Saturday, September 29, 2012

Missing Lonoak...

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

Having now lived in southern California for more than four years, there are many places in central California that I miss regularly going to.  One of those places is Parkfield, the self-proclaimed earthquake capitol of the world (our Parkfield Flickr Stream) and home of the Parkfield Cafe and its delicious bbq tri-tip sandwich.

Another place I miss, is the 14 mile drive on Lonoak ("Lone-oak") Road between King City (Our King City Pictures) and Lonoak in southern inland Monterey County.

Driving Lonoak Road
I remember my last trip through the area (2007) vividly.  After exiting US101 (historically known as El Camino Real) onto Metz Road in King City and then turning right onto Lonoak, there were hundreds of yellow onions scattered across the road.  An overstuffed produce truck must have lost some of its load.  Seeing fresh produce scattered about the roads is a common Salinas River valley sight.  Once, on US101, we were passed by a flatbed trailer hauling loose carrots.  The carrots were not boxed; rather, they were strapped down like lumber or pipes would. It was a mighty strange scene.

An aside...
A major difference between central California and southern California are the smells.  In SoCal, while at best, you may get a whiff of an orange grove here and there, aromas are pretty much left to fast food and smog.  Oh, and in some places, when the wind is just right, the cow manure clouds flowing west from Chino are just a killer.  On the other hand, the smells of central California depended on where you were and the crop rotation, but included, ripening strawberries, raspberries, grapes, lettuce, artichokes, garlic, onions, and ok, manure.


Just outside of King City, Lonoak Rd enters the curvy and bleak Bull Canyon area, which is used as grazing land, despite the apparent lack of grass.

Bull Canyon...


However, all it takes is one sweeping S-curve through Bull Canyon and you can then see a line of green across the horizon.  Such greenery is typically indicative of a flowing river (also rare to SoCal, except after rains) and in a few minutes you are approaching San Lorenzo Creek. Just beyond the creek there is a gated entrance to a ranch where you can safely pull off the road and park to walk on the bridge and look down at the creek.  Traffic is minimal and you can dance in the middle of the road, if that is your thing.
"From there we cross the river to our left, and traverse an undulated barren looking country for 20 miles, until we strike the San Lorenzo Creek, whose waters are clear, cold, and bitter".  Anonymous traveler - as chronicled in History of Monterey County (1979 Reprint of 1881 Ed.).

Looking straight down from San Lorenzo Creek Bridge

Looking down the creek...

Birds circling the bridge...

After the bridge, a sign tells you that you have entered San Benito County.  SBC was carved out of Monterey County in 1874 when the people of the area got fed up with being governed by folks on the other side of the Gabilan Range mountains.

As you travel this last leg of Lonoak Road, the road curves and follows a wide bend in the creek.  The area is called "Sulphur Springs" on the local USGS map.

Lonoak Rd encircling Sulphur Springs on USGS Topographic Map

Lonoak Rd encircling Sulphur Springs on Satellite Map
View of wide curve of San Lorenzo Creek at Sulphur Springs

As you come around the Sulphur Springs curve, you enter Lonoak, which is less of a town and more of a settlement of a few farms.   There actually was a US Post Office in Lonoak from 1885-1954.  This is no obvious sign of the old post office building as there is, for example, in the Kelso, CA ghostown.


Silos at Lonoak

Just before Lonoak Rd ends at CA25, strangely called Airline Highway on maps, you cross a bridge spanning the typically dry Lewis Creek and taking you back into Monterey County.  This remote creek crossing is well known among back road travelers for opportunity to photo the junk cars that line the creek banks.  The cars protect against erosion of the creek banks when water actually fills it.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Spotting our favorite desert creatures...

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

September 7, 2012: Near Yaqui Pass, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California 

I tend to go on-and-on about how Anza-Borrego Desert State Park is a great spot to see bighorn sheep.  We hoped to see at least one on our way down Montezuma Grade, which as I have written before, is a prime bighorn observation point.  Indeed, in February 2009, while going up the Grade, we saw a huge bighorn ram watching over the valley.

February 2009 Ram Sighting - "King of the Desert"

This time, going down the Grade, however, we wound up seeing zilch and mainly only saw the fire damage from the late August 2012 wildfires

At the base of the Grade, we drove through deserted Borrego Springs.  This tourist spot was pretty dead and will have a totally different vibe come winter.  No, it won't be filled with ski-bunnies and snow-boarders.  But, with the winter temperature rarely exceeding the more tolerable 70F, the desert will be filled with hikers and off road vehicle drivers. Now, it is just still way too hot for anything.

At Christmas Circle, we swung south out of town on our way to Julian.  Yaqui Pass is another place to spot the bighorns.  However, as the pass is quite tight with almost no places to pull over, photography is difficult.  We did spot a ram and ewe in this general area back in November 2008.

November 2008 Ram and Ewe Sighting

Now, I was sitting in the back seat of the truck, with Joanie and her mom sitting upfront when Joanie let out an "I saw one" scream.  Of course, by that time, we went through an S-curve that totally blocked our view of the bighorn.  So, at the base of the hill, she stopped, I took out my camera and the biggie lens and got back in the truck.  It was hot and dusty out and the "closed for the season" campground had a sign warning that the closest open bathroom was in Borrego Springs.

We headed back up the hill, with no bighorns in sight.  At the first turn-around, that is what we did, and we crawled down the highway, much to the chagrin of aggressive motorcyclists. 

We finally spotted the ram way up on a ledge.  How Joanie sees these things is incredible.  We pulled over the best we could and I snapped away.  Even eyeballing the ram way up on the ledge, we could see it was with an ewe.  Between the idling truck, my unsteady hands, and the difficulty of hand-holding a 600 mm lens, I was kind of down on the whole sighting and not expecting much from the pics.  I raised the ISO of the camera to 1000, hoping for a sharper pic.

As with the earlier ram sighting described above, these bighorns were in a terrible position for photographing; back lit.  Post-processing the images to bring out the details made the colors somewhat unnatural, so I converted them to b&w.

September 2012 Ram and Ewe Sighting

September 2012 Ram and Ewe Sighting

September 2012 Ram and Ewe Sighting - View showing how close to the edge these guys can get!

September 2012 Ram and Ewe Sighting

Just as we pulled away to continue down the hill we were pulled over by a heavily armed, well armored cop of some type (there is a heavy Border Patrol at certain parts of the park).  He reminded us that pulling over in this area was very dangerous (yeah), but let us go without a ticket.

Next stop was Julian and some ice cream.

For those keeping track or out looking for the bighorns on their own, here is a summary of our sighting locations and good places to start your search.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Visiting Agua Mansa Pioneer Cemetery

by Steve Reiss (Dalmdad Landscape Photography - and

July 9, 2011/August 11, 2012: Colton, CA: The Agua Mansa Pioneer Cemetery (AMPC) (Find A Grave) is well hidden by a solid gate and a row of closely aligned trees lining Agua Mansa Road in Colton, CA, between San Bernardino and Riverside.  If you are not careful, you will probably pass it.  I actually passed it twice (back and forth). 

The Cemetery is all that is left of Agua Mansa (considered a ghost town) and it is a desolate, dry location, partially surrounded by quarries and/or landfills.  Agua Mansa and La Placita were on opposite sides of the Santa Ana River, and, in the 1840's, formed the largest settlement between Los Angeles and New Mexico.  Both settlements were washed away by the Great Flood of 1862.

Desolate Location

The top of this tree is very strange (quarry or landfill in background).

It was triple-digit hot when I was there in August, 2012, and despite a grass sprinkler here and there, there is very little grass and very much loosely packed dry dirt with burrow holes.

Most of the grave markers are very old and some damaged to a point preventing the ability to read the name or date of death of the buried.

Heavily Damaged Grave Sites


Some grave markers are surrounded by small gates.
The gate cross in detail

Every once in a while, a clearly readable marker is found.  While some of these have such early death-dates, I wonder whether they are replacement markers.

Readable Markers

Aside from all the civilian graves, there is a single military one.  While in no way is this burial site as scenic or pleasant to visit than Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, which I wrote about earlier, the lone soldier gets the honor of being the only person in this cemetery buried in the shade under a huge tree and with some nearby grass.  The grave is for Jose Gustamante, who died in 1912.

The marker says Mr. Gustamonte was a member of Company D, 1st California Native Cavalry.  Company D spent most of the US Civil War keeping the peace in LA County, where seccessionist sympathy was high, and later parts of the Civil War in Arizona Terriotry, which the Confederacy sought to annex. These are details of the Civil War which we are not taught about back east.


The Cemetery Chapel is an annex to a private residence

A more colorful marker