History from the Road
The Unsinkable Molly Brown

*”I am a daughter of adventure.”
– Margaret Brown, The Denver Post – August 1923*

Hannibal, Missouri. Photo Credit: writeontheroad.com

Hannibal, a small town located along the Mississippi River, in Northeastern Missouri is known for a few things. Most notable is that it is the hometown of Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, but we will get back to him in a later post. 

Hannibal, the town, not the cannibal, is also the focus of a true crime documentary on Investigation Discovery about the disappearance of a young woman named Christina Whitaker. The documentary does not paint Hannibal as a pleasing picture. The seedy underbelly of the town is infested with drug abuse, sexual abuse, and apparently some shifty acting police officers. 

But today, I want to talk about some other bad behavior. This kind of bad behavior is what the late John Lewis would call Good Trouble. 

*”As long as they’re talking about me, I don’t care what they say.”
– Margaret Brown to a reporter – circa 1920″*

In Hannibal on July 18, 1867, John and Johanna Tobin named their little bundle of good trouble Margaret Tobin. Margaret was well educated in her childhood, and promptly put to work to help support her family once she reached her teenage years. 

Hannibal, MO. Photo Credit: writeontheroad.com
Margaret Brown childhood home. Photo Credit: writeontheroad.com

Upon reaching adulthood, Margaret followed her older siblings to Leadville, Colorado where she landed a job working in a department store. In Leadville, she met and fell in love with James Joseph Brown. In 1886, Margaret and J.J. were married. Margaret unashamedly admitted that she had dreamed of marrying a rich man, but silly ol’ love got in the way and ruined her plans of riches. Margaret and J.J. went on to have two children, Larry and Helen. 

Margaret and J.J. Brown. Photo credit: mollybrown.org

In 1893 Margaret’s dreams of having a wealthy husband finally came true. J.J. Brown had struck it rich in the mines near Leadville. The couple proceeded to build a mansion, and a summer home in the Denver area. 

The Brown Mansion. Pennsylvania Avenue, Denver, Colorado

Now that her dress pockets were lined with money, Margaret was finally able to do what she always dreamed of; philanthropy work. Margaret chartered the Denver Woman’s Club, whose mission was improving women’s lives with education, philanthropy, and the suffragist movement. During this time, with intention of upcoming travel, Margaret became well versed in the arts and languages of France, Russia, Germany, and Italy. 

Margaret led fundraisers for Denver’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, which was completed in 1911. She worked with Colorado Judge Ben Lindsey to establish one of the United States’ first juvenile courts, which became the basis for the entire U.S. juvenile court system. 

In 1909, after 23 years of marriage, Margaret and J.J. quietly arranged a legal separation agreement. She would maintain occupation of the mansion and the summer home, while also receiving a monthly allowance, and J.J. would smile and hand it over. Margaret and J.J. would remain friends for the rest of their lives. 

In 1912 Margaret and her daughter, Helen, were traveling through France with the John Jacob Astor IV party – rich people doing rich people things. During this time Margaret got word that her eldest grandson had been stricken ill and she booked passage back to the states as soon as possible. Helen was supposed to travel with her, but decided to remain in France to continue her studies.  On the evening of April 10, 1912, Margaret was boarded as a first-class passenger on the RMS Titanic. Perhaps you have heard of it?

RMS Titanic. Photo Credit: history.com

The unsinkable Titanic sank early in the morning of April 15 after playing a losing game of chicken of the sea with an iceberg. Margaret was in her room reading when the collision took place, and was so engrossed in her novel that she wasn’t aware of any issues until a ship crewmember threw a life preserver through her cabin door and yelled at her to get to the lifeboats. 

Margaret spent the next hour assisting other passengers to lifeboats, until she was finally convinced to board one herself. Margaret was assigned to Lifeboat No. 6. Once aboard the lifeboat, Margaret would take it upon herself to help oar the boat away from the sinking behemoth. When it was safe to return, Margaret insisted Lifeboat No. 6 should return to the wreckage and find more people to rescue, as their boat wasn’t full. Quartermaster Robert Hichens denied her request insisting that drowning people would topple their lifeboat, and death would find them all. At one point, Margaret threatened the Quartermaster that she would throw him overboard either way. Whether or not No. 6 returned to help others is unclear, as history tells it both ways. 

After being rescued from the Atlantic by the RMS Carpathia, Margaret set to work organizing a survivor’s committee with other first-class survivors. Working with the committee, Margaret managed to raise over $10,000 for the first-, and second-class survivors before they reached New York. 

*”Thanks for the kind thoughts. Water was fine and swimming good. Neptune was exceedingly kind to me and I am now high and dry.” – Margaret Brown to her attorney after the sinking of the Titanic.* 

After surviving the sinking of the Titanic, Margaret Brown went on to run for office in Colorado in 1914, which was before it was even legal for women to vote. She dropped out of the race before the election so that she could travel back to France and work for the Committee for Devastated France during World War I, which consisted of rebuilding areas behind the front line and helping the French and American wounded soldiers. Once she came back to America, she went on to continue working for the rights of workers and women, children’s education and literacy, and history preservation. 

Margaret spent her last few years in New York working as a stage actress. She passed away, much quieter than she lived, in her sleep on October 26, 1932. After her death, Margaret was given the nickname the Unsinkable Molly Brown. 

 


For More Information

https://www.visithannibal.com/attractions/museums/molly-brown-birthplace-museum/

https://mollybrown.org/

 

 

Prehistoric Decay – Michigan

 

Our journey has taken us into the past before. We have seen the graves of famous gunslingers. We have walked in the forests of the ancient Redwoods. We’ve slept just outside of buildings so old that they had collapsed under the weight of history.

So, where to now?

Hold on to your butts. 

“Just one drop of your blood contains billions of strands of DNA, the building blocks of life. A DNA strands like me is a blueprint for building a living thing.” – Mr. DNA, Jurassic Park

So, where does one find ancient mosquitoes that have been trained in the old ways as bloodthirsty assassins and DNA traps?

Michigan…apparently.

No, really. Have you seen the amount of mosquitoes that Michigan has? It’s like a mini-vampire breeding ground. There could be all kinds of things being transmitted by their mutant mosquitoes…DNA, malaria, the ridiculous stupidity it takes to come up with plans to abduct and murder their governor.  Sorry Michiganders, but if the mitten fits…

I digress. 

Welcome to Jurassic P… er. Prehistoric Forest Amusement Park. Abandoned. 

Located about 25 miles from Ann Arbor, the Prehistoric Forest was first opened back in 1963, and was quite the attraction for its time. Life-sized fiberglass dinosaurs where just the tip of the tail for this amusement park. There were cavemen, waterfalls, an active man-made volcano, a Safari train, and fossil digging pits. 

Welcome Center – with a small Beware of Dog sign in the window.
Fiberglass trees in the middle of a prehistoric forest is just so weirdly…American.

As with so many old roadside attractions, Prehistoric Forest fell victim to the interstate that routed traffic away from memory making roadtrips and into the fast lane. Attendance dwindled in the ‘80’s, but Prehistoric Forest managed to limp along until 2002, when it closed it’s gates for good. 

“Uh uh uh! You didn’t say the magic word!” 

 

The park is private property, and there are plenty of signs letting you know that. Immediately upon our arrival, a police officer arrived to give us the stink eye and let us know that we can take pictures, but not to trespass. There is one large dinosaur visible from the parking lot, and a few fake trees and cacti scattered around. 

Prehistoric fake cactus.
Long neck. 
She is an old, tired one. It’s been hard work holding up that long neck since the dinosaur age.
Check out her camouflage. Clever girl. 

Taking a sneaky peak into the forest, you can find the king of dinosaurs, Mr. T-Rex. In a sick twist of fate, time has only made short-arm jokes more painful for him. 

If you’re hungry and you know it, clap…. 

Rumor is that the owner of the Prehistoric Forest still has big dreams of re-opening the amusement park. I think that ship has probably sailed, but perhaps…if they spared no expense. 

As it sits, the property is just going the way of the dinosaur. I do hope the prehistoric decay is left to be enjoyed by those that are eager to hear stories of the past whispering through the trees and flimsy fences. 

“Anybody hear that? It’s a, um… It’s an impact tremor, that’s what it is… I’m fairly alarmed here.” – Dr. Ian Malcolm

 

Just a reminder for those that want to visit abandoned places…take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but…nothing!

 

JUST HERE FOR THE DOGS
(A writer’s life update)
by M.D. Parker

Where the magic happens… now off to find a magician.

While there is plenty of travel-related stories and pictures coming soon, I thought I’d take the time to update people on the world of being a writer on the road, during a pandemic, who got in a fight with his muse, and who has been reevaluating the entire craft and his place in it.

First, let’s tackle the “big” project, THE GENESIS ECHO novel (cue ominous music):
I’ve been working on this saga for 4 years off and on. I’ve completed the book two times, and am currently trying to rewrite and massively overhaul the entire thing. I’m halfway through that. I’ve also managed a full novella, a short story, and now I’ve tried making my #BrickBuiltStories revolving around the same saga, which is of course part of my larger RorriM universe.

My other writings, political essays, and random flash fiction all have suffered and stumbled as badly as the main work in progress.

…and a spring just broke on the trampoline.

Sales of my anthologies and my novella are at or near zero for months.

I’m discouraged.
I’m burned out.
I’m exhausted from the dread of the real world, and desperately finding a way(s) I can make an actual difference for the better.

So, that’s where I’ve been at… it’s like a party… in a dumpster… that’s on fire. Yay! 

All good here. Nothing to see…

So, what does this mean going forward? Well, I’m about to disappoint 4 of you. THE GENESIS ECHO and the larger RorriM universe are going into hibernation. I’m going to lock them away in a mental closet. For how long? I have no idea. Maybe a month or two, maybe a year, maybe a decade. I need to recharge, wrap myself in the joyous parts of the craft and create. I just need to create. I wish to bring imaginary people into existence and share them with you. I know, it sounds like I have a god complex, but my name does mean “next to god” or “godlike” after all. 

I brought you into this world, and I can take you out.

I have projects in my mind, notes and ideas jotted down. I have a bookmarked list of more than 50 websites or articles to start research on various horror inducing topics or science fiction explorations. Sometimes those things intermingle. I know I just started my new Brick Built Stories series, but I am going to change it into something more akin to travel and fun. Maybe some shots of Lego Me exploring the place where the real world and the plastic brick world meet.

A lot is happening. I hope you’ll stick around as we continue to write on the road, with our furry companions.

What? What’s that you say?

Oh – you were just here for the dogs – Yeah, us too. 

Rusty enjoying a wee bit of snow before going back inside to lay in front of the heater.
“Found a stick on the ground and now I’m gonna use it. All this power that I found, gonna totally abuse it! Gonna hit so much stuff–do not get into my way cuz I found a stick and I’m using it today!” – Frankie

And don’t forget the food!

This is what my wife sticks around for too.

 

The Existential Dread of a Broken Heart

by M.D. Parker 

 

I call myself an author

Are we really the things we call ourselves, especially when the actions that make us those things are not being done? Am I becoming less than I was, or just more of something else? Am I worthy of any of the titles I have ever carried? Yes, this is the sound of dread setting in. These are among the numerous questions I’ve spent months toiling over. 

2020 was quite the —  well let’s use ‘interesting’ as a descriptor — year. Wildfires, murder hornets, UFOs, civil unrest around the world, the loss of a higher than average number of cultural icons, and of course a global pandemic. 

At first when the pandemic took off in the U.S.A., we lost focus on other items as we tried to figure out how full-time RVers navigated this confusing and ever-changing time. My writing suffered as I found myself stress-eating, driving to a new location, or just sitting and screaming at an orange tinted, bloviating narcissist, lying to everyone about the dangers as tens (and eventually hundreds) of thousands died. My writing suffered. 

We really don’t miss hearing from him.

As the fall came I began picking my writing up again and finished the 27th draft of The Genesis Echo – part 1. My muse was hanging out with me and my imaginary friends were coming over for coffee in the morning. Then horror struck. The existential dread I’d been battling all year fully shut me down. My writing assistant, my dude, my four-legged best friend, died suddenly. 

Milo looking like an angsty music video, gazing out the window longingly.
Milo always willing to lend a lazy smile and tail wag.

Still reeling from Milo’s passing, we got a call. My father was in the hospital requiring emergency surgery after falling and breaking his hip and laying helpless for hours (his med-alert button failed). He was going to need us. We returned to Oregon and began caretaking the man who would suffer complications that would run him in and out of the hospital a few times over the next few months. 

My writing came to a complete and total halt.

As the first 3 months of 2021 would pass, we’d see difficult, but positive progress on my father and we were beginning to adjust to life without Milo. Our other amazing fur companion, Rusty, was there with us every step of the way.

The best heart healer ever.

At the end of March we hit the road again, but I had yet to really hit the keyboard. Just before we pulled away from our home town, we took a peak at the dogs that needed rescued from the shelter. 

Our eyes were drawn to a 12-year old boxer mix named Frankie. We told each other we had to go meet her. I wasn’t sure I was ready for another dog just yet, but the thought of this doggo sitting there without a home, knowing that adoption at her age was near impossible, didn’t sit well with our tiny sappy hearts. We scheduled a visit for the same day (COVID restrictions still in place for health and safety, the shelter was forced to work by appointment only, which also lowers the adoption rate).

Meet Frankie and her new tree-bone!

After meeting us and walking and playing with Rusty, Frankie took it upon herself to jump in our car. She wouldn’t leave. She stared at the both of us, and had responded to every other thing we did or say, except the order to exit the car. She had made her choice — who were we to argue? She remained in the car while I went inside and completed adoption paperwork. 

 

Frankie says, “I picked ya’ll. Deal with it.”

Now, less than a month later, and after a scary illness that hit both her and Rusty hard, and the fear of losing her already, I’ve come to realize how much she has already done for us. She has not replaced the hole in my heart from the loss of the best fur-companion I’ve ever known. Instead she has helped remind me of the lessons Milo tried to teach me. Her presence has allowed the love he put in my heart to expand; shrinking that hole down to a manageable size. Rusty was there to comfort us, to grieve with us, for he had lost his brother as well. Frankie has come to show us, Rusty included, that the best way to heal is to love even more. 

So, from the bottom of our damaged little hearts —  for myself, my wife, Rusty… and for Milo, I say thank you and welcome to the family Frankie. 

Thank you for choosing us. 

Pals.
Rusty and Frankie are ready to get down to the business of exploring the world.

Please visit PetFinder, or visit your local shelter to adopt a new loved one today. 

 

 

Wreck of the Peter Iredale
and the
Graveyard of the Pacific

The skeleton of the Peter Iredale

The Columbia River Bar is where the Pacific Ocean and Columbia River meet. Rough waters, thick fog, strong winds, and deadly rocks have sunk approximately 2,000 ships since 1792. Over 700 people have lost their lives in the shipwrecks, which is why it’s become known as the “Graveyard of the Pacific.”

A lot of work was done to make the Columbia River Bar safer for mariners. The United States added the Cape Disappointment Lighthouse in 1856, and later added more lights to Cape Flattery and Shoalwater Bay on the Washington side of the Bar. While this gave seamen points of reference, ships were still running afoul.

In the early 1880’s businessmen from Portland petitioned Congress to do more to help the situation. Congress approved funds for a jetty to be built out from the Clatsop Spit on the south side of the mouth of the Columbia, near Fort Stevens. By 1894 the jetty was five miles long, helping keep the sand from building up in the channel. A north jetty, on the Washington side of the mouth, was completed in 1925 and helped even more to stabilize the bar. However, even to this day the channel has to be dredged to accommodate larger ships.

The most famous victim of the Graveyard of the Pacific was the Peter Iredale.

Photo: Columbia River Maritime Museum

The Peter Iredale was a four-masted steel sailing ship that was built in England in 1890. In September of 1906, the Iredale left Salina Cruz, Mexico for Portland, Oregon. They reached the mouth of the Columbia River safely, despite heavy fog. But early in the morning of October 25, 1906, heavy winds hit, followed by strong currents causing the ship to be caught in the large breaking waves. The Iredale ran aground on Clatsop Beach, hitting the shore so hard that three of her four masts snapped.

She was abandoned on Clatsop Spit near Fort Stevens, about four miles south of the Columbia River channel.

History remains

The Peter Iredale has rested on Clatsop Beach for 114 years.

A haunting beach

For More Information 

Columbia River Maritime Museum

HistoryLink.org

Hammond, Oregon Tide Tables

 

 

Fort Stevens – Hammond, Oregon

The fog was light. Summer had arrived on the calendar, but the spring-time temperatures held firm. Most of the soldiers of the 249th Coast Artillery Corp were bedded down for the night. Guard duty shifts were manned, and talk was light.  

To the southwest of the fort, just beyond the break point of the waves, a dark figure rose up from the depths. Unseen as it took aim, the Japanese I-25 submarine prepared its attack. The flash of a muzzle and the explosion of the enormous shells striped away the quiet of the night leaving craters in the beachhead. Soldiers scrambled and stumbled from their bunks as they raced to their stations. 

Plotters prepared firing orders as spotters watched the muzzle flashes from the submarine, but the order came to hold. Nine shots were fired towards them, all falling short and harmlessly away into the surrounding vegetation. With bated breath everyone waited, and although the submarine retreated and submerged once again, there would be no sleep for the remainder of the night.

M.D. Parker

Fort Stevens Battery Pratt

Fort Stevens in Hammond, near Astoria, Oregon original construction began in 1863, near the end of the Civil War. By 1904 the fort had expanded. Multiple cannon batteries were constructed with the intention of defending the mouth of the Columbia River. 

On June 21, 1942 Fort Stevens was attacked by an Imperial Japanese Navy submarine. The submarine seemed to be shooting blind. They were still looking for a target, not firing at one yet. There was no return fire from Fort Stevens that night. Since the fort remained silent, the Japanese didn’t know where exactly to attack, so they ceased fire and submerged their submarine in retreat. 

And the award for hide-n-seek 1942 Summer Championship goes to Fort Stevens! 

Machine Gun Emplacement. Rumor has it that this machine gun was loosely based on some tech from a galaxy far, far away.

The majority of the buildings and structures in Fort Stevens are still intact. You are able to enter a lot of the structures, though some only on scheduled tours. There are plenty of volunteers for the guided tours, history lessons, and information. There is an onsite Military Museum with a small rose garden.

Central Power Plant
Zoom zoom
Boom boom
“Plot and plan like all good generals.”  – E.A. Bucchianeri,
Most of the corridors in the batteries are very dark with far away echoes…of something. Maybe you, maybe not.
Pitch black in this underground corridor. Maybe it is only because I have been here in person, but I can almost feel this picture. Too quiet, but for echoes of the unknown. Too dark, too cool, too dreadful. 
Inside the Battery Clark

The fort is now part of a 4,200 acre Oregon State Park that includes camping, wildlife viewing, more than five miles of hiking and biking trails, Frisbee golf and the ability to explore Fort Stevens remains and buildings. There is also access to the final battery built at Fort Stevens, Battery Russell. Within walking distance is a fresh water lake for swimming and fishing and kayaking. There is easy beach access nearby for walks, beach combing, stunning sunset views, and even a ship wreck. 

The Peter Iredale

The campground has around 500 campsites available with various amenities, including yurts, cabins, tents, and various RV hookup sites available. The sites are level with an abundance of trees for shade and wind block.  Each loop has it’s own bathroom and shower facilities. 

The Frisbee Golf course goes all the way around and through Fort Stevens.
There is a large herd of elk that roam the grounds at Fort Stevens

If you manage to see and do everything on your Fort Stevens bucket list, you can also go visit the Lewis and Clark National Park nearby. Nearby towns include Hammond, Warrenton, Seaside, and Astoria. 

There are wonderful local restaurants, including plenty of nearby breweries and wineries for the adults, and Seaside has a boardwalk with a few fun rides and games for the kids.  We recommend Ship Out Fish and Chips in Astoria for delicious local seafood. The fish is thick, flaky, and crispy and the clam chowder…*chef’s kiss*


Links

Fort Stevens

Astoria

Seaside

Ship Out Fish & Chips

Lewis and Clark National Park

 

 

 

 

 

Travel in the Time of Covid

It all started in February 2020.

“You know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat — as the heat comes in. Typically, that will go away in April.”

 

A tried and true hidey-hole built during the last pandemic. Probably.

So we thought it would be a good idea to just find a hidey-hole and wait it out. However, after a “couple of days” it did not get “down close to zero.” In fact, our one month hide turned into three months. Shutdowns and regulations chased us between 3 RV parks in two states as all full-time RVers tried to find states and counties that could allow them, safely. 

After a couple months of panic we decided to get proactive. We can do this, we said. More importantly, we can do this safely. We can live a modified version of our life while not putting ourselves or anyone else at greater risk.

The emblem on the hood of Matilda, because she is always ready for whatever comes next. Flat tires, roof leak, zombies, assholes, pandemics, etc.

So this is what we came up with, how to be RVers and travel in a pandemic and the steps/tips we thought we’d share with you.

PlanningWe’re not so good at this. We have always preferred the fly-by-the-seat-of-our-pants approach to RVing. Under normal circumstances we’ve run into a couple of walls, but it has always been fun. In a pandemic, this is not an option. We plotted destinations more exact, and set time frames.

Planning is easy enough, the “where do we go?” is the harder part. We used two methods to determine where to go.
A. Virus tracking: this tool: https://covid19risk.biosci.gatech.edu/ has been helpful for determining the risk level of a particular area anywhere in the country.
B. Two apps: iOverlander and Park Advisor. These apps have provided all the info we’ve needed in finding the exact spot in which the greatest old RV ever, Matilda, would be parked next.

 

Ol’ crusty Sebastian had it right all along…avoid people and never silence yourself for a dude.

Decide to go where the people aren’t. Listen, Ariel gives bad pandemic advice, I don’t care if she has a talking crab. Thanks to the 2 aforementioned apps, you can find a plethora of BLM, and US forest service land. Dry camping/off-grid in out-of-the-way spots is best. In virtual hunting for these spots we came across many cool things for us to do. Ghost towns, movie filming sites, hot springs, even an old prison featured on a couple of paranormal/ghost hunting shows.

Quarantine isn’t a bad word.

Plan extended stays. If you move a lot like we normally do, you’ve got some work to do here. From groceries at 2 weeks at time instead of one, to staying off grid (and finding where you’re going to dump tanks – Thanks Rving apps!) for longer than usual and having the supplies needed. [Confession: we we’re doing good at this until he started breaking things on the motorhome and we were forced to make town trips several days in a row to repair our house]

Let’s get flexible!

Be flexible! Of course this runs contrary to having everything planned out better, but this was indeed a part of the planning. As we learned more and more about the virus, as numbers and controls worked (and others didn’t) we had to be prepared to change with the ebb and flow of the tide. This is why preparing for longer stretches than usual without store runs and such is important. 

Keep things gassed up. Got a generator? Keep the backup gas can full. Keep the motorhome or towing rig gassed up. Great rule, try to make sure you always have a minimum of ½ a tank on board. A sudden change in shutdown requirements can change how you’re getting your supplies, delay, or extend your current stay

Help the locals. When it comes time to pick up those supplies do everything you can to spend a little money on those still-open small businesses. We try to make this apply even to getting gasoline at smaller regional or local stations. Remember, many small businesses have adopted some form of online ordering and/or curbside pickup. A little internet or a phone call ahead of time will give you all the information you need to keep them and yourself safe. 

Besides visiting wide open spaces and rare locales, we recommend finding new, or reinforcing old, indoor hobbies. His Lego obsession has grown, and her crafting has turned to some painting and sketch work (we’re not that great at our projects, but we’re having fun making them. This is a judge-free artistic zone). 

 

Walks. Hiking, and dog cuddles. Even the CDC recommends getting out and do some walking — avoiding crowds of course — or hiking. It is good for the body, just don’t forget to carry a mask/face covering in case you run into people unexpectedly. 

WEAR A DAMN MASK, wash your nasty hands, and respect each other’s distance. No matter how near or far you choose to travel, these three things, more than any other will keep you and those you come across safe. And remember, it goes over your mouth AND nose. 


For more information:

CDC

iOverlander

ParkAdvisor

 

 

Yuma Territorial Prison

Yuma, Arizona

Welcome to the Hellhole

In the second half of the 1800’s people rushed west to claim land for themselves, to pan for gold, and to build their own prison cells. The latter wasn’t actually a plan, but it is what happened to the first of the criminals to be imprisoned in Yuma Territorial Prison. The first inmates were required to build their own cells. The prison officially opened in July of 1876. 

I think the backyard party lights really enhance the prison atmosphere.

Yuma Territorial was named Hellhole by the inmates that were incarcerated there. The average summer daytime temperature in Yuma was 110 degrees. Hellhole, indeed. Cells were open-air, with no air conditioning or heaters for the winter nights in the desert. 

 All the amenities.
Cozy 6 bedroom
The 2 bedroom model.

In it’s 33 years of operation the prison housed an assortment of criminals. 3,069 prisoners were in and out of the Hellhole population, including 29 women, and for a few years, even one child that was born at the prison by his incarcerated mother. 

Unlawful plural marriage.
A woman after his own heart… <3
“Became a media sensation…” she was very popular on Insta.
Prisoner Statistics

The prison was under constant construction during its years of operation, with most of the work being done by the inmates. I would think that building your own cage is an especially fudged up kind of prison. 

 

Prison air conditioning
Bunks built by prisoners in 1901. There were wooden bunks before, but they had to be removed due to bed bugs.

While the inmates claimed the conditions were hell, they also took advantage of various clubs, sports teams, and live music. The prison band was apparently quite good. 

Hellhole Country Club
Infirmary

Besides the dreadful heat of an Arizona summer, the Hellhole was also named with their solitary confinement in mind. The Dark Cell. The dark cell was used as solitary for prisoners misbehaving. The cell was a 10×10 dug out of the rock. Aptly named, the dark cell had no open windows, only a small vent in the ceiling that guards would drop the prisoners’ daily meal of bread and water through. At night, there was not a speck of light available to the inmate shackled in the solitary cell, wearing only his skivvies. Prisoners with an extended stay in the dark cell were often sent to the state run insane asylum in Phoenix upon their release from solitary. The dark cell is said to be haunted…and with the trauma of being left in pitch black with only the bats for company, I can see why it might be…although if I was a ghostly presence hanging out in prison in the after life, I would probably haunt the kitchen, not the dark cell. 

Hello darkness, my old friend. We’ve come to shit on you again….
The floor of the dark cell
Dark cell shackles

Due to overcrowding, Yuma Territorial Prison was shut down in 1909. The prisoners were sent to a larger prison in Florence, Arizona. After the closure of the prison, the local schools used the facility for a few years. By 1920 the empty prison was being used as shelter by the homeless, and during the depression it was transformed into temporary housing for unsheltered families. 

Yuma Territorial Prison is now a state historical park. You can attend scheduled tours by volunteers, or follow a self-guided tour through the prison campus. There are many artifacts and photographs of the years as a prison, as well as historical documents and history of individual inmates and guards. 

Ghostly apparition of a prison guard long lost to the years of Yuma Territorial Prison…or a volunteer tour guide. 

 

 

 

Trona Pinnacles
near
Ridgecrest, CA

Imagine, if you will, an alien terrain. Towers piercing the endless blue sky. Sharp ridges cutting into the horizon, and stubby tombstones erupting from the soil. 

 

What world is this? A world where Captain Kirk finds god. A planet where those damn dirty apes rule the land. A place where kids can jump over holes as they run away from the villains and find some sploosh for dinner. A place where Wil Robinson is alerted of danger while lost in space. 

These are the Trona Pinnacles, and they are a pretty popular location for Hollywood. The pinnacles have been seen in Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Holes, Lost in Space and more. 

These otherworldly pinnacles are located just a stone’s throw from Death Valley National Park. The pinnacles are made up of over 500 spires; some as tall as 140 feet. The pinnacles rise from the dried bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. They vary in size and shape from short and wide to tall and thin. The spires are made primarily of calcium carbonate, and they were formed in Searles lake back when it was an actual lake – between 10,000 to 100,000 years ago.

Searles Lake Dry basin contains samples of at least half of all natural elements known to man….which creates a lovely smell to experience. If you visit, it is probably not your dogs or your spouse pulling their own finger.  

The Trona Pinnacles are located on Bureau of Land Management land, and you are able to camp right up against them. There is no charge to visit or camp at the pinnacles, just don’t forget to bring your Febreze. 


For More Information

Bureau of Land Management

California Through My Lens

 

Abandoned Highway 395
California

Highway 395 in California runs north to south about 100 miles west of Death Valley. The highway runs east of the Northern Sierras with views of the tallest mountain in the continental United States, Mt. Whitney. 

Photo Credit: Wikepedia

Highway 395 is dotted with natural and man-made sites to see, which includes multiple abandoned and “living” ghost towns. 

This high desert has some pretty weird history.

California City

The City of California City was incorporated in 1965 in Kern County, California. Covering over 200 square miles, California City ranks 3rd in land area on the state’s largest cities, but population checks in at barely 14,000.  California City is not a ghost town, but is not exactly what it was created to be. 

In 1958 real estate developer Nathan Mendelsohn bought 33,000 acres of Mojave Desert to build a metropolis city that would rival Los Angeles. What he ended up with was 200 square miles of dirt roads and lots, still waiting to be paved. 

I first learned of California City from a show on the Science channel, What In The World? The show uses satellite photos of weird stuff on our beautiful planet. CalCity can be seen from space as a large city still waiting to happen. 

Photo Credit: Atlas Obscura

Olancha

Historic graffiti marketing on a rock in a nearby abandoned truck stop area.

Olancha is an unincorporated town along highway 395 in Inyo County. It was first established in 1860 when ore was found nearby. Olancha became a full fledged town in 1870 when a post office opened. 

A cabin that is part of an abandoned motel.
The service stop
Olancha Cafe

Olancha’s claim to fame is a small cameo appearance in the Charles Manson saga. In August of 1969 Diane “Snake” Lake, the youngest member of the Manson Family, and Manson’s right hand man, Charles “Tex” Watson were ordered to go stay in the Olancha area by Charles Manson himself. It was only two days after Tex Watson assisted other members of the Manson Family in murdering a very pregnant Sharon Tate and her house guests. Snake was not an accomplice in the murders, and didn’t even know anything about them until they were in Olancha and Tex Watson admitted to her what he had done at Manson’s request. While in Olancha, Snake was arrested for indecent exposure for swimming nude in the motel pool. Shortly after, Snake and Tex left Olancha for Barker Ranch in Death Valley, where the whole of the Manson Family was arrested for theft and vandalism. While in custody multiple members were charged in the Sharon Tate and La Bianca murders. 

The rustic motel Diane “Snake” Lake got arrested for swimming nude?

Dunmovin

Dunmovin is an ghost town in Inyo County, California. Dunmovin was originally called Cowen Station, named after James Cowen, the first homesteader in the area. Cowen Station was a freight station for the nearby silver mining town of Cerro Gordo.

Very welcoming, friendly town.

James Cowen cashed out his mining claims in 1936 and moved away. The name was then changed to Dunmovin, and a post office even moved in and operated from 1938 to 1941. The town consisted of a service station, cafe, and store. Like many other communities along Highway 395, it ended up drying up and blowing away.

This car is for sure Dunmovin.
For those moments when you aren’t Dunmovin.
Please wash your hands. Covids exist.
An abandoned garage.
Mountain Man, you ain’t alone, friend.

While we visited the ghost town in November of 2020, there did seem to be one residence still occupied…but I am unsure if it was a squatter or …? 

This house did have a vehicle parked nearby that looked as though it might run, which had a tRump bumper sticker on it. Then this creepy doll on their fence. It’s a bit weird…and yet..

Fossil Falls Campground

Our temporary residence while exploring Highway 395 was the Fossil Falls Campground, 5 miles south of the Coso Junction. Fossil Falls is a primitive campground with picnic tables and fire rings. There is an old fashioned hand pump for water. Inside the campground are the actual Fossil Falls, which are not falls, but are indeed fossils. The campground is BLM land and the nightly charge is only $6.00. 

Rusty exploring Fossil Falls Campground with his sniffer.

There were many more places to visit along Highway 395, but our little travelling family had a bit of a tragedy in the area. Our very loved, and very missed yellow lab, Milo, passed away while we were in the area. He took ill very suddenly. We traveled over 100 miles to get to the nearest veterinarian clinic, and they were hopeful, but things took a turn for the worse. We spent the rest of our visit in the area in mourning…and to be truthful, we still are. Our “pets” are our family. They are our soul mates. Their love is unconditional, and they make us better humans. 

Milo. The cherished saint of dinnertime.
Best Buds, Milo and Rusty
The coolest kids ever.

Rest in peace, my Milo love. We love you.