Friday, January 28, 2011

Ramona Epic #4: Felipe is Sick, But...

January has been a month of laying down the foundation for everything on this blog for this year. I have to do one more of these, and from here on out I think things will be a little easier going and not as word intense as the last couple this month have been. I will start with the play story and then talk about the play below.

Our story starts at the Rancho during a time the local Indians have come to help with the sheep-shearing. Senora Morena talks about the condition of her son Felipe at the Rancho. She meets with Father Salvierderra and some of her concerns come out.


Ramona Epic #4: Felipe is Sick, But... (Vimeo Version)
The play was started in Hemet in 1923. It is the longest running play in the United States and the official state play of California. Only two years were taken off due to the Depression (1933) and World War 2 (1942). It runs outdoors in a bowl on a hillside. One can see the play on the weekends at the end of April and early in May.

It is privately funded. The only paid roles are the two lead roles of Ramona and Alessandro. The rest of the cast is made up of locals around the area of Hemet. Some famous people have began their careers with this play. For example, actor Victor Jory and actress Rachael (Tejada) Welch.

I set up the RamonaEpic account on youtube for all my Ramona videos. I will have the videos on my Vimeo account as well. Which one you view on is up to personal preference. There is advantages and disadvantages to both. For example, For on my computer setup, my Mozilla browser runs the videos at Vimeo better than Internet Explorer. Youtube is more popular, but there is a tendency for them to change things around a few times a year. They just changed the look of the homepage, and many are angry over this. At times I wonder if the site will continue in the long term.

You will only see short clips of the play. Some very short and some a little longer than others, but not the entire play. Just enough to let you know what it is like, and hopefully inspire you to see it if you are every in Southern California at the end of April or beginning of May. Of course, I will be showing pictures too along the way.

At this point I am going to transition into something else for the next few weeks and then I will come back to Ramona sometime this next month. This is probably how the rest of the year will go where I spend time on Ramona every few weeks, then do something else on the blog, and then go back to Ramona.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ramona Epic #3: San Gabriel Mission

(GPS: N34 05.820 W118 06.375)

In this blog entry, I am going to try to kill three or four birds with one stone. Originally, this blog was supposed to be connected to the last one. After thinking things through on this I decided I had better split them up or I would make both the blog and video too long. So, this will be another of the foundational background blog entries.

A year ago, this was the first mission of the four I had gone to for this blog. I have covered two already and will link them below if you have not seen them. When I went to this one I took many pictures and took lots of video. At that time I had not done any Ramona stuff yet, nor had I gone to the other missions. I had this idea I was going to be really detailed in covering this one.

That was then, and this is now. I am a bit "missioned" out right now. While not every mission has the exact same structure, I am kind of to the point I feel I do not want to waste as much bandwidth on this one. This is not a cheap shot toward the San Gabriel Mission. It is an important one and I would give it pretty good marks as a museum. I am just going to hit a few highlights and let it go at that.

This will be the only mission I will cover as a connection to the Ramona series. There are a bunch mentioned in the book, including the San Luis Rey Mission which I covered back in Oct./Nov., but this is really the only one that tourists visited as a connection to the Ramona birth place.

The missions are important part of the background to the Ramona book, because the Indians in it are Mission Indians. Let's cover some of the basic history to the missions:

Spain owned California from 1769 to 1821. A series of missions were created during this time period as religious and military outposts. The goal was to convert and colonize the local Indians into the Spanish way of life. In theory, the missions belonged to the Indians and after a time the governing process was to be turned over to the Indians, but that never happened. Spain's reign ended in 1821 as Mexico gained its independence.

Mexico then owned land from 1821-1848. Originally, the missions and land were going to be kept the way it was, but a few years later the secularization of the missions began. Basically, the land was confiscated and given to private individuals. The priests could keep the church, the quarters, and priest's garden. The private individuals that received the land grants could hire out the Indians to work the land. This is what happens in the beginning of Ramona. Finally, after the U.S. war against Mexico, the land became part of the U.S. in 1848 as it is until now.

The mission that would become the San Gabriel Mission was founded in 1771, but due to a flash flood that wiped out the crops it was relocated five miles north to this location in 1776.

This is what the entrance to the church looks like. I did not go in because they did have a wedding going on. For our purposes, like I mentioned in the last blog, this is where Ramona's dad was married in the story.
Here are the mission bells next to the church on the side of the mission. I should note here, that according to some, Ramona's dad was based on the local resident Hugo Reid of Scottish descent. He, like Helen Hunt Jackon, criticized the treatment of Indians in the mission system.
Upon entering this mission it is like a square, but the way it works out is it is like walking around a big U turn. The video covers the highlights better, but let me show a few things here. After seeing the nice fountain they have one enters the cemetery next to the church.
This is the oldest cemetery in Los Angeles. The crucifix is dedicated to the 6,000 Tongva Indians that were buried here.
In the video I show a plaque that is partly dedicated to Padre Garces. He did not die here, but did come here through the San Bernadino Mountains. Also, Mountain Man, Jedediah Smith came to this mission through that trail. After struggling through the Mojave Desert Jedediah came here with his men to rest and recover, but the concern was that they were U.S. spies. So, Jedediah was sent to San Diego to be checked up on. He was eventually told he must leave California so he took his men north and crossed back somewhere in the northern part of the Eastern Sierra. He did spend some time at this mission resting and getting healthy. I will link to the marker for Garces and Smith that I hiked to below.
The above picture is near the mission museum near the back of the mission. The big wooden doors are supposed to be the original doors to the mission. Below is a statue of Father Junipero Serra who founded the mission system. There is usually something dedicated to him at each mission. This museum has some of his original writings. At this point of the mission one crosses over and visits the other features of the mission.
At this point I am going to stop and let the video show what is over on the other side. The one thing in the museum I thought I would show is it has a picture with Ramona tourists in the 1880's. If this is the case then it means that tourists were flocking to the sites right after the book came out.
It is important to note that while Ramona was written as historical fiction, in the end, it was a propaganda piece. There are some things that she glosses over and left out from a historical perspective that would have undermined, to some degree, what she set out to do. I probably will not talk too much about this as we go on, but there is at least one site that I will go over along the way that the violence used in the novel is not related to the violence the site is remembered for.

Ramona Epic #3: San Gabriel Mission (Youtube Version)

Ramona Epic #3: San Gabriel Mission (Vimeo Version)

San Gabriel Mission (Official Site)

Garces-Jedidah Smith Monument

San Diego Mission

San Luis Rey Mission

Hugo Reid (Wikipedia Article)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Ramona Epic #2: Ramona's Birth Place

(GPS: N34 05. 860 W118 06.510)

Ramona's family origin is very clearly told to the reader in chapter 3 of the book. However, Ramona does not know her true origin at this point of the story. Here is the little section relevant to what I am going to show today:

"Finally Angus disappeared, and after a time the news came up
from Los Angeles that he was there, had gone out to the San
Gabriel Mission, and was living with the Indians. Some years later
came the still more surprising news that he had married a squaw,--
a squaw with several Indian children, -- had been legally married
by the priest in the San Gabriel Mission Church."


That is what the book states about where Ramona's father was and where he had married. A little later it mentions that an Indian messenger came from San Gabriel to bring news about Ramona's father when Ramona was just less than a year old. So, from this it was inferred that Ramona was born in San Gabriel and lived there for the first few months of her life.

San Gabriel was the first place I went to about a year ago when I came up with the idea I would do this. The book does not give very much about Ramona's actual "fictional" birthplace. This is one of those areas that was created for the tourists. Today, one can still see a few traces of the Ramona influence on the area. In the following picture, I was just outside the San Gabriel Mission looking at the traffic light. I actually used Ramona St. on the way out and drove it as far as I could back to the freeway. For our purposes, I headed to the right to get to the birth place.
The adobe building that was created for Ramona's birth place no longer exists. This is what is said to be that house according to the postcard. One could go here and purchase gifts.
Now another postcard has this.
While I am not entirely sure where the original adobe building was my guess is was very close to the left side of the postcard. I can show where the Grapevine building was and still is today:
The grapevine is said to have been planted in the early 1860's. Apparently, it covered around 10,000 square feet. I did not look inside since the gate to the Grapevine building was closed, but part of that grapevine is said to still be inside it. Today, the building structure to the left is connected to the recreation department. Another postcard has a different angle of the Grapevine structure.
In each postcard you can see something in the background that is overarching the Grapevine. That is the Mission Playhouse that still stands today:
It was used for the play that told the story of the California Missions and the people connected with them. A cast of 150 people with a 4 1/2 hour production. Today it is still used by musicians and fine art performance groups.

While many tourists did come here to see where Ramona was born. This site was never considered as important as some of the other sites I will be showing this year. In DeLyser's Ramona Memories book she only dedicates three pages to this where most of the others have about ten to twenty pages. Still, like I said above, you can see some traces of Ramona around. In the video I point out one more nearby.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Ramona Epic #1: Introduction

The time has finally come to start this. About a year ago I started to feel I was in a rut and needed something new. I went back and looked into something I had considered doing before. Some years ago I thought about it, but it just did not seem like something I could get enthused about doing. However, last year as I started looking more into the Ramona story I started to see that it was a lot closer to what I like to do on here than I originally thought.

Helen Hunt Jackson (October 18, 2010-August 12, 1885) was very much concerned about the plight of the American Indian. She wrote a book called A Century of Dishonor detailing the problems of government policies or lack of them toward the American Indians. She was disappointed that the book did not really do much in changing U.S. government policy. So, she set out to convince the public by writing a historic fiction novel about the problems.

In order to write her novel she did research on the Mission Indians by visiting California. In doing so she visited many sites of Old California. I will mention a little more about the historical background of the novel in the next blog, but for now the novel takes place during the Mexican to American transition of California in the 1850's. What she ended up doing was describing some of the locations in her novel.

While Ramona was a successful book it would not be for the reasons Ms. Jackson had hoped for. The general public loved the book not for the plight of the Mission Indians, but because of the love story and nostalgia of Old California. So, in some ways, Ms. Jackson's intent backfired because they saw the "historical" basis of the book as something that existed in the past and no longer connected to them. The response was not, "What can we do to help the Indians?" The response was more like, "Wow, California is such an interesting place! Let's go there!" With the advent of the railroad, and eventually cars, the public was able to visit the sites described in the book.

What you are going to see this year is I visited a bunch of sites that Ms. Jackson probably visited when she described them in Ramona. On the other hand, there are areas she may not have been, but were used as Ramona sites in order to satsify the tourist demand. I will mention these when they come up. For inspiration I used Dydia DeLyser's Ramona Memories which I highly recommend for the main Ramona sites. You will see I have added some of my own locations as well. Some very serious, but others not so just to show you the impact of Ramona on southern California.

Along with showing some of the Ramona sites I will be showing some of the Ramona Play that runs in Hemet, CA each year at the end of April and earlier May. I will not be showing the whole play, but just parts that give you an idea how the play is.

If you want to, I would suggest that to make the most out of this you could read the book along with what I will be putting up on here every few weeks or so. It is very easy to find. You can either purchase it, find it in the local library, or download it online. I will be going about doing this in chronological order so you should be able to compare what is in the book with what is a shown on here. The only thing I ask is not to spoil what happens in the comment section. I suspect this will not happen, but this may be the first time someone learns about this story so keep this in mind.

Part of the reason I am doing this is to help educate people on the historical sites and play. Nothing I do with pictures or video really captures that first person experience of visiting the sites or seeing the play. I really hope that if you are ever in southern California that you will visit and help support these places and the play. We live in a time where a whole new generation has no clue about any of this. If I can get even a few people interested then I think I have done my job. It will be an interesting year for me because just about everything I have covered in this blog I have had a history with in someway going back to when I was a kid. With this Ramona series I think I have a good grasp of what needs to be done, but I will still be learning as I go.

What I found fascinating about this story is much of the public actually thought they were reading about real people and real history in Ramona. The fact is Ramona and the rest of the characters did not exist. I will need to quality that as I go along because Ms. Jackson may have used a few persons as inspiration for her characters. It does create an odd paradox that one might actually think Ramona and the other characters really lived and visited these places. The real history and fictional history get mixed up at times along the way.

In the following video I give a short type of lecture of the above and show just the very beginning of the play where the cast enters for the first time:

Ramona Epic #1: Introduction (Youtube Version)

Ramona Epic #1: Introduction (Vimeo Version)

I will be switching back and forth between Ramona and what I normally do on here. So, it will not be just Ramona all this year. You will know because it will say Ramona Epic # in the title. Expect something every few weeks or so all through 2011.

The Ramona Book (Download From Google Books)

The Ramona Book (Text Version)

Okay, with that all out of the way the next blog will show you where Ramona was fictionally born.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Stock Footage

I love days like this: 1/11/11.

I just noticed that the past few blogs I have created "walls of text" so I thought I would throw up some pictures before I get into one more "wall of text" in the next blog. This was related to a video I intended to have up around Christmas, but decided to postpone that one until a later time.

One of the things I wanted to mention last time, but cut out, is how I like to integrate and make connection between things. Once in a while I will get a message that says something like this, "The hikes are alright, but I love the movie locations." That is certainly fine, and I can't change personal preferences. There is a sort of "look and leave" mentality with blogs anyways where people look for what they are after and then leave. However, it does show a one dimensional view of how I go about doing things.

What I usually do in my blog entires is show the connections between the locations, the history, the movies, natural history, etc. I like to cross over into different ideas and areas. So, when I have climbed Mt. Whitney or Mt. Langely that is very much related to the movie locations of the Alabama Hills. In fact, I always like to show what the Alabama Hills look like from what up there. Those mountains always show up in movies.

It is the same way with the history and any other subject. This is why I love the backcountry because it is the closest that a 21st century person can get to the days of the old west, mountain men, and anyone else exploring the frontier in the past. Let me give you another example of something I noticed this last year.

There is a Alan Ladd movie called Whispering Smith that was made in 1948. I have not watched the whole movie yet, but I did see the opening credits. I know most of the rest of the movie was filmed on a town set so I know this was the main outdoor footage that must be stock footage. It is supposed to be Alan Ladd's character, but I think a double filmed this.
Unfortunately, I do not have exactly the same shots here, but it is obvious that the above picture from the movie was looking toward the west near the eastern entrance of Yosemite. I thought I had something better, but the above mountain peaks were taken from my Mt. Dana hike from over two years ago. Those mountains are the same, but I was much higher up. The above picture from the movie was taken from nearby Tioga Lake.The picture below from the movie was taken from nearby Tioga Lake. You can see the big rock formation or buttress that is part of Mt. Dana in the background. If you hike Dana getting past that marks about 1/3 of the way up.
This next picture was taken from the road on the way to Tioga Lake back in November. You can see the same big rock buttress.
This was taken on the trail to Bennettville. The summit of Mt. Dana can barely be seen much further in the background.
Then the footage in the movie shows the area near Saddlebag Lake. What you are seeing here is the mountain range near Mt. Conness. They are near the stream that comes out of there.
My picture from November. Like all of these pictures, the angle is not right, but you can see the obvious feature to the the right. The main mountain in the center of the picture.
Finally, they show more into the direction of Saddlebag Lake. Tioga Peak is off to the right. The mountain you barely see way in the background is near Mt. Excelsior.
There is another movie called Chuka that was made in 1967. I do not have it, but I am pretty sure it uses this exact same footage at the beginning of the movie. It may be used in other movies as well. I truly wish they really had made a full movie back here. Maybe there is, but I do not know if any at this time.

Now my hikes back here really do not need any connection to movie history, but I thought I would show you there still is a connection. This blog will relate to what I will show in the next one.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Beginning of An End

I have thought a lot over this during the past year. I have decided this will be the last full year of putting as much effort into this blog as I have. So, by the end of this year the blog will come to an end.

I originally started this blog as a way to send family and friends the latest things I had been up to. It was easier to just send a link to here rather than send separate e-mails at different times of the year to separate people. Over time I have had lots of others follow along on what I have been doing.

While I have not shown every single part of every area I am getting to the point where I have covered a lot of my favorite places to show. That is not to say I do not know of any other trails or places to go. It is not like that at all.

There is always something out there to discover. That is one of the goals I hope has come across during my time in doing this. That wherever you are there is always something you can find "out there." For me though, the end result has to be something of interest to me in order for me to post about it. Simple walks through a forest or movie locations where there is absolutely nothing left are not worth posting. There have been somethings I have done that I have never posted for this reason.

One has to have a certain amount of drive and motivation to do this every week. I do enjoy it, but there are other factors where "life gets in the way." The economy is always a factor. As much as I penny pinch, cut back, and make the necessary sacrifices to continue to do what I do on here there is always another fee or a new tax around the corner. That's life, but my drive to do this just has not been the way it used to be because of it.

Notice that I did not say the blog will come to THE END. All I am saying is that this will probably be the last year where I put something up every week or two. I suspect I will continue, but a lot less frequent than before. There are somethings I want to do that are a lot further away than my normal range. Those take time and money, but I think things might turn around this year, or the next, and I might start doing that.

This year I will be spending a lot of time developing my Ramona series. That is something that I suspect will take some getting use to as I go along. In the next blog or two I will be starting that. It will take me about 40 or more blog entries to present all of it. It will not be the only thing I do here because I will continue to show more of what I normally do. I will be moving back and forth throughout the year.

I have a few more ghost towns to show. I will finally get to show my favorite one even if there is really nothing left of it. There will be a few movie locations here and there. I have held back on a some for a few reasons. There is so much I need to do in the Alabama Hills, but sometimes the weather conditions are not the best so I postpone what I have. It is easier to wait and go back. Those are easy to do so I do not feel I have to just post anything I have.

A couple of things I want to mention are things I have mentioned before, but I thought I would do it again:

1)Understand that many of the topics I post on here I do in order to stimulate interest in a subject. I do not always explain every detail I know on any given blog entry. My goal is to create interest and give a source or two. The rest is up to you if you want to pursue some topic or visit some area. I am not doing graduate level paper writing here where I feel I have to document every single word I write. I am really "old school" about this in that I think proper research really should be done by reading books and not consulting websites, blogs, or search engines.

So, please understand that if I link to Wikipedia I am not saying that is the best source of information. I have linked to Wikipedia in the past knowing some of the details of what is said I may not agree with, or I know may be wrong, but it is a good start in trying to pursue more infomation.

Sometimes I give sources that are dated, but are popular or easy to get. A few years ago I purchased a real scholarly tome on an old west vendetta that I have a real interest in. It was cutting edge with all sorts of new information in it. A great book! However, it is not the book I would recommend to just anyone. Keeping track of who's who and all the details in that book would be very overwhelming for some people. That is why I would probably recommend an older dated classic treatment of the history rather than that book. One can then decide if he or she wants to "graduate" to the scholary tome. It saves some frustration that way.

Also, a lot of "old west" history is "grassroots" or "folk" history in that there is a lot hearsay and stories repeated that are difficult to verify. Just because something is in a old newspaper doesn't necessarily mean the people and events are verified, but it does help. So, sometimes I just give a quick popular summary of some of the stories I have read knowing some of the sources might have some problems. Sometimes I read stuff that people think they are doing history when they aren't. If you were to ask these people what is their criteria is for an inference to the best explanation your probably not going to get much of an answer. It's the nature of the beast. Keep this in mind when I give out sources for anything from history to science.

2)My time is limited on here due to work and have other issues in life I must attend to. I do not always have my computer on all the time. So, if you send e-mail give me a few days to respond. I do get lots of real e-mail, so it takes me some time to catch up and respond.

Keep in mind I am not actively looking for comments on my blog entries on here. If you comment on things that are back in the archives, and really want my attention, you probably will not get it since I will not see it for quite some time. I might see it eventually, but you might be waiting for many months for a response. Also, I tend not to respond to every comment. Again, e-mail gets the job done better.

3)I very rarely advertise myself online. I have people that tell me they will link to me quite often and then proceed to tell me that I will get lots of traffic. There is no problem with this and always feel free to link to whatever I do. I get hard working people to some that have definately made themselves famous in the world that come on here and read some of my exploits.

However, I am the type that likes the idea that people have to work a little harder to find what I do rather than have it spoon fed to them. You could probably guess that it would make sense that I always enjoy things when I search hard to find them rather than being told where to go. The reward is greater this way. Years ago when I was heavily into rare Japanese movies that were difficult to get in the U.S. I enjoyed the research and the search to find what I was after. Some people I knew liked this too, but then we started to encounter people that just wanted to be spoon fed a few links and did not appreciate the amount of work that needed to be done to get what we were after.

As it is, it is not difficult to find what I do on few google searches. The people that want to find what I talk about will find it. If I am not on every search engine or some important website It is not something that concerns me.

4)Finally, there is some danger involved in a lot of stuff I do. I usually plan out a lot of stuff you see on here at least a year in advance. In most blog entries I put up some approximate GPS coordinates. Keep in mind you have to know yourself in this regard as far as what your limitations are. At times I tend to go off by myself, but for others that may not be a good idea to travel alone. I hardly mention this on this blog, but usually about 3-4 times a year I will see that someone has died at or had to be rescued from some area I mention on here. Just this last summer I was up hiking right near a tragedy had happened a month earlier.

This is not just hiking either, some of the areas one must drive to can have problems too. If you are not careful you could get into accidents or stuck out in the middle of nowhere with no cell phone reception. So, keep all of this in mind if you take off into the backcountry wherever you go.

Alright, I have said a lot here, but the bottom line is that I just do this for fun. I have been using computers "online" since the pre-internet days of Bulletin Board Systems. There are many uses of the internet that I think are trying to turn it into something that is was not meant to be for. But, throwing out all the high tech nonsense, I see what I am doing here like inviting someone into my home and sharing some pictures and stories.

With all that out of the way 2011 will be a fun year. Wait and see...