Friday, July 22, 2011

Thunder Mountain, Nevada

Thunder Mountain... the name sounds like some high Sierra location in the wilderness, but it is much more difficult to descibe.

Thunder Mountain Indian Monument is a State of Nevada historic site.  Bizarre, artistic, eclectic, artsy, and even kind of scary, Thunder Mountain is a collection of faces, towers, junk, statues, old cars, and buildings made from concrete, bottles, windshields, typewriters, and whatever other building materials the artist could find.

The creator of the monument was Frank Van Zant who later in life called himself Chief Rolling Mountain Thunder.  He described his creation as a monument to the American Indian.  During his life he was a World War II veteran, assistant pastor, sheriff's deputy, and private investigator, but inspired by a bottle house he had seen in the desert, he moved his family to rural Imlay, Nevada and created his unusual home.

A bottle wall seen from the inside. 


                                                                                                                                                                  Nightmarish faces, deteriorated by years of exposure, are found everywhere you look, peering out from corners or towers, and a Madonna seems to watch you from behind a wire fence.  Native American symbolism is everywhere, but other symbols are harder to understand, like an amazing human / butterfly.  The site is deteriorating, but the artist's son is trying to preserve and restore it.  There is a caretaker on the site, and he gladly let us inside the fence to take photos.  There is no charge, but donations are accepted and welcome.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Rent a locomotive!

One of the highlights of this year's annual camping trip was renting a locomotive for an hour at the Western Pacific Railroad Museum in Portola, California.

The 917-D was built around 1951 or 1952 and has a 16 cylinder engine.  Visitors can rent this engine or a smaller switch engine and run it around a relatively short section of track.
Ross Walker ran the locomotive under the watchful eye of Charlie, a museum docent. Photo by Bruce Gregory.

Stephen Johnson was the second engineer.

 Bruce Gregory got the next turn.

This was the view from the cab as the train traveled around the border of the museum property.
The victorious engineers as photographed by Charlie the museum docent.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Forest City, California - Almost a ghost town

Day 3 of our 30th annual camping trip brought us to one of our favorite photography subjects, a ghost town.  This trip typically takes us to places that most people don't go.  We don't look for in-your-face gorgeous well-known places, but rather we go to historic out-of-the-way places that we find personally interesting.  Today it was a semi-ghost town in the northern Sierra foothills called Forest City.  Some of the buildings here are used as summer homes, but the place is largely deserted.
The first thing you see as you enter Forest City from the dirt road is a cemetery.  Many graves here date from the 1880's.
The old dance hall is now an informal museum, open by donation if you can find someone to unlock the door.  The sagging building looks extremely unstable but is still used for community events.
The interior has an eclectic mix of historic items and dusty modern stuff.  It looks like an attempt has been made to shore up the shaky building with a cable stretched across this window.
An uphill climb reveals a wonderful old school building hidden in the trees.  The few people we saw here were friendly and helpful when we showed an interest in their historic town.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

30th Annual Camping Trip

I have been camping for 30 years in a row with the same guys; sometimes twice a year.  This has been called the "desert trip" even though we have camped in California, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, and Oregon.  Check out the story of the "Desert Rats" here:

This year we are camping in the northern Sierra in California.  This was the first day of exploration and we included Donner Summit, Yuba Gap, Emigrant Gap, and more.

We heard rumors of indian grinding rocks in a remote location near Yuba Gap.  It was difficult to get to, but we did find the grinding rocks.  However, the main attraction for me was the surrounding area.  There were a number of natural patterns like this huge snag behind a lichen spotted rock.

Another snag had been there awhile and formed a death pattern on the granite.

An un-named marshy pond added color and patterns to the scene.

Reflections of a dead tree made a great subject in the marsh.

I will try to add more photos as the trip continues.