Thursday, February 2, 2023


 scoff-law: A person who flouts the law, especially law that is difficult to enforce.

I've been hiking the old Coyote Hills oil property on and off for at least 10 years now. It's private propety and fenced, but (at least until recently) there have been multiple openings in the fence for years that people use on a regular basis. I'm one of those "people". No one seems to care that people are hiking and biking on the property, no one repairs the openings, and no one patrols the property (again, at least until recently). There's even confusion on who owns the property: The oil company has been trying to carve it up and build hundreds of homes on the property, in a city that is already choked with traffic and high density housing. A local organization ("Friends of Coyote Hills") is working with the city to save the property from being developed, and the city is trying to save enough money to buy the property. At this point in time, I'm not sure who owns it or what the status is. It's the only area in my neck of the woods where I can hike and feel like I'm re-connecting with nature. There are hawks, quail, coyotes, and rabbits, to name a few of the critters one might see, in an area that feels "wild". It reminds me of "old" California, before things got so crowded and congested. It's not unusual for me to see a few other hikers, but for the most part, I have solitude.

Fast forward to about 3-4 months ago, when suddenly all the openings in the fence had been repaired. Oh noooo! For the last few months, it's been a game of cat and mouse. Someone cuts an opening in the chain link fence (at least I'm not guilty of that!), people use it for a while, then it gets repaired and closed up. Then I'll find a new opening somewhere else, only to find it's been repaired and closed a week later.

So I'll ask you: Does that make me a scofflaw? I'm thinking it probably does. I hike an area I'm not supposed to hike. There are many ways to rationalize it: No one cares if I hike here (at least they used to not care), I pick up trash and leave it cleaner than I found it, others hike here (I know, a childish excuse), there's confusion about ownership and status, etc., etc. It doesn't change the fact that it's private property.

On my last hike here (about a week ago), I found a nice big gaping hole in the fence and just couldn't resist. Yup, I'm definitely a scofflaw. I found myself over on the east side of the property (my usual hikes are on the west side) and exploring new territory, which is always fun.
After stepping through the hole in the fence, this was my view. I decided to follow this little seasonal stream (more of a drainage channel) up the hill. It had rained overnight, so everything was beautiful, wet and fresh!
Hazy view looking down on (I think) Brookhurst St., as it heads south. Follow it for 16.5 miles and you will end up at Huntington State Beach. It's hard to see, but you might be able to make out the shimmer on the horizon which is the Pacific Ocean.

Wonderful cell reception in this area!
Toyon berries after the rain.

Rock with old shell fragments (I think?). Cool find!
Geologists call this area the San Pedro formation and it was formed over a million years ago. The soil here is very sandy, and at times looks like beach sand. In fact, this whole area used to be beachfront property. Downtown Fullerton was underwater, and the ocean came right up to the Fullerton Hills. Who knows, with global warming, this might be beachfront property again some day!
As I was enjoying my solitude and lost in thoughts of owning beachfront property, imagine my surprise when I spotted a security vehicle about 40 yards away!! Oh well, it had to happen sooner or later... caught on private property by Johnny Law! What's a scofflaw to do? I wonder how much my fine will be? I wonder if I will have to serve jail time?? In fact, the security guard was super nice. Almost apologetic. He said "I'm sorry but I need to ask you to head back in the direction you came." He didn't say "leave the property", just "head back in the direction you came." Really? That's it?? No handcuffs?? Sure, I said, and by the way, do you have any idea what the status of this property is? Will they be opening it up to the general public anytime soon? He didn't know. Then we got to talking about what a beautiful property it is, and some of the features, said our goodbyes, and I started heading back in the general direction of the hole in the fence. I figured he would follow me to confirm I had left, and to find where the hole is located. Nope, he didn't and I guess he wasn't interested. Good, I can take my time and take some more pictures!

I found this spot that appears to have been a homeless encampment. It was a little spooky on approach, and I found myself calling out "is anybody here?" I'm guessing no one has lived here for at least a couple months, if not longer. See that big Pepper tree in the upper part of the photo above? There was a second homeless encampment there. Really makes me curious to know who lived here and for how long.

The second homeless camp.

I'm sure going to miss this place 😔
Thanks for stopping by!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Calumet Mine: The Drive Home

 Calumet Mine was a fun place to explore, but it's time to start the long Jeep trip back to civilization. Looking back on this trip, at least half the fun was in getting to (and from) the destination. And if you enjoy desert skies and lots of photo opportunities, it doesn't get much better than this!
Who doesn't love desert trains? With seemingly unlimited visibility, beautiful light, and wonderful skies, you can't go wrong. This train was so long that it didn't fit in a single photo!
It was a looooooooooong time waiting for this train to pass!
Now that's off-grid/remote living!
The Road Runner's Retreat on old Route 66 has been abandoned for many years. I would love to see photos of what it looked like during prosperous times. That's Roger taking the close-up photo.


I've shared the photo of the full moon over Roy's before, but sharing it again because this was taken on the drive home from the Calumet Mine.
Hope you enjoyed these desert skies, and thanks for stopping by!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Calumet Mine (Part 1)

 You've never heard of Calumet Mine? You're not alone. After multiple Google searches for Calumet Mine in San Bernardino County, CA, I finally gave up. I could find no posts or photos (which made me even more curious). My search uncovered Calumet Mine, Colorado. And even a former mining town (now a ghost town) in Colorado by the name of Calumet. But nothing for Calumet Mine in CA, other than the fact it was an old gold mine. So my friend Roger and I set off in the Jeep to see if we could find it. Fasten your seatbelt and join us, it's going to be a bumpy ride!
A quick stop in Amboy at Roys on Route 66...
And the old Amboy graveyard. Sad to see...
We continued east to Cadiz, then south on Cadiz Road to a rarely used dirt road traveling SW through open desert that would take us to within about a mile of Cadiz Mine. At least, that what the topo maps and satellite view on Google Maps show.
Wow, were we ever surprised to find the road led us to huge green agricultural fields. Are we still in the desert? Where did our road go? And where is all this water coming from??
These surreal green fields seemed to go on forever.
Google tells me this is alfalfa.
It turns out the road we were following (which I think is BLM land/public property) skirted property owned by Allow me to digress: The Cadiz company has pretty much turned the road into a crop access road in some areas, and made it difficult to follow. Being the intrepid desert explorers that we are, we were able to follow the outer edges of the fields and reconnect with the road. The Cadiz company is famous (infamous would be more accurate) for purchasing water rights in the middle of the desert with a goal of tapping into ground water and pumping it to suburban users in Orange County. This pissed off a lot of people who are rightfully concerned that lowering groundwater in the desert would result in drying up the very few springs that still exist today (most have already gone dry) which would be devastating to wildlife that rely on these springs. Thankfully, Cadiz's water grab has been blocked (at least so far), but as you can tell from photo #3, they are tapping into the groundwater and flooding the desert to grow alfalfa. Digression over. 
Continuing on...
We finally made it to the Calumet Mine, or what's left of it. This is bleak, unforgiving desert. Be forwarned: If you are going to attempt this trip, be prepared for a lot of soft sand. The Jeep did great, but I was careful to keep my speed up and was constantly in fear of getting bogged down and stuck. With no cell service or auto towing, we would have been out of luck.
This is what remains of a wooden structure (one of two or three in the area). There's an interesting... something?... built out of local stone. Whoever built it hand picked some beautiful pieces of quartz to use in its construction. I wonder what it was?? The cool thing about visiting this old mine is that very few others have been here. There are no human footprints in the area. On a scale of 1-10 on the Desert Solitude scale, it's a 10!
A closer look at the mysterious stone structure. The photo doesn't do justice to the beautiful hand-picked stones used in it's construction.
If you were to walk strait ahead past this structure without paying too much attention, you would never be heard from again.
I present to you the Calumet mine shaft! It's larger than it looks, and is not very visible from up above (see previous photos). It's not until you are about ready to fall in that you see it. Rule #27: When exploring old mine sites, don't walk around while looking down at your cell phone!
The mine looks quite deep. How deep you ask? Hold that question for just a moment. Something else very cool about this mine shaft is the large raptor nest on the far wall. I'm guessing a hawk or owl, or perhaps even a golden eagle given its large size.
So getting back to your question: How deep is the Calumet Mine? I came up with this crazy idea to tie string around my GoPro camera (which is protected by a plastic case) and see if I could lower it down into the mine (without slipping and falling to my death 😲). It might give me a rough estimate of the depth, and also if there is anything interesting at the bottom of the mine (you always hear about creepy things at the bottom of desert mine shafts, right?) Just a warning: If you get vertigo from twirling around, you may want to skip this video. The camera kept spinning around on the string as I lowered it, which is something the production crew didn't anticipate!
The camera ended up getting snagged on a sandy shelf about 25' down, so I still don't know how deep the mine shaft is, or if there are any old bones at the bottom, but it was worth a try. I guess it's safe to say: Calumet Mine is very deep, and we're certainly not going to win any awards with this video!
After the craziness of lowering a camera into a mine shaft, Roger and I decided to take a look around to see what we could find.
What remains of another wooden structure.
I'm guessing melted glass from an old campfire.
Lot's of interesting artifacts remain at the Calumet Mine.

This large tube dropped down a steep hill from the mine above into this wash.
Sand dunes near the Calumet Mine.

So dry and desolate that even the creosote have a hard time surviving.

We followed the old roads in the area but didn't find any more mines.

The views from the mine are impressive. See the train?

Looking SE, you can see Cadiz Dunes.
One more photo of the big watering machine. I think the Cadiz Company refers to this area as "Cadiz Ranch". Seems like a crazy place to farm. Summer temperatures are routinely in the triple digits and frequently reach or exceed 115-120 degress. Evaporation while watering must be tremedous.
We were treated to some incredible skies on the Jeep trip back home, and I'll share those with you on my next post. Thanks for stopping by!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.