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Archive for October, 2016

Titusville and Maytown (Road), Florida

Posted by graywacke on October 28, 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 2304; A Landing A Day blog post number 734.

Dan:  I’m on a roll –  4 straight USers, and seven out of the last eight.  Of course, a new record low Score (from 599 down to 583).  What’s more, this was my first Florida landing since I changed how I get my random lat/longs 88 landings ago.

“What is he talking about?” you may ask.  Check out “About Landing (Revisited)” to answer all of your questions.  Well, maybe not all your questions.  For that, you’ll need to read “About Landing.”  Or, more simply, don’t worry about it and just keep reading.

Here’s my regional landing map:


And my very local landing map:


Let me back up a little:


You can see that I landed in what appears to be a relatively empty hunk of real estate between Orlando and Daytona Beach (more about that emptiness in a bit).  FYI, that’s the northern portion of Cape Canaveral to the south and east of Titusville.

My streams-only map shows that I landed in the watershed of Cow Ck:


Cow Creek makes its way to Deep Creek, on to the St. John’s River (5th hit, making the St. Johns the 166th river on my list of rivers with 5 or more hits).

Zooming back some you can see that the St. Johns makes its way north (past Jacksonville, trust me on this), and out to the ocean:


But before I go any further, I have to tell a little story about this particular landing.  It was Thursday, October 6th, and I had just finished up preparing and saving the draft of my Prewitt & Thoreau NM post.  (I generally have a few posts in the queue at any given time). 

Hurricane Matthew was the big story on the news, and my wife Jody and I were looking at some of the projected storm path graphics.   At that moment, the storm was off the coast of southern Florida, headed north towards a possible landfall in central Florida, not far from Cape Canaveral. 

As is my custom, I alerted Jody to the fact that I was about to land, and would be letting her know about my new landing location in a minute or two.  When I saw my lat/long, I thought to myself, “either the ocean or Florida” (I have a pretty good sense of where I’ll end up after a quick look at the lat/longs.  After all, I’ve done this 2,304 times . . .)

So anyway, I was looking at windytv.com, which is a cool website that shows wind patterns and velocities around the whole world.  As one would expect, the hurricane really stands out.  You can also look at future wind patterns, and I was checking out where Matthew’s eye would be Friday morning.

And then I landed and I couldn’t believe it.  Here’s a windytv shot showing the Friday morning location of the eye coinciding with my landing location:


FYI, the wind velocities are represented by the colors on the map.

Of course, as it turned out, the eye stayed off-shore.  Here’s the actual windytv shot from the next morning:


So how did Titusville (the largest coastal town on my local map) make out?  Not bad at all.  Here are some damage shots from FloridaToday.com, starting with this apartment complex (Titusville Bay Towers) that looks OK but has been condemned because the roof blew off, and the water damage was so severe:


And this, the standard shot of a tree that fell on a house:


And this:  Musician down!  Musician Down!


Before leaving Titusville (which is essentially hookless), I have a personal story to tell.  Titusville was named after Henry Titus (1823-1881).  He was born in Trenton NJ, just down Route 31 from my home in Hopewell Township.

Also just a few miles from my home (and in Hopewell Township) is the town of Titusville, named after what I assume must be the same Titus family.

It just so happens that my father’s family has deep roots in the greater Trenton (Mercer County) area, with the Hill family arriving from Long Island the late 1600s.  The only reason I’m living in the geographic bosom of my father’s family is because my former employer (Mobil Oil) used to operate a research facility in Hopewell Township, where I worked.

Anyway, my cousin Jim did some family research, and discovered that way back in the day, three Hill brothers married three Titus sisters.  I’m not sure exactly where I’m going with this, but obviously my Hill family has a historical (and genetic) connection with the Titus family . . .

After all of the above verbiage, I’m way past due for my GE (Google Earth) spaceflight.  Instead of taking off from Cape Canaveral, I’m landing there.  Click HERE to check it out, then hit your back button.

Who’d a thunk that between Orlando and Daytona Beach, I’d land in the woods?  Not much for a GE Street View, but I thought I’d take a look at the dirt road you’d have to take to get close to my landing:


And here’s what the Orange Dude sees:


Just down the same road (headed west), I could get a look at Cow Creek:


Just for the heck of it, I thought I’d take a look at the St. Johns River:


By the way, the huge blobs of blue representing intense Street View coverage are Sanford to the south and Deltona to the north (with Orlando a little further west).  Further east and north towards Daytona, it’s also intensely blue.  But anyway, here’s what the Orange Dude sees:


Back to my landing, I found an article from Florida-Backwoods-Travel.com, entitled “Maytown Road – Pathway Through Florida Wilderness.”  This article addresses the none-blue area around my landing.  Here are some excerpts:

It’s hard to believe that just a few miles from Orlando there is a huge quiet zone that is largely unpopulated.  It doesn’t really have a name.  It’s the vast wilderness between Deltona, Sanford and the East coast.  It’s probably 150,000 acres, more or less.

The main access through this wilderness is Maytown Road.  This road starts in the small town of Osteen and heads east across Central Florida to Oak Hill on the Halifax River.  It is a lightly traveled paved road.  When I first traveled it some 40 years ago it was dirt all the way.  It was all too easy to get stuck during muddy conditions. Today it’s a breeze to make the drive and it’s almost as quiet as it was back then.

Here’s my local landing map with Maytown Road labeled:


And a GE shot, showing the area around my landing, and labeling Maytown:


Back to the write-up:

There are no real towns in this wilderness.  Names of old places that maybe once existed can still be found on some maps: Kalamazoo, Farmton, Cow Creek, Maytown.

Kalamazoo is a private tract of about 11,000 acres that was once planned to be a giant celery farm and self sufficient village.  Pioneers from Kalamazoo, Michigan bought the land and tried to get it started about 100 years ago.

Maytown is a ghost town that used to be a crossroads for two railroads. The railroads are long gone and all that remains in Maytown are a few old abandoned buildings:


Make sure you pull off Maytown Road now and then, turn off the car engine and just listen to the quiet.  You will be amazed.

Here’s a random GE Street View shot of Maytown Road near my landing:


Well, boys and girls, we’ve come to one of your favorite parts of the show:  checking out GE Panoramio shots, taken near my landing.  These two come from 7-8 miles west of my landing.  First this, by Mike Holdsworth of Palmetto (the ground cover) and “Long Leaf” evergreen trees:


I’ll close with this artsy Live Oak / Palmetto shot by Popcorn Studios:


That’ll do it . . .




© 2016 A Landing A Day

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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 . . .




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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 . . .




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