nearby Little Petroglyph Canyon. Below: another view of the polished basalt rocks.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Lake Sabrina, Bishop Creek, and the Buttermilks

Back to the Eastern Sierra travelogue! It was exactly a month ago when the first big storm of the season hit, and we were there for it. While it only rained a half day in Bishop, the mountains saw plenty of snow--and at a time when the trees still had their leaves, most of which hadn't turned color yet. The day after the storm, we took Route 168 from Bishop to Lake Sabrina. Above: Bishop Creek along the way.

The temperature at Lake Sabrina was a frosty 23 degrees, but there were plenty of fishermen out--some at the lake and some wading in the creek. We found that hard to imagine, it being plenty cold for us just standing around in the air. We saw deer frolicking near the road on our way back down.

Below the snow line, we stopped at "The Buttermilks"--a collection of giant boulders that reminded us somewhat of the rocks in Joshua Tree. The area is popular with rock climbers, who scramble up these behemoths with a minimum of equipment. See Bill in the last photo to give you an idea of the scale.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

A Bird Black As the Sun

We interrupt this blog's current Eastern Sierra travelogue for a very important new book announcement: A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens is out!

For the past year and a half, my dear friend Enid Osborn and I have been co-editing this anthology of poems about crows and ravens. The finished book includes 87 poets who offer passionate, vivid, sometimes humorous, and ever-surprising views of these common yet mysterious birds, called “black as the sun” by Gary Snyder. Among other outstanding poets in the book are Christopher Buckley, William Everson (Brother Antoninus), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Dan Gerber, Michael Hannon, Steve Kowit, Carol Muske-Dukes, Jim Natal, Kay Ryan, Barry Spacks, Ann Stanford, Joseph Stroud, Cecilia Woloch, and many more. The full list is on the back cover, see below. (Click on the photo to enlarge.)

Over 30 poets will participate in a kick-off reading for the anthology on Sunday, November 13 at the Santa Barbara Public Library, 40 E. Anapamu St., from 1:30-3:30 p.m. The event will be hosted by Paul Fericano.

The idea for the book originated in Santa Barbara, where Enid's Green Poet Project sponsored a reading titled “Crow Talk” in February 2010. Margy Brown Design of Santa Barbara created the anthology’s beautiful design and layout.

For more details, including our press release and a list of other poetry readings being organized around the state, visit The book can be ordered online at and

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Bristlecone Pines

We were bound and determined to visit the Bristlecone Pines on our recent trip to the Eastern Sierras. As it turned out, the weather set the terms and conditions for that. A storm was coming, and we were told to get up there ASAP or not at all.

So we started at the crack of dawn and drove two hours from Lone Pine--up, up, up, up!--to the Schulman Grove. There we were greeted by a chorus of hammers at the new visitor center under construction. So we pressed on another half hour to the Patriarch Grove at 11,000+ square feet, where we we got our reward--perfect weather and the entire place to ourselves. (Above: the road in)

"Perfect weather" meant temperatures in the 30s with brilliant sunshine and puffs of picturesque clouds moving through at high speed. We were dressed for the cold and were in heaven tramping about, first up one trail and then another. All the pictures in this post are from the Patriarch Grove.

I was surprised and happy to see that the bristlecone pines aren't just the half-dead, picturesque oldsters. There is a forest in all stages of development coming up, from babies to adolescents to young adults. The new cones are a bright, royal blue color.

Above, the Patriarch itself--the largest bristlecone pine with a diameter of over 30 feet. A relative youngster, the Patriarch is around 1,500 years old. Some of the bristlecones are well over 4,000 years old. It is unforgettable to be in their presence.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Keeler: The Town that Time Passed By

We just spent a week traveling in the Eastern Sierras and the old mining towns around Ridgecrest, seeing many new places and revisiting some old favorites.

On the way to Lone Pine, we decided to take Rte. 190 around Owens Dry Lake to Keeler. Thanks to plaques placed by E. Clampus Vitus, we learned that Keeler had been a bustling place in the mid-19th century due to the Cerro Gordo mines in the hills above town. Mostly known for silver, these Mexican mines shipped ore across Owens Lake and on to the pueblo of Los Angeles via Remi Nadeau's wagon trains.

Here's the old train station. Keeler was the "end of the line" for a major railroad. There were plans to extend the line in the 1880s--but then the mines played out, and Keeler was left out. Another blow came to Keeler when the Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power infamously managed to drain Owens Lake and take the water for Los Angeles.

Today Keeler is a wreck of a place with few inhabitants and clouds of blowing sand and dust. There's a strange, toxic smell in the air. We had heard about the swimming pool at the edge of town from other photographers--managed to find it and take our own pictures of it.

The wrecked trailer and sign here say it all: "Safe Beach! Please! Wear your Hazmat suits at all times!" and, "This beautiful setting provided by LA Water Dept."

Saturday, October 1, 2011


The annual Joshua Tree Gem & Mineral Show is a funky affair and lots of fun. Phyllis and I headed down to the JT Community Center early on Friday to troll through the rocky curiosities. I came up with a couple of unusual items (to me, at least): above, a Moqui marble. Also known as a shaman stone, it comes from Utah. Apparently these flying saucer-like blobs are found in sandstone formations. The seller said something about Native Americans using them...for what I don't know. (Communicating with extraterrestrials, no doubt!)

Above: a piece of Archaen butterstone. It came with a little flyer that says: "This rock is from the Greenstone Belt of Southern Africa and is over 2500 million years old" (predating the dinosaurs by a long ways). They claim these stones are left over from the very beginnings of life on earth, back when the surface of the earth was formed and life began in shallow sea environments. I asked the guy,"Is this for real?" He laughed. Of course he said yes, but in any case, it's a beautiful piece of stone, polished on three sides and as smooth as butter.

Closer to home--in fact, in our kitchen window--are some lithops. They are from Africa too, and they are renowned as plants that look like stones. We got them at the annual 1/2 off August sale at Cactus Mart. They are thriving in our greenhouse window, which gets too hot for any other plants. In fact they have grown like crazy and look a lot less like stones than when we got them. Here's hoping they can hold on through the winter.