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SW Trip part 12


Manzanar was the last stop on our twelve-day road trip through Arizona and southern California. After the grandeur of national parks and the splendor of thousands of Sandhill Cranes and other, more quiet moments in nature, it was a sobering day for all of us.

We all knew the story of war relocation camps that happened during World War II but to experience one in person and meet someone who had been there as a small child really brought it home to us. We also learned that the mother of a friend of ours had been at Manzanar. We were able to find out where she and her family of ten were housed and we went to the spot where their barracks was located. She was a teenager when this happened to her. Can you imagine sharing a small space with your parents and seven younger siblings? Living conditions were harsh. The barracks were covered in tar paper and frequent storms pushed dust through the cracks. In the summer the temperature was as high as 110 and in the winter it often snowed. There was no privacy anywhere. More than 10,000 people of Japanese descent were housed there.

Each block had fourteen barracks buildings divided into four ‘apartments’, a mess hall, a recreation hall, latrines for men and women and two buildings for laundry and ironing. The internees built gardens in most of the blocks, often near the mess hall to ease the time while waiting in lines for food. At the end of each barracks was one faucet. The internees built a 14,000 square foot auditorium that still stands and is used as the visitor’s center today. The interpretive displays at this center are some of the best I’ve seen. All of the other buildings were dismantled and auctioned off at the end of the war.

Several barracks’ facsimiles have been built in recent years. There is a driving route that takes visitors around the camp. All the blocks are numbered and some of the barracks’ sites are numbered also. Much of the camp has been overcome by sand blown in or brought in by flooding. Now it’s hard to tell where the buildings were unless you find one of those upright faucets that were located at the end of the barracks. Some blocks are being excavated. In these areas, you can see the concrete foundations of the latrines with the shower and toilet drains in rows. The concrete blocks that supported the barracks are there too. And some of the gardens have been excavated showing the intricate rock work and the now dry water features.

While we were there, it was the Day of Remembrance. There was a special presentation by a park ranger talking about how many people were incarcerated due to the lack of religious tolerance in this country at that time. It was a sobering moment for us considering how much intolerance we are witnessing in our country now.

For more information about Manzanar see here and here.

SW Trip part 11


Oh, I promise, this road trip is nearly over.

No trip to Death Valley would be complete without a visit to Zabriskie Point. And all suggestions say you should be there at sunrise. We missed that. I have looked at images from sunrise and they are lovely. However even in flat late afternoon light with buffeting winds, the views were beyond glorious. One friend said about the Grand Canyon that your eyes just can’t rest at any one point. I’d venture to say the same thing about the views at Zabriskie. The ever-changing layers are unimaginable. I walked a big semi-circle in one direction looking at all of it and then backtracked and did it again. There are lots of duplicate views in my original images but each time I looked, it was like seeing it for the first time.

SW Trip part 11


Sunrise at Furnace Creek.

I was not moving fast, making some tea, waking up. Jennifer and looked out her window in the back of the coach and said “Teri, go outside. Take your camera. It’s real pretty.” She was right. I should listen to Jennifer.

SW Trip part 10


2016 in Death Valley is predicted to be a year of a Super Bloom! We were there at the beginning when Desert Gold (geraea canescens) was beginning to carpet the low-lying areas of the park. We saw vast areas of the gold flowers off in the distance and along the road to Badwater Basin. By the time we stopped to look at them, the wind had come up and made flower photos very difficult! I did my best.

SW Trip part 9


Death Valley is a place of broad vistas and eroded rock, sand and salt. And wind. We arrived in the evening just before sunset and began to orient ourselves. We quickly figured out that we would not be able to see many of the park’s big attractions. You really do need a some kind of a rugged, high clearance vehicle to do that and the 33 foot coach didn’t qualify. There was still plenty for us to do.

In the morning we headed out from Furnace Creek to Golden Canyon for a three mile hike and then to Badwater Basin. As the day went by, it was apparent that the weather was changing. We stopped at Zabriski Point (see another blog post) and then the old borax works. At that point the wind was blowing very hard, shaking the coach as we drove down the road and we needed to find some place to hunker down for the rest of the day. So we returned to Furnace Creek where we were protected from the strong gusts. That night we went to sleep listening to raindrops on the roof. In the morning it was dry and seemed calm. We stopped at Salt Creek, a desert oasis and home to an endangered pupfish and then went on to Stovepipe Wells. Again the wind was howling and a strong gust pulled the door right out of my hands. It had some minor damage but Jennifer was able to repair it using some inappropriate tools and lots of elbow grease. What a relief when the door closed again. After a less-than-satisfying lunch at a the only restaurant we moved on, crossing over at least two mountain ranges and out of the park.

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