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Tom Kitten

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Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 7,079

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Scenes from my Desert Road Trip- the First Day

Seeing the posts Solly Mack and Fizzgig did of their road trips inspired me to post this!

The last two years I spent part of the winter in Santa Ana, California. One thing I really wanted to do was go out into the desert and just experience it. (Not much desert around Portland!) In Jan. last year I visited my cousin in the Phoenix area and took a roundabout way, spending a day around Palm Springs and then going south to see the Salton Sea. Here's some photos from day one, I was very much a tourist!

Going through San Gorgonio Pass, one of the windiest areas in the country. You go through the Cabazon wind farm, over 3000 wind turbines, producing enough power for 300,000 people.

The Cabazon Dinosaurs are also located here. Of course I had to stop!

You can see how windy it is, look at the palm trees... it was hard to stand up straight.

A young family, I thought this was a cute picture

One last photo of the Brontosaurus, there's a store inside, but it wasn't open. The dinosaurs are now the site of a "creationist museum", I didn't have the time or inclination to see it...

Next stop was the Cabot Yerxa Pueblo, built by the town founder and discoverer of the hot springs. Now a museum, over 20 years he built this 30 room adobe. There's a tour to go inside but I missed it so I just wandered around the grounds. It's shady here which is nice (even though it was January it was like 90 degrees here). There's a good museum/gallery here focusing on Native American arts, it was nice and cool inside.

The sculpture here is called Waokiye by the artist Peter Wolf Toth. It stands 43 feet tall

A view of Desert Hot Springs from the pueblo. Somewhere in this picture the San Andreas fault runs through, which created the hot springs. Also on the horizon you can see some of the thousands of wind turbines. I really liked the town, about 25,000 population.

There's a lot of cool mid century architecture in this area. This place was for sale.

On the road to Palm Springs I was stopped at a red light and this was the scene. So I took a picture! I don't know why but I like this picture.

So, in Palm Springs, I wandered around. Then I found the Marilyn Monroe statue (it's not there anymore,I guess it travels around the country. Now in New Jersey)

In case you're wondering, yes I took pictures of her butt and no, I'm not going to post any! This is as close as you get.

And across the street was this sculpture of Lucille Ball.

Down the street, Sonny Bono...

I went into the residential area, the movie star colony. I could not believe how lush the landscape is here, out in the desert. It seems there isn't the water shortage as much here, Palm Springs sits on a giant aquifer.

Across the street is the Robots Sculpture Garden, by artist Kenny Irwin, Jr. Two acres of robots, aliens, Christmas and Islam. You can tour by appointment, I didn't know this so just took some pictures from outside. I'm sure someday I'll go back and see what's inside!

It was after 3 pm by this time, I had a long way to go so I hit the road again. I stopped at a Tiki motel, where I could have gotten a room for 45$, unfortunately they had no vacancies...But here's a picture of their lobby...

So I drove 30 miles to Indio and spent the night, which turned out OK, I had a lot of mileage to go and a lot more to see. The next day I started out at 8 AM, visited the Salton Sea and Salvation Mountain, went through the dunes and arrived at my cousin's house at 10 PM. But that was the second day.

Ugh! Smoke from all the wildfires covers Portland today

No one I talked to today has ever remembered a day like today in Portland. The winds shifted to from the east and smoke covered the area. The smell of burning filled the air. Unhealthy air alerts in some ares. Plus it was 87 today. I hope this isn't the new normal.

Panoramas of Bodie, California

Since panoramas are this month's contest theme and people are thinking about them, I thought I'd share these I took when I visited Bodie in Sept. 2013. I spent a day there and took hundreds of photos but I haven't posted any (well OK one once)...

So here are some views of what the place looks like, maybe a nice overview. It is the largest surviving completely ghost town in the US, now a state park. It was a very enjoyable experience, I'd recommend anyone to visit if they are in that neck of the woods. It is remote but only 13 miles from Hwy 395, about 80 miles south of Lake Tahoe, near Mono Lake. It is about 8800 feet in elevation and has a sub-polar climate... I heard it described as a 50-50-50 zone in the winter- that is, 50 feet of snow, 50 mph winds, and 50 degrees below zero! 135 years ago almost ten thousand people lived here, during the height of the gold rush boom. Two fires over the years destroyed 95% of the town, and this is what is left.

To the left is the main part of the remaining downtown area. To the right, the gray building is the stamp mill, where they processed the raw ore and turned it into gold bars they shipped to Carson City, Nevada. It operated through the 1930s.

The stamp mill is on the far left. The large building next to it is the schoolhouse. You can look in the windows and still see the desks, chalkboards, maps etc., lots of artifacts remain in some buildings.

A view of what remains of "downtown"...the roads still go to places, like Aurora, another ghost town, but you need a high clearance 4wheel drive to get there.

I think the stone ruins on the left was once a warehouse, where they kept all the whiskey (this town was legendary for its rowdiness). The large building with the bell tower is the firehouse. Unfortunately they weren't able to stop the fires. During both fires the firemen went to the hydrants and when they opened them, only a trickle of water came out. It turned out rocks and debris had blocked the intake valves and all they could do was form a bucket brigade. After the second fire, in 1932, most people gave up and left.

A view of the road, leaving Bodie, with the high Sierra on the horizon. The last three miles of the road (like here) is unpaved and very bumpy... it took almost half an hour just to travel these three miles.

The town's isolation and difficulty in reaching it is one reason it has survived in such relatively good condition over the years. Now that is a state park, it is always occupied by park rangers, I was told 27, and 7 stay over the winter. So, in a way, there are still people who live there.

If anyone is interested, in the future I can post more photos from this place, including from inside the stamp mill. If you like "steampunk", here you can see some early technology in the Old West, including a generator built by Tesla himself!

The Old Mill and Willamette Falls

I said I was going to post some photos of the Blue Heron Mill/Willamette Falls site after I went on a tour there last week, but the process of editing them down (I took 238 photos, whittled them down to 100) and post processing (interiors were really dark with glare from windows, I had to adjust shadow/highlight and contrast on some of them) turned out to be quite time consuming. Then on Monday I felt a cold coming on and sure enough it hit, felt too poorly to sit at the computer very much, so I spent most of the past four days bundled up on the couch, drink hot spiced apple cider and eating chicken noodle soup (with lots of ginger!) But I feel better now so I can get back to posting!

I don't know where to start so why not at the beginning?

This is where we started and then turned left into the main former mill building. This is pretty much all the public could see of the mill at street level. This used to be part of Main St. in downtown Oregon City; John McLaughlin (founder of Oregon City and the "Father of Oregon"'s house was located here. The mill, then known as Publisher's Paper Company, gradually bought up all the land and eventually this part of Main St. was closed to public access.But the plan is to reopen it and make the whole area part of downtown again.
As you can see, it was a foggy and chilly morning.


The hole in the floor is where the milling machinery was, it's been removed. Below is the basement, very dark, damp, and musty!

We went through the building and out onto a platform where we caught a glimpse of the falls. The building on the right is a PGE hydroelectric plant, still generating power. There are fish ladders and behind it, the oldest multi-gate locks for ships in the U.S., now so rusted and decrepit they've been closed permanently.

These are remains of an old loading dock, it's going to be made into an observation platform. The bridge connects Oregon City with West Linn.

Looking across the river at the PGE plant and the West Linn Paper Company, which still operates. It produces glossy paper for magazines, catalogs, etc. The Blue Heron Mill produced newsprint (when it was Publisher's it was owned by the Times-Mirror Company).
If you see the horizontal line on the edge of the building at the extreme far left, that marks the high water point for the 1996 flood. Since this part of the mill is in the flood zone, re-using the buildings here presents problems.

This structure fascinated me...

Back inside, up on the second floor...

An office, unused since 2010.

Back outside, remains of the Woolen Mills, one of the first mills built here and torn down early last century. The foundations remain and will stay, they're thinking of a courtyard or open air market here.

A stream ran through here from under the arch but it's been blocked for who knows how long. It will be cleared out and restored to flow freely again.

We entered another building to go downstairs underneath the buildings themselves. Because the basalt bedrock is sloped, the buildings were built on stilts to make them level.

We didn't get to back there. Didn't really want to!

Water runs down here, too. The runoff is captured and processed to remove pollutants before it reaches the river. The rusted metal siding on most of the buildings releases copper and zinc into the water, which is harmful to the fish. A lot of these buildings will eventually be removed.

A few impressions...

Leaving the main mill site, we walk on the trail to the falls...old controls for the original dam and hydro plant.

Remnants and turbines from the old dam. The site of the first long distance transmission of electricity, in 1889.

Looking back at the mill

Finally we reach the Willamette Falls - the highlight of the tour! This viewpoint has been closed to public access for over a hundred years. They're looking to have the Riverwalk open in about seven years buut the entire project may take ten years or more.

These pictures don't have sound or movement! To remedy that, I shot a minute long video, to give perhaps a better impression...


If you want to see all 100 photos I posted you can see them here...



I wish I could say I took these while snorkeling off the coast of somewhere exotic, but that is not the case. I took these at the Long Beach Aquarium. I took a ton of pictures there and because the lighting was so low a lot of photos I took turned out blurry. So frustrating! I need to learn more and get a better camera. However these turned out OK, I guess. Luckily jellyfish are slow moving!

In the spirit of Halloween, how about some creepy... couches?

I noticed a recurring subject in some of the pictures I took of certain...well let's just say forgotten places off the beaten trail...I was all alone when I took these...saw no one...heard nothing but the wind and sometimes the occasional noise of something moving around...up in the rafters...

The Bottle Tree Ranch

One man's folk art. Located out in the Mojave Desert, on Route 66.

a rabbit hopped out to greet me.

A woman from Sweden, enjoying the place immensely...

Elmer, the artist, who's spent the past 14 years building this thing. He lives here, this is his land (2 acres)

I stayed until late afternoon to see the light shine through the colored glass.

There's 25 pictures in all I posted here, if you want to see more.

The sky was acting dramatic today

We had heavy rain showers this morning, then the sun came out. I was out driving, saw this and had to pull over and take these pictures.

Later, at home, I looked out the window and the sky was doing it again! I took the first through the window, then ran outside and took the rest.

Thinking of textures for October, I found these spooky pictures lurking...On my computer

I don't think I'll use any for the contest, though. I'd rather shoot something new, maybe something more light hearted.

I did take this in October, but last year. Anybody see the movie "The Haunting?" (the original) The scene with the face in the wall and the murmuring? This reminds me of that scene. It's just a piece of plywood in a boarded up warehouse window, here in Portland. Just add some murmuring chants! Or some chanting murmurs. Feel free to scare yourself. It's on the house!

This one, too. I took this in San Francisco, at the Sutros Baths ruins. A big bank of soft orange rock carved with, graffiti, I guess you'd call it...

Let's take a closer look, shall we? The shadows seem to dissipate the orange here...

Don't be scared here! He's just a dummy in a rubber mask. One of those animatrons in a booth you feed coins too and tells your fortune. He's in Calico, CA. Sort of a restored "ghost town" or tourist attraction. Beautiful area, though.

From deep in the bowels of Alcatraz. I spent a day there earlier this year. A more oppressively depressing place I've yet to find myself. (No, I haven't been to Washington DC!) They say the place is haunted, too. I can believe it!

A study of some finely crafted brickmaso- wait, whazzat say?
I took this in Bombay Beach, CA, on the shore of the Salton Sea. Pretty much a modern ghost town. A remarkable place. I'm planning on posting some sets from the ghost towns and ruins I visited around Halloween time. If you're into that, stick around! This place was mind-boggling! And I went there...all alone.

From another, different ghost town out in the desert. This was in a (mostly, I think?) deserted motel compound. There was a newer model car parked nearby. Only unit without broken windows. I really wasn't into finding out if anybody lives there, though!

Some spooky stuff, eh?

Apologies in advance

Yesterday's Photo of the Day inspired me SO much that...

October 7, 2014

A Fishy Tale

Photograph by Tom Kitten, Unnatural Geographic My Shot

A sperm whale “waves goodbye” to DU member Tom Kitten, who had traveled to his kitchen hoping to wash some dishes. “While I did have some success with the dishes, it was the sperm whale that stole the show,” I write. I captured this picture toward the end of the six-minute operation. “It was early in the day and the water level was low as I dropped this small whale into the sink, and I did my best to keep quiet so as to not frighten her. This one started to dive as soon as I added soap, trying to get the dishes done. I knew she might be the last whale I'd encounter in the sink, and indeed, she was.”

Mr. Kitten added later that he found himself exhausted by the end of his encounter. "It was draining", he said.

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