Tag Archives: california

The Ocean Institute at Dana Point, California

Out & About       Halls of History

On September 6, 2019, I was in Dana Point, California, for the 35th Annual Tall Ships & Ocean Festival hosted by the Ocean Institute.

Surprising to me, although I had been to Dana Point, it was on a technicality: I had driven through it on Pacific Coast Highway. I never had stopped to go exploring. This time, I did. There is lots to do in Dana Point, but I do admit I was more interested in the harbor and the Ocean Institute. In the picture below, at the bottom center, several masts from tall ships are visible. That’s the Ocean Institute, at the bottom of the cliff.

Dana Point, California, harbor

The front of the Ocean Institute was undergoing repairs and renovations, so I chose not to take a picture of all the fencing. I suspect you’ve seen fencing before. It’s usually not pretty. It wasn’t. Here’s a picture of the landlocked back side, though:

Ocean Institute at Dana Point, California

Although it is the landlocked side, it is the side that faces the Pacific Ocean, which is why there are so many trails through the vegetation there. People want to see the mighty Pacific, and it’s no wonder with views like this:

The Ocean Institute is located at 24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, California. Its mission statement:

Using the ocean as our classroom, we inspire children to learn.

The Ocean Institute was founded in 1977 and educates over 100,000 children, teachers, parents, and visitors each year through over 60 programs on marine science, maritime history, and outdoor education. It occupies 2.4 acres  and also is adjacent to a State Marine Conservation Area.

“Immersion-based field trips” sponsored by the Ocean Institute range from one-hour science labs to multi-day programs at sea and at the Lazy W Ranch in the foothills of the Santa Ana Mountains. Programs are designed to maximize immersion, spark curiosity, and inspire a commitment to learning.

There are state-of-the-art teaching labs, including the awesome Maddie James Seaside Learning Center, and two historic tall ships, the Pilgrim and the Spirit of Dana Point. I got to take a 3-hour ride in the Pacific Ocean on the Spirit of Dana Point on September 6.

Passengers on the Spirit of Dana Point

The Pilgrim is a full-size replica of a hide brig, i.e., a brig participating in the California cattle hide trade for her Boston owners, Bryant & Sturgis. The original Pilgrim was built in Boston in 1825 and sank in a fire at sea in 1856. It weighed 180 tons and was 86½ feet long.

The replica was built in 1945 in Denmark, originally as a three-masted schooner. It was converted to its present rigging in 1975 in Lisbon, Portugal. Its deck is 98 feet long with a beam of 24.6 feet, a mainmast height of 98 feet, and a net tonnage of 64. In September 1981 it became part of the Ocean Institute.

Full size replica of Pilgrim, Ocean Institute, Dana Point, California

If you’re a film buff, the Pilgrim might look familiar to you since it was used in the 1997 film, Amistad. If you’re a history buff, Amistad should be on your list of films to watch. I have not seen it and did not know about it until this blog post, which was another surprise because it was directed by Steven Spielberg (one of my favorite directors) and starred Morgan Freeman (one of my favorite actors), Anthony Hopkins (who can forget Silence of the Lambs), and Matthew McConaughey.

As an aside since I’m a graduate of Texas A&M University, Matthew McConaughey now is a Professor of Practice in the Department of Radio-Television-Film in the Moody College of Communication at my arch rival, the University of Texas at Austin, where he graduated in 1993.

Amistad is a historical drama film based on the true story of the events in 1839 aboard the slave ship La Amistad, during which Mende tribesmen abducted for the slave trade managed to gain control of their captors’ ship off the coast of Cuba, and the international legal battle that followed their capture by the Washington, a U.S. revenue cutter. The case was ultimately resolved by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1841.

The screenplay was based on the book Mutiny on the Amistad: The Saga of a Slave Revolt and Its Impact on American Abolition, Law, and Diplomacy by historian Howard Jones. The case, United States v. The Amistad (1839) is quite interesting, perhaps the most important decision regarding slavery before the Dred Scot decision in 1857.

The movie is not available on Hulu or Netflix, but I did find it on YouTube for $2.99. As soon as I finish Altered Carbon, I’ll be watching Amistad.

The Ocean Institute also owns an oceanographic research vessel, the Sea Explorer.

Sea Explorer of the Ocean Institute

My Photoshop eye was quick to see that with just a few minutes of work, I could rename the Sea Explorer:

Sex Explorer

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos

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Out & About—Dana Point, California

Out & About       Halls of History

On Friday I drove 77 miles to Dana Point, California, to take a 3-hour ride on the tall ship Spirit of Dana Point. The occasion was the opening of the 35th Annual Tall Ships & Ocean Festival hosted by Ocean Institute.

Since these events are quite popular in Southern California, I left at 4:00 a.m. to get there earlier than everyone else so that I could get good parking. I parked and walked around the harbor watching the sun rise.

9/6/2019 sunrise in Dana Point harbor, California

In the 1830s and 1840s, the natural harbor was a popular port for ships bringing supplies to the Mission San Juan Capistrano located nearby.  The earliest known visit to the harbor was in 1818. Argentine sailor Hippolyte de Bouchard anchored in the harbor while conducting a raid on the mission.

Dana Point was incorporated as a city on January 1, 1989, and had a population of 33,351 in the 2010 census. The city was named after the headland of Dana Point, which was named after Richard Henry Dana Jr., author of Two Years Before the Mast, published in 1840, who had docked his ship, Pilgrim, in the harbor in 1835.

Dana Point headland

Two Years Before the Mast is an account of the Pilgrim’s 1834-35 voyage between Boston and California. In it, Dana described the area as the only romantic spot on the coast.

Pilgrim was a sailing brig 86½ feet long and weighing 180 tons. It had been built in Boston in 1825 and went down in a fire at sea in 1856. There is a full-size replica at the Ocean Institute in the harbor at Dana Point.

Full size replica of Pilgrim, Ocean Institute, Dana Point, California

Pilgrim used to sail but it is in need of major repairs. Right now the money isn’t available to make those repairs, so it appears to be permanently docked at this time.

The harbor is quite beautiful and a joy to walk around watching people, boats, wildlife, sunrises, and sunsets.

Dana Point, California, harbor

Dana Point Harbor, California

Dana Point Harbor, California

Dana Point Harbor, California

Pelican at Dana Point, California

Person at Dana Point, California

Sunset at Dana Point, California

Coming up next: More about the Ocean Institute.

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos

Spirit of Dana Point

Halls of History

Many hundreds of years ago I wanted to be a history teacher. Then I found out how much money history teachers made in Texas. That was the end of that dream.

Yesterday I had the opportunity to sail on the tall ship Spirit of Dana Point. Since I was on the ship, I could not take a picture of it under sail. So I resort to a picture of it here in San Diego at the Maritime Museum’s Festival of Sail on August 29, 2013:

Spirit of Dana Point in San Diego on August 28, 2013.

The event yesterday was the occasion of the 2019 Tall Ships & Ocean Festival of the Ocean Institute in Dana Point, California.

The Spirit of Dana Point has an interesting history. It is a traditionally built replica of a 1770s privateer schooner used during the American Revolution. They were known for speed, and their speed made them useful for smuggling.

Formerly named Pilgrim of Newport, it was built piece by piece by Dennis Holland (1945-2014), who dreamed of building an accurate replica from the period when America fought for independence. He had talent and determination, as well as plans he purchased from the Smithsonian Institution. He laid the keel on May 2, 1970, in the yard of his Orange County home. It was finished and launched in 1983. The Ocean Institute acquired the ship in 2001, and it continues to sail the ocean under the name Spirit of Dana Point.

While under sail yesterday, we got more behind-the-scenes tales of how the ship was built. When Dennis Holland started running short of money, he and his family moved into the half-completed ship and rented out their home. When tasked with a school project to draw a picture of your home, one of his daughters drew a picture of the boat. Teacher was not too pleased.

Dana Point is a great little beach town. If you ever get the opportunity to drive Pacific Coast Highway (also known as Coast Highway, U.S. 101, California 1), be sure to stop in Dana Point and check out the harbor and the magnificent cliff side homes.

Dana Point, California, harbor

Cliff side homes in Dana Point, California

I will have more about the Ocean Institute and my adventures yesterday on the high seas in upcoming posts.

Double R Creations & Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos

Exploring pays off!

Picture of the Moment

On the first Sunday of each month, I drive 226 miles round-trip up to Long Beach to attend the monthly meeting of the Long Beach Cactus Club. I guess you could say I’m dedicated to this cactus thing.

I have an intermediate stop at the La Costa Park & Ride to pick up Annie Morgan, Program Chair (and more!) of the Palomar Cactus & Succulent Society in Escondido, California.

Usually I get there a couple of minutes later than my ETA because traffic conditions just are not consistent in large metroplexes. This past Sunday, though, I got there 30 minutes early, and it’s only a 40-minute drive. I did not speed. Believe me.

Whenever I get somewhere early, I make it a point to walk around and explore, never knowing what I might find. This past Sunday I found this pretty little flower:

Unknown flower

Exploring paid off! That picture will make a nice puzzle or something, especially if I can find out the name of the plant.

I have no idea what the plant is. It was bare of leaves but with many dozens of half-inch pink flowers, looking very beautiful in the dry heat where I found it.

Map from home to Long Beach

X marks the spot

Out & About—Laguna Dam

Out & About

 

Dams always have fascinated me. I remember making dams along the street curbs when it rained and then playing in the huge lake the dam created.

When I was in Yuma, Arizona, a few days ago, I discovered the history of dams on the Colorado River.

Laguna Diversion Dam, 1905
Price-Stubb Dam, 1911
Hoover Dam, 1936
Imperial Dam, 1938
Parker Dam, 1938
Headgate Rock Dam, 1941
Shadow Mountain Dam, 1946
Morelos Dam, 1950
Granby Dam, 1950
Davis Dam, 1951
Palo Verde Dam, 1958
Glen Canyon Dam, 1966
Windy Gap Dam 1970

Hoover Dam, original named Boulder Dam, created Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States by volume. The Glen Canyon Dam created Lake Powell. Both Lake Mead and Lake Powell are huge recreational areas.

Notice the first dam on the list, the Laguna Diversion Dam. Prior to 1905, the Colorado River was a major steamboat passageway. The Laguna Dam effectively ended steamboat travel on the Colorado River.

Tourist displays in Yuma indicated that the Laguna Dam, Imperial Dam, and Morelos Dam were nearby, so I set off in search of them.

The Morelos Dam was closest, but it also happens to be in Mexico. Since I don’t have a passport, I did not go into Mexico.

Imperial Dam was not accessible because the dam is on U.S. Goverment property and the road was gated.

Laguna Dam, the first on the list, was accessible. Looks like this:

Laguna Dam in Arizona

Laguna Dam in Arizona

The Laguna Dam originally connected Arizona to California, but when the Imperial Dam was completed in 1938, the California part of the dam no longer was needed, and its diversion outlets were closed on June 23, 1948. What you see in the above pictures is on the Arizona side, all that is left of the original dam.

The Laguna Dam now regulates water outflow from the Imperial Dam into the All American Canal, a huge aqueduct 80 miles long that that feeds Colorado water into the Imperial Valley for irrigation, as well as providing water to nine cities. More on the All American Canal in tomorrow’s post.

Out & About—Ogilby, California

Out & About

 

Long-time readers know that I’m a big baby when it comes to trains. I love them. Trains often are part of my explorations, so when I went exploring a couple of days ago looking for the Wood Plank Road, I spent a lot of time wandering around looking for trains, too.

Yuma, Arizona, happens to be one of those places where my favorite railroad, Union Pacific, runs a lot of trains, fifty or more each day. They are not short trains, either, some being up to two miles long. Sadly, the layout of Yuma with all its little mountains and valleys meant that there was not a place to get good pictures or videos of all the trains.

That left me wandering around out in the desert looking for trains and train history. I went down Ogilby Road where my source book told me there was an abandoned Southern Pacific settlement and an old mine. The settlement, Ogilby, is a ghost town, and although my source book said there were remnants of building foundations, I didn’t find any. My source book was published in 1994, so 25 years of drifting sands might have obscured the remaining foundations.

I did find the old Catholic cemetery. Looks like this:

Ogilby Cemetery

Ogilby was founded in 1877 as a railroad stop for the Southern Pacific Railroad. The American Girl Mine in Obregon was on the other side of Ogilby Road. The mine was closed in 1939, and Obregon was abandoned the same year. Ogilby, named after E.R. Ogilby, mine promoter. The post office closed in 1942, and by 1961, the town was abandoned.

Interestingly, there were three grave markers that indicated people were buried there well after 1961, and one indicated that the person was born in 1963, a couple of years after the town was abandoned.

Ogilby Cemetery

Ogilby Cemetery

Ogilby Cemetery

Although there are grave markers, I could not if there actually were graves there. If there were, they are well below ground as is done in modern times. My own belief is that a family would not bury a loved one out in the boondocks, in spite of the fact that they might have been born and raised there. I think the loved one is buried in a city cemetery somewhere and a memorial marker was placed in this cemetery.

The Ol’ Road Grader was 75, but the other two were 38 and 50, not only indicative of the lower life expectancy of the times but probably indicative of life in the area as well. There also were a lot of small graves typically of children and babies.

Ogilby Cemetery

Ogilby Cemetery

Ogilby Cemetery

Ogilby Cemetery

Ogilby Cemetery

Ogilby Cemetery

Ogilby Cemetery

After having visited the area a couple of days ago in my nice, air conditioned 2019 Honda Insight, I really can’t imagine what life was like out there in the desert 150-200 years ago.

Out & About—The Plank Road

Out & About

 

In January 2017, I found a book by Christopher Wray titled The Historic Backcountry. That led me to another of his books titled “Highways to History.”

Yesterday, I decided to embark on an Out & About expedition to find the Wood Plank Road because the pictures in his books were so intriguing.

I found it.

Looks like this:

Wood Plank Road

The Plank Road was a 7-mile long road of wood planks built to get vehicles through the Imperial San Dunes in far southeastern California. It was comprised of sections eight feet long and twelve feet wide that were built off-site and moved into place using a team of horses. Double sections were installed at intervals to permit vehicles to pass. Horse-drawn plows were used to clear the drifting sand from the roadway.

According to some sources, the Plank Road was built from 1912-1914 and in use from 1915 through 1926. Tourist information displays at the site tell a different story:

The story of the Plank Road began with the era of automobile transportation and a spirit of competition between the cities of San Diego and Los Angeles. San Diego was determined to become the hub of the Southern California road network. Civic and business leaders recognized the benefits of establishing roads to link their communities and promote commerce. Businessman and road builder “Colonel” Ed Fletcher was a key promoter for San Diego who sponsored a race from Southern california to Phoenix, Arizona. The Examiner, a Los Angeles newspaper, issued a personal challenger to Fletcher for the race.

The race took place during October 1912. Fletcher completed the race from San Diego to Phoenix in 19½ hours. He beat the Examiner’s reporter who had been given a 24-hour head start and was racing from Los Angeles to Phoenix, by 10 hours! Fletcher managed to have his car pulled across the Imperial San Dunes before there was an established road by a team of horses. He also got his car across the Colorado River in Yuma on a railroad bridge, winning the race.

The approval to build the Plank Road through the Dunes was decided with support from Imperial County Supervisor Ed Boyd, the local newspapers and local communities. Also a factor in the decision was the recent State and Federal Government decision to build a bridge over the Colorado River in Yuma. With great fanfare, the first planks for a 2-track road were installed on February 14, 1915. Traffic and maintenance quickly wore the road. A second plank road, consisting of a continuous 8-foot planks was built in 1916. The second plank road remained in use until 1926 when a 20-foot swide, asphalt-like concrete road, was constructed by the State Highway Commission.

Through the years and with little use the Plank Road began degrading. In the 70s, a major effort took place to revitalize the area and create a monument in recognition of the Plank Road. The Bureau of Land Management, Imperial Valley Pioneer Historical Society, California Off-Road Vehicle Association and Air Force personnel collaborated to assemble a 1,500-foot section of the Plank Road using various portions of it remaining in the dunes. This revitalization stands today to memorialize the determination and vision of those who forged the first automobile highway across the dunes. CORVA’s volunteers and mission were recognized by the Bureau of Land Management naming their efforts the “Preservation Project of the Year.”

Over 400 volunteers worked to recover and preserve the Plank Road.
CORVA volunteers transported unearthed portions of the Plank Road and moved them to be reassembled at the monument site.

Wood Plank Road

Wood Plank Road

Wood Plank Road

Wood Plank Road

Wood Plank Road

Wood Plank Road

Before you go there, though, be sure your car is full of gas, that you have lots of water, and that your phone and/or GPS works, because it’s hotter than hell there.

117 effin degrees fahrenheit

The Plank Road is California Registered Historical Landmark #845.