November 29, 2010

Mission San Gabriel Arcángel

Last weekend, my Mom and I visited The Mission San Gabriel Arcángel, a Roman Catholic Mission in San Gabriel, California. The Mission was founded on September 8, 1771 by Father Junípero Serra, a Majorcan Franciscan friar from Spain.

With the arrival of the Mission, the communities and culture of the indigenous people, the Tongva, fell into rapid decline. Disease also took its toll on the Tongva population, and by the time the first American settlers arrived in the Los Angeles area in 1841, the surviving Tongva were scattered and working at subsistence level on Mexican land grants.

“The Tongva occupied the entire Los Angeles basin and the islands of Santa Catalina, San Nicholas, San Clemente, and Santa Barbara. From Topanga Canyon to Laguna Beach, from the San Gabriel mountains to the sea, we lived throughout most of what is now Los Angeles and Orange County. The existence of our people on these ancestral lands has been unbroken since long before the first contact between the Tongva and Europeans.” ~

“Despite the European incursion, we have remained an integral part of the Southern California community. Our presence is well documented. Our existence is preserved in records of the three local Catholic Missions and in records of cities in both Los Angeles and Orange Counties. We have survived! We are here!” ~

An estimated 6,000 Tongva are buried within the Mission's garden walls. Today, there are around 300 enrolled members of the Tongva in San Gabriel. The name Tongva means People of the Earth.

November 24, 2010

Thoughts of Thanksgiving

Tomorrow we celebrate one of our biggest national holidays, Thanksgiving. So, in keeping with tradition, I'd like to extend my thanks to all of you for the friendship we've shared and the fun we've had through our blogs. It's been marvelous seeing the world through your words and images.

May you always walk in Beauty.
~ Navajo Blessing

November 15, 2010

Desert Cathedrals

Forty miles west of Randsburg (see previous post) in the Mojave Desert, where the southern foothills of the Sierra Nevadas meet the El Paso Mountains, sits Red Rock Canyon, a small area of badlands and exposed strata of dramatic form and color.

Men come and go, cities rise and fall, whole civilizations appear and disappear - the earth remains, slightly modified. The earth remains, and the heartbreaking beauty where there are no hearts to break . . . I sometimes choose to think, no doubt perversely, that man is a dream, thought an illusion, and only rock is real. Rock and sun.

~ Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

November 11, 2010

A Living Ghost Town

Driving north on the 395 out of San Bernardino County into Kern County lies the small mining town of Randsburg, a living ghost town with a population of about 80 people. Gold was discovered here in 1895 and a few of the mines are still active.Through renovation and preservation efforts, the town retains a unique character. There are numerous historic buildings, artifacts and old mine shafts to explore. Open for business are a small museum, a cafe, a grocery store, an "inn," two bars, and two antique stores.

November 7, 2010

Mojave Landscapes in Sepia

The peaceful solitude, the enormity and strangeness of the landscapes, draws me deep into the desert over and over again. It provides a grounding reality like no other place. It was all here before me and will be here still when I am gone. A forever wild elemental place that cannot be subdued or tamed. It is a hard place to fall in love with but when it finally grabs you, it does not let go.

November 3, 2010

Climbing Kelso Dunes

I've been wanting to see the Kelso Dunes in the Mojave National Preserve for a long time and last weekend I finally made it out there. I was not disappointed. I arrived late in the afternoon as it started to cool down and made the 1 and 1/2 mile ascent to the top. I only ran into 5 other people on the dunes. The Mojave National Preserve is the least visited National Park in the United States. Fine by me.