Manzanar Revisited

White Racism at Its Ugliest

Living in Los Angeles as I have for over half a century, I have lived and worked with many Japanese whom I regard as my friends. They are also as American as apple pie—if not more so. So it strikes me as one of America’s crimes that 112,000 Japanese Nisei and issei were interned in some ten concentration camps scattered across the Western States.

The most famous of these camps is Manzanar, located midway between Lone Pine and Independence in the Eastern Sierras. The former camp is now the Manzanar National Historic Site, managed by the National Park Service (NPS). Martine and I had visited it in the past, perhaps as much as three times. Last week, we visited it again. We were happy to see that the NPS had reconstructed four buildings in Block 14 of the camp: two barracks, a women’s latrine, and a mess hall. (Beware of dinner on Tuesdays, when the infamous Slop Suey was served.)

In the crazy divided political world of today, it is nice to see a park whose reason for existence is an indictment of American racism during World War II. Yes, the Japanese were our enemy; but so were the Germans, and we didn’t intern any of them. More’s the pity: Perhaps our current Presidente might never have been born.

If you are driving up (or down) Highway 395, it is worth spending an hour or two visiting Manzanar. And be sure to see the 22-minute video shown every half hour.

 

The Carrizo Plain

Welcome Sign at the South Entrance

My friend Bill Korn and I have been talking about seeing the wildflower blooms at the Carrizo Plain for several years now. As long as I worked doing taxes, however, I was never able to go before April 15; and by that time, the show was all over. Now, being retired, I jumped at the chance. Bill and I met at a Western Bagel in Valencia—he started his trip in far-off Altadena—and we set out in his Prius.

On the way, we passed through Frazier Park and the high country around Mount Pinos before descending some four thousand feet to the level of the Carrizo Plain.

The AT&T Cable Runs Through the Park

The Carrizo Plain National Monument is different from most national parks I have visited. There is no one to collect admission fees at the entrances, and no park rangers were in evidence (though I suspect they exist). Though it was a Monday, there were a lot of cars, particular in the northern part of the park. Most of the action is along the main route called Soda Lake Road that runs the length of the park, paved for approximately half its length, and oiled dirt and gravel for the other half. There were numerous dirt roads that led to subsistence ranches and places that were inaccessible because of deep mud lingering from the heavy rains earlier in the year.

One interesting feature of the park is that Soda Lake Road runs side by side with the San Andreas Fault. I plan to write about this tomorrow if I have the time.

Wildflowers in Great Abundance

This park is probably the largest single section of California grassland that is more or less intact. I didn’t get the feeling that the few ranches we passed made much of a negative impact on the wildness of the place.

Wildflowers Close Up

I will not soon forget the beauty of the Carrizo Plain. I hope I can return some day after another spectacular peak wildflower bloom.

 

Southwest

A Place Onto Its Own

Until late in 1966, when I took a train from Cleveland to Los Angeles, I had never been farther west than Detroit. My only notion of the American Southwest came from watching Roadrunner cartoons. Then, early one morning late in December of that year, the El Capitan went through the Mojave Desert. It was d-r-y, yet there were little puddles beside the track that were frozen over. It was the beginning of my adjustment.

More than half a century later, I am still adjusting. Where back East, rain was a frequent occurrence, here it was rare, though occasionally tumultuous. In our last rain, some 17 people in Santa Barbara County were buried in mudslides when a heavy rain hit an area that had been affected by the Thomas Fire.

If you have never been “Out West,” you won’t get the picture over a short weekend. There is an element of time in the deserts of this Earth that has to be experienced. It’s not like Woody Allen breezing into town and complaining about mashed yeast and the legality of making right turns at stoplights. Experiencing L.A. will probably involve some discomfort. This ain’t no Paradise, nor yet is it Valhalla.

Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park

What helps is to travel around the Southwest to see the variety of strange scenery, from the Grand Canyon to many of the other National Parks—one vastly different from the other.

After all these years, I’m just getting started on the road to understanding what life here is all about.

 

The Most Scenic Highway in America

Bryce National Park

Bryce National Park

Of all the road trips I have ever taken in the Western United States, the most spectacular is Utah Route 12, which runs from a point along U.S. 89 between Hatch and Panguitch to the town of Torrey. Along the way, you will find Red Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, Kodachrome Basin State Park, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, a scenic stretch known as “The Hogback,” Anasazi State Park, and Capitol Reef National Park. Nowhere else in the U.S. will you find 122 miles of concentrated scenic beauty equivalent to what you will find here. And, what is more, you are within hailing distance of the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Canyonlands National Park, Arches National Park, the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area, and Hovenweep National Monument.

Below is a map of the route:

Map of Utah Scenic Byway 12

Map of Utah Scenic Byway 12

For the full detail, you can consult a 23-page Adobe Acrobat PDF file by clicking here. In it, you will find that I left out at least half of your destination options.

Martine and I took this highway about six years ago. We considered it probably one of our best trips within the U.S., and certainly the best in the Southwest. Along the way, we visited several other National Parks and Monuments and tourist sites, including a spectacular museum of taxidermy (of all things) just outside of Bryce. We even stopped to see the “original” London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, Arizona.