Thursday, October 30, 2008

HPD: Clint Spooks 'Em Location

Halloweener #7

(GPS: N37° 55.510 W119° 02.540)

This is a case of a movie location that when you are there you know you are in the right place, but a lot of the area has changed over the years. I wanted to show this one because although a lot of people now know where "Lago" is from the movie they may drive right by this one. It just happens to be one of the best scenes in the movie. The area has changed since the movie was made. Some mining has taken place over the area that is probably the cause of the changes. Much like the dynamite Clint uses in this scene, it does look like it has been hit with explosives. The changes seem more from man than nature. I did the following video on October 31st, 2008:

Both times I was here I went without movie stills and just used my memory of how I remembered the scene. From looking at these pictures I would have to movie down and forward to match them up. The passage that the guy on the horse goes through to get to the outlaws is there, but in my picture does not seem like it due to the overgrowth. You should be able to match up the background features.
The outlaws are inside of the pit as I like to call it, and Clint is supposed to be "hiding" and planting dynamite in the distance over that hump.
As I said above, I know this is the exact same object from the movie, yet it does not really look the same.
Clint mysteriously appears on the other side. I said a bunch of times in the video that I was not sure if it was the very top (near the saddle) or in the middle of the following picture. Keep in mind a lot of what you see in this scene with the editing and camera work does not mean Clint was really up there. What it looks like they did was just add a lot of shots together to make it look like he was up here and the other side we started on.
My picture shows you more of the middle to the right side of the above picture. The movie pictures make this place seem like it was a lot bigger to me compared to when I was there.

As I finish up these last few entries on High Plains Drifter I wanted to include some quotes from Clint Eastwood on the location. The following is taken from Clint Eastwood: Interviews by Clint Eastwood, Robert E. Kapsis, and Kathie Coblentz (Mississippi University Press, 1999):

Quote #1 (Pgs. 100-101):

The interviewer says, "There is something of the infernal in the iconography of High Plains Drifter, a tonality of fire and scorched earth."

Clint Responds:
"That's due in part to the place where we filmed it, Mono Lake in California. The town in the script was situated in the middle of the desert, like in most Westerns, but this convention bothered me because even in the West a city couldn't develop without water. I discovered Mono Lake by chance, while I was out driving around, and I was immediately taken with the strangeness of the site. The saline content is so high that no vessel can risk going out on the waters of the lake. I spent two hours wandering around in the area. Not a boat, nor a living soul, only the natural noises of the desert. From the nearest city I immediately called my art director and had him jump on the first plane. When he arrived, he blurted out, 'you'd think you were on the moon!' I told him, 'It's a wierd place, but that's exactly what I want this story to be!'"

Quote #2 (P. 69):

"High Plains Drifter, basically a morality play, also benefits considerably, if not definitively, by the location, the Mono Lake district of northeastern California. The story was originally situated in Monument Valley, the grandiose site of so many John Ford films, but Eastwood says, 'that wouldn't have provided the same mood I got from the story. I needed a place that would correspond with the mood and Mono Lake is what I finally found. It's a dead lake. It has some very interesting outcropppings and the colors almost change moment by moment, so it gave the film and elusive quality."

I completely agree with the above quotes. To create this type of spooky western he went to the right spot to do it. Some of the traditional locations would not have worked as well. I would not say the location is the most beautiful of the places I go to, but it is a unique one for what is a very unique and special western. In the next blog entry I will do something on Panum Crator which is right behind this location.

Clint Spooks 'Em (Youtube Version)

Clint Spooks 'Em (Vimeo Version)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Trick And/Or Treat

I have one more "Halloweener" I want to do. Unfortunately, due to time constraints, family, work, etc. this last video and pictures will have to be delayed until sometime late next week in November.

So, the trick is that the next October entry will have the video and pictures when the time comes, but will actually be done in November.

The treat is that, for my finale, I have a new location that I do not think many know about. It is easy to find, but I have not seen anyone talk about it online, nor anywhere else I know of. Even better is I may actually get to video and take pictures of it OCTOBER 31st! I have been there before, but the weather conditions were not too good. So, hopefully the same won't happen this time.

Stay tuned...

Friday, October 24, 2008

High Plains Drifter Location at Mono Lake

Halloweener #6

(GPS: N37° 56.710 W119° 02.450)

This is an area I have covered before. Normally, I do not like to rehash the same areas in my blog, but this is one of those areas that I tend to get occasional e-mails about so I thought I would update it. I am keeping the original blog up and linking this new blog entry in it. Those pictures and blog reflect a period of about 10 years ago when I was not as "hardcore" about movie locations and knowledge of how to find them as I am now. There were some simple mistakes I made in that blog that I hope to correct in this one. Keep in mind I have visited and lived many summers near Mono Lake from as far back as I can remember. I always knew the movie was made there, but it would be like, "Oh, High Plains Drifter was made just over there." Then, "That's nice. Let's get out here because it is so hot at the South Tufa!"

In this blog I want to add some other tidbits about the area that you might not pick up in the movie or even if you went to the location. In this first video I mention Mt. Dana. It is seen in the movie and my video a few times when the looking west. Here is a zoom of it. At first glance, especially in the video and movie, the mountains look connected. This picture should help show it a little better from down below from the east. It is in the very back there. There is a another smaller mountain in front of it from this point of view. When the video was made I had climbed Mt. Dana from the eastern road entrance of Yosemite. From the popular route it is a 3,000 foot climb that takes a few hours to get to the 13,000 foot elevated summit. A future blog will cover the video, pictures, and my story of that hike.

In the movie, this the first shot we get of the town of "Lago" in the movie.
I hiked up the hill to get a close enough shot for our purposes. This is not exactly where the camera was in the movie. The way I know this is that you have to line up the mountain peaks in the background with some of the features of the island out there. Long story short, there were some issues with sun and my cheap equipment. To avoid glare I just stayed here rather than move more to the north west (probably a few hundred feet or so to the left of my picture from what I can tell). With something like this I am just trying to get the general "feel" of the location rather than be obsessed with the exact location. So, this should get the job done for our purposes.
The hill I walked up is like walking up an incline of beach sand. Of all the terrain I hate walking on, it would be scree infested mountain peaks. Two steps forward and then one step back, or one step forward and two steps back. It did not take too long, but after climbing Dana I wanted to get this short little incline hike out of the way as soon as possible without sweating too much from the now warming sun. Of course, I always get sand in my shoes from stuff like this. Now check this out:

There are a lot of chunks of obsidian out there. This one was a pretty good size chunk. There are a lot of crators nearby that have had volcanic activity in the past. I visited one that I will do a video and pictures for soon. So, you will be seeing a lot more obsidian in the near future. Clint comes down from the hill and takes the road you see from the above pictures down to the town. Again, close enough for our purposes here. The main thing I wanted to do this time was be sure I got most of the background right. The following is where the town begins. You can see the rocky formation where my backpack is at that you see Clint ride by. It is obviously decayed over the years. When I was here ten years ago something did not feel right about to me. Keep in mind I was doing this off of memory rather than take movie stills. I expected it to look just like you see in the movie. I said some stuff in the video about it being level in the movie, but I am not so sure about it looking at it now. Movies, pictures, and then actually seeing it there can give you three different views about it. All I can say is there is enough there to know it is what you see in the movie, but it has changed. As I have mentioned in the video and blog a bunch of times I always look for the rocks because they tend not too change very much and are usually the key to the locations.
I mention in the video there is, what I assume, a tufa rock formation that you can see extending from the land in the movie and then you see one of those rocks remaining these days. Here is a zoom that makes it look like a viking ship.
The following is one of the pieces of wood you can find there. As I mention in the video, something like this could be remains from the movie set. I have seen pieces of wood from sets that are still around after almost 70 years. So, that really isn't an issue. However, I would caution someone from looking at the piece of wood below and saying they are certain it is from the set of High Plains Drifter. The reason being is I have seen wood and charred wood not only here, but in other areas around Mono Lake, not to mention other nearby areas. There are a lot of reasons you might find wood like this here that may not have anything to do with the movie. Usually, most productions are required to pick up all set pieces at the end of the filming. Keep this in mind, not just for this movie, but any time you see someone declare something is from some movie set. I will list some further links below about Mono Lake if you want more information. One thing I mentioned in the second video is about the Daly gang of Aurora. I refer you to Roger McGrath's Gunfighters, Highwaymen, & Vigilantes (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984) chapter 5 which gives you the history of how the outlaw gunfighers took over the town of Aurora. Aurora is on the other side of the lake behind the mountains in the above pictures. It was a major mining area during the early 1860's. There is not much there these days, and the reasons for that is another story for another time. But, this is one of those things that people that have seen the movie or even visited the location may not know the coincidental history of the area.

You should read the chapter, but long story short, the gunfighters took over the town. Like a lot of gunfighters of the old west, no one really cared if they killed each other or other undesirables, but once a well thought of citizen was killed then mobs formed. One of the members of the Daly gang, with the last name of Buckley, was caught not very far from this location. He was taken back with the gang, and there they received death by a slight elevation change in Aurora (they were hanged).

Now, this is not the exact same story as High Plains Drifter, but some of the same ideas about revenge, the take over of the town, and even a few tidbits of the supernatural are involved in the story. So, even though one is fiction and the other real history, whenever I see High Plains Drifter or read that chapter about the Daly gang I feel like they are very much related. Please take a look at that chapter and tell me what you think after you read it. The book is a good read about the ghost towns of Bodie and Aurora, as well as, the Owens Valley War of the 1860's. McGrath deserves a plug for his old book so here it is. :)

The Return to Lago (Youtube Version)

The Return to Lago (Vimeo Version)

A few links:

Mono Lake Wikipedia Article

Some old blogs that give different views of Mono Lake:

Mono Crack

Awesome View of Mono Lake

Click here for all the blogs I did on this location.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Mummy: The Flashback Tomb Location (The Red Rock Canyon Series)

Halloweener #5

The flashback sequence in the movie is really in the same area as the dig excavation of my last entry. For this reason I did not feel the need to do a video of it. If you want to see the area then refer to that video; when I go up that incline I would have to come back down it to show where the funeral procession was heading. There is a trick to the following picture. Take a look and I will try to explain:
Most of the locations in Red Rock Canyon are easy to find. This one confused me a bit, and since there is no need for me to reinvent the wheel, I refered to Richard Schmidt's A Field Guide To Motion Picture Locations at Red Rock Canyon. The book was helpful regarding the issue, but I still did not quite get what was going on until I got home. What you see in the movie picture is an optical illusion. It looks like one solid ledge on a mountain side, but it ends up being two different places separated by a few hundred feet.
The picture above, Hagen Cliffs, is the background in the upper right side of both pictures. This is the picture that really threw a monkey wrench into what I normally do. I could line up a bunch of rocks, but would get lost in the middle. Where is that ledge they were walking at? After examing my pictures over and over and then reading Schmidt's book I realized the error I was making. Keep in mind I am going to have to go back to this area to get the correct picture, but the following picture should help in figuring out the key to this puzzle. The above picture is our incline. This is where they funeral procession was coming down from. If you look closely in the upper right background you should see the top parts of Hagen Cliffs. My picture has the same type of illusion in that everything looks connected when it isn't. So, what I have to do when I go back is, turn around, go up higher, and then shoot the picture in this direction again; there is another area I can climb up for this. I will take a picture of this incline, but also get Hagen Cliffs in the background. It should look like the movie picture. Interesting enough, I had another problem like this with another movie location I was trying to find where two areas looked like they were connected, but were not. I will show that location at another time. Now what about the actual tomb location?
In the excavation they show them discover the tomb as a hole in the ground. The flashback sequence is still roughly in the same area. I pointed it out in the video, but here is the picture that best shows where they did it:

I went ahead and circled the rock you can compare with the movie picture. It is the same as the big bloated rock formation on the right side of the picture. For the movie, they added a wall there that represented the tomb entrance.

The Mummy at Red Rock Canyon (Youtube Version)

The Mummy at Red Rock Canyon (Vimeo Version)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Mummy: The Excavation Site (The Red Rock Canyon Series)

Halloweener #4

(GPS: N35° 21.665 W°117 59.285)

As I mentioned in my last entry, all the scenes they did at Red Rock Canyon took place within a few hundred feet at most from each other. This area is really just around the corner and above from the last entry. This is the scene that Boris Karloff reveals the location for where the tomb was.

Boris Karloff sure sounds like Darth Vader, or better yet, Darth Vader sure sounds like Boris Karloff. The more old movies I watch the more I see where George Lucas got his ideas. I can not tell you how many times I have watched old movies where the mysterious masked person ends up being a long lost relative. Okay, back to this. In the above movie picture Boris is standing over the ledge showing where the dig should take place. If you watched the video I had to make a short climb to get to this point. Compared to everything else I have done it was nothing, but I still did not want to make any mistakes. In my picture they were standing in the middle right side. I went over there and looked down.That area below is where the incline is the men were team digging with the baskets. The dropoff here is not really that dramatic. It is maybe 50 feet. What is interesting to me is a lot of movies filmed at Red Rock Canyon seem to make areas like this bigger than they really are. Then when I was there this area out along with some others seemed a lot smaller than they way the seemed in the movie.

The Mummy at Red Rock Canyon (Youtube Version)

The Mummy at Red Rock Canyon (Vimeo Version)

Friday, October 17, 2008

The Mummy: Enter Boris Karloff (The Red Rock Canyon Series)

Halloweener #3

(GPS: N35° 21.675 W117° 59.245)

Time to start a news series. Many old movies have been shot using areas in Rock Rock near Mojave, Ca. If the Alabama Hills is a gold mine for movie locations, then Red Rock is just as good of a gold mine. I thought I would start one to keep the Halloween theme going so this is the first I intend to do with the 1932 Boris Karloff movie: The Mummy. The first thing to note is the big rock formation in the background is known as The Acropolis. Since the movie was supposed to have taken place in Egypt this location was an obvious area to go to for the production to keep things cheap.Boris Karloff's character comes down this little incline. In the movie it seems quite a distance a way.
It really isn't though. The distance is very close, and I was a bit surprised about that.Some of the night scenes in the movie took place on the other side of this. The interesting thing is they filmed a bunch of scenes in the movie, but they are only within a hundred feet or so of each other.
I will try to get a few more of these Mummy locations in another blog or two.

The Mummy at Red Rock Canyon (Youtube Version)

The Mummy at Red Rock Canyon (Vimeo Version)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nature Rules at the Lone Pine Film Festival 2008

This years film festival at Lone Pine was certainly different from the others I have been to. It is possible this maybe the last one I go to. I did get a lot out of this one and I have some information on a few new movies that were shot there. Let me give you a short version and then the long version.

Short version highlights:

Ansel Adams Tour
North Tour of the Alabama Hills
Reflection on the Movie Business
"Slept" at Hostel

Seminar on Sidekicks (We picked the top 10)
Watched a bunch of movies at the L.P. High Auditorium
Whitney Portal for a hamburger
Wagon Train Panel
Drove and walked around in the Alabama Hills by myself
Watched the Silent Hallmark Movies
Watched Army Girl
Camped out at the Tall T

Photography of Wildlife in Owens Valley
Lights! Camera! Action! Panel
Geology Tour

Long version:

Last year I was recovering from sickness when I went to the festival. I ended up coughing a lot and sleeping out in the cold. This time I decided to do things differently. I made reservations at the new Hostel in Lone Pine which is owned by Doug Thompson of Whitney Portal. I made the reservation the day after I climbed Whitney back at the end of July. For the past month I had been very careful in trying to avoid getting sick. I had a minor throat irritations at the beginning of September, but I was good to go for this festival. I felt good. The night before I did not get much sleep, but I knew I would get my sleep back that Friday night at the Hostel. At least that is what I believed at the time.

I reached Lone Pine in a few hours, got my tickets and button that I had ordered, and looked around the museum. The museum has added props and clothes used in the movie Iron Man. They are on loan so I do not know how long they will have them. I did get video of them and will post it at a later time. I got some videos and pictures of other things that were not there the last few times I had visited. There was something worn by John Wayne that I will swear I have not seen there for two years. I never got pictures of it. Each time I was there since then I thought I blew my big chance of getting pictures and video of it. I almost freaked out when I saw it on Sunday morning. I intend to do a tribute to John Wayne over a bunch of stuff I have, but that is something I will do some months from now.

One thing I purposely focused on this year at the festival was to take tours that had nothing to do with movie locations. I have gotten to the point that I pretty much have the area memorized. Now, it is not like I can tell you where scene of every movie was made out there, but if you have read this blog you have seen a lot of the more popular locations. A lot of the movie location tours really would not help me at this point. Although there are exceptions which I will get to in after the next paragraph.

At 9am I went on the Ansel Adams tour which was guided by photographer Phil Kember. Phil was really good in explaining some of the technical ideas, some of the approach Adams and he have about photography, and taking us to three locations Adams used in Lone Pine. I am not a photographer, although my father has spent a lot of time in the more technical aspects of photography, but I did appreciate the overall approach Adams took in making pictures. I will come back to this in a blog at a later date because it is something I have thought a lot about. Since I am just a snapshot amateur I pretty much just "cock and fire" as many as I can in the hope that I can get a few pictures that get the job done. Adams, and real photographers, might just drive to a location and, if they like the conditions, take one negative picture.

At 12:45pm I took the North Tour of the Alabama Hills. Originally, there was another tour of the "free" tour ticket you get with the purchase of 2008 L.P. badge that I wanted. It ended up clashing with a bunch of other stuff. I was not too happy about taking what I considered a beginner tour, but it was not really that big a deal anyways. About midway in the tour while we going back to our bus I encountered a few new plaques, they leave these out near the locations during the festival, so I was happy to get a few new locations discovered. I will show these some other time.

The funny thing to me is when we were visiting Gene Autry Rock our tour guide told us that a real entrepreneur business opportunity could be taken advantage of. Recently, the museum put out a very nice looking booklet of the major popular sites of the Alabama Hills and how to drive to them. Our tour guide noted that no one has done the GPS coordinates yet and that is where the business opportunity would be. I had to laugh on that because either I am idiot when it comes to business things or I love giving out things for free. Just a note on my GPS coordinates, I have stated this before, my coordinates should get you very close to where the locations are. Keep in mind you have to know what you are looking for and that the coordinates are not exact. They should get you very close. I have a few reasons I do it this way, but you should be no more that 10-50 feet away at the very worst if you use them. There have been a few I have had to correct because they were way off.

At 4pm I went to the panel Reflections on the Movie Business which was moderated by Boyd Magers. There were a bunch of actors there, but the one asked the most questions was Richard Anderson. He actually waved to me during the parade, but I just missed it.

I then went to spend the night at the Hostel. Oh boy, what did I get myself into!? Originally, back at the end of July, I was told I would bunk with three other people in a room. That is what I had believed for the longest time. I called the Hostel the day before to make sure my reservation was still there. I was told that my reservation was originally erased on the computer, but I was back on. I get there and the person at the desk acted like I was not on the list. "Are you sure you had a reservation?" "Yes, I was told I am in room #11." Problems solved, got my keys, went to my room, and took a shower. When I got in there I noticed EIGHT beds! Oh boy, not what I was expecting. I took off for pizza at my favorite Pizza Factory.

By this time the winds were really bad in Lone Pine. It was a like a dust storm. You could not see the eastern Inyo Mountains and barely see the Sierra side. I was glad I was not outdoors tonight, but that would change. I get back, and one of the guys I would bunk with was inside already trying to get some sleep. I talked to him briefly and got in my bed. It was early, but I had only had about 3 hours of sleep and wanted to be sure I had one of the beds below on the bunk beds. Later on couple of guys intending to backpack Whitney showed up. We talked briefly about the weather conditions and they took off to eat. Two other Whitney hikers showed up and left to eat. Then, the problems were about to start, two German bikers showed up. At this point we should have had all the beds taken, but a big misunderstanding took place. They ended up bringing in two other German bikers who I guess thought they were going to sleep on the floor. I started to see there might be some trouble here. They took off to go eat. Later on the two backpackers came back and I told them something was not right with the German bikers. At this point we had TEN people in a room with EIGHT BEDS! This was not what I had in mind when I made the reservation back in July.

Long story short, the German bikers were back and everything was dark at 10:00pm. Then one of the desk girls came in and told them guest hours were over and two of them had to go! She was about to call the cops and the German bikers did not know what to do. It was freakin' cold and windy that night, there was no other place in town with vacancy, and they had no place to go. Fortunately, one of the backpackers told them he had some pads and it was okay with him if they stayed. I guess they paid some more money. I did not not care, but was glad there was a peaceful resolution. About ten minutes after the lights went out the smoke alarm went off. What now? It was brief though and was apparently a false alarm. The other hikers came back at about 1:30am. I ended up getting a few hours of sleep, but made sure I was out of there somewhere before 7am.

As much as I care about the Whitney Portal people, do not mind trying new things, this was NOT what I had in mind. I will not ever use the Hostel again if this is the type of situation I get stuck in. Somewhere between the time I put my reservation in and the time I verified I would be there I got the shaft. The place is still new and I am sure they are still figuring out how they do things, I know I lot of people haved enjoyed their stay there, but this is probably not for me. With that said, please do not let this "bad" review discourage you from spending the night there. I suspect it would have been a different story had I been there on a day or weekend other than during the festival.

I was walking around town on Saturday morning. The wind was blasting my face and it actually HURT! At 8:30, Dave Matuszak led the discussion group on the Top 10 B Western Sidekicks. Dave is really knowledgeable about the history and myth of the western. The top three sidekicks voted by us as the best were Gabby Hayes, Smiley Burnette, and Andy Clyde. I thought Jay Silverheels (Tonto) would be much higher on the list, but his character was a bit atypical in that he was intended to be a funny sidekick. I think he was #7. Others like Slim Pickens, Fuzzy Knight, and Pat Buttram were listed in there somewhere.

I ended up watching some movies in the L.P. High Auditorium. One thing that plagued the festival this year was the cold windy weather. All panels were held inside in the Auditorium because the original area the chairs were all over the place due to the wind. This threw off the movie schedule. In some cases, it canceled a Joel McCrea movie I really wanted to watch.

I decided to visit the Whitney Portal where I would get a hamburger and see what was going on at the Whitney Trailhead. The area was snowing a bit, the road was a bit icey near the store, and the pond was filled with ice.

I went back down to the Wagon Train Panel which was fun. Although all the actors were interesting, Denny Miller was the one who had spent most of the time on that series. I decided to go back to the Alabama Hills by myself and just walk around some of the areas. I always do this, but it is still fun seeing if I can find any movie plaque out that I have never seen before. They keep those up all weekend.

On Saturday night at the Hallmark Films they showed Rider of the Pass (Fred Humes) and The Back Trail (Jack Hoxie). I had never seen these before. It was a real treat. There was a lot of south side Alabama Hills shown in these movies.

Now I must admit, due to lack of sleep and doing as much I had done on this day I was really starting to wear myself down. I forced myself to watch a movie called Army Girl, but during that one I was really asking myself why I do this to myself. LOL! There was not much action, but I really wanted to see it. As soon as it ended I went to THE TALL T location to sleep!

I went to bed fast at around 11pm. I woke up a few hours right before the sun came up. I was a bit cold, but I really enjoyed being out there compared to the Hostel the night before. I ended up walking around just to see the light hit Mt. Whitney before I took off to Ruiz Hill to check out the movie plaques there. This is an area I intend to show on this blog, but at this time I have not. It was also my time to pick up random litter I had found...something I do when I can.
At around 8:40am I watched Page Williams give a presentation on Photographing Owens Valley Wildlife. This was quite nice. She mentioned something about Wild Horses that caught my interest. I will come back to that in a later blog.

I went to the final panel: Lights! Camera! Action! It was fun. Lot of different actors telling stories. They were all good, but I liked hearing Geoffrey Lewis who had worked with Eastwood a lot. Also, Richard Devon, who played a lot of bad guys, was fun telling his stories. After that I went to the town parade where a lot of the stars and others in the town marched through the streets. I had not been to the parade before, but since I had to stick around it was good for me to see it.

I ended up at 2:30pm on the Geology Tour with Dana Jeffries. He was really good and it is probably the most information intensive tour of all the tours. I actually got a lot more out of it than I originally thought. At this point, and I think a lot of the others felt this way too, I was REALLY WORN DOWN. I did my best to remember everything he said. Geology is a difficult subject and cramming everything in 3 hours is very difficult.

When the tour ended it was kind of a downer, but at the same time I really did a lot during this festival and was exhausted. I was glad I got through the weather. The cold winds were an issue that I suspect that upset the vendors who were stuck outside this year compared to other years. I had heard there were some "horror" stories on Friday evening. This is something I suspect that the festival board will have to take into consideration for next year.

I did get a lot of good information and had fun, but this was a lot of work for me this year. At times, due to being worn down, was kind of bored at times. It is possible this maybe the last one I go to. It will depend on how things go this year and what is available next year. My reasons for going to the festival are not for nostalgia since most of these movies were done before my time. I love the area and its use in movies so that is what keeps me going.

Okay, I have written a lot of stuff here, but I wanted to give an honest reflection on how things went. Let me take this time to mention two new movies filmed outside Lone Pine and the Alabama Hills recently:
Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra

So, it looks like I will be doing more location hunts for regarding these new movies.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Tunnels to Nowhere

Halloweener #2

(GPS: N 34° 14.050 W 117° 46.250)

Two years ago I did a write up of my hike to the Bridge to Nowhere (Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3). This hike is similar in that the fate of the the destination brings you to "nowhere." It was around that time two years ago that the teenager series, Lonelygirl15, had a few incidents in this area. People were looking at maps, saw "Tunnels to Nowhere" marked, and it creeped them out. I never saw it, but some fan made some disturbing "horror" like videos nearby that had a bunch of people talking about these tunnels. Whether they were these tunnels or some of the water "caves" nearby I do not know. I had read about the area, but had never been here so I decided to check it out.
The gps coordinates above get you to the trailhead. Like the Bridge to Nowhere, which is nearby, but at a lower elevation, these tunnels are in the Angeles National Forest. You go up the San Gabriel Canyon above the East Fork River. The trailhead is on Shoemaker Canyon Road.

This is not a dramatic uphill hike. You do get in a few hundred feet of elevation on a graded dirt road. When all is said and done, you can get in and out on this hike in just a few hours; 2-3 for most people. The first tunnel is about 2 miles from the trailhead. It is what you see above. Notice the year listed below on the top of the tunnel:
You would think that people would have learned from the failure of the Bridge to Nowhere that creating a road out here would not work either. The idea was a road was to be created that went through to the desert. In the case of atomic attack on Los Angeles this road would be used as an emergency evacuation for the people of the nearby area to take the stress off of the other roads assuming they were still around.
The tunnel was dark on this morning because we were they early. The flash from my camera lit it up, but further on ahead it got dark. You could see the end of the tunnel though. On the way back it was not so bad and I did not need to use my flashlight. We came out on the other side and continued.
The trailhead and slight elevation change is much higher than the Eastfork River. So, the mountains were higher than us and surrounding us, but we had great views below us. The Bridge to Nowhere hike was done below in the canyon of this picture. If you look to the lower right of the picture, then you would see where I was at some point two years ago. The second tunnel is not too far from the first one. It was marked "1964."
It too was a tunnel of a few hundred feet. Sometimes going through something dark like this you just wonder what type of life you may encounter in something like this. Some wild animal? Homeless? Mentally disturbed people? The living dead? We encountered nothing, but thoughts like that are in the mind since we were not too far from civilization.
We came out on the other side to this. The dirt-road is somewhat smaller. One could continue another two miles on it, but I had no desire too since the goal was just to reach and explore these tunnels.

What happened it that these tunnels were built between 1961-1964. However, the overall construction of the road was from about 1954-1969. They used convict labor to do it, but as time went on lack of money and environmentalists eventually stopped its building. Only hikers and bikers, not vehicles come back here. These tunnels are now relics of the Cold War era.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bodie Ghost Town Gunfight: Nixon vs. McDonald

Halloweener #1

In Oct. 2006 I spent some time going over some unusual, mysterious, and spooky folklore to celebrate the month of Halloween. I skipped last year, but I wanted to do some blogs for this year. I hope, if everything works out, to get a few more done this month.

In this first one there is nothing really spooky or scary about it at all, but it is the story about a gravesite so I thought this would be a good one to start off on. First off, a special treat. No trick on this one though since it was way before my time. Here is a picture taken around 1956 of Bodie Ghost Town's cemetery from the family archives:
Now to our story. The following is taken from Roger McGrath's Gunfighters, Highwaymen, & Vigilantes (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), pgs. 218-219:

"The Early morning hours of Thursday, 13 June 1878, found Patrick Gallagher's Shamrock saloon crowded with men. Some stood at the bar drinking Irish whiskey, others were at the chop counter eating fried steaks, while several huddled around the gambling tables playing faro. Alex Nixon, the popular and powerfully built thirty-one-year-old, Irish-born president of the Bodie Miner's Union, treated the men at the bar to a round of drinks. When they had finished, Tom McDonald offered to buy the next round. But he found himself out of pocket change and asked the bartender, T.C. O'Brien, to lend him a dollar. Nixon objected and handed McDonald the dollar himself. The action offended McDonald. Heated words were exchanged, and then, when McDonald said he was the better man, Nixon unleashed a vicious blow that caught McDonald under the right eye and sent him tumbling to the floor.

Terrence Brodigan, a deputy constable and son of one of the discoverers of the Bodie's gold, grabbed Nixon from behind and tried to restrain him. The union president wheeled about and said, 'Do you want any of it? Don't throw your hand behind you, for I am heeled. But I don't want any trouble with you for you are a constable.' By now McDonald had gotten to his feet and was leaning against the bar. He said to Nixon, 'It's pretty hard for a man to be knocked down, get a black eye and cut face for nothing.' 'You're a son of a b---h for letting me do it, even if I do weigh twenty pounds more than you,' replied Nixon.

The dark-complexioned, thirty-five-year-old McDonald was over six feet tall and no small man himself. Nevertheless, he stepped back, drew a revolver, and asked Nixon, 'Will you give me even chances?' 'Yes, by God,' answered Nixon.

O'Brien, now out from behind the bar, seized McDonald by the arm, and officer Brodigan caught hold of Nixon. But Nixon struggled free and drew a revolver from his hip pocket. At the same time McDonald pulled his arm out of O'Brien's grasp. Both men opened fire. Nixon's first shot missed McDonald by inches, but McDonald's hit Nixon in the side. 'My God, boys, I'm shot. Run for a doctor,' exclaimed the big miner as he staggered back and fell to the floor. As he lay there with blood running out of a hole in his side, he fired two more shots at McDonald. They missed. One of the bullets was found the next day embedded in a head of cabbage in the restaurant next door. McDonald returned the fire. The rounds tore holes in the wooden planks of the Shamrock's floor but left Nixon untouched. It hardly mattered. Less than two hours later Nixon died from the effects of McDonald's first shot.
On Friday, hundreds of Bodieites, including John Nixon, the brother of the deceased, viewed Nixon's body as it lay in a coffin in the Miners' Union Hall. Late in the afternoon, a funeral procession, said to be the 'largest turnout ever seen in Bodie,' made its way from the union hall to the cemetery. With F.K. Bechtel, a prominent mine owner and judge, conducting the gravesite service, Alex Nixon was laid to rest, some six thousand miles from his native Country Tyrone. Tom McDonald, meanwhile, was arrested, charged with murder, and lodged in jail. On Thursday afternoon, he appeared before D.V. Goodson, justice of the peace. But the justice decided it was 'impracticable to examine him at this time' and had him transferred to the county jail at Bridgeport for 'safe keeping.' Finally, on 24 June, McDonald appeared in justice court again. This time he was remanded to the custody of the sheriff to await action of the grand jury. His bail was set at $2,500. He remained in jail at Bridgeport another four days before a group of friends raised the money and bailed him out. When the grand jury met two months later, the jurors declined to indict McDonald, and the charge against him was dropped."
You may want to double click the above picture to see the inscription as a bigger picture.
I have something special planned for the ghost town of Bodie in the next few months. There are going to be a bunch of blogs I do on it near the end of the year so stay tuned for that.

A few links:

Bodie in the California State Park Site