I missed the mules. Earlier this week in the town of Lone Pine, 100 mules were scheduled to make a grand entrance (and no doubt leave other substantial markings) in celebration of the centennial of the Los Angeles Aqueduct that brings water from Owens Valley to that concrete and asphalt metropolis.
In 1913, shortly after the first drop of precious Owens River water arrived, every bungalow, every silent movie star’s mansion and nearly every citizen from San Fernando Valley to Los Angeles soon enjoyed green lawns. While Owens Lake went slowly dry, Hollywood’s elite, along Rodeo Drive, and what would become Mulholland Drive, filled their swimming pools with Owens River water. The mules are following the route of the aqueduct on their journey southward to Los Angeles.
Many of you fellow Maderans who have journeyed with this desert guide over the past 30-odd years, after hard but mostly beautiful days in the Northern Mojave, have enjoyed a final afternoon and night in Lone Pine on the edge of the Eastern Sierras. As we crested that last butte coming out of the Talc City Hills we encountered the vast, desolate and dry expanse of Owens Lake.
Traveling along the eastern shoreline we passed the once thriving and bustling lakeside resort of Keeler. Now nearly a ghost town (population 50), the few remaining citizens, over the past years, have seen the arid lakebed produce enormous dust storms. The massive, fine-grained, alkaline, toxic particles permeating the smallest cracks became known as “Keeler Fog.” One day, the residents were exposed to a nationwide record of unhealthy particulates 23 times greater than the federal health standard...