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Prewitt, Thoreau and Continental Divide, New Mexico

Posted by graywacke on October 23, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2303; A Landing A Day blog post number 733.

Dan:  Two New Mexico landings in a row!  My 60th double (and my 6th NM double).  In spite of this double, NM is still undersubscribed, and my Score went down from 615 to a new record low, 599.

Here’s my regional landing map:


And my local landing map:


My streams-only map shows that I landed in the watershed of the Rio San Jose (1st hit ever!):


And then, on to the same river as my last landing, the Rio Puerco (4th hit); and thence to the Rio Grande (48th hit).

Notice the town of Continental Divide on my local landing map (OK, and in the title of the post)?  Here’s a shot that shows the continental divide running right through Continental Divide (amazing but true):


To the east, of course the Rio Rio Rio San Jose, Puerco, Grande discharges into the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.

To the west, runoff heads towards the Rio Nutria to the Zuni to the Little Colorado to the Colorado (and thence to the Gulf of California and the Pacific Ocean).

It’s time for my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight on into NM (almost a repeat of my last spaceflight).  Click HERE, enjoy the trip, and hit your back button.

Since I don’t have much to say about Continental Divide, I’ll start there.  Wiki tells me nothing, but LegendsOfAmerica lets us know that old Route 66 ran through town, and the highest point on Route 66 is at the Continental Divide, at 7,263 feet above sea level. 

The topography’s not very dramatic as you cross the divide; there’s a gentle slope coming to the town from both directions.  There’s a cheesy (and oh-so-predictable tourist souvenir shop there (GE Street View shot):


So what about Thoreau?  From Wiki:

The population was 1,863 at the 2000 census. It is majority Native American, primarily of the Navajo Nation, as this community is located within its boundaries.

Practically all residents pronounce the town’s name like “thuh-ROO,” [not as fans of the American philosopher/writer might expect.]  The town is not named for Henry David Thoreau, though this is a common misconception. A history of the town was compiled by local author Roxanne Trout Heath in her 1982 book Thoreau, Where the Trails Cross!

All well and good, but how did the town get its name?  After stating that the town is not named after Henry David, there’s not a word about who it is named for.  I Googled the book title, to no avail.  But then I found this, from TheRoute-66.com, about Thoreau (the town):

The Mitchel brothers, William and Austin moved to the area in 1890. They had their eyes on the forests on Zuni Mountains, where they wanted to build a sawmill and sell the lumber in the Southwest. They platted a town that they named “Mitchel”. But their business did not prosper.

In 1896 Talbot and Frederick Hyde, heirs to the Babbit Soap fortune sponsored a archeology expedition in New Mexico. The Hyde Exploring Expedition set up its base in Mitchel and from there conducted excavations in Chaco Canyon until 1901.

Professor Frederick Ward Putnam of Harvard University was in charge of the expedition. The scientific expedition led to a growth in trading with the Navajo and the town was renamed as Thoreau by the Hyde brothers.

OK, so the Hyde brothers (from upstate New York, I think) named the town, and a Harvard professor was involved.  The prof might think that Thoreau (after Henry David) might be a cool name for a town, what with Walden Pond being in the greater Boston area.

I then checked out Ancestry.com for Talbot Hyde (actually Benjamin Babbitt Talbot Hyde) and found that he took some courses at Harvard.  Hmmm. Another vote for Henry Thoreau.

But the pièce de résistance came from a portion of TheRoute-66.com article that I initially missed (it was in a box off to the side):

Wikipedia denies that the town was named after Henry David Thoreau and the locals maintain that “Thoreau” was a person who worked for either the railway, the Mitchels or the US Army.  However, the book Thoreau, Where the Trails Cross! by Roxanne Trout Heath (1982) affirms that it was named after the famous philosopher.

Interesting, isn’t it, that both Wiki and TheRoute-66 use the same source as the basis for opposite claims?  My vote goes solidly with TheRoute-66, considering the Boston connection for the folks that named the town . . .

This makes me want to figure out how to log in to Wiki and actually make a legitimate change to one of their entries.  Stay tuned (but don’t hold your breath).

Quick personal story about Henry David Thoreau.  I have long been aware of the quote “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” from his book Walden.  Way, way back in the day (many decades ago), I felt like one of those “mass of men.” 

Many, many years later, (well beyond the time of quiet desperation), I was in a used book store, and came across Walden.  I riffled the 352 pages with my thumb, and randomly stopped, then looked down at the page. 

The absolute first words that I focused on were “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” 

Blew me away.

Being left-brained, I was immediately suspicious that many others had found that quote in that same book, causing the book to naturally open on that page.  I held the book loosely and let it open naturally with no bias.  Nope.  It had no tendency whatever to open there.  Out of 352 pages, some Higher Power decided I should see that quote for myself. . .

So.  It’s time for Prewitt.  Prewitt immediately caught my eye, because a good friend of mine is one Bob Prewitt.  His circle of friends occasionally call him Bob, but for the most part, he’s Prewitt.  So, of course, I had to check it out. 

Wiki had nothing, but I found a link to RoamingPhotos.com, a blog by one Glenn Campbell (one Glenn Campbell, not the Glenn Campbell).  Here’s his first three pics (his captions below each shot):

img_2952So I’m driving east on I-40 in New Mexico….


 When I pass this sign, which happens to remind me of a colleague.

 [This is uncanny.  If I were driving on I-40, and I saw an exit for Prewitt, I would also be reminded of a colleague, and would also get off the road to check it out.]


So I take the exit to find out what Prewitt is all about. This is already a good sign: Thoreau is one of my heroes.

I strongly recommend you check out the remainder of Glenn’s blog entry.  It’s really funny.  Click HERE.

I then found this, from LegendsOfAmerica.com:

A small settlement was in this area before it became Prewitt. Called Baca, after a local ranching family, it dates back to at least 1890. However, in 1916 two brothers, Bob and Harold Prewitt, moved to the area and established a trading post in a large tent along the National Old Trails Highway. When a post office was established in 1928, it took the name of Prewitt. In 1946 it was described of consisting of little more than a trading post and a railroad siding.

How about that.  Bob (not Robert) Prewitt.  My friend (when he’s not “Prewitt”) is Bob, never Rob or Robert . . .

It’s time for some GE Panoramio shots.  To set the stage, here’s a GE shot, showing a cluster of Pano shots nearby:


Of course, I’ll only present the best.  I’ll start with this, by BurnedDeathWash:


And here’s one by Tom Rael, with a friend posing to provide scale:


I’ll close with another by Tom:


That’ll do it . . .




© 2016 A Landing A Day

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Belen, New Mexico

Posted by graywacke on October 18, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2302; A Landing A Day blog post number 732.

Dan:  Today’s NM landing is just the second (in my last 86 landings, since I changed how I get my random lat/longs).  Since NM is so big, it’s still undersubscribed, so my Score went down from 632 to 615, a new record low.

Here’s my regional landing map:


And my local landing map, showing a string of little towns along I-25 (35-50 miles south of Albuquerque):


My streams-only map shows some ill-defined and unlabeled drainageways near my landing.  They carry any run-off east towards Rio Puerco (3rd hit); on to the Rio Grande (you’ll have to trust me on this):


And that’s my 47th Rio Grande landing.

Time for my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight to Central NM.  Click HERE, enjoy the flight, then hit your back button.

Here’s an oblique GE shot, from the Rio Grande, across the Rio Puerco, past my landing to the Sierra Ladrones:


Of course, I checked out Street View, and was able to kill two birds with one stone, sending the Orange Dude on a bridge over the Rio Puerco, looking out towards my landing:


And here’s what he sees:


As I typed the words “kill two birds with one stone,” I realized that society in general has moved away from violent imagery.  When I was kid, this was a common expression, and no one gave much thought to the image of two bloodied, dead birds lying on the ground.  But today?  It seems a little barbaric.  So, it’s time for a new expression.  These two birds agree (jantoo.com):

' 'Kill two birds with one stone'...I've always hated that expression!'

I did a quick Google search, and look what I found!


And then there’s a list of 75 possible alternatives (most of which didn’t make much sense).

They range from the mundane “Catch two birds with one net” to “Tickle two people with one hand” to “Catch two fish with one worm” to “Kill two flies with one swat:”


And then there’s the inevitable bathroom humor entry:  “Dump two turds with one flush.”

Back to business:  Here’s Street View for the Rio Grande:


And what the Orange Dude sees:


I think that the Rio Grande is typically more modest than the rain-swollen shot above.

So, I dutifully checked out all of the little towns along I-25, but had to settle on Belen (the largest by far, pop 7,200) for my titular town.

According to Wiki, “Belen” is Spanish for Bethlehem.  Really?  Seems a little strange.  I went to a translating web page, and they let me know that belen (with a small “b”) means:

  • nativity scene
  • crib

And colloquially:

  • mess
  • bedlam

And then, with a capital “B,” it in fact means Bethlehem (it can also be a man’s name).

Wow.  What a crazy homonym!  In Spanglish (accent on the glish):  Belen was a difficult toddler.  When he was upset at bedtime, Belen made a belen of his belen.  It was total belen!

Moving right along . . .

From Wiki:

In 1927, Belen native and movie stunt pilot Arthur Goebel took up the challenge by James Dole, the Hawaii pineapple magnate, to race with other pilots to be the first to fly nonstop from the mainland United States to the Hawaii territory in what is known as the Dole Air Race.

Here are some Wiki factoids:

  • Eleven planes were certified to compete but three crashed before the race, resulting in three deaths.
  • Eight eventually participated in the race, with two crashing on takeoff and two going missing during the race.
  • A third, forced to return for repairs, took off again to search for the missing and was itself never seen again.
  • In all, before, during, and after the race, ten lives were lost and six airplanes were total losses.
  • Only two of the eight planes successfully landed in Hawaii.

[Belen’s own,] Arthur Goebel, flying Woolaroc, landed first in Hawaii after a nonstop 26 hours, 17 minutes and 33 seconds, receiving the $25,000 first prize.

A quick word about the name “Woolaroc.”  Woolaroc was the name given to a nature / hunting retreat in Oklahoma founded by oilman Frank Phillips (of Phillips Petroleum).  The name Woolaroc is a portmanteau of the words woods, lakes, and rocks.  The retreat is located in the beautiful Osage Hills of northeast Oklahoma.

The property is still going strong as a museum & wildlife preserve (woolaroc.org).

From ThisDayInAviation.com (caption below):


The start of the Dole Air Race at Oakland Field, California, 16 August 1927. In starting position is Oklahoma. Waiting, left to right, are Aloha, Dallas Spirit, Miss Doran, Woolaroc, El Encanto, Golden Eagle, Air King and Pabco Flyer. (San Diego Air and Space Museum Archives)

And here’s a shot of Woolaroc, getting ready for departure:


You may have noticed a mountain range not far west from my landing, the Sierra Ladrones.  From Wiki:

Ladrón Peak is an isolated, highly visible peak in central New Mexico, lying about 50 mi (80 km) southwest of Albuquerque. Ladron Peak is the only major peak in the compact range known as the Sierra Ladrones.

Despite its conical shape and its proximity to lava flows and small volcanoes, it is not itself a volcano. The core of the mountain is Precambrian granite (i.e., more than 600 million years old).

The peak rises dramatically from its surroundings on all sides; the summit is almost 4,500 feet above the Rio Grande Valley

The name of the peak means “thief”, and “Sierra Ladrones” means “thieves’ mountains.” Navajo and Apache raiding parties, and later Latino and Anglo rustlers, used the mountains as hideouts, hence the name.

Evidence of human occupation goes back over 10,000 years, and more recent prehistoric use occurred by the Mogollon and Anasazi cultures.

Ecologically, Ladrón Peak is a “sky island,” supporting vegetation and wildlife not found in the surrounding grasslands. It is high enough to have coniferous forests on its upper slopes. Animal species include mountain lion, bear, pronghorn, elk, deer and reintroduced desert bighorn sheep.

Seems appropriate to close with some Sierra Ladrones shots.  First this, by Michael Zanussi, on MatadorNetwork.com:


Here are some GE Panoramio shots of the Sierra Ladrones.  First this, by GoOutsideAndPlay:


And this, by BWHallett:


I’ll close with this shot overlooking the Rio Grande Valley, by Jeffro24:


That’ll do it . . .




© 2016 A Landing A Day

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Keene and Alberene, Virginia

Posted by graywacke on October 12, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2301; A Landing A Day blog post number 731.

Dan:  Your college state – Virginia – was a long time USer, and has established itself as a USer since I changed how I select my random lat/longs 85 landings ago.  And yes, this is my first VA landing in all of those 85 landings.  So, of course, my Score went down, from 650 to 632, a new record low.  (By the way, Dan went to the University of Richmond).

If the above paragraph is opaque and you’d like some clarity, go “About Landing (Revisited),” above.  If you really want to learn about the origins of this blog (like who Dan is), go to plain ol’ “About Landing.”

Here’s my regional landing map:


And my local landing map:


OK, OK.  So I’m not all that far from Charlottesville:


Here’s a very local streams-only landing map:


As you can see, I landed in the Walnut Branch (or Creek) watershed, on to the South Fork of the Hardware River (1st hit ever!); on to the Hardware (1st hit ever!).  Zooming back a little:


The Hardware discharges into the James (3rd hit).  I’ll zoom back even more, to show you that the James River Estuary is at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay:


It’s time for my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight to central VA.  Cllick HERE, enjoy the trip (with its non-traditional beginning), and hit your back button.

Here’s an oblique GE shot, looking west past my landing towards the Blue Ridge:


There’s no decent Street View coverage for my landing (after all, I’m in the deep woods).  But I could get a look at the South Fork of the Hardware River, just south of my landing:


And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:


Not much of river, eh?

A little further east, we get a look at the Hardware, just below where the S Fk joins the N Fk to become the plain ol’ Hardware:


And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:


Still not much of a river . . .

Before I leave GE, I want to mention that I was struck (as usual) by the dearth of eastern landings.  Here’s a map showing all 325 of my landings since January 2013 (when I got a new computer), with today’s landing circled.


See what I mean? East of a line from Ohio down to Louisiana, landings are clearly at a lower density.  It’s hard to blame my former less-than-random lat/long methodology (the basis for most of the landings on the above map).  It gave me a “northern bias,” which shouldn’t translate to an anti-eastern bias.  Oh, well . . .

You can probably guess that I found hooks for the two teeny towns near my landing.  Plus, I didn’t really want to feature Charlottesville (with the U of VA & Monticello), although I would have absent any hooks.

So, what about Keene?  Well, it sure ain’t much, based on this GE shot:


But Wiki had this tidbit:

The town is known for being the location of the last sighting of a passenger pigeon in the wild, by Theodore Roosevelt, who had a presidential retreat near here called Pine Knot.

I’m not really interested in Pine Knot, but the last passenger pigeon?  Now there’s a hook!  From Wiki:

The passenger pigeon or wild pigeon is an extinct species of pigeon that was endemic to North America. Its common name is derived from the French word passager, meaning “passing by,” due to the migratory habits of the species.


It mainly inhabited the deciduous forests of eastern North America and bred primarily around the Great Lakes. The pigeon migrated in enormous flocks, constantly searching for food, shelter, and breeding grounds, and was once the most abundant bird in North America, numbering around 3 to 5 billion before its precipitous decline in numbers.

Here’s a description of migrating passenger pigeons, written by John Jay Audubon in 1813, in Kentucky.  This is really good, please read every word:

I dismounted, seated myself on an eminence, and began to mark with my pencil, making a dot for every flock that passed. In a short time finding the task which I had undertaken impracticable, as the birds poured in in countless multitudes, I rose and, counting the dots then put down, found that 163 had been made in twenty-one minutes.

I traveled on, and still met more the farther I proceeded. The air was literally filled with Pigeons; the light of noon-day was obscured as by an eclipse; the dung fell in spots, not unlike melting flakes of snow, and the continued buzz of wings had a tendency to lull my senses to repose.

I cannot describe to you the extreme beauty of their aerial evolutions, when a hawk chanced to press upon the rear of the flock. At once, like a torrent, and with a noise like thunder, they rushed into a compact mass, pressing upon each other towards the center.

In these almost solid masses, they darted forward in undulating and angular lines, descended and swept close over the earth with inconceivable velocity, mounted perpendicularly so as to resemble a vast column, and, when high, were seen wheeling and twisting within their continued lines, which then resembled the coils of a gigantic serpent.

Before sunset I reached Louisville, distant from Hardensburgh fifty-five miles. The Pigeons were still passing in undiminished numbers and continued to do so for three days in succession.

Wow.  Three days, untold millions (10s of millions?  100s of millions?) of birds passing by. 

This, about hunting the birds, and their extinction (still from Wiki):

After European colonization, the passenger pigeon was hunted more intensely and with more sophisticated methods than the more sustainable methods practiced by the native.

Americans killed pigeons with abandon.  Fifty birds could be brought down with two blasts from a double-barreled shotgun; sophisticated nets were built, and thousands of birds could be trapped by a single net.  One way of luring the birds into the net was by the use of “stool pigeons,” which were live pigeons that were  blinded and tied on top of a stool.  When a flock of pigeons passed by, a cord would be pulled that made the stool pigeon flutter to the ground, making it seem as if it had found food, and the flock would be lured into the net.

By the mid-19th century, railroads had opened new opportunities for pigeon hunters. While previously it had proved too difficult to ship masses of pigeons to eastern cities, the access provided by the railroad permitted pigeon hunting to become commercialized.

An extensive telegraph system was introduced in the 1860s, which improved communication across the United States, making it easier to spread information about the whereabouts of pigeon flocks.

After being opened up to the railroads, the town of Plattsburg, New York is estimated to have shipped 1.8 million pigeons to larger cities in 1851 at a price of 31 to 56 cents a dozen.

By the late 19th century, the trade of passenger pigeons had become commercialized. Large commission houses employed trappers (known as “pigeoners”) to follow the flocks of pigeons year-round.  A single hunter is reported to have sent three million birds to eastern cities during his career.

The notion that the species could be driven to extinction was alien to 19th century Americans, both because the number of birds did not appear to diminish, but also because the concept of extinction itself was yet to be defined.

The bird seems to have been slowly pushed westwards since the arrival of Europeans, becoming scarce or absent in the east, though there were still millions of birds in the 1850s. The population must have been decreasing in numbers for many years, though this went unnoticed due to the apparent vast number of birds, which clouded their decline.

By the 1870s, the decrease in birds was noticeable. The last large nesting was in Petoskey, Michigan, in 1878, where 50,000 birds were killed each day for nearly five months. The surviving adults attempted a second nesting at new sites, but were killed by professional hunters before they had a chance to raise any young.

The last recorded nest and egg in the wild were collected in 1895 near Minneapolis.  The last fully authenticated sighting was in 1900 in Ohio, although Theodore Roosevelt claimed to have seen one in Virginia [presumably in Keene] and another in Michigan in 1907.

Some number of years ago, I read a book entitled “1491:  New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus,” by Charles C. Mann; I recalled that he put forth a very interesting theory about passenger pigeons and buffalo. 

He supports the position that there were many 10s of millions of Native Americans in North & South America prior to Columbus (maybe even more than 100 million).  He also supports the notion that the culture was much more advanced than is commonly thought. 

He believes that 90% – 95% of the Indian population died of white man diseases (primarily small pox) and that for the most part, they died without even seeing any white people!  The diseases spread so quickly and were so devastating that by the time white explorers reached interior regions, the Indians were long dead; the civilizations long collapsed.

So what (you might ask) does this have to do with passenger pigeons (and buffalo)?  Everybody knows that buffalo were a staple of the Plains Indian’s diet.  But it turns out that passenger pigeons were as well (for the more eastern tribes).  From Wiki:

The passenger pigeon was an important source of food for the people of North America.  The indigenous peoples ate pigeons, and tribes near nesting colonies would sometimes move to live closer to them and eat juveniles, killing them at night with long poles.

Many Native Americans were careful not to disturb the adult pigeons, and instead ate only juveniles as they were afraid that the adults might desert their nesting grounds; in some tribes, disturbing the adult pigeons was considered a crime.  They always left a significant number of juveniles to assure future breeding populations.

Away from the nests, large nets were used to capture adult pigeons, sometimes up to 800 at a time.  Low-flying pigeons could be killed by throwing sticks or stones. At one site in Oklahoma, the pigeons leaving their roost every morning flew low enough that the Cherokee could throw clubs into their midst, which caused the lead pigeons to try to turn aside and in the process created a blockade that resulted in a large mass of flying, easily hit pigeons.

OK, OK, but I need to get to my point.  From ScienceBlogs.com, here are some excerpts from an article about the 1491 Charles Mann book by Chad Orzel:

Mann cites a bunch of people arguing that epidemics of smallpox and other European diseases wiped out better than 90% of the population of the Americas in the decades after first contact with Europeans. This seems like a shockingly high number– even the Black Death in Europe didn’t come close to that level– and he argues that there was a genetic component to this. The claim is that all of the inhabitants of the Americas were descended from a relatively small group of initial settlers, and thus had a narrower range of some key immune system responses than European or Asian populations.

If this is true, that would mean that the post-contact collapse of all these civilizations was as much a matter of fantastically bad luck as anything else. Had their ancestors had a different set of immune responses, European colonization would’ve turned out completely differently. Which is kind of weird and shocking, really.

The other big claim of the book is that the landscape we have come to think of as “unspoiled wilderness” was, in fact, being managed on a grand scale by these civilizations, through controlled burning and other techniques. He suggests, in fact, that the vast herds of buffalo and flocks of passenger pigeons that were wiped out in the 19th century were not the natural state of North America wildlife, but were themselves an anomalous situation caused by the collapse of the civilizations that had previously been keeping them in check.

I find this sort of information to be fascinating.  According to Mann, those indescribably huge herds of buffalo and those indescribably huge flocks of passenger pigeons were not part of a natural ecosystem; rather they were the result of a crazily-out-of-whack population swing caused by the nearly instantaneous death of millions of Indians, the main predatory population.

The suffering of the Indians is impossible to fathom.  Imagine entire populations of families, tribes, villages and nations being summarily wiped out by a mysterious, horrendous disease. . .

Phew.  All of the above paragraphs were triggered by one sentence in the Wiki entry for Keene.  Well, what about Alberene?

There’s no information about Alberene in Wiki, but there is an Alberene Soapstone Company.  Here are some excerpts from a 2013 article in The Rural Virginia (by Heather Harris):

to 1883 when New York businessmen James H. Serene and Daniel Carroll, along with John Porter, purchased a 1,955 acre tract of land beside Beaver Dam Creek. A deed dated Jan. 31, 1883, states that the property was purchased by the trio for a sum of $30,000.

That same year, the men founded the Albemarle Soapstone Company and, after several legal battles, were able to begin quarrying their recently-purchased property, making use of the massive soapstone beds found on the eastern side of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Around 1890, the business changed its name to the Alberene Soapstone Company, a combination of the surname Serene and Albemarle County. The name Alberene was also given to the company town that had formed in the surrounding area.

Completely self-sustaining, Alberene had everything that any small town would have—a post office, two-story school, a commissary, and several churches.

Alberene has shrunk quite a bit since its heyday:


And what about Stump Town?  Just a little town (way past its prime) named after an early settler, Michael Stump.

So what is soapstone?  It is a talc-rich metamorphic rock.  It likely started out as a shale hundreds of millions of years ago (a billion, maybe), and heat and pressure partially melted the shale.  It probably went through multiple cycles of heat and pressure and partial melting.  Sometimes (based on the particular minerals present in the shale & surrounding rocks), presto chango! Out pops soapstone.

True confessions.  I’m a geologist, but I don’t have a clue on the details of soapstone.  A metamorphic petrologist I ain’t.  All I know is that it’s a very soft rock, and can have a greasy or soapy feel because of the talc.

Anyway, the quarry near Alberene played out back in the late 1800s, and a new quarry was opened a few miles south (which operates to this day).

Soapstone has a variety of uses, such as cemetery headstones, counter tops and outdoor landscaping.  And then there’s this, from Wiki:

Soapstones can be put in a freezer and later used in place of ice cubes to chill alcoholic beverages without diluting. Sometimes called ‘whiskey stones’, these were first introduced around 2007.

Here’s a picture of a soapstone counter (the white lines are quart veins):


Personal story:  We have friends with beautiful new soapstone counters.  My wife Jody and I were invited to dinner at their house, and I was tasked with opening a bottle of wine. 

As is my wont, I placed the bottle on the counter, and spun the bottle while holding the corkscrew on the cork (thus embedding the screw into the cork). 

As I should have known, glass is much harder than soapstone, and the bottle left an ugly circular scar on the counter.  Quickly and calmly, I moved a plate of hors d’oeuvres to cover the scar. . .

Lesson learned:  With a soapstone counter, always spin the corkscrew, not the bottle . . .

P.S.  Since the new counter-owners are friends, I admitted my gaff.  Fortunately, the counter top came with instructions to repair such scars.

It’s time for some GE Panoramio shots.  I landed right next to the Walnut Creek Lake (which is the result of a dam across the Creek), and here are a couple of lake pics.  First this by Milo1978:


And this, by Yuseneotype:


Also by Yussy (Yuseneotype’s nickname), here’s a shot of Walnut Creek just downstream from the lake:


I’ll close with this sunrise view by Satheesan Kochicheri taken a few miles north of my landing:


Heck of a job, Sathie!

That’ll do it . . .




© 2016 A Landing A Day

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Fossil, Oregon

Posted by graywacke on October 6, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2300; A Landing A Day blog post number 730.

Dan:  Hmmm.  Landing 2300 – a nice round number.  Well, here goes:

With seven hits in my last 84 landings (since I changed how I get my random lat/longs), Oregon officially becomes the number 1 OSer; i.e., the most oversubscribed state.  My Score (of course) rose, from 644 to 650.

Curious about the above? Check out “About Landing (Revisited),” above.  Not curious?  Keep reading . . .

Here’s my regional landing map:


And my local landing map:


Zooming out, here’s a broader view:


I’ll explain why I’ve circled (ovaled?) four towns in a little bit.

Anyway, here’s a very local streams-only map, showing that I landed in the watershed of Cottonwood Creek:


For some reason, the name “Cottonwood Creek” showed up on the map, but not the stream course (so I added an approximation).  Anyway, Cottonwood Creek makes its way to Butte Ck.  Zooming back, you can see that Butte Ck makes its way to the John Day River (11th hit):


Zooming back even further:


The John Day heads north and discharges into the Columbia (162nd hit).

It’s time for my GE spaceflight, this beginning 14,000 miles above South America, and ending up in N-Cen Oregon.  Click HERE, enjoy the ride, and hit your back button.

Here’s what Street View coverage looks like for my landing:


And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:


I found a view of Butte Creek west of Fossil:


And here ‘tis:


So, back to the ovaled towns on my somewhat expanded local landing map.  By way of explanation, here’s a GE shot showing today’s landing, along with three additional (fairly recent) landings:


And here’s my local landing map, for easier review:


My posts for the three earlier landings featured all of the ovaled towns.  So what’s left?  Mayville?  No hook.  Kinzua?  Cool name, but no hook.  Spray?  Another cool name, but no hook.  Antelope?  Hookless, except for this cool GE Panoramio shot entitled “Road to Antelope” by Oordtme:


So, I’m left with Fossil.  Great name (especially considering that I’m a geologist).  I found a couple of hooks for fossil.  The first is (of all things) a fossil bed open to the public that’s just behind the high school.  From OregonPaleoLandsCenter.com:

These thinly-bedded rocks behind Wheeler High School in Fossil, Oregon represent the bed of a shallow lake that existed here about 33 million years ago, during a time period known as the Oligocene. The climate 33 million years ago was temperate, but somewhat milder and wetter than today.

Fossils that you’ll find at the school site are mostly leaves and branches of the deciduous trees that grew along adjacent stream banks and in nearby wetlands.

The plant fossils found here include the ancestors of modern sycamore, maples, oaks, rose, and alder. In addition, a conifer (scientific name metasequoia), dropped its needles into the lake every fall and is among the most abundant and best preserved fossils here.

Animals that likely browsed along the lake’s edges and sipped its placid waters include sheep-like oredonts, large, hog-like entelodonts, and saber-toothed cat-like predators called nimravids. There are no fossils of these animals in the Wheeler High School Fossil Beds—but some aquatic vertebrates, including a salamander and small fish have been found.

Here’s a GE Panoramio shot of the fossil bed, by Alma Haus:


Here are some fossils from the bed, starting with a metasequoia:


And then, on Yelp by Michael S, who split a rock and found this:


What’s especially intriguing for me about fossils in general is the snapshot-in-time reality that they represent.  For these particular fossils:  yes, there was a shallow lake here about 33 million years ago.  And yes, there were trees on the shore.  And yes, the leaves and needles from these trees dropped into the lake and settled on the bottom.  And yes, the leaves and needles were gently covered by silt & clay.  And yes, the silt and clay hardened and turned into rock, preserving the leaf and needle imprints.  And yes, the old sea bed was uplifted to its current elevation.  And yes, modern erosion has uncovered the fossil bed for our enjoyment and edification.

All of the above statements are as factual and real as “a half-empty 1.5 liter bottle of Woodbridge Lightly Oaked Chardonnay is on the right side of the top shelf in my refrigerator.”

As I read the above two paragraphs, I erupted into a good ol’ (and very real) belly laugh . . .

Moving right along to hook #2.  Wiki, under “Notable People:”

Bill Bowerman, track and field coach and founder of Nike, Inc.

Of course, Mr. Bowerman’s name was clickable, so I did.  Now, I usually avoid corporate posts, but this had some interest, so here goes (from Wiki):

William “Bill” Bowerman (February 19, 1911 – December 24, 1999) was an American track and field coach and co-founder of Nike, Inc. Over his career, he trained 31 Olympic athletes, 51 All-Americans, 12 American record-holders, 22 NCAA champions and 16 sub-4 minute milers. During his 24 years as coach at the University of Oregon, the Ducks track and field team had a winning season every season but one, attained 4 NCAA titles, and finished in the top 10 in the nation 16 times.

Wow.  Impressive resume, to say the least!  Continuing:

In 1964, Bowerman entered into a handshake agreement with Phil Knight, who had been a miler under him in the 1950s, to start an athletic footwear distribution company called Blue Ribbon Sports, later known as Nike.. Knight managed the business end of the partnership, while Bowerman experimented with improvements in athletic footwear design.

Bowerman’s design ideas led to the creation of a running shoe in 1966 that would ultimately be named “Nike Cortez” in 1968, which quickly became a top-seller and remains one of Nike’s most iconic footwear designs. Bowerman designed several Nike shoes, but is best known for ruining his wife’s waffle iron in 1970 or 1971, experimenting with the idea of using waffle-ironed rubber to create a new sole for footwear that would grip but be lightweight.

While Bowerman was experimenting with shoe design, he worked in a small, unventilated space, using glue and solvents with toxic components that caused him severe nerve damage. The nerve damage to his lower legs left him with significant mobility problems; Bowerman had rendered himself unable to run in the shoes that he had given the world.

Bowerman was obsessed with shaving weight off his athletes’ running shoes. He believed that custom-made shoes would weigh less on the feet of his runners and cut down on blisters, as well as reduce the overall drag on their energy for every ounce he could remove from the shoe.

By his estimation, removing one ounce from a shoe, based on a six-foot gait for a runner, would translate in a reduction of 55 pounds of lift over a one-mile span.

After retirement, Bowerman settle in Fossil, Oregon, the hometown of his mother, and the town where his family moved when he was two years old.  He died on Christmas Eve of 1999.

I bet that in his final months, he was wondering if he’d live to see the new millennium.  Not quite . . .

From the Nike website, here are some pics.  First this, of Bill as the track coach at the U of Oregon:


And here he is, working on the better running shoe (1980):


And here’s that 1967 Nike running shoe, the Nike Cortez:

nike-cortezI’ll close with this GE Pano shot, taken just north of Fossil by MahaloFreddy:


That’ll do it . . .




© 2016 A Landing A Day

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Gypsum and Lindsborg, Kansas

Posted by graywacke on October 1, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2299; A Landing A Day blog post number 729.

Dan:  This was just my second landing in Kansas since I changed how I select my random lat/longs.  Fortunately, Kansas is large enough to be undersubscribed, so my score went down from 663 to 644, a new record low.

Here’s my regional landing map:


And my local landing map:


My streams-only map shows that I landed in the watershed of Gypsum Creek:


And as you can see, the Gypsum makes its way to the Smoky Hill River (18th hit); thence to the Kansas River (63rd hit ).  Zooming back further:


The Kansas makes its way to the Missouri (415th hit); on, of course, to the MM (898th hit).

Take a look at the above map (especially where the Kansas meets the Missouri at the state line).  I can just imagine the old-time surveyor’s notes about the state line between Kansas and Missouri:   “ . . . extending generally southeast coinciding with the centerline of the Missouri River, until the confluence with the Kansas River.  At the junction of the two river centerlines, the boundary shall extend due south 147 miles to the 36o 30’ line of latitude, the boundary between the State of Kansas sand the Oklahoma Territories, then extending west along the 36o 30’ line of latitude for . . . “

It’s time for a spaceflight in to good ol’ central Kansas (smack dab in the middle of the lower 48).  Click HERE, enjoy the trip, and hit your back button.

As usual, the first thing I do is check out Street View.  Bingo! 


And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:


I can take look at the unnamed tributary to Gypsum Creek (where my drainage ends up) as well as the landing:


And here’s the view:


I went a couple of miles north to get this view of Gypsum Creek (looking downstream):


I had the Orange Dude turn around to show you the upstream view and the little dirt road that somehow got Street View coverage. 


As I’ve mused before, I wonder if the GoogleCam driver makes his own decisions about what roads he covers . . .

So, right off, I took a look at Gypsum.  From Wiki:

The community was founded as a Templer community called Tempelfeld.  Gypsum was named after Gypsum Creek.

Gypsum Creek was likely named from reports of deposits of gypsum discovered on the Coronado expedition.

Before getting to the Templers, here’s a little detour about Coronado, from Wiki:

Francisco Vázquez de Coronado (1510 – 1554) was a Spanish conquistador and explorer who led a large expedition from Mexico to present-day Kansas through parts of the southwestern United States between 1540 and 1542. Coronado had hoped to reach the Cities of Cíbola, often referred to as the mythical Seven Cities of Gold. His expedition marked the first European sightings of the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River, among other landmarks.

Here’s a map of the expedition (from Wiki):


It looks like he ended up right at my landing location!

Amazing to think about a trek of well over 2,000 miles in totally uncharted territory.  I fear we’d be appalled if we saw how they treated the locals . . .

Anyway, on to the Templers (the founders of Gypsum, in case you’ve forgotten).  From Wiki:

Templers are members of the Temple Society, a German Protestant sect with roots in the Lutheran Church. The Templers were expelled from the Lutheran Church in 1858 because of their millennial beliefs.

[Millennial beliefs?  They are centered around the second coming of Christ and the establishment of a heavenly kingdom on earth, that will last for a thousand years; i.e., millennial].

The word Templer is derived from the concept of the Christian Community as described in the New Testament, where every person and the community are seen as temples in which God’s spirit dwells.  Thus. the name is not connected with the Medieval Knights Templar.

Called “Deutscher Tempel” by its founders, their aim was to advance the rebuilding of the Temple in the Holy Land (Palestine), in the belief that this would promote the second coming of Christ.

Anyway, they started some communities in Palestine and Egypt, which hung in there for quite a while.    Obviously, they also exported their ideas and people all the way to Kansas.  Today, there are a few colonies in Australia and Germany.

At least there are more Templers than Shakers (see my Troy NY post, a couple back).

Skipping hookless Assaria, Bridgeport and Roxbury, let’s move down the road a piece to Lindsborg.  From Wiki:

Lindsborg was settled in the spring of 1869 by a group of Swedish immigrants led by Pastor Olof Olsson.

[I wonder what Pastor Olsson and his flock thought of that bunch of German Templers just down the road?]

Today, thirty percent of the population is of Swedish heritage. The downtown features gift shops that specialize in Swedish souvenirs, including various sizes of Dala horses.

I’ve never heard of a Dala horse.  No surprise, there’s a website called dalahorse.com:

Since Viking Times, the horse has been considered a holy animal in Sweden, and  wooden horses have long been carved as children’s toys. In the central Swedish province of Dalarna comes unique horse carvings that became known as Dala Horse.

It seems appropriate that the Dala Horse was selected by the city of Lindsborg as its symbol of identity with Swedish customs. The practice of using a Dala Horse-shaped plaque at the entry of homes, bearing the address or family surname, was begun in Lindsborg by local artists in the early 1960’s. Today the Dala Horse is recognized as an unofficial symbol of Sweden throughout Swedish-America.



Moving right along, it turns out that a Swedish artist lived and painted in Lindsborg, by the name of Birger Sandzén (1871-1954).  He moved to Lindsborg in 1894 to teach at Bethany College.  From Sandzen.org:

Sandzén interpreted the landscape. In an article published in 1915 he stated his views on the special relationship of landscape to the use of color: “I feel that one should be guided in both composition and use of color by the character of the landscape. There are western motifs out here, especially in a certain light (for example, in gray weather), which are distinguished by their majestic lines as in protruding rocks, rolling prairie and winding ravines. One should, when painting such motifs, first of all emphasize the rhythm and then sum up the color impression in a few large strokes.”

Here’s some of his work (which I really like):





I’m sure the originals are much richer in color and texture.  I think I’d really enjoy one prominently displayed in my house . . .

It’s time for some GE Pano shots.  About 10 miles south of my landing is the Maxwell Wildlife Sanctuary.  Here’s a shot of some of the local wildlife, by Jeff Heidel:


And some more local wildlife, by Jerry Burnell:


Also at the wildlife sanctuary, here’s a lake shot by McPhersonCVB:


I’ll close with this shot entitled “Tedd Liggett’s Photograph of the Day #748,” of an old bridge over Gypsum Creek, not far from the sanctuary:


That’ll do it . . .




© 2016 A Landing A Day

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La Sal, Utah

Posted by graywacke on September 26, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2298; A Landing A Day blog post number 728.

Dan:  I’m following up a first-time landing in NY, with this first-time landing in Utah.  My Score continues to fall, going from 682 to yet another all-time low, 663.  Of course, I’m talking about the 82 landings since my new way of selecting random lat/longs . . .

Here’s my regional landing map:


And my local landing map:


My streams-only map shows that I landed in the watershed of the Hatch Wash; on to Kane Springs Creek, and on to the Colorado R (175th hit):


It’s time for my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight into one of the most scenic patches of real estate on Earth:  SE Utah.  Click HERE, enjoy the trip, and hit your back button.

I’ll jump right to an oblique GE shot (looking north), with the La Sal mountains in the background:


You can see on my local landing map (and maybe you noticed on the spaceflight) that I landed near a highway (U.S. 191).  Of course, it has Street View coverage:


And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:


He went north on 191 a piece, to get a view of Kane Springs Creek:


And here’s what he could see:


And then I had him travel all the way up to Moab to get this look at the mighty Colorado:


And then downstream a bit, I sent the Orange Dude to get this shot of where Kane Springs Creek discharges to the Colorado.  OK, so you can’t see either the Colorado (it parallels the cliff face) or the Creek (it flows through the break in the cliff), but this is a cool shot:


Speaking of Moab, I decided not to feature it, even though it’s a very well known tourist stop.  OK, I actually decided not to feature it because it’s a very well known tourist stop.  So on to La Sal.  Here are some excerpts from an article I found in History To Go (a state of Utah website):

La Sal was first settled in 1877 when Tom Ray found a valley he liked, turned his herd of shorthorns loose to graze, and built a cabin to house his family.

A few months later the Maxwells and the McCartys moved in with 2,000 head of cattle, selecting a site on Coyote Creek a few miles west of the Rays.  This was to become the town of Coyote.

The La Sal Mountains offered excellent grazing, and by 1878 more than twenty new families had arrived – mostly in La Sal.

During the next few years the valleys of the region filled with settlers. Steers sold for $10 a head in Utah settlements, but in Colorado they brought $35.  Profits began to pour into the pockets of the La Sal ranchers.

Now wait a second.  $10 a head in Utah and $35 a head in Colorado?  If this is true (and I have to believe a Utah State website), I can’t imagine a reason that has anything to do with one state vs. the other.  Anyway, what a business opportunity for those right along the state line (like in La Sal)!  Buy low and sell high!  Evidently it was a good opportunity:

Having nothing better to spend their money on, they evolved horse racing pools that might have matched the daily “take” at one of our modern tracks. Thoroughbreds were unknown, but plenty of cow-ponies had amazing speed for short distances and provided thrills to suit the blood of the settlers. It has been estimated that more than $75,000 changed hands at a single race in this era.

During the eighties and nineties, however, Indians moved onto the lands, provoking the settlers to arms and causing them economic losses in cattle and range overcrowding.

Those pesky Indians!  Oh yea  –  this used to be their land . . .

No sooner had the Indian threat been averted [I’m not sure how – and I probably don’t want to know] than the Robbers Roost gang moved in to prey upon the district. This gang, headed by Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, was run out of Brown’s Hole.

They were known as the Robbers Roost gang because of one of their HQ locations (known as Robbers Roost):


Gee.  I landed right next to Robbers Roost a while back, but never even mentioned it in my post.  But Butch & Sundance ran their La Sal operation out of  Brown’s Hole.  According to GE, it’s very close by:


Back to the narrative:

Although this new base of operations lent itself beautifully to bank and train robbery, the outlaws were not above rustling a whole herd of beef cattle if food or spending money got low.

By this time the settlers had been stripped of most of their wealth, and to make matters worse they were now beset by drought years and falling cattle markets.

This change of events brought in an era of sheep raising and relegated the cattle industry to a secondary position. On the brighter side, rustling became an unprofitable business and the Robbers Roosters departed.

Adding to economic troubles, the site of La Sal had been unwisely chosen, as the rushing of cloudburst waters down the main street periodically evidenced. This yearly threat of extinction by floods at length became tiresome, and in the late twenties La Sal residents looked for a new site closer to the highway and less isolated.

Finally they packed up bag and baggage and moved to Coyote, some miles west along Coyote Creek. But they took the old name with them; Coyote became La Sal.

So, old La Sal flooded, and new La Sal doesn’t flood.  I did a little hydrologic analysis to see the difference between the two locations (from a flooding perspective).  Here’s a very-approximate watershed map showing Old La Sal, and the extensive watershed that contributed to flooding (particularly in the spring during snow melt):


Moving over to the new La Sal location, you can see why it will be virtually flood-free:


The town is now located right on a watershed divide (the yellow line)!  No matter how hard it rains, the water won’t accumulate.  It’ll either head west towards Hatch Wash, Kane Spring Creek and the Colorado, or it’ll head east towards Coyote Creek, La Sal Creek and then to the Delores River (which eventually discharges to the Colorado as well).

I’ll zoom out a little and show you a larger-scale watershed map:


I wonder how many La Sal residents are actually aware of the watershed divide – and the path a drop of water takes?

And how about a speck of dirt that is carried by the water?  Ah ha!  A gratuitous excuse to present a poem by yours truly that addresses that very issue.  The title of the poem is “A Speck in Time.”

A trillion trillion tiny specks
Of dust and dirt and clay
Are carried off by rivers
Each and every day.

Some specks come from farmers’ fields;
Some from the forest floor;
Some are from the city streets;
Some, swept out the door.

Each speck has its story —
One of them might say:
“I was snugly in a sidewalk crack
‘Til it rained hard one day.

“And then a rush of water
Came and took me for a ride.
I was cruising down the gutter,
Carried by the gutter tide;

“I was swept into a storm drain —
Through a sewer dark and wet —
I was dumped into a roadside ditch
With specks I’d never met.

“Unable to resist at all,
I rushed into a brook;
And then, I think, a river —
I don’t know the route I took.

“I was carried down this river
For some days — but I lost track.
This was so much more exciting
Than my good  ol’ sidewalk crack.

“I was one speck with a zillion specks
All pretty much like me.
A flood of homeless refugees
With unknown destiny.

“We hit some open water
And we slowed down to a crawl,
I then began, with other specks,
To fall and fall and fall.

“I settled slowly to the depths —
I now was one with muck;
Specks were close around me —
With my neighbors, I was stuck.

“I might be here for eons, and
Maybe turn to stone,
Whatever fate would have me do,
I’ll never be alone.

“I have no aspirations,
And certainly no fear.
I’ll just get to know my friends,
While I’m resting here.”

So, maybe on a rainy day,
You’ll look out to the gutter,
And think about the tiny specks
Carried by the water.

Think about the trip they’re on,
Entrained in water flowing —
Imagine you were one of them,
With no clue where you’re going.

Imagine you were helpless;
No change could you effect.
Would you be as accepting
As our little friend, the speck?

Oops.  This has been quite a detour of the La Sal story.  Back in the State of Utah website:

Today, old La Sal is forgotten by all but old-timers. It is a ghost site lacking even ghosts. Alone and forsaken, the old site is marked only by gaping cellars to show that men had been there. Its weed-strewn, sage-grown streets are traveled only by prairie dogs, crawling ants, and the hot sunshine.

I’m in an absolutely beautiful area, so I’ll see what GE Pano shots I can find close to my landing.

I was looking over in Old La Sal, and found a Pano shot labeled “Cabin in Old La Sal,” but it wasn’t a keeper.  However, there are great views of the La Sal Mountains from there.  Here’s one, by Matt Lemke:


U.S. Highway 191 runs south of Moab, and right past my landing (the Street View of my landing was from 191).  The remainder of the Pano shots were taken from or adjacent to the highway within a couple miles of my landing:

Here’s one by George Fisher:


And this of the La Sal Mountains, by Michael Jiroch:


Also by Michael, this cool shot:


There’s a feature known as Wilson Arch right on 191.  Here’s a picture by USA-Sights:


And I’ll close with this shot from the base of the arch, by Mamedov Ruslan:


That’ll do it . . .




© 2016 A Landing A Day

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Troy, Niskayuna and Loudonville, New York

Posted by graywacke on September 22, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2297; A Landing A Day blog post number 727.

Dan: Ding! Ding! Ding!  This is my first NY landing since I changed how I came up with random lat/longs (81 landings ago).   Of course, NY is an OSer, and my Score went down – all the way from 701 to a new record low, 682.

Check out “About Landing (Revisited)” if you don’t understand the above, and, for some reason, want to.

And get this:  I went from Troy to Troy – Troy VT (last landing) to Troy NY!

Here’s my regional landing map:


And my local landing map:


I can see that I’ll need to zoom in for a closer look:


And an even closer look:


I landed in the Three Daughters neighborhood, with streets named after Eva, Teresa and Anna May.

Here’s my streams-only map:


Street Atlas (bless its heart), lets me know that the stream near my landing is known as Stream.  Not Latham Creek (or whatever), just Stream.  And then, “Stream” dead ends.  Of course, it doesn’t really dead end – I’m sure it makes its way via storm sewers to the Hudson River (15th hit).

And then, that drop of water that falls on my landing travels way down the Hudson, past yet another landing location (where Sully put his jetliner gently down in the middle of the river), past the Statue of Liberty, and out to the Atlantic.

It’s time for my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight into the Capital District.  Click HERE, enjoy the trip to suburbia, then hit your back button.

Google Earth is typically quite good about Street View coverage in urban areas, and this area is no exception:


And here’s what the Orange Dude sees, as he’s looking at 20 Eva St., Latham NY:


Here’s another look at my least-local local landing map:


You can see a pretty crowded area.  As I searched Wiki, I came up with a strange threesome of hooks:  The Night Before Christmas (Troy); Mother Ann Lee and the Shakers (Niskayuna); and the birth of the Beatniks (Loudonville).

I think I’ll start with some Christmas poetry.  From the Troy entry for Wiki:

On December 23, 1823, The Troy Sentinel was the first publisher of the world-famous Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (also known as “The Night Before Christmas”). The poem was published anonymously. Its author has long been believed to have been Clement Clarke Moore, but its author is now regarded by some to have been Henry Livingston, Jr.

This isn’t much of a hook, so I’ll be as brief as I can.  Here, from the Wiki entry for Henry Livingston:

Henry Livingston, Jr. (October 13, 1748 – February 29, 1828).

[Total personal aside:  Henry shares his birthday with my sister Tacey and his death date (yes, February 29) with my ol’ buddy Mike.]

He has been proposed as being the uncredited author of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

Credit for the poem was taken in 1837 by Clement Clarke Moore, a Bible scholar in New York City, nine years after Livingston’s death (and 14 years after the poem’s publication). It wasn’t until another twenty years that the Livingston family knew of Moore’s claim, and it wasn’t until 1900 that they went public with their claim. Since then, the question has been repeatedly raised and argued by experts on both sides.

Around 1807 (16 years before the poem’s publication), Livingston’s sons Charles and Edwin and a neighbor Eliza remembered the poem being read by Henry. Following their father’s death in 1828, Charles claimed to have found a newspaper copy of the poem in his father’s desk, and another son Sidney claimed to have found the original handwritten copy of the poem with its original crossouts.

The handwritten copy of the poem was passed from Sidney, on his death, to his brother Edwin. However, the same year that the family discovered Moore’s claim of authorship, Edwin claimed to have lost the original manuscript in a house fire.

By 1879, five separate lines of Henry’s descendants had begun to correspond among themselves, trying to compare their family stories in the hope that someone had some proof that could be brought forward, but there was no documentation beyond family stories.

Don Foster, Professor of English at Vassar, has argued that Livingston is a more likely candidate for authorship than Moore.  Foster’s claim, however, has been countered by document dealer and historian Seth Kaller, who once owned one of Moore’s original manuscripts of the poem.

[“once owned,” eh?  Sounds suspicious.  Where it is now?]

Kaller has offered a point-by-point rebuttal of both Foster’s linguistic analysis and external findings.

New Zealand scholar MacDonald P. Jackson invested over a year of research statistically analyzing the poetry of both men. His conclusion: “Every test, so far applied, associates “The Night Before Christmas” much more closely with Livingston’s verse than with Moore’s.”

ALAD comes down squarely on the side of Livingston, mainly because he himself never claimed authorship, while Moore claimed authorship only after Livingston was long dead.  If Moore cared enough to claim authorship, why didn’t he claim it earlier?

Moving right along to the Shakers.  And not really the whole religion, but their founding matriarch, “Mother” Ann Lee.  From Wiki:

Ann Lee:  29 February 1736 – 8 September 1784

[There’s that February 29th date again!  But this time, a birthday . . .]

In 1774 Ann Lee and a small group of her followers emigrated from England to New York City. After several years, they gathered at Niskayuna NY. They worshiped by ecstatic dancing or “shaking”, which dubbed them as the Shakers. Ann Lee preached to the public and led the Shaker church at a time when few women did either.

Early History

In 1758 she joined an English sect founded by preacher James Wardley and his wife Jane; this was the precursor to the Shaker sect.  She believed in and taught her followers that it is possible to attain perfect holiness by giving up sexual relations. Like the Wardleys, she taught that the shaking and trembling were caused by sin being purged from the body by the power of the Holy Spirit, purifying the worshiper.

Lee developed radical religious convictions that advocated celibacy and the abandonment of marriage, as well as the importance of pursuing perfection in every facet of life.

In England, Ann Lee rose to prominence by urging other believers to preach more publicly concerning the imminent second coming, and to attack sin more boldly and unconventionally.  She spoke of visions and messages from God, claiming that she had received a vision from God the message that celibacy and confession of sin are the only true road to salvation and the only way in which the Kingdom of God could be established on the earth. She was frequently imprisoned for breaking the Sabbath by dancing and shouting, and for blasphemy.

Move to America

Mother Ann and her converts arrived in New York City in August 1774, where they stayed for nearly five years. In 1779 they leased land at Niskayuna and the Shakers settled there, where a unique community life began to develop and thrive.

Ann Lee opened her testimony to the world’s people on the famous Dark Day in May 1780, when the sun disappeared and it was so dark that candles had to be lighted to see indoors at noon.

[Say what?!?!  More about the Dark Day in a bit, but first a picture of Mother Ann:]


The followers of Mother Ann came to believe that she embodied all the perfections of God in female form and was revealed as the “second coming” of Christ.  The fact that Ann Lee was considered to be Christ’s female counterpart was unique. She preached that sinfulness could be avoided by not only treating men and women equally, but also by keeping them separated so as to prevent any sort of temptation leading to impure acts. Celibacy and confession of sin were essential for salvation.

Unfortunately, the Shakers were sometimes met by violent mobs and Ann Lee suffered violence at their hands more than once. Because of these hardships Mother Ann became quite frail; she died on 8 September 1784, at the age of 48.

She died at Watervliet and is buried in the Shaker cemetery located in the Watervliet Shaker Historic District.


It is claimed that Shakers experienced a 10-year period of revelations in 1837 called the Era of Manifestations.

The Era of Manifestations?  From Wiki:

The Shaker movement was at its height between 1820 and 1860. It was at this time that the sect had its most members, and the period was considered its “golden age”. It had expanded from New England to the Midwestern states of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.  It was during this period that it became known for its furniture design and craftsmanship.

In the late 1830s a spiritual revival, the Era of Manifestations was born. It was also known as the “period of Mother Ann’s work,” with the spiritual revelations marked by visions and ecstatic experiences among the followers of Mother Ann.

According to Shaker tradition, heavenly spirits came to earth, bringing visions, often giving them to young Shaker women, who danced, whirled, spoke in tongues, and interpreted these visions through their drawings and dancing.  The intense spirituality revitalized their meetings.

Here’s a Wiki shot of the Shakers shaking:


From the Wiki entry for the Shakers:

The Civil War Period

As pacifists, the Shakers did not believe that it was acceptable to kill or harm others, even in time of war.  President Lincoln exempted Shaker males from military service, and they became some of the first conscientious objectors in American history.

20th Century to Present

By the early 20th century, the once numerous Shaker communities were failing and closing. Today, in the 21st century, the Shaker community that still exists–Maine’s Sabbathday Lake Shaker Community–denies that Shakerism was a failed utopian experiment.

As of 2016, there are three Shakers remaining at Sabbathday Lake: Brother Arnold Hadd, age 58, Sister Frances Carr, 89, and Sister June Carpenter, 77.  Brother Brian Burke was recently the youngest of the Shakers; he joined the community in March 2015 at the age of 29. He has since departed the Shaker community.

There’s a robust website for the Sabbathday Lake Shaker community (MaineShakers.com).  Here’s the homepage, showing a worship service:


There is much power in fairly recent heavenly revelations – how about the Mormons?  But the Mormons started out practicing polygamy (resulting in scads of kids).  Although polygamy is outlawed, they still believe in having scads of kids.  The Shakers believe in having none. 

Phew.  Just one more topic:  the Beatniks.  But first this, about the aforementioned “Dark Day” when Mother Ann began her public testimony.  From Wired.com:

1780: In the midst of the Revolutionary War, darkness descends on New England at midday, May 19th. Many people think Judgment Day is at hand. It will be remembered as New England’s Dark Day.

Diaries of the preceding days mention smoky air and a red sun at morning and evening. Around noon this day, an early darkness fell: Birds sang their evening songs, farm animals returned to their roosts and barns, and humans were bewildered.

Some went to church, many sought the solace of the tavern, and more than a few nearer the edges of the darkened area commented on the strange beauty of the preternatural half-light. One person noted that clean silver had the color of brass.

It was darkest in northeastern Massachusetts, southern New Hampshire and southwestern Maine, but it got dusky through most of New England and as far away as New York. At Morristown, New Jersey, Gen. George Washington noted it in his diary.

In the darkest area, people had to take their midday meals by candlelight. A Massachusetts resident noted, “In some places, the darkness was so great that persons could not see to read common print in the open air.” In New Hampshire, wrote one person, “A sheet of white paper held within a few inches of the eyes was equally invisible with the blackest velvet.”

Professor Samuel Williams of Harvard gathered reports from throughout the affected areas to seek an explanation. A town farther north had reported “a black scum like ashes” on rainwater collected in tubs. A Boston observer noted the air smelled like a “malt-house or coal-kiln.” Williams noted that rain in Cambridge fell “thick and dark and sooty” and tasted and smelled like the “black ash of burnt leaves.”

As if from a forest fire to the west or north? Without railroad or telegraph, people would not know: No news could come sooner than delivered on horseback, assuming the wildfire was even near any European settlements in the vast wilderness.

A definitive explanation came in 2007. In the International Journal of Wildland Fire, Erin R. McMurry of the University of Missouri forestry department and co-authors combined written accounts with fire-scar evidence from Algonquin Provincial Park in eastern Ontario.  They documented a massive wildfire in the spring of 1780 as the “likely source of the infamous Dark Day of 1780.”

There you have it.  OK.  On to the Beatniks.  Under Notable People for Loudonville, it says:

Joan Vollmer, beatnik and common law wife of William S. Burroughs.

Her name was clickable, so of course I clicked.  I’ll start with a pic (showing that she got in a little trouble now and again):


Wow.  A Shaker she ain’t.  Here’s a Wiki excerpt:

Joan Vollmer (1923 – 1951) was the most prominent female member of the early Beat Generation circle. While a student at Barnard College in New York City, she became the roommate of Edie Parker (later married to Jack Kerouac). Their apartment became a gathering place for the Beats during the 1940s, where Vollmer was often at the center of marathon, all night discussions. In 1946, she began a relationship with William S. Burroughs, later becoming his common-law wife. In 1951, Burroughs killed Vollmer by shooting her in the head in what was apparently a drunken attempt at playing William Tell.

Geez.  Here’s a little more from Wiki:

Joan Vollmer and Edie Parker shared a series of apartments in New York’s Upper West Side that they shared with the writers, hustlers, alcoholics and drug addicts that later became known as the Beats. These included: William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Lucien Carr, Herbert Huncke and Vickie Russell (a prostitute and addict who appears as “Mary” in Burroughs’ novel Junkie).

All except Vickie Russell are clickable and have their own Wiki entries.

So, she married Burroughs and he killed her?  From Wiki:


Burroughs initially tried to support his family by farming cash crops in the Rio Grande valley. When this failed, he moved Vollmer and their children to New Orleans. While living there he was arrested for heroin possession, during which time police searched Vollmer’s home, unearthing letters from Ginsberg discussing a possible shipment of marijuana. The resulting criminal charges were grave — upon conviction Burroughs would have served time in Louisiana’s infamous Angola State Prison; he fled for Mexico City.  Once he was settled, Vollmer joined him, along with her children.

In her son’s novel Kentucky Ham (1973), Vollmer is remembered as a gentle and considerate mother who was meek and deferential to her husband’s parents. Yet she is also depicted as being prone to wild bouts of self-destructive behavior. The book recounts a reckless, almost deadly drive down a mountainside road in Mexico.  Joan’s battered appearance and unpredictable behavior alarmed Ginsberg when he visited with Lucien Carr in 1951.

Ted Morgan describes her in Literary Outlaw as a woman suffering from serious drug and alcohol addictions which had aged her noticeably. Her face was swollen; she limped due to a recent bout of polio.


Three days after Burroughs returned to Mexico City from a South American trip, Vollmer was balancing a water tumbler on her head as her husband aimed a handgun at it. When Burroughs fired, the bullet missed the water tumbler and hit Vollmer, who died later that day from a gunshot wound to the skull, aged 28.

Burroughs gave several contradictory versions of events to Mexican authorities. He initially claimed he accidentally shot Vollmer during a William Tell act, but changed his story, possibly after being coached by his Mexican attorney.  In court, Burroughs claimed he accidentally misfired the gun while trying to sell the weapon to an acquaintance.

Burroughs was held in custody on murder charges for two weeks before being released on bail after his brother arrived from St. Louis to dispense thousands of dollars in a variety of legal costs. Vollmer was buried in Mexico City.

For a year, Burroughs reported every Monday morning to the jail in Mexico City while his prominent attorney worked to resolve the case. However, when his attorney fled the country after accidentally shooting and killing a trespasser on his property — a child of a government official — Burroughs re-entered the United States.  He discovered that Louisiana had not issued a warrant for his arrest on the previous narcotic charge. In absentia, the Mexican court convicted Burroughs of manslaughter in Vollmer’s death. He received a two-year suspended sentence.

Still in Wiki, Brenda Knight in The Women of the Beat Generation puts a very positive spin on Joan Vollmer’s contributions:

“Joan Vollmer Adams Burroughs was seminal in the creation of the Beat revolution; indeed the fires that stoked the Beat engine were started with Joan as patron and muse. Her apartment in New York was a nucleus that attracted many of the characters who played a vital role in the formation of the Beat; … Brilliant and well versed in philosophy and literature, Joan was the whetstone against which the main Beat writers — Allen Ginsberg, Jack Keruac, and Bill Burroughs — sharpened their intellect. Widely considered one of the most perceptive people in the group, her strong mind and independent nature helped bulldoze the Beats toward a new sensibility.”

Here’s the iconic William S. Burroughs photo:

William S Burroughs

For a little broader look at the Beatniks, here’s the first paragraph from Wiki’s entry for the Beat Generation:

The Beat Generation was a group of authors whose literature explored and influenced American culture in the post-World War II era.

The bulk of their work was published and popularized throughout the 1950s. Central elements of Beat culture are rejection of standard narrative values, the spiritual quest, exploration of American and Eastern religions, rejection of materialism, explicit portrayals of the human condition, experimentation with psychedelic drugs, and sexual liberation and exploration.

Allen Ginsberg’s Howl (1956), William S. Burroughs’s Naked Lunch (1959) and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road (1957) are among the best known examples of Beat literature.  Both Howl and Naked Lunch were the focus of obscenity trials that ultimately helped to liberalize publishing in the United States.  The members of the Beat Generation developed a reputation as new bohemian hedonists, who celebrated non-conformity and spontaneous creativity.

The so-called Beatniks (especially Allen Ginsberg) planted the seeds that eventually became the 1960s hippie culture.

From Wiki, here’s a Burroughs quote from the introduction to his 1985 novel Queer:

“I am forced to the appalling conclusion that I would never have become a writer but for Joan’s death, and to a realization of the extent to which this event has motivated and formulated my writing. I live with the constant threat of possession, and a constant need to escape from possession, from control. So the death of Joan brought me in contact with the invader, the Ugly Spirit, and maneuvered me into a life long struggle, in which I have had no choice except to write my way out.”

I don’t have anything to say about all of this.  A good part of the above is appalling, but maybe I should read some of the Beat literature . . .

It’s time for a closing GE Panoramio shot.  I found this, by Ruok, taken a mile north of my landing:


Seems fitting for a rather icy post, eh?

That’ll do it . . .




© 2016 A Landing A Day

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Troy, Vermont

Posted by graywacke on September 16, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2296; A Landing A Day blog post number 726.

Dan:  Today’s landing marks my first Vermont landing since I changed how I get my random lat/longs (80 landings ago).  So, of course, VT was undersubscribed.  But since it’s so small, my Score only went down a measley one point – from 702 to 701 (and now VT is definitely oversubscribed).

Check out “About Landing (Revisited)” if you care to understand the previous paragraph.  If not, just keep reading.

Here’s my regional landing map:


And my local landing map:


I landed right next to the Missiquoi River (2nd hit), the blue line just east of my landing.  As you can see below, the Missiquoi discharges into Lake Champlain, which is part of the Richelieu River watershed (7th hit). 


The Richelieu makes its way to the St. Lawrence (104th hit).

It’s time to fly on in to north central VT, starting from about 10,000 miles up.  Click HERE, enjoy the flight, then hit your back button.

See that I landed right next to a road?  I wonder if it has Street View coverage?  Well, looky here:


And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:


I sent him up the road a little, and then had him look back towards the landing and the farm:


The farm looks looks prosperous, eh?  I always wonder how north-country farmers (with such a short growing season) manage . . .

Did you notice on my local landing map that just west of my landing is a feature labeled “Jay Peak Trail.”  I’m a casual skier who has skied in Vermont (Killington and Sugar Bush) and I was aware of a ski mountain known as Jay Peak.  Well, here’s an oblique GE shot looking past my landing towards Jay Peak:


You can see the ski trails on the right hand side of the mountain.

Here’s a cool shot of some Jay Peak trails, likely shot with a drone (by Maxime Chevalier, perhaps a visitor from Quebec which lies just a few miles north):


Anyway, I checked out Westfield, and could find nothing.  Well, almost nothing.  I put the Orange Dude right in “downtown” Westfield, and here’s what I found:


Let me guess.  That’s the Westfield General Store.  Looks like a cool place . . .

And then there’s Troy, where I found this on Google:

In one of the stranger chapters in Vermont history, in 1967 researcher and scientist Gerald Bull constructed the 6,000-acre Space Research Corporation facility, which straddled the US-Canadian border between Highwater (in Quebec) and Jay (in Vermont).

His intent was to build “superguns” (part of the so-called “Project Babylon”) that could fire research packages (as well as weapons) into low earth orbit, precluding the need for massive rockets.

A quick side note.  In Vermont, “towns” are like townships in most other states.  The Town of Troy extends to the Quebec border and includes the villages of Westfield, Troy and North Troy (shown on my landing map). 

Here’s a GE map (which shows much smaller towns than Street Atlas), showing Highwater (in Quebec) and Jay (in Vermont).  My landing is just off the map to the south:


So back to Gerald Bull.  There’s a personal story here, so I’ll tell it:

I was sitting at the kitchen table.  I had just put the finishing touches on my Salton Sea post, and was about to generate a new random lat/long location for my next landing.  I always feel a rush of anticipation when I do this.

My wife Jody was sitting at the table, and I let her know that I was about to land, and that I’d give her insider information about the location.  When I saw that I landed in far northern Vermont, I said something like:  “How about that!  I just landed close to Highwater where Gerald Bull tested his supergun.”

Gerald Bull?  Highwater?  How would I know that?  After all, I hadn’t landed near here before – and that’s my usual source of obscure trivia.

Well, it turns out that on the very day of this landing, I was about two thirds of the way through reading a novel by Louise Penny, The Nature of the Beast.  Jody had read the same book several months ago.

The book is one of 11 or 12 novels that chronicle the fictional life and times of one Armand Gamache, the head of the Homicide Division for Quebec’s provincial police force, Sûreté du Québec.

For the most part, the books take place in the “Eastern Townships,” generally that area of Quebec south and east of the St. Lawrence River and (of course) north of the U.S. Border – which includes the region just north of the Vermont border.  I have thoroughly enjoyed the series of novels and have no problem in recommending them.

So anyway – The Nature of the Beast begins with the discovery (by a young boy) of an incredibly huge gun that was hidden deep in the woods near the fictional Eastern Townships village of Three Pines.  The story goes on (with a couple of murders along the way), centered around information about Gerald Bull and Project Babylon – involving the construction of two massive “superguns.”

Since I was reading fiction (and I hadn’t yet read the post script that discussed the non-fiction Gerald Bull and the non-fiction Project Babylon), I assumed that this supergun thing was a figment of Ms. Penny’s imagination.  So, I was shocked to realize that Gerald Bull and Project Babylon were real.

AYKM?  What are the odds that as I was reading this novel, I would actually land close to the novel’s setting, and that with my second Wiki search (the first was Westfield), I would find information central to the book I was reading?

Gerald Bull and Project Babylon are well documented and all over the internet.  Here are a few highlights (from Wiki, starting with a 1964 photo of Mr. Bull):


  • Project Babylon was a project commissioned in 1988 by the then Iraqi president Saddam Hussein for Gerald Bull to build a series of “superguns.”
  • The first of these superguns, “Baby Babylon”, was a prototype for test purposes. It had a bore 13.8 inches, and a barrel length of 151 feet.  It was built in at the Highwater facility, was mounted horizontally and test fired into a hillside.
  • The second supergun, “Big Babylon”, was much larger.  Two Big Babylon guns were commissioned.  Components were built, but none were fully assembled. The barrel was to be 512 feet long, with a bore of 3.3 feet.  The completed gun would have weighed 1,655 tons.
  • It was designed to be a space gun able to shoot projectiles into orbit, a theme of Bull’s work for many years. For use as a weapon, some form of terminal guidance would be needed to direct the fired projectile to its intended target.

Big Babylon is the big gun found in the woods in the novel.  This gun is clearly fictional, based on the following (from Wiki):

The first Big Babylon gun was assembled in Iraq, at a site excavated from the side of hill.  The gun was never fully operational.

A second Big Babylon was under construction when Bull was assassinated in March 1990.

[Oh my.  This guy was playing with fire, and paid the price.  Check out the evil-looking guy in the background of the above photo.  His killer?]

In early April 1990, United Kingdom customs officers confiscated several pieces of the second Big Babylon barrel, which were disguised as “petrochemical pressure vessels”.

More pieces were seized in Greece and Turkey in transit by truck to Iraq. Other components, such as slide bearings for Big Babylon, were seized at their manufacturers’ sites in Spain and Switzerland.

After the Gulf War in 1991, the Iraqis admitted the existence of Project Babylon, and allowed U.N. inspectors to destroy the gun in Iraq as part of the disarmament process.

Several barrel sections seized by UK customs officers are displayed at the Royal Armouries, Fort Nelson, Portsmouth.

Here’s a Wiki shot of two of the assembled barrels at the Royal Armouries:


There is speculation that special agents from either Iran or Israel were behind the assassination (five bullets to the head).  In the novel, Armand Gamache solved the local murders and discovered who killed Bull in Belgium back in 1990 (and it wasn’t agents from Iran or Israel, it was a character in the novel . . .)

Project Babylon is a truly wild story.  If you’re interested to learn more, do a simple internet search for Gerald Bull and/or Project Babylon.

Time to close with a Jay Peak GE Pano shot (from just north of my landing by Blade Runner 3A:


That’ll do it . . .




© 2016 A Landing A Day

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Salton Sea, California

Posted by graywacke on September 12, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2295; A Landing A Day blog post number 725.

Dan:  Geez.  My 8th California hit since I changed the way I get my random lat/longs (79 landings ago).  That makes CA my most oversubscribed state.  OS state = Score increasing (from 697 to 702).

Check out “About Landing (Revisited)” to have a clue about the previous paragraph.

Here’s my regional landing map:

landing 1

And my local landing map:

landing 2

Wow.  There are a lot of potentially-titular towns that I ignored! More about that later.

As you might suspect, I landed in a very arid area with very few streams.  Ergo, my streams-only map is quite simple:

landing 3a

I landed in the watershed of the New River (3rd hit); on to the internally-drained Salton Sea (5th hit). Obviously, much more about the Salton Sea later.

It’s time for my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight in to far southern California.  Click HERE, enjoy the trip, and hit your back button.

Not bad Street View coverage:

ge sv landing map

Here’s what the Orange Dude sees:

ge sv landing

So anyway, of course I checked out all of the little towns, and the one bigger town – El Centro.  I found them all to be pretty much:


OK, I guess I have to say something about the town closest to my landing, Plaster City.  From Wiki:

Plaster City is an unincorporated community in Imperial County.  United States Gypsum operates a large gypsum quarry and plant there and owns the town.

It is the site of the last industrial narrow gauge railroad in the United States. The 3-ft wide line runs north to a gypsum quarry and brings gypsum from the quarry to the plant.

Sorry, but the “city” label is bogus.  It’s just a large industrial facility, not a town at all.  I don’t see a single house there:

ge plaster

Here’s a Street View shot.  You can see the narrow-gauge tracks crossing the road:

ge plaster sv

I was curious about the gypsum mine, so I began following the tracks to the north (on GE).  Here’s an overview:

ge smudge

Let’s take a closer look at the “smudge:”

ge smudge2

Interesting.  Here’s an even closer look:

ge bullseye

There is a GE Panoramio photo icon right in the center of the bullseye (not shown above).  Here’s the Pano shot (by Joachim Cheung):

pano Joachim Cheung M-60 tank

Joachim let us know that this is an M-60 tank.  I have no clue why it’s out in the middle of the desert and why it has the circles around it . . .

Before I leave the area, here’s a shot of the gypsum train, from railpictures.net, by Paul Mancini:


 Before I checked out the Salton Sea, I checked out the New River.  From Wiki:

The New River originates in Mexico, and flows north through the city of Mexicali, into the United States towards the Salton Sea. The river channel has existed since pre-historic times; however, the river as known today was formed from a levee failure that resulted in massive flooding that re-created the Salton Sea.

Today, the river flow is not natural, mostly consisting of agricultural runoff, municipal sewage discharge from Mexicali and industrial dumping. The river has been referred to as the most severely polluted river of its size within the United States.

Now wait a second.  “The river as known today was formed from a levee failure.”  Say what? 

From San Diego State University:

In 1905, a diversion was engineered in the Colorado River, in Baja California, Mexico, a few miles South of Yuma, Arizona, for the purpose of conveying water to irrigate lands in the Imperial Valley, California. An unexpected flood caused the diversion to fail, and the Colorado changed course, first flowing West and then North in the direction of the Salton depression.

For two years, the entire flow of the Colorado discharged to a previously-dry lakebed (The Salton Sink, elevation 260’ below sea level), becoming the Salton Sea.

[And this was before the Hoover and Glen Canyon Dams, so the river actually flowed all year long.  Anyway, we need a map:]

landing 3b

By the time the river was brought under control in 1907, the water had filled the depression to the level of -195 ft (65 ft deep), creating the Salton Sea.

Left on its own, the water in the sea would have eventually evaporated.  In fact, by the early 1920’s, the sea nearly dried up, reaching a record low of -250 ft (only 10′ deep). However, in 1928, Congress acted to designate the lands within the Salton basin below -220 ft as storage for municipal wastes and seepage water from irrigated lands in Imperial valley.

Since then, the sea has risen to its present -227 ft. The average depth of the sea is about 30 ft, and the maximum is 51 ft.

From the Salton Sea Museum (dot org):

The New Liverpool Salt Works began operation in 1885, near the present day town of North Shore.  Native Cahuilla Indians and local settlers worked the 1,000 acre mine.


All buildings were underwater by 1906 as the basin flooded. (Note the flooded Salt Works building below)


The 1000-acre salt deposits, contributed to the salinity of the new ‘sea’.

Here are some other pics from the same website:



A new lake brings with it new recreational (and money-making) opportunities:


Ancient Lake Cahuilla was located where the Salton Sea is today (although it was typically much larger).  From the Salton Sea Museum website:


From Wiki:

Ancient Lake Cahuilla was created when the lower Colorado River shifted its course within its delta. Instead of flowing directly south to the head of the Gulf of California, the river’s waters were naturally diverted northwest into the Salton Basin, the base of which lay about 80-metre (260 ft) below sea level. When the river shifted its course back to the south, the isolated basin would have taken more than five decades to completely dry out again.

This most recently happened in the seventeenth century, although Cahuilla Lake existed numerous times since 1000 AD.

It’s time for a couple of Pano shots of the Lake.  First this, by Mike Angelo:

pano Mike Angelo

And this (from almost the same location), by InstinctImages:

pano instinct images

I’ll close with this shot from up in the mountains west of my landing, entitled “Plaster City View,” by Tommy 750:

pano tommy 750 plaster city view

That’ll do it . . .




© 2016 A Landing A Day

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Grisdale, Matlock and Hoodsport, Washington

Posted by graywacke on September 6, 2016

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much a once-every-four-or-five days blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is) please see “About Landing” above.  To check out some recent changes in how I do things, check out “About Landing (Revisited).”

Landing number 2294; A Landing A Day blog post number 724.

Dan:  Only my second hit since my “new” lat/long selection procedure (77 landings ago).  Ergo, Washington was undersubscribed, and my Score went down (from 712 to 697).

Here’s my regional landing map:

landing 1

And my local landing map:

landing 2a

I’ll zoom back a little so you can check out Puget Sound, and see that I landed on the Olympic Peninsula – that wild and wooly piece of real estate tucked up in the NW corner of Washington between Puget sound, the Strait of Juan de Fuca and the Pacific Ocean:

landing 2b

My very local streams-only map shows that I appear to have landed in (not just near) Walter Creek, which flows to the Middle Fork of the Satsop River (first hit ever!):

landing 3a

Zooming back some, you can see (sort of) that the Middle Fork discharges to the East Branch (3rd hit).

landing 3b

Zooming back some more, you can see that the East Branch discharges to the Satsop itself (also 3rd hit), on to the Chehalis (5th hit, making the Chehalis the 165th river on my list of rivers with 5 or more hits):

landing 3c

It’s time for my Google Earth (GE) spaceflight.  Rounding out my series of spaceflights emanating from upside-down continents, here’s one from upside-down North America.  Click HERE, enjoy the trip, then hit your back button.

Three comments:  First – North America looks really different upside-down!  More so than the other continents, for some reason.  Secondly – GE confirms that I landed in (at least very, very close to Walter Creek).  Third – I’m not bothering with Antarctica in my upside-down series, ‘cause there’s no such thing as upside down or right side up for Antarctica (think about it).  In addition, as previously discussed here on ALAD, our convention that North is always up is totally arbitrary.

Here’s an oblique GE shot, looking north towards the Olympic Range:

ge 1

And some info about the Satsop from Wiki:

The Satsop River’s name means literally “made stream,” and is shared with the Satsop Indians, who lived along the river. 

[Strange name.  I wonder what the Indians believe about who (or what) “made” the river?]

The Satsops were devastated by smallpox and other epidemics, after which a remnant population moved from their ancestral lands along the Satsop River to the Chehalis Reservation. The remnant Satsop population was listed as 350 in 1870 and only 12 in 1885. There is no Satsop tribe today.

Saying “ouch” trivializes what happened to Indians, so I won’t.  I wonder how many Satsop Indians there were before the white man’s diseases . . .

Anyway, here’s a Street View shot of the Middle Fork, taken quite a ways south of Matlock:

ge sv mid sat

And one of the  Satsop, taken just before  the Satsop discharges to the Chehalis:

ge sv sat

I’ll return to my local landing map so you can check out Grisdale, Matlock and Hoodsport (sorry, Union):

landing 2a

I’ll start with Grisdale.  From SeattlePi.com (the Seattle Post Intelligenser):

When Camp Grisdale was opened by the Simpson Timber Company in 1946, it was one of a kind. The tiny logging village located in the woods, 35 miles north of Montesano, was the first planned community for lumberjacks and their families. The camp contained 52 family homes, a two-room schoolhouse, a company store and bunkhouses for bachelor loggers. When the camp was closed 39 years later, in 1985, it was the last logging camp operating in the contiguous United States. Today, Grisdale is an overgrown wooded area in the Olympic National Forest.

Ghosttowns.com has a couple of pictures of the old logging community:





And then there’s Matlock.  The only reason I included Matlock is the last sentence from the following Wiki paragraph:

Matlock is the primary population center for the western part of Mason County, a sporadically populated logging area. The most notable sites are the church, food bank, general store, post office, local grange hall, and the Mary M. Knight school, grades kindergarten through senior high school; the school mascot is the Knight Owl, a rarely commented on pun.

Man.  A great pun, and nobody comments on it, let alone laughs . . .

Moving along to Hoodsport.  Its name comes from the fact that it is a port on the Hood Canal.  The use of the term canal drives me crazy.  It’s not a canal.  Period.  It’s a natural arm of Puget Sound, deep enough that the word fjord is sometimes used to describe it.  Here’s a little from Wiki:


Hood Canal is a fjord forming the western lobe, and one of the four main basins,of Puget Sound.  Hood Canal is not a canal in the sense of being a man-made waterway—it is a natural waterway.

Hood Canal and the rest of Puget Sound were created about 13,000 years ago by the Puget Lobe of the Cordilleran Glacier Ice Sheet.

Hood Canal was named by the Royal Navy Captain George Vancouver in 1792, in honor of Admiral Lord Samuel Hood of that navy.  Vancouver used the name “Hood’s Channel” in his journal, but wrote “Hood’s Canal” on his charts. The United States Board on Geographic Names decided on “Hood Canal” as its official name in 1932.

I would be so in favor of using an Indian word for it.  I searched, and found this from the Seattle Times in an article about water quality degradation in the Hood Canal:

The devastation has economically and spiritually wounded the Skokomish, whose very name in their native language — tuwa’duqhL si’dakW — means “our big salt water.”

OK, so that’s a little awkward for our tongues.  And how about the capital L and W? 

I couldn’t find any information about the end-of-the-word capital letters, but I fear there’s no one to ask.  This, about the Skokomish language, from Wiki:

English is commonly spoken by the tribe. The Skokomish language is a dialect of Twana, a Central Salish language. The last fully fluent speaker died in 1980.

So what about Hoodsport?  Well, aside from the fact that it sounds like an athletic contest where everyone wears a hood, here’s a little from Wiki:

Hoodsport is renowned among SCUBA divers as a staging area to view the giant Pacific octopus. Local marine preserves such as Octopus Hole and Sund Rock offer divers the chance to see octopus, as well as other marine life.

Let’s take a look at a giant pacific octopus:

wiki cliff from arlington

About Octopus Hole (from Wiki):

Octopus Hole is a designated conservation area just over three miles north of Hoodsport. Octopus Hole is very popular with Scuba divers who enjoy diving the walls associated with the site to view various underwater creatures, including but not limited to Lingcod, Giant Pacific Octopus, Wolf Eel, sea cucumber, and nudibranch.

About Giant pacific Octopus intelligence (from Wiki):

Octopuses are ranked as the most intelligent invertebrates.  In the third century AD, Roman natural historian Claudius Aelianus wrote “Mischief and craft are plainly seen to be the characteristics of this creature.”

Giant Pacific Octopuses are commonly kept on display at aquariums due to their size and interesting physiology, and have demonstrated the ability to recognize humans that they frequently come in contact with. These responses include jetting water, changing body texture, and other behaviors that are consistently demonstrated to specific individuals.

They have the ability to solve simple puzzles, open childproof bottles and use “tools”.  The octopus brain has folded lobes (a distinct characteristic of complexity), visual and tactile memory centers.

They have been known to open tank valves, disassemble expensive equipment and generally wreak havoc in labs and aquariums.  Some researchers even claim that they are capable of motor play and having personalities.

It’s time for another look at the octopus.  This shot gives us a better feel for their intelligence (it’s the eye):


And while we’re at, the other creatures in the hole include lingcod, wolf eel, sea cucumber, and nudibranch.

Here’s a picture of a Lingcod:

wiki lingcod1

And a somewhat more menacing view:


Here’s a shot of a Wolf Eel:


And a BBC wolf eel video:

And another lovely close-up (a face only a mother could love):


Sea cucumbers are more ordinary (I’ve seen plenty snorkeling in the Bahamas and the Virgin Islands).  Here’s a screen shot of Google Images:

sea cucumbers screen shot

But the piece de resistance is the nudibranch (basically a shell-less sea slug).  Just relax, take a deep breath, and enjoy:

Spanish_Shawl_Nudibranch_(Flabellina_iodinea) wiki

nudibranchs09-nudibranch_18179_600x450 nat geo

nudibranch5 the junglestore.blogspot

67f9075ddc4b19500ca808501c9f38fa pinterest


Time for a couple of GE Panoramio shots, both by Larry Workman QIN. I’ll start with this one, taken about 2 miles NE of my landing:

pano larry workman QIN 2 mi NW

And then I’ll close with this one, taken less than a mile south:

pano larry workman QIN less than a mile n

 That’ll do it . . .




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