The Old Mill and the Langham

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A reader was worried and so was I about the current state and the future of the California plein-aire-style paintings on panels by Frank Moore, painted in 1922 and then left out in … the plain air, though under the covered Picture Bridge at the Huntington Hotel — all this after I wrote about coming changes to the hotel under its current Langham ownership.

I went on a tour of the bridge with General Manager Martin Nicholson and PR Director Elsa Schelin the other day, and, considering how old the panels are and that they’ve seen some weather, the more than a dozen paintings are in remarkably good shape.

Even those facing the west, which seem to have got more rain down the decades, are not looking disastrous. They could use a certain amount of restoration — but none are beyond repair.

The panel above depicts the Old Mill — El Molino Viejo, if you prefer — a very early San Gabriel Valley grain mill that was later owned by Henry Huntington, served as a clubhouse for the hotel’s now-disappeared golf course and was even later lived in by Huntington’s grand-daughter Harriet Doerr and her family.

The bridge is still very much in the plans for the new version of the hotel, which will lose tennis courts and gain lots of spa buildings.

Horse latitudes


When my daughter and I went Jeeping very early last Sunday morning in the Palo Duro Canyon outside of Amarillo, Texas, this horse came over to greet us.

We had neither apple nor carrot so we weren’t very interesting.

But it became all too interesting once we stopped to pat its nose seeing as it was covered in literally thousands of mosquitos — all too glad to jump off some tough horseflesh and onto relatively tender us.

We hightailed it toward the boathouse.

Wild, wild, wild newts


Regarding this photo by Mario Miralles taken in Millard Canyon above Altadena, local wildlife biologist Lori Paul gave the play by play Wednesday as their breeding grounds were endangered by a shutoff of canyon water by the Lincoln Avenue Water Company:

California newts in “amplexus,” a newt “orgy” in which mating and egg laying occurs. Amplexus is currently occurring late in the season in Millard Creek and directly under Millard Falls in the gravel margins of the pool that is drying because LAWC has taken water from above the waterfall. Eggs and gilled larval newts that require water for their survival are being killed by LAWC’s “temporary” water diversions that have turned the creek to a pencil thin trickle or drying pools of mud. These endemic newts were killed by the Station Fire in other burned canyons; therefore, the Millard Canyon population is important for repopulating the region.

I (heart) LA

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Downtown Los Angeles is finally beginning to look and feel urban in that way that the world’s big cities do: People living and working and eating and shopping in tallish, Gotham City-like, handsome buildings.

But outside the hot Cal-French restaurant Church & State on Industrial Street last night, I saw this indication posted on a utility pole that at least one downtown denizen still longs for the genuine Manhattan.

Uncle Johnny at 93


That’s my great-uncle Johnny O’Brien on his 93rd birthday Saturday at a family cabin in Palo Duro Canyon outside of Amarillo, Texas — with his great-grandaughter Exie Manahan and the chocolate cake.

Johnny is the patriarch of our large O’Brien clan. Some 60 or so relatives gathered Thursday (beef), Friday (gumbo) and Saturday (more beef) nights to celebrate. His mother — my great-grandmother — Exie Eagan O’Brien came to the Panhandle by covered wagon as a newlywed with her husband Will O’Brien, who became a cowhand on the massive XIT Ranch. Will saved 11 out of 12 monthly paychecks — cowboys got room and board — and bought his first quarter-section of land and first cattle. He eventually brokered the largest cattle deal in U.S. history to the time — 10,000 head — and went on to become a Panhandle legend. As has Johnny, revered in the Amarillo business community — and by all of us in his family — for his smarts and his heart.

We stayed up late that same night at that same porch table smoking cigars and listening to Johnny tell stories of ranching and whiskey and whatnot.

Altadena nostalgia


Gazing at this fragment of a map of the intersection of Lake and Loma Alta and the Angeles National Forest above was an excercise in nostalgia for me for several reasons, including:

That obscured reference to Camp Chiquita on the left middle — it was the old Camp Fire Girls overnight hangout on Fair Oaks just below the Zorthian Ranch.

The fact that a house I used to own, on Alpine Villa Drive, the last street up Lake, is included within its margins.

Its general aura of c. 1958 carefree mountaineering. It was a different age in Altatuna. I was a 3-year-old playing in the dirt just off the map’s right edge on Sunny Oaks Circle as the map was drawn.

It came in an e-mail courtesy of mountain man Paul Ayers about an upcoming presentation of his, the text of which follows:

Next Tuesday, July 13, 2010, at 7 p.m. , I will be presenting a PowerPoint slideshow on the Camp Sierra Trail which runs from the Cobb Estate up the west ridge above Las Flores Canyon and then to Camp Sierra. The presentation will be made at the monthly Altadena Crest Trail Restoration Working Group (“ACTRWG”) meeting which is held at the Altadena Community Center located at 730 E. Altadena Drive.

The show was originally put together for a May 2010 presentation to the Forest Service as part of a pitch to have the trail restored. It is my hope that restoration of the trail will be part of the master plan for the Cobb Estate. It is also possible that a restored Camp Sierra Trail may serve to close the “Skylane Gap” in the Altadena Crest Trail.

This is a nice trail with strong historical documentation in the form of maps, aerial photographs, newspaper articles and trail site artifacts [see examples attached]. A restored trail would complete a nice loop from Cobb Estate up to Camp Sierra, over to Echo Mountain and down the Sam Merrill.

This will be the first in a series of presentations I plan to do on the major “Forgotten Trails of Altadena”. These will not be nostalgia shows though history will play a role. Rather it is my hope to see all these trails restored.

Hope to see you there