Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ramona Epic #8: Ramona Catches Margarita

In this video, Ramona catches one of the other girls at the ranch flirting with Alessandro. The significance is that Ramona ends up being somewhat hypocritical here.

Ramona Epic #8: Ramona Catches Margarita (Vimeo Version)

At this point, we are still just getting started with the story. The characters will start finding out dramatic things about each other very soon.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Ramona Epic #7: Rancho Camulos (Part 2)

(GPS: N34° 24.290 W118° 45.400)

AKA The Oldest Movie Location

This is the second part of my visit to Rancho Camulos. In this blog I will spend a little more time on the fiction involved here. As I mentioned last time Helen Hunt Jackson spent a few hours talking to some of the family members that lived here. From the way she describes the rancho in Ramona it has made many people believe that this rancho is what she had in mind for her novel. So, it is considered the "Home of Ramona."

In 1910, D.W. Griffith filmed his Ramona movie here. Mary Pickford played the part of Ramona. In the following picture Alessandro tries to talk to Ramona only to be chased off by Senora Moreno. They filmed this at the south veranda of Rancho Camulos. The window to the right is supposed to be the window to Ramona's room; that's what the fictional history says at Rancho Camulos.

In the above picture, if you head staight forward you encounter where Felipe would have been resting at the beginning of the novel. A lot of the dialogue would have happened around here. The priest's room would be the door on the other side. This is the fountain and the chapel. I mentioned Ysabel del Valle in my last blog. She was very religious. Since living out here would be too far away from attending mass or church services she had this chapel built out here. Priests would come here and stay. Ysabel also had daily prayers anyone could be apart of. In the 1910 movie, the chapel is where Alessandro is introduced to Ramona here by Felipe. Here Ramona (Mary Pickford) watches as Alessandro and Felipe walk away. The chapel 100 years later! The inside. After the Northridge quake many items were stolen from the chapel. The following is the walnut tree. Unfortunately, it died some years back. It was said to be around 150 years old. Many old pictures were taken of it. This wraps up my time at Rancho Camulos. A lot more could be said and shown here. Near the end of the year as I start to finish up this series I will be coming back here one more time. Another reason I wanted to come here and do this series was I knew I would be able to get to the oldest movie location I will probably ever experience. At this point I can't imagine finding anything earlier than 1910, so this is probably it.

Ramona Epic #7: Rancho Camulos (Youtube Version)

Ramona Epic #7: Rancho Camulos (Vimeo Version)

A few links:

Rancho Camulos (Wikipedia Article)

Rancho Camulos: a comprehensive history(Santa Clarita Valley site)

Rancho Camulos (Official Site)

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ramona Epic #7: Rancho Camulos (Part 1)

(GPS: N34° 24.400 W118° 45.420)

There are two places that are usually thought to have influenced Helen Hunt Jackson as the rancho setting for Ramona. Rancho Camulos has been the more popular and traveled to rancho as the "Home of Ramona." In this blog I will give more of the real history to the place and in the next one spend a little more time on the fictional history.

Rancho Camulos is located in Piru, Ca off HWY 126. It is just east of Six Flags Magic Mountain which is near Castaic, Newhall, and Santa Clarita. The day I decided to go was not a clear sunny day. That was somewhat unfortunate, but I had already planned way ahead to go on the day I did. Had it rained on that day the museum would have been closed.

Rancho Camulos is an active ranch where you can buy fruits and vegetables right out in front. To enter the museum grounds you do need to take one of the docent led tours. I got there right before 1pm on a Sunday and took the docent led tour. It was very good and I highly recommend you do too if you can ever visit here.

This is the front. HWY 126 would just be off to the right side of me.
One of the first things you see inside the museum is the winery. You will notice it has been stabilized. When the Northride earthquake of 1994 struck many of the historic buildings were damaged. Family members and others with historical interest decided something must be done to preserve the remains. That is when restoration was started. In the year 2000, the ranch was made a historical landmark.
In the above picture, one just goes along the side of the winery as you can see, then take a left, and then a right to reach the main U shaped structure of the adobe for Rancho Camulos.
The land was originally part of the San Fernando Mission. In 1839, during the Mexican period of California history, Antonio del Valle received the land as part of a land grant for his military service. Unfortunately for him, he died a few years after this and his family inherited the land. His son, Ygnacio del Valle, inherited Rancho Camulos and is credited for building the adobe.

These next three pictures show you the U shape of the adobe. On the right of the next picture is where the cooking and laundry took place.
The middle section.
The southern portion of the adobe. In the next blog I will cover the southern veranda just on the other side which is what most people that know of the connection with Ramona will identify the story with.
This is the inside of the middle section I showed above. It is interesting to note that each of these doors lead to separate rooms. In order to visit someone else in another room you would have to enter from the outside since there are no passage ways from the inside.
Up until the early 1860's, the rancho was used for raising cattle. Then a drought occurred that bankrupted many cattlemen in the area. It was at that time that the rancho transitioned into growing agricultural products where everything from olives and grapes for wine and brandy, to chili peppers, appricots, figs, corn, oranges, and almonds to name a few of the things that were grown here. You name it they grew it.

Ygnacio was over the age of 40 when he married a 15 year old Ysabel. Keep in mind that was common for the time period. Ysabel inherited the property when Ygnacio died in 1880. I will mention Ysabel again in the next blog, but it was during 1881 that Helen Hunt Jackon visited the Rancho for a few hours. She did not meet Ysabel, but talked to the del Valle children instead.

Later on in the 1920's, August and Mary Rubel family purchased the rancho. August Rubel was wealthy and educated. He served in WWI and WWII. Unfortunately, he was killed by a German land mine while driving an ambulance in Tunesia. Rubel family members are still connected with the rancho and are credited as helping to create the museum for the public today.

All of the above people have fascinating stories of their own. Much could be said of each of them. While a few of the above people will be mentioned again in the next blog as I continue this I want to transition more into the fictional history as I show the southern veranda.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Jack Palance at the Best Western in Lone Pine

Early on in the remake of the movie High Sierra, I Died a Thousand Times, Jack Palance walks in front of the Best Western Hotel in Lone Pine. I've stayed here a few times. I am not sure the trees are the same as the ones you see above in 1955, but they are close to the same place. I recently went back to the Alabama Hills. Part of my quest this time around was to do new updated videos of a lot of the "classic videos" I had done before. I had not been on Movie Rd. in quite sometime. So there was some "good news" and "bad news" about this trip. Let me give you some of what I considered the "bad" part of it.

This trip had been postponed for quite a while. I had wanted to be there last year about this time, but it did not work out. Then I wanted to do this about a month ago. Well, it turned that my only chance of doing this trip was to go "there and back again" within 24 hours. I did get parts of two days to do this since I stayed overnight, but I knew I would have to rush a bit to get a lot of what I wanted done.

The weather conditions were okay, but not great. A little too warm and cloudy. I can handle it being warm, but if the clouds are blocking out some of the mountain features it can mess things up. Don't get me wrong, clouds can create really good photo opportunities to get that Ansel Adams shot. However, when I am trying to show where some scenes from a movie took place and Mt. Whitney is completely blocked it just does not work very well.

The bugs! What the heck were those things?! They were not mosquitoes, but boy were they swarming me out there. These small things were flying all over me. No bites or anything like that, but I have never encountered bugs like this out there before.

There were lots of people there. I have never seen this many people out in the hills before. I had a couple of areas that I wanted to video and people had parked right in my way. Although I did talk to a bunch of friendly people out there, this was the first time I felt that there were some "shady" people in the Hills and in Lone Pine. Like people eyeing what was in my truck when I was parked in town. Reading the Whitney Portal forum here at home I see some of what I was thinking was justified. Even with a quick stop in Red Rock Canyon while walking back to the truck there were some people doing the same thing and then took off. Very odd!

The sad thing is at the end of the day I started looking at the clips of what I had done on my laptop and realized one of the settings on the video cam were not right! Oh no!

Alright, the "good" news side. On the second day, which ended up being most of the morning, I did get back to almost every area with my cam settings right this time. The weather conditions were slightly better. It is going to take me some time to decide this, but I think most of the footage I took will work well. The video of one of the things I did I almost shot it perfectly, but I think it may have been to early in the morning for it. No big deal though, I will just go back at some other time later in the day and get it right.

What was great was right before I was leaving I was able to see a rock formation from a rare movie that I was wondering about. I had the right idea about where it should be, but could not place it. Then seeing it from the distance confirmed my intuition about where it should be. It is one of those I will have to go back to and hike into it. One of the techniques I always tell people to do is that it is important to take pictures of every area and direction so that you can analyze some of these places from home. I took pictures of it from the distance. When I have time I will go over it and prepare for next time I can visit. So, I intend to get back to posting more videos taken in the Alabama Hills. It will not be something I will do right away though.

Monday, March 07, 2011

The Snowslide of March 7, 1911 (100 Year Aniversary)

(GPS: N38° 03.260 W119° 10.485)

AKA Nature Does Not Play By Rules

The time has come. This is one I have waited some years to post about going back to the beginning of the blog. In fact, I remember thinking a few years ago that March 7, 2011 was so far away. Well, here it is. This is the anniversary of a tragic event that happened on the night of March 7, 1911.

The people of Lundy Canyon were busy mining and safe most of the year. The big problem they always had was during the winter they were vulnerable to avalanches. While we often talk about the violence in these old mining towns because of what you see in westerns, but those isolated events tended to be rare and a temporary concern compared to other environmental factors that could wipe out a whole town.

At around 12:01 AM on March 7, 1911 a series of snowslide avalanches struck near the entrance to Lundy Canyon and in Lundy Canyon as well. The most violent damage took place at the Jordan hydroelectric station. At the time it was constructed it was thought the station and the two concrete living quarters were far enough away from the nearby mountains that it was safe from the avalanches. The Lundy Canyon area had been the victim of previous avalanches, so it was well known that this could happen. It turned out that much snow had built up during the winter.

In the distance you can see the modern Jordan plant. The older plant was just to the right and Copper Mountain is further to the right slightly out of picture. The main destructive avalanche came down from the Copper Mountain and wiped out the concrete facility and homes.
From the above picture I just turned around to show you the cemetery built for this tragedy. We hiked out here from HWY 395. Most of the people buried here are from the Jordan avalanche.
The first graveside is dedicated to H.M. Wier. He was an electrician from Pasadena, CA.
D.O. Knowlton. This is the one gravesite where of a person who was killed in the avalanche in Lundy Canyon and not at the Jordan avalanche.
You will notice that during the summer it is nice and warm here for the guardians.
R.H. Mason. His wife actually survived being entombed for 60 hours before she was rescued. It is said that the family dog kept her warm.
Patrick Stromblad. There are two markers here with different spellings of his last name. At the time of his video I assumed the right marker was added with corrections, but now I am not sure about that. I will list a link below that talks about him.
There are a few more markers. In the video I briefly cover them all and probably butcher a name or two, but you will get the point. This is with my back to the cemetery gate from the other side.
I do not talk about this too much, but there are usually a few deaths each year in the High Sierra. Normally, this happens when people underestimate the snow conditions, but tragic events like this can happen at any time. Even for those with experience in the backcountry.

Part of why I like being in the backcountry is because, in one sense, there are no rules. Some people who I have experienced in the big city love to talk about their accomplishments, but if you take them out their comfort zone they would be humbled very quickly. The mountains and wilderness can be a very beautiful place, but one where humility can come and with tragic results. I usually feel safe when I go out in the backcountry, but have had my share of falls and other minor mistakes. So far so good, but all it takes is that one big mistake.

So no matter where you are, keep these things in mind. The video:

A few links: