Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Black Star Canyon Hike (Spooky Legends and Lore 2009)

(GPS: N33 45.870 W117 40.680)

Here is the hike I like to think of as a cross between the movies The Hills Have Eyes and Deliverance. The video will be linked at the bottom.

Before I get into this hike, I thought I would briefly mention a few things that I was going to do in a separate blog entry. As one might guess from this blog I enjoy various aspects of history. One of the tricks of history is finding out what is true factual history vs. what is just mere storytelling. Most movies tend to emphasize the latter and that is why I do not really watch movies for history lessons. The best they do is stimulate interest in the historical subject.

One interesting thing that happens are legends can develop over time usually based on a few facts. There is some fun and some bad that comes out of this. Everyone likes a good story. The problem is over time when people look back on the history it becomes hard to tell what is fact and what is legend. Then, as John Ford told us in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, it becomes a case of "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

One of my local areas has this problem. Turnbull Canyon near Whittier, CA has a lot of local urban legends, but when I go to examine the facts behind the story little come up. For example, this message on that forum claims to be heavily researched. Of course, there are no footnotes, the sources are conveniently not named, etc. There is this story that I find intriguing about a mental hospital located in the canyon. It would be cool to find out the story behind that, BUT I get the idea that is total internet fabrication.

On the other hand, Black Star Canyon in the Santa Ana Mountains in Orange County, CA does have some facts involved regarding its legends. My main goal was to reach the historical locations, and that will come in the next two blogs. This one will cover the hike through most of the area. Part of what I wanted to do was a sort of debunking of a lot of the nonsense one hears about this area. I do believe a lot has been "made up" regarding this location. There are people that do live in this very secluded place in the back of the canyon. One might think that if you wanted to keep people out of an area then lots of spooky legends would do the job. No, not at all. This sort of thing attracts people, and not always the people with the best intentions. I do sympathize with the people that live in there. In fact, I noticed a blog created by some of the relatives of the people that live there was started a few years ago that seems to be a form of damage control over some of the claims people have made over the years. On my hike, I did come away understanding why this place is considered haunted.

It is more spooky to go during the night, but I wanted to actually see the area like any other hike. So, naturally, I hiked the canyon in the middle of the day. I got to the trailhead as a man with his bicycle was leaving; it is a popular place for riding bikes. You do have to be careful you park legally off this road since police officers routinely make the rounds on this place. Also,If you are there during the late night hours you will be ticketed here. I parked and went past the gate. Only those that live back in the canyon and police officers can take vehicles past this gate.
The next quarter mile is a paved road. There is barbed wire that runs on each side along it. You are not to leave the road at anytime or you are on private property. I show it in the video, but at this point if you look to the right there is a huge white cross on top of a mountain. This is sort of the basis for rumors of Ku Klux Klan activity out there which I must say is highly unlikely. There are stories of Satanists coming here during the 1980's. Which would not totally suprise me that a few weirdo's that like secluded places have come here. In any case, you continue down the road and eventually you turn along the road around the corner to the right at the end of the paved road.
Now here is where I did a feel key clue as to why this area is a spooky legendary area. Part of the trick to this place is you are going back deep into a secluded canyon. The real creepy part of it that I felt is, even during the daytime, that you can not really see too far in front of where you are going on the road due to trees and the way the road curves around corners. This area is fillled with what I call "ambush points." At any moment going around these turns you just wonder if someone or something is on the other side of the corner ready to pounce on you. At two different points along this hike I could hear someone or something in the bushes along the road. My guess is that it was some animal, but it did feel like I was being watched by someone. The road continues to narrow as you go around corners and over a few bridges.
Ah, yes, during the 1970's a group of school children were on a field trip in this canyon, and their bus mysteriously ended up in this river bed. The students, the driver, and their good teacher were all killed. NO, that did not happen! It is a spooky sight to see this bus just down into the river bed (Edit: Oct. 2012, I am told the bus was taken out over the summer so you can no longer see it there).Just after you pass this point you see the sign by the local residents that it is a private road and permission to pass can be denied at anytime. This has been the real controversy going back to the 1980's from what I can see. I did not take any pictures or video through this area, but this part of the road is where the locals live behind their lots off the road. In the past, those who live here have come out with guns and threatened people passing through. Legally, the authorities and the rest of the public have the right to pass on this road at anytime. So, even though I sympathize with the locals with issues regarding wierd people trying to stir up trouble, the trespassing signs one might see can be ignored. I never saw anyone during this part of the hike. It was very silent, and it was most creepy part of the trip because again I heard rattling in the bushes wondering if I was being watched.

You really cannot see many of the trailer homes the people have back in the lots. You do see some and an occasional vehicle. The last house on the right (lol!) before you start climbing the switchbacks is actually a very nice looking lot. They have a type of small putting golf course, a bridge to the place, and it looks setup for picnics. Once you pass by that last residence you encounter the above concrete cylinder. Then the road starts to get steep and starts to switchback and forth. The following picture is looking back from where I came.
You start to see the cliffs that rise above the canyon.
One can see how the wind might howl in this canyon causing people to freak out. I am not sure about the ghosts, but I can understand how the mind can play tricks on someone going through this area during the day and, especially, at night. Personally, I would not suggest coming here during the night because of ghosts, but for whatever living humans (be it teenagers, gangbangers, etc.) that might wandering around.

At this point I conclude my short October location series. I had one more hike I recently went on that I could have added, but there is always next year! However, I will continue the hike to the historic locations in the next two blogs.

Here is my video of the hike:

Black Star Canyon Hike (Youtube Version: has a slightly different edit and music)
Black Star Canyon Hike (Vimeo Version)

Happy Halloween!

EDIT (August, 2014): If you would like to see all my other Black Star Canyon blogs then click this link and go to the bottom. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Old L.A. Zoo Ruins (Spooky Legends and Lore 2009)

(GPS: N34 08.015 W118 17.305)

If you like creepy videos I think you will really like this one I did:

Zoltan's Tomb Location (Youtube Version)

Zoltan's Tomb Location (Vimeo Version)

Technically, this area has not produced any well known legends. You might find something online where someone has come up with something about ghost animals haunting this place. For example, this L.A. Times article written in 2002. However, it still is a spooky place for a few reasons and one of the areas I thought would be worth showing during this Halloween season.

The site of the old zoo was built around 1912 and continued to be built on over the next few decades. By the mid-1960's it was decided another zoo was to be built about a mile to the north that everyone knows today as the L.A. Zoo. The old zoo had problems from almost the beginning. Animals died here under the poor conditions, and it was thought the Health Department was going to shut it down for good. More can be read about it history HERE.

It is a well known site for making scenes for movies. The most recent movies being the ending of Anchorman and Eraser with Arnold Schwartnegger. The movie I am going to talk about that had a few brief scenes done here is Zoltan: Hound of Dracula. I have to admit this movie is not something you should run out and buy. It is probably not one you should rent from Netflix. It is the type of movie a kid might get nightmares until he or she grows up and sees how silly that movie actually is. A few years back the L.A. Times mentioned that the dog, Zoltan, had his tomb here. So, I thought I would check it out.

The frustrating thing for me is the first time I went to check out the area the site was all closed off. I went on a week day when I figured no one would be there. That ended up not being a good idea since for some reason they had guards posted all around. I saw a bunch of vehicles parked around, and I had thought someone might have been filming something there. I talked to one of the guards, but he suggested I talk to someone else since he had no idea what was going on. So, I ended up driving out there for nothing. It was only recently that I went back. The sky and clouds were grey out, but that ended up being okay since I wanted the place to look as spooky as possible in my pictures and video.

Now if I understand correctly, Russian soldiers that not only look American, but speak normal American English create an explosion that opens up the remains of a tomb. This was not just a tomb, but a Dracula family tomb. Here Zoltan, who was bitten by Dracula himself to become a vampire dog, comes back to life. My picture is close by looking at a few of the stone cave like structures of the old zoo.
There are a number of these structures along the sidewalk.
I passed these and went up behind the stone cave structures. There are a bunch of monkey cages around. I kind of knew what I was after based on that old L.A. Times article I had read.
In the movie, Zoltan comes back to life, kills the Russian guard that is in the tomb, opens up the casket with his former owner Igor. They take this stairway out of the tomb in order to find their new master, a relative of Dracula, who happens to live in America.
My video does a good job showing how I got here. Behind the stone caves is a fence, but fortunately there are some holes in it. I was able to pass into it and visit some of the stairways. I examined two of the four possible stairways. I could not tell exactly which one they used. One of the four I am certain they did not use. The other three I could not tell. According to the L.A. Times article it would have been the one below. In any case, it does not really matter that much to me since I was just trying to recreate the effect of what they did here. (Edit: since this posting I am pretty sure I have which stairway they used figured out, but will leave this as it is. It was not that important to me then and still not now for what I was trying to do here.)
This is looking back up one of the other ones.
Of all the videos I have done, I really think this one creates the effect I was after. The music I used helps, but the weather and just the general atmosphere of being there was like being in a spooky old horror movie. When I got there there a bunch of cars were parked all around that morning. I got to the zoo about the same time as a scruffy looking older man sat down at one of the benches. I do not believe he was homeless, but it was kind of creepy being there. He eventually took off on one of the hiking trails into Griffith Park. Then while I was up filming some young Mexican guy was up behind the cages. I never got close to him, but he was there for a long time. There are older people that walk around the trails early in the morning, but the place tends to be isolated.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Legend of Deadman (Spooky Legends and Lore 2009)

(GPS: N37° 44.990 W118° 59.015)

It is around this month of the year that if I have found anything I can relate to Halloween I like to put it up. This year it looks like I have three areas I investigated that are just spooky enough that I decided I will share them in the next two weeks. The one I am showing today I do not consider too spooky if you are there, but the history is.

Many pass this area when they are traveling just north of Mammoth, CA on HWY 395. What you see below is the southern portion of HWY 395 and the nothern road direction is just on the other side of the divide. This area is called Crestline. It is the area between Mammoth and the June Lake Loop or, if you go a little further, Mono Lake. Just for frame of reference for what is mentioned in the plaque below, if you head up another mile or so north on the road you pass Deadman Summit.
From the picture above, if you turn around looking west you encounter this plaque off the side of the road.
You can read what it says here. Click the plaque to get a bigger picture in your browser.
They found the remains of Robert Hume nearby, but his head was found near what we know today as Deadman Creek. That creek runs under where you see the guard rail in the picture below.
I do not have too much more to say on the history other than what the plaque above tells you. I have found very little about each incident other than the basic facts listed above. The question has always been, "Was there a serial killer nearby, or was this just a good ambush point?" I suspect it was the latter.

In the picture above I wanted to point out Mt. Morrison. It is the mountain on the right with the impressive face giving it the name of "The Eiger of the Sierra." I showed it from the eastern side when I talked about Jimmy Stewart at Convict Lake a few months back.

The odd thing is the smoke in the picture. That is the rest stop area that has the plaque mentioning the "Lost Cement Mine" that was supposedly around there somewhere (GPS:N 37° 43.885 W118° 58.160) . When I went by there the place was blocked off, the police and some fire trucks were in there, and, of course, the place had a smoke smell. On my side of the road it smelled like someone had burned out their brakes; you know, that melted rubber smell. I do not know if that was related, and I never did find out what happened on that. I did see an ambulence flying down a summit grade about thirty minutes later. They may or may not have been heading to this rest area.

I put together some short videos of both the Legend of the Deadman plaque and the one that mentions the Lost Cement Mine (Fortunately, I visited it two days prior to the above incident so I did not have to deal with whatever the issue was there shown above).

Legend of the Deadman (Youtube Version)

Legend of the Deadman (Vimeo Version)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

A Silent Sunset (Short Timelapse Video)

This was partly an experiment to figure out how to do a time lapse. There was some wind that evening that made this one a little less than perfect, but whatever...

A Sierra Sunset from The Great Silence on Vimeo.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Mono Pass (Yosemite) Part 3

(GPS: N37 51.300 W119 12.465)

We got back on the trail and looked back at Summit Lake.

The goal now is just too see Mono Lake from up here. It is not too much further after you reach Mono Pass. We are talking maybe a 5-10 minute hike after Summit Lake. Follow this trail for a few minutes.
This is one of the lakes you see. This is Upper Sardine Lake.
Looking toward the east you can see Mono Lake. Coincidentally, you can see some of the South Tufa and where "Lago" was in High Plains Drifter.
The trail descends down here into Bloody Canyon. If you look closely you might see another lake which should be Lower Sardine Lake.
If you look toward the north you see Mt. Gibbs. Mt. Gibbs is a peak that is easy to climb, but not a high priority on my list. Nearby Dana is more interesting too me. Funny thing though, in a mathmatics 3rd grade text book there is a math problem that lists a bunch of Yosemite mountains (Dana, Matterhorn, Hoffman, and Gibbs) by elevation and it turns out that Mt. Gibbs was the answer to the math problem.
A couple of historical notes about this area:

1)I mentioned that the Native Americans used this trail for centuries, but it is thought that the first time Mono Lake was encountered by Euro-Americans was when Lt. Tredwell Moore and his scouts were pursuing members of Chief Tenaya's Miwok tribe down this canyon. The tribe members were supposed to be responsible for the killing of three prospectors in Yosemite. In any case, the above views are what they would have had looking down the canyon and seeing Mono Lake. From then on the area was the main trail for coming and going from the east into the Yosemite region until Tioga Pass came about. Most books about Yosemite or this area talk about this, but here are two other links to look over:

Prospectors & Pioneers (Official Mono Lake Site)

Yosemite Nature Notes (1978)

2)No one really knows why they call the canyon below "Bloody Canyon." One story is that in taking up mules or horses up and down the trail the rocky steepness caused the animals to bleed a lot. Then you could see all the blood on the rocks. Some of these animals died here too.

3)This is just a fun folklore tidbit that I and others have found funny in the past. In the book Mono Diggings by Frank Wedertz he mentions someone called "The Wildman of Bloody Canyon." Supposedly, this man in 1882 and in 1883 showed up in Bodie heavily armed and with a fistful of dollars. He rarely spoke and was sort of a mystery man. It was later revealed in the newspaper that he was Tom Fitzsimmons. He had come to Bodie to work as a miner, but left after his sister died in 1869 and became a hermit in Bloody Canyon. He wore a bearskin (from a bear he supposedly had killed), had buckskin pants, and a fur hat. Wedertz wrote that the Bad Men of Bodie were frightened of this individual and left him alone. I always get a kick out of a historical guy like this knowing Clint Eastwood's film was made nearby; Also, a lot of westerns have used the image of a guy going into town and everone watching from behind their windows or from a safe distance.

The video:

Mono Pass (Youtube Version)

Mono Pass (Vimeo Version)

One thing I did not mention is that after this hike we drove to eat. I was happy I had gotten the new video footage. I tried using the video camera again, and my flashcard came up as an error! I could not access my card! I was seriously demoralized. I regrouped by getting a new card, but left my card with the Mono Pass hike alone. I had hoped that when I got home there would be something online that would recover at least some of it. I had to wait a week and when I got home was able to recover most of the card. There were some defects in the video. So, the videos you see of this hike were the best I could do with what remained. There were some things left out that were lost, but what you see pretty much represented what happened. This was one of the many epic problems I had during my visit in August.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Mono Pass (Yosemite) Part 2

(GPS: N37 51.020 W119 13.025)

Everything was silent until we came to Mono Pass. There, the winds started to pick up around me. We spent a few minutes at the lake. Looking back, I could see some clouds there were mixed with the smoke from Yosemite Valley. How long would it be until more and more smoke would come and it would be a waste of time to take pictures?
In the previous blog I pointed out a trail you take by the pond that takes you to the historic miner cabins on the other side. We reached the area near the cabins. Summit Lake was still in the distance where we had just been.
There are a few remains of cabins on the way to Mono Pass, but here you find about 5-6 cabins that are still standing.
This is the main cabin that still has the roof on top.
I went in. On the other side connected to this appears to be the remains of a stable for mules or horses. I am not exactly sure what they did here. Maybe a way to keep warm here?
Looking back outside.
The roof. This are at the pass must be really cold during the winters, but I guess miners, mountain men, and Native Americans got used to it.
A funky looking tree behind one of the cabin remains.
I will wrap this up in the next blog and show the final video as well.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Mono Pass (Yosemite) Part 1

(GPS: N37 51.335 w119 12.995)

This is a hike I had previously had done about five years ago. I wanted to go back for higher quality pictures and video. I had mentioned a few blogs entries back that Yosemite was on fire most of the time I was there. Our strategy was to go early before the smoke would hit in the afternoon. That actually worked out that day, but another of the many issues we had happened to me a few days earlier. While doing some lifting I injured the lower part of my back. I could not walk around at all, and I thought I would not be able to do anymore hikes this year. Fortunately, I recovered quickly, but wore a back brace during this hike and did feel some pain as I was doing it. I will post the video links to the first part of the hike at the end of this blog.

What I like about this hike is it does have a lot of history to it. You will see more as I go along in the next two blog entries. For the moment let me just say that this trail goes along a historical Native American trail that has been used for centuries. There are a bunch of signs at the beginning that go over the natural history, wildlife, and people history of this trail.

There are two areas people refer to as Mono Pass. I will show the other one at a later date. This one is on the eastern side of Yosemite and only a few miles from the eastern entrance. The hike itself is about four miles one way with about 1,000 ft. of elevation gain. I consider it a "tourist hike" in that it is not really that demanding, the trail is well maintained, and you will probably encounter other people at some point on the hike. It is a common Yosemite tourist hike. It is one of those hikes I feel is scenic, but never really feel that I am way out in the backcountry.
The picture above should be Dana Fork. This is the only major stream/river you encounter on this hike. Most of the hike is following a trail back and forth through the forest. You do get some points where the trees open up for you on one side or the other, but for about half of the hike trees are on both sides of you.
This is the crucial part of the hike. There is no chance of getting lost out here because of the signs, but all you do is stay left anytime you see the trail split or go off in another direction. The right side takes you to Spillway Lake which I have never been to. At this point is where just about all the elevation takes place. Most of the trail to this point is level, but now you have to put some real work into your legs. Since my back was still in pain I did not really go that fast on this hike so my pace was slow on level or higher elevation portions of the trail.
There comes a point when you are about 75% of the way done that the area starts to open up. When we were here five years ago my brother saw an army of mule deer out in the field there. I only saw two out there this time.
If you can imagine heading south on a map and then finally turning east that pretty much describes what is going on here. The trail goes by the base of this mountain here which was on my left side. I liked that tree there. Then below looking toward the right (west) there is a big pond. You might see a faint trail that leads you down below. That will be in the next blog.
Finally, after about 1 1/2 to 2 hours you get to the sign marking Mono Pass and the entrance to Bloody Canyon. This is another Yosemite border that enters Ansel Adams Wilderness. You will notice the lake in the background. They call it Summit Lake, but keep in mind that some of these lakes are just big ponds. It is beautiful to look at no matter what you want to call it.
This ends the first part. There are a bunch of things I left out so you may want to check out the video:

Mono Pass (Youtube Version)

Mono Pass (Vimeo Version)

Next time you get to see the historical cabins built by the miners.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

My Decision on Where to put the HD Videos

I have said this before, but for those that are new to the blog I will explain again. When I originally started this blog I wanted to have not only pictures, but video as well. The idea was that rather than me upload pictures and videos separately to different friends and relatives by e-mail over time I would just put them here. Then it is just a case of sending them a link and then coming here to view.

I never did, and still don't, really try to promote myself on here to create traffic, but over the years more people that have shared some of my interests have come here. Which is fun and I have met a lot of new people online this way. It is really cool that I have other people around the world come on here to see what I have been up to. My approach is the people that really care about the areas and interests I have will find me somehow so I have never really been too concerned about constantly advertising my links all over the web. A lot of my stuff is just a google search away anyways.

I started out with youtube and I wasn't sure how serious I would be about uploading videos to that site. Eventually, I figured out some of the tricks and started using it a lot more in support of this blog. I have expressed my disappointment with youtube in the past on here. They have certainly changed over the past few years, so my old ways of doing things just do not really work on that site anymore. I could start to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the way they were going and had pretty much gotten to the point where I said it was time for me to stop. At that point I was seriously sick of youtube.

I have allowed some months to go by and to how I feel about this. I purchased a new video camera a few months back to start doing new HD videos. The question then was where do I want to put up the new stuff, that is, if I want to even do that anymore.

I don't want to put them up on the old thgreatsilence channel. It was good for the time, but really I want to start over fresh. I have decided to put up videos on two sites:

OverwhelmingSilence (Youtube)

I still do not like everything about youtube. However, they have made some good improvements on the HD side of things. My style of doing things will probably be different though than the old channel.

TheGreatSilence (Vimeo)

Vimeo seems to be more to my liking. At least it seems to be a bit more mature that youtube. In the past the stuff I have seen does not seem as "screwball" as the stuff on youtube. They do have some weaknesses in that you only have 500mb per week and only one HD video per week, but this should work out. I want to keep things free right now so this will be what it will have to be.

If I see other sites in the future I might try those too. However, the above two will be the sites I refer to in this blog in my posts. Under normal circumstance I will be either posting the same video or something very close to the same video on both sites. As far as my old youtube channel goes all I can say is what I have been saying over the past few months: I intend to keep it up as is as long as I can. I do have about 100 subscribers on there so I would like to keep it up, but we will see. Although, for all practical purposes I am done with that channel, I might upload a few older footage videos in the next few months and let my subscribers know I am doing my thing elsewhere now.

In the next day or two I will start using these sites to talk about my Mono Pass (Yosemite) hike.