The Hot Dry Swampy Days of Summer

Why do we live in this confounded hot desert?  First of all this desert, the Mojave Desert, especially in its higher elevations is not so hot compared to many other deserts.  I sometimes laugh to myself when those of the Los Angeles Inland Empire area or the California Central Valley think that us folks in the desert endure so much heat when actually much of the summer we are a few degrees cooler than they are and we also endure much less humidity than they do.  This brings me to the subject of this blog today, the best reason to live in the desert according to some desert rats, “The Swamp Cooler”.

There are many forms of cooling with water that go back thousands of years, we have all personally experienced the evaporative cooling effect that occurs after exiting a swimming pool on a hot sunny day.  Paintings from about 2500 B.C. show slaves fanning jars of water to cool rooms for royalty. gamblor Desert lore says that the modern incarnation of the swamp cooler originated when the desert swamp man came out of the desert in 1915 and spread his swampy knowledge for the benefit of all desertkind.  History books differ from this lore, they say that it probably did not take long past the initial discovery of cloth for early man to take practical advantage of this physical cooling behavior of water when living in hot and arid regions.  Settlers of the 1920s and 1930s in the Southwest slept in screened in porches, roofs, or other outside facilities and hung wet sheets to gain some relief from the summer heat.  The Arizona Republic reports that guests at the Ford Hotel in Phoenix slept on the balcony while young men peddled to power overhead fans.

 The earliest design of the direct coolers consisted of wooden frames covered with wet burlap cloth with fans forcing air into the space being cooled. As they evolved, sumps and recirculating pumps were incorporated into the designs.  The first aspen pad (swamp) cooler was demonstrated in the Adams Hotel in downtown Phoenix June 20, 1916.  In 1939, Martin and Paul Thornburg published mimeographed instructions, “Cooling for the Arizona Home.”  The two professors at the University of Arizona had conducted tests to improve performance of these direct evaporative coolers.  About that time, early mass production of evaporative coolers began as the integrated motor and fan units, by 1939, most houses and businesses in the hot and arid southwest were using drip coolers. 

Today, swamp coolers are the most economical method of cooling a house in a dry climate.  All of the electricity that is used to power an air conditioning unit is a waste of energy when compared to the economical energy consumption that is used to run a large fan and a water pump on a swamp cooler and in my opinion with much better results that your senses can feel in your “swamp cooled” home.  You will also see results in your pocketbook, in this day of energy sucking air conditioning units, us Mojave Desert folk have been going green years ahead of everyone else.  

Now for the technical stuff: the cooler sits on the roof with an air duct leading down into the house or sometimes it is mounted on a wall or in a window.  The cooler is essentially a large box, four sides of which are removable panels (some coolers have 3 pads or even one big pad). These panels have vents in them to let air flow through. On the inside of each panel is attached a “cooler pad” which looks a little bit like a matt of hay. The pads are about 2-3 inches thick and about 3 feet square. They are made of a material which absorbs water..

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At the bottom of the box is a reservoir of water [3], with a tube running down into it. At the top is the other end of the tube, with a “spider” attachment of hoses or some other trickle mechanism. These spread across the top of the box to the sides. The ends of the hoses are above the top edges of the pads.  A pump runs a continuous trickle of water over the pads, keeping them wet, the water runs through them and collects again in the reservoir and water is recycled and is refilled as it evaporates.  At the entrance to the duct is a large fan [5] which sucks hot air from the outside [1] in through the wet pads [2], where they are cooled by evaporation [4], the air is then blown down into the house [6].  Or as I like to explain it, air is sucked through pads dripping with re-circulated water, the same cooled air is blown down a vent to cool the house.

As far as humidity, on those glorious desert thunderstorm days I guess you could say that a good thunderstorm is natures swamp cooler but on those humid but non-rainy days we must turn on the air conditioning because swamp coolers are not efficient in high humidity.  In the Mojave Desert we enjoy our swamp coolers about 90% of the summer season, as far as I am concerned no matter how big or small a house you live in you must become desert folk and install a swamp cooler.  I turned mine on today and it gave my senses the realization that the hot dry swampy days of summer are almost upon us.

Take It Easy – Mojave

 

 

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I Have Always Driven By And Wondered What Is Up There – Old Woman Springs Ranch

Most people that drive up Highway 247, also known as Old Woman Springs Road, between Yucca Valley and Apple Valley have said “I Have Always Driven By And Wondered What Is Up There” as they look to the southwest and see what looks like a few trees in the distance and a sign that says Old Woman Springs Ranch. 

The springs at Old Woman Springs Ranch have most likely been there for eons, but its recent discovery by the white man was in the mid 1850’s by a surveyor, Colonel Henry Washington, who was the nephew of our first president George Washington.  Two years after California became a state he was hired by the government to lay out the grid that all land parcels are tied too in Southern California, this grid system is still being used today.  Being the first white man into this mostly uninhabited area he was responsible for penning the names of many of the landmarks in the Mojave Desert as he conducted his survey.  As the story goes there was one or possibly a few old Native American women living at the spring when he passed through conducting his survey, thus the name Old Woman Springs.  At that time they there were several springs bubbling up out of the ground.  Later as the springs were purchased and sold each owner made improvements which included creating lakes to store the water, this water could then be used to raise alfalfa that would feed cattle that would be raised for beef.  The cattle would graze in the summer near Big Bear then in the winter at Old Woman Springs. At one time, in 1957, there was even a train that was brought to the Springs, the Cottonwood and Southern Railroad and there was also a landing strip.

This blog is not intended to be a complete history of the site, that may be covered in a future blog.  What I will say is that as most business ventures go in the desert Old Woman Springs Ranch was no different.  At times it was successful and others it was not, lawsuits were filed, railroad tracks were laid and pulled up, buildings got vandalized and of course murder was involved, Old Woman Springs had all of these aspects in its last 150 years, some are fact and some may be heresay.  The fact is that in the end the property was abandoned until the year 2004 when it would get a second chance.  Bert and Donna Barber purchased the Ranch and they began the long process of rebuilding with the hopes of eventually giving the public limited access. 

I was lucky enough to visit the Ranch with the Morongo Basin Historical Society on a field trip.  The Ranch is a beautiful location with much water, all of the original springs still exist.  Some of their water is used to fill several large man made lakes, one with an island.  One special place is called the Grotto, this is a spot where the water comes out of the ground and fills a natural pool before it is piped into one of the lakes.  There is another area similar to the Grotto without being quite as spectacular but awesome none the less.  There is a main house, a train depot, water tank and many outbuildings including a barn and of course the landing strip is still there.

Hopefully someday you can visit the Ranch but for now here are a few, well maybe alot of pictures.  As for the purpose of todays blog, now you will know “What Is Up There” when you drive by Old Woman Springs Ranch.

Take It Easy – Mojave 

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The Hub of the Morongo Basin – Yucca Valley

Yucca Valley is strategically placed at the crossroads of the Hi-Desert, at the intersection of two state highways that lie at the center of this Mojave Desert Town.  On Saturday, October 13 Yucca Valley saw its first new park open in 39 years, the new park is a yet to be named dog park.  As I saw people coming to this ribbon cutting ceremony from all over the Basin, not just Yucca Valley I realized what an important role Yucca Valley plays to its citizens as well as the surrounding communities.  Being the largest Town in the Morongo Basin of course people go to this Town to shop, see a movie, dine and of course some are just getting gasoline and passing through to go to the Colorado River, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center the Joshua Tree National Park or off-roading in Johnson Valley.  Yucca Valley’s role is much bigger than that, people come so their children can play in Town sponsored sports programs such as soccer, football, basketball, softball and t-ball.  People young and old take free/affordable classes at Town Hall such as aerobics, whittling, dance and exercise classes.  There is a skate park and a beautiful community center with grass.  They come here to swim in the Town swimming pool or ride the BMX track or partake in many of the activities at the Boys and Girls Club and an incredible Nature Museum.  There are Town sponsored lectures, holiday events, every summer they have weekly concerts in the park and on hot summer days they open Town Hall as a cool center.  The senior center serves meals daily and has activities geared towards the elderly population.  

The link below will tell more about Town activities as there are too many to list in this blog:

http://www.yucca-valley.org/pdf/recreation/activity_guide_current.pdf

A new senior housing unit coming into Town soon that will be next to the Senior Center and a new youth sports complex is under construction which includes a miracle league ball field for children with handicaps.  They are also constructing a new state of the art animal shelter.  Yucca Valley really is the hub of the Hi-Desert and worth a visit to this cooler desert, stop and stay a while.

Back to the subject of the dog park, I also realized as I saw families with their children playing on the playground, dogs off their leashes playing in the grass on the dog portion of the park that this is really a family park for all to enjoy. 

If you are interested in naming this as of yet unnamed park you can use the form at the below link to submit your idea:

http://www.yucca-valley.org/pdf/parks/park_naming_proposal_form2012.pdf

Below you will find photos of the ribbon cutting day, I hope you enjoy seeing all of the happy people and dogs from Yucca Valley and the many surrounding communities in this beautiful Mojave Desert setting.

Take It Easy – Mojave

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Area 51 May Not Be As Fine As Area 29 (two-nine)

The deserts of the American Southwest have long been associated with paranormal activity.  Doesn’t the thought of little grey aliens, UFOs and conspiracies make you feel warm and fuzzy all over?  Area 51 in Nevada may be the bull’s eye of all of this hoopla, but the 29 Palms Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Command / Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center or MAGTFTC/MCAGCC comes in a close second.  This area has been a hotbed of supposed UFO sightings and contacts since the early 1950s. 

I have to preface this blog by saying that I spend alot of time outside, in the daytime, and especially under the nighttime desert sky, very near the 29 Palms Marine Base.  I have never seen anything so unusual that  it could not be explained as a military vehicle, military flares, satellites or natural phenomenon.  Reports of UFO activity abound in the beautiful Mojave Desert, especially in this area. Where and when did it all begin? 

Mr. George Van Tassel, a former test pilot for Howard Hughes, correctly predicted a UFO incident over Washington, DC one week before it occurred in 1952. This notoriety may have boosted his popularity.  Later, in August 1953, he lived adjacent to the 29 Palms Marine Base in a hollowed out crevice under what is considered by some to be the largest freestanding boulder in the world, “Giant Rock” in Landers California. Here, he  claimed to have been visited by the shadowy figure of a humanoid from Venus.  Standing at the foot of his sleeping bag, the alien announced, “I am Solganda, and I would be pleased to show you my craft”.  Van Tassel wrote that he was led to a hovering UFO and stepped into what he described as a butter-colored light emanating from the underside of the craft.  He claims that he was taken on a tour of the ship and told that he had been chosen to bring a message of peace and interplanetary brotherhood to his fellow earthlings.  Giant Rock then grew to become the UFO capital of the world and for a short time hosted huge UFO conventions.  In 1959 over 11,000 people attended a UFO convention at Giant Rock. 

Mr. Van Tassel also claimed that these aliens instructed him to construct a human rejuvenation machine, a 20th century Fountain of Youth.  In Mr. Van Tassel’s mediation sessions under Giant Rock, he believed he received vital information from alien sources on the design of this machine.  He developed the building and its location with direct input from his alien designers.  Van Tassel believed that this machine would someday rejuvenate human cells using the natural energy found in the atmosphere; he called the device the “Integratron”.  He worked on this project almost 20 years until his death. It was never fully completed.

To add to the aura of this area, it has been reported that there are caves on the 29 Palms Marine Base that are the center of alien activity.  Some say that the alien bodies from Roswell were brought to 29 Palms for underground storage in the 1950s.  There are reports of whole mountains opening up and cameras being lowered into these caves only to have the cables cut.  There are even stories of a Desert Bigfoot known as Yucca Man that some believe to be an alien manifestation. 

On a side note, on the morning of February 21, 2000 a big chunk of Giant Rock broke off and fell to the ground.  Many people thought it was a warning sign of something larger, a supernatural event on the horizon.  Today Giant Rock sees an occasional visitor, and sometimes is the spot for teenage parties, but the home that was carved out underneath the rock is gone.  You can now visit the Integratron and for a nominal price enjoy a sound bath inside the structure, and occasionally they host a much smaller Retro-UFO Convention.  As far as the 29 Palms Marine Base, the Marines are exploring the possibility of growing and expanding the base westward. This is a hotly debated political battle between the U.S. Military and the off-road community.

As for me, I am still looking for my own signs from the heavens, or maybe these aliens have no interest in me?  Either way, thirty-six years in the Mojave Desert and I have seen nothing totally unexplainable.  I will keep looking and if I ever do have an encounter, this blog will be the first place that I will report the incident and attempt to convert you into a believer.

 Take It Easy – Mojave

 

 

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Was That The Big One or Was That a 7.3, 7.4, 7.5 or 7.6 – 20 Years Later Only The Mojave Knows

As the Beatles once said “It was twenty years ago today, Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play”, but in the Mojave Desert it was twenty years ago today Mother Nature had her way.  June 28th 2012 will be the 20th anniversary of the Landers earthquake.  

The official version of this event states that: 

At 04:57 local time on June 28, 1992, a large temblor awoke much of Southern California, this was a magnitude 7.3 earthquake that occurred near the town of Landers, California. The quake was the largest earthquake to have occurred in the contiguous United States in 40 years at that time.  It was in a rural area and as most of us know California building standards are among the most strict in the world, thus the damage and the loss of life in this earthquake was minimal when compared with others of similar size.  Still most people don’t know that two people died as the result of a heart attack and a three-year-old boy died when the home’s chimney collapsed into his living room, more than 400 people sustained injuries as a result of the earthquake.  It was later reported that the Landers earthquake triggered small quakes and changed the frequency of geyser eruptions in Yellowstone National Park.

My unofficial “LONG” first hand version of this event states that: 

I woke out of a deep sleep in Joshua Tree California to hear crashing and shaking as if the house was being thrown about.  I knew that this was big but was it the big one?  I had recalled that just over a month before we had a 6.1 earthquake in the same area but this was much bigger.  The first radio reports said that the community of Landers just had a 7.6 earthquake but this number was later revised to 7.3 on the Richter Scale, thus many people are still confused as to the true magnitude of this event.  At this point number one on my list was to check the kids, they were shook up, almost immediately the aftershocks began and happened on and off for weeks as they slowly tapered off.  As we woke up that morning and absorbed what had just happened it was time to go out and explore the desert.  We saw alot of local damage but as we got to Yucca Valley we saw the east wall of the bowling alley laying on the ground and the local K-Mart was beyond repair.  The K-Mart building was eventually demolished and the bowling alley used this opportunity to expand and add more bowling lanes on the side of the building that had fallen, a league that bowls there now is called the 7.4 Shaker League.  News crews were everywhere filming every rip in the earth, these fractures were easy to find because the part of the earthquake fault that had ruptured ran parallel to State Highway 247 for several miles.  Shortly thereafter there was a 6.5 aftershock in Big Bear, we all thought, here we go again.  Soon enough as the rumbling died down we all got back to work.  Now, 20 years later it does not seem all that long ago but it was, my kids are grown, married and/or moved out.  Time moves on and it will be deja-vu all over again eventually, remember to be prepared if you live in an earthquake prone area because earthquakes never stop, they just sleep for a while but when the earth awakens, be prepared.  The residents of Yucca Valley were reminded of this with a 3.3 shaker a few nights ago.  I will spare the readers of this blog of the “REALLY LONG” first hand version of this event, I will save it for a campfire discussion but……

 My unofficial “SHORT” first hand version of this event states that: 

IT WAS A HUGE EARTHQUAKE! 

Enjoy the pictures below, click on them for a larger version, af few of these were snapped by the author.

Take It Easy – Mojave 

 

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