Owens Valley*

Owens Valley happens to be one of the most singular and interesting places in the United States. It is located in the western part of the continent – between the Sierra Nevada and the Inyo Mountains. This valley forms part of the geomorphic province of Basin and Range, characterized by mountains and valleys as unique features resulting from the process of Earth crust movement.

Geomorphology: The Shape of the Land

The Owens Valley lies within crust of the Basin and Range province, which is famous for its “horst and graben” structure. Consider the crust of the earth to be rifting apart: the surface breaks, and some blocks go down while others rise up. This process forms a pattern of highs and lows. Owens Valley is one of these low areas, known as a “graben,” while surrounding mountains are the high areas known as “horsts.” The elevation of the valley varies from about 3000 to 6000 feet and includes flat and gently sloping areas.

Erosion, the wearing away of rocks and soil by water and wind, and deposition combine in the process whereby these materials are laid down in new places. Through such continuous action, an alluvial fan—the fan-shaped deposit of soil and rocks at the base of the mountains—and a basin fill, or a layering of sediments on the floor of the valley, form over time.

Soil and Vegetation: Life on the Land

Soils in Owens Valley vary considerably. On the alluvial fans, Torrifluvents and Torriorthents soils are well drained and support a wide variety of plant life. Elsewhere in the basin-fill areas, the soils may be poorly drained and these areas may support different kinds of plants. There is even dune sand in places!

The vegetation of Owens Valley differs according to soil and location. You might find plants such as saltbush and greasewood that are tolerated on salty soils in the areas of basin fill. On the alluvial fans, there were plants like shadscale and hop-sage that could stand the drier conditions. Higher up on the fans, there is black bush with sagebrush. South of Owens Lake, creosote bush is the predominant plant.

Climate: Hot and Dry

Long-term temperatures and rainfall—Owens Valley has a hot and dry climate. Average annual precipitation, or the amount of rain that falls in an average year, is only about 4 to 8 inches. Most of this rain falls during the winter months. The mean annual temperature varies from 55° to 65° F. Because it is so dry, plants and animals must be tough in order to survive with little water.

Water: The Lifeline

Water plays a major role in the Owens Valley way of life. Along the middle of this long valley runs the Owens River, which furnishes water to many plants, animals, and people. Centuries ago, Owens Lake used to overflow periodically and send water to the neighboring valleys. Nowadays, so much of the Owens River water is exported to Los Angeles that Owens Lake is virtually dry.


Owens Valley is a place both fascinating in geology and ecology. Distinct landform, variety of soils, and flora hardiness testify to the ability of life to adapt to the rigors of heat and dryness. Understanding Owens Valley would help us recognize the sensitive links between land, water, plants, and animals that give this part of the world its special identity.


California to Salt Lake City

Promoter of Settlement
Precursor of Railroads by
Historian, The Stale Historical and Natural History Society of Colorado

The first United States mail between California and Salt Lake City was established in 1851. This route was advertised January 27, 1851, and the thirty-seven bids received ranged from $20,000 for “horseback or two horse coach service,” to $200,000 per year for service with ” 135 pack animals with 45 men, divided into three parties.” One bid was for a four-horse coach with a guard of six men, at $135,000 per year. The lowest bid was accepted and a contract was made in April with Absalom Woodward and George Chorpenning for a monthly service at $14,000 per year; the trip each way was to be made in thirty days. No points were designated at which the route should touch, but it was to go “by the then traveled trail, considered about 910 miles long.”

Chorpenning and his men left Sacramento May 1, 1851, with the first mail. They had great difficulty in reaching Carson valley, having had to beat down the snow with wooden mauls to open a trail for their animals over the Sierras. For sixteen days and nights they struggled through and camped upon deep snow. Upon reaching Carson valley, Chorpenning staked off in the usual western manner, a quarter section of land and arranged to establish a mail station. The town of Genoa, Nevada, grew-up on this site. Chorpenning and several men continued eastward and reached Salt Lake City June 5th, having been delayed somewhat by snow in the Goose Creek mountains.

Throughout the summer, difficulties were experienced with the Indians; and Woodward, who left Sacramento with the November mail, was killed by them just west of Malad River in northern Utah. The December and January mails from Sacramento were forced to return on account of deep snow, but the February (1852) mail was pushed through by way of the Feather River Pass and reached Salt Lake City in sixty days. The carriers endured frightful sufferings; owing to the fact that their horses were frozen to death in the Goose Creek mountains, they had to go the last two hundred miles to Salt Lake City on foot. Permission was obtained from the special agent in San Francisco to send the March mail down the coast to San Pedro and thence by the Cajon Pass and the Mormon trail to Salt Lake City. During the summer of 1852 the service continued to be performed across northern Nevada by way of the Humboldt River; but as winter approached, arrangements were made with the mail agent at San Francisco to carry the Utah mail via Los Angeles during the winter months. The Carson valley post office was supplied monthly by a carrier on snow-shoes. Fred Bishop and Dritt were the first carriers and they were succeeded by George Pierce and John A. Thompson. The latter, “Snowshoe Thompson,” a Norwegian by birth, made himself famous in this section by his feats on snow-shoes during succeeding winters. The shoes used were ten feet long and of the Canadian pattern. He often took one hundred pounds upon the journey between Placerville and Carson, and made the trip in three days to Placerville and the return journey in two days.

With the interruption by bad weather of the mail service east of Salt Lake City, the mail was sent westward to San Pedro, where it was transmitted by steamer to the Atlantic seaboard. This increased the weight of Chorpenning mail from about one hundred pounds to about five hundred pounds. For this additional service Chorpenning made claim and in 1857 received payment on a pro rata basis.

The causes of the irregularity and interruption of the mail service to Utah had not been explained to the Postmaster-general by the Special Agent at San Francisco and so, upon the grounds of the derangement of the service, the Postmaster-general annulled the contract with Chorpenning, and made one with W. L. Blanchard of California. The new contractor was to receive $50,000 per year, and was to maintain a fortified post at Carson valley. Upon learning of this new arrangement in January, 1853, Chorpenning set out for Washington and, after setting forth his case before the new Postmaster-general, was reinstated. A verbal agreement was made that the compensation should be increased to $30,000 per year and permission was given to carry the mails via San Pedro during the winter months.

During the first three years (1851-4) the Utah-California mail was carried except in winter, by the old emigrant route. This route lay from Sacramento
through Folsom, Placerville, along the old road through Strawberry and Hope valleys to Carson valley. From this point it led to the Humboldt, which stream
was followed nearly to its source. Leaving the Humboldt the route led northeastward into southern Idaho in the vicinity of the Goose Creek mountains, and thence southeasterly around the north side of Great Salt Lake to Salt Lake City.

In the lettings of 1854, the Utah-California mail route was changed to run from Salt Lake City over the Mormon trail to San Diego. Chorpenning was again the successful bidder. The mail was to be carried monthly each way, through in twenty-eight days, for a compensation of $12,500 per year. Chorpenning thought it worthwhile to enter a low bid to ensure getting the contract since he expected that the service would probably be increased to a weekly schedule, the time per trip reduced, and the compensation increased.

The service began July 1, 1854, and was to continue for four years. The mail was carried on horseback or on pack mules. During that first summer, Indian difficulties arose and continued at intervals for months. The emigration fell off and expenses on the route increased. Similar difficulties had been encountered by the contractors east of the Rocky Mountains, who appealed to Congress and received increased remuneration by the act of March 3, 1855. Encouraged by their success with Congress, and inasmuch as his difficulties continued, Chorpenning went to Washington and presented his claims in June, 1856. Congress responded with an act for his relief March 3, 1857. It provided that the compensation be increased to $30,000 per year from July 1, 1853, to the termination of the contract in 1858; that the full contract pay be allowed during the suspension of the contract in the spring of 1853; and that the Postmaster-general make an additional allowance on a pro rata basis for the extra service performed prior to 1853. A total of $109,072.95 was allowed and paid under the provisions of this act.

During the four years of the duration of the contract (until July i, 1858), the mail was carried with fair regularity, and often in less than schedule time. The service was usually performed on horseback, but a wagon was used occasionally. The mail of December, 1857, was taken from Salt Lake City to Los Angeles by wagon in twenty-six days, while on horseback the trip often did not consume more than twenty days.

Wells Fargo and Company, Adams and Company, and other express companies maintained express service on the line during this period (1854-8). There was also much freighting and some emigrant travel over the road. The Mormon “State of Deseret” had included the whole of this route with its terminus upon the Pacific Coast. A colony was planted by these pioneers at San Bernardino in 1851 and considerable trade and intercourse was carried-on over this road.

The route was in general that of the present “Arrowhead Trail” automobile road. From Los Angeles the route led to San Bernardino, through Cajon Pass to the Mohave River, which was followed for fifty miles. From the Mohave River the route lay to the north to Bitter Springs, then turned eastward by Kingston Springs to Las Vegas, Nevada. From this famous resting station a dry stretch of sixty miles was crossed leading to the Muddy Creek. After crossing another “bench” the Virgin River was reached, and this stream was followed to Beaver Dams, Arizona. Leaving the Virgin River the road crossed the “slope” and over a little mountain range to the Santa Clara Creek, which stream was followed to the vicinity of the famous Mountain Meadows. From Mountain Meadows the route led to Cedar City and thence almost due north through the Mormon settlements of Parowan, Beaver, Fillmore, Nephi, Payson, Provo, and Lehi to Salt Lake City.”

Before the termination of the contract on this route the policy of extensive increases in the western mail lines was inaugurated, and partisans of the “Central Route” via Salt Lake City and across northern Nevada were demanding service upon that more direct route to San Francisco. Accordingly, in 1858 this Los Angeles to-Salt Lake City route was discontinued and the original route of 1851 was re-established and put upon an improved basis.

Why is there Snow?

Snow is one of nature’s most captivating occurrences, turning landscapes into winter wonderlands. Have you ever wondered why snowfall occurs? Let’s discover the icy world of snow and understand how it forms.

It must be Cold

In order for snow to form, the temperature needs to be cold, particularly below freezing (32°F or 0°C). When the atmosphere freezes, moisture can change into ice without going through the liquid stage. The process of making snow starts with this important initial stage. Cold temperatures act like a natural freezer, providing the right environment for water to transform into ice crystals.

Humidity in the Atmosphere

Despite being invisible, water vapor is constantly present in the air. The moisture originates from lakes, oceans, rivers, and even plants. As moist air rises into the atmosphere, it loses heat and becomes cooler. The reduced ability of colder air to hold water vapor causes the vapor to condense into tiny droplets, eventually forming clouds.

Cloud formation

Clouds are primarily made up of tiny water droplets or ice particles. When the air temperature cools enough within these clouds, the water droplets freeze and change into ice crystals, forming the basis of snowflakes. Ice crystals in clouds collide, stick together, and grow in size, forming intricate snowflake patterns.

When Snowflakes Fall

When the snowflakes become thick, they start falling from the clouds. While descending, they pass through different layers of the atmosphere. If the temperature by the surface is freezing, the snowflakes stay whole and fall as snow. If the temperature is warmer near the surface, snowflakes may melt and change into rain or sleet before reaching the ground.


Different forms of snow can occur based on the temperature and moisture content in the atmosphere. During extreme cold, snow becomes light and airy, ideal for creating snow angels and skiing. When the temperature gets closer to freezing, the snow becomes more moist and dense, perfect for making snowmen and having snowball fights.


Snow is an intriguing outcome of low temperatures, moisture, and cloud movements. It starts with chilled air turning water vapor into ice crystals. The snowflakes are made of crystals, creating a white blanket when they fall to the ground. Snow creates happiness and thrill, transforming the world into a winter wonderland of leisure pursuits. The next time you witness snowflakes descending, remember nature’s process of mixing cold and moisture to form a magical winter scene!

Yucca Moths and Joshua Trees: A Mutualistic Relationship

Pronuba moth in a yucca blossom. NPS


Introduction The relationship between Joshua trees (Yucca brevifolia) and yucca moths (Tegeticula synthetica) is a classic example of mutualism, where both species benefit from their interaction. This symbiotic relationship is essential for the reproduction of Joshua trees and the lifecycle of yucca moths.

Yucca Moth Pollination Process

  1. Flowering: Joshua trees typically bloom from February to late April, producing clusters of creamy white to green flowers. The blooming process depends on sufficient rainfall and a winter freeze.
  2. Moth Activity: Female yucca moths visit Joshua tree flowers during their active period. Unlike most insects that visit flowers for nectar, yucca moths have a unique role. The female moth collects pollen from the anthers of one flower and forms it into a ball using specialized tentacles near her mouth.
  3. Pollination: The moth deliberately transfers the pollen ball to the stigma of another Joshua tree flower. This deliberate act ensures cross-pollination, which is crucial for the genetic diversity and reproductive success of the Joshua tree.
  4. Egg Laying: After pollinating the flower, the female moth lays her eggs inside the flower’s ovary. This ensures that her larvae will have a food source when they hatch.
  5. Larval Feeding: As the seeds develop within the flower’s ovary, the moth eggs hatch into larvae. These larvae feed on a portion of the developing seeds. Despite this seed predation, enough seeds typically remain viable to ensure successful reproduction of the Joshua tree.

Selective Abortion Joshua trees have developed a mechanism to ensure seed survival despite the larvae feeding. They can selectively abort ovaries that contain too many moth eggs. This limits the number of larvae that can develop and ensures that sufficient seeds remain viable for the tree’s reproduction.

Mutual Benefits

  • For the Joshua Tree: The deliberate pollination by the yucca moth increases the likelihood of successful seed set and promotes genetic diversity due to cross-pollination.
  • For the Yucca Moth: The Joshua tree provides a secure environment for the moth to lay its eggs and a reliable food source for the larvae.

Unique Adaptations

  • Yucca Moth: Specialized tentacles for collecting and transferring pollen. This adaptation is unique among insects and has specifically evolved to pollinate Joshua trees.
  • Joshua Tree: Flower structure that accommodates the yucca moth’s pollination behavior. The tree’s ability to selectively abort seed pods with too many larvae is also a crucial adaptation for managing seed predation.

Ecological Importance The relationship between Joshua trees and yucca moths is a cornerstone of the Mojave Desert ecosystem. This mutualism ensures the reproduction and survival of Joshua trees and supports a complex web of life, providing food and habitat for various species of birds, mammals, reptiles, and insects.

Conclusion The intricate pollination mechanism between Joshua trees and yucca moths highlights these species’ deep co-evolution and interdependence. This mutualistic relationship is essential for their survival and plays a vital role in maintaining the ecological balance of the Mojave Desert.

The Evolution of Muroc: From Desert Wasteland to Aviation and Racing Hub

Geological and Environmental Background

Pleistocene Era (circa 2.5 million years ago) The origins of Rogers Dry Lake, located in the Antelope Valley within the Mojave Desert, trace back to the Pleistocene Era, around 2.5 million years ago. As a pluvial lake, it boasts an incredibly flat, smooth, and hard surface, which can withstand pressures up to 250 psi. These unique geological characteristics made Rogers Dry Lake a natural choice for aviation and automotive speed trials. Covering approximately 65 square miles, the lakebed forms a rough figure eight and is known for its harsh climate, experiencing extreme temperatures, violent dust storms, and mesmerizing sunsets.

Early Settlement and Development

Pre-1876: Sparse Population and Railroad Expansion Before significant settlement, the area was primarily inhabited by occasional prospectors searching for mineral wealth. The Southern Pacific Railroad established a water stop near the lakebed in 1876. In 1882, the Santa Fe Railroad extended westward from Barstow toward Mojave, establishing another water stop at the edge of what was then called Rodriguez Dry Lake. By the early 1900s, the name “Rodriguez” had been anglicized to “Rogers.”

1910: The Corum Family and the Founding of Muroc In 1910, the Corum family settled at the lakebed, naming the area “Muroc” by reversing their last name after their original choice, “Corum,” was rejected due to its similarity to “Coram, California.” The Corum family established a general store and post office, attracting other homesteaders and helping to develop the area. Their efforts laid the foundation for what would become a significant site in both aviation and automotive history.

Early Racing Events

1920s: The Dawn of Speed Events Muroc Dry Lake became a prominent site for American Automobile Association (AAA) sanctioned speed events during the 1920s. The affordability and modifiability of the Model T made it the preferred vehicle for early hot rodders. Roadsters were favored among racers, but touring cars were also frequently raced. In May 1923, Joe Nikrent set a speed record of 108.24 miles per hour in a stripped-down Buick. The following year, Tommy Milton achieved 151.26 mph in a Miller-powered race car. In 1927, Frank Lockhart reached a speed of 171 miles per hour, further cementing Muroc’s reputation as a premier racing venue.

October 9, 1927: Southern California Champion Sweepstakes One of the most significant early racing events was the Southern California Champion Sweepstakes, held on October 9, 1927. Organized by Earl Mansell from Pasadena, California, the event featured five classes of competition:

  1. Ford Roadsters: Open to any Ford roadster with or without fenders or windshields, requiring a hood and turtle deck.
  2. Ford Coupes: Required fenders, hood, windshield, and doors.
  3. Ford Touring Cars: Fenders and windshields were optional.
  4. Special Flathead Race: Open to any body style with a flathead engine, offering refunded entry fees to winners of the previous events.
  5. Championship Sweepstakes: Open to any roadster, coupe, or touring car, with the option to race without windshield or fenders.

Organized Racing and the SCTA

1931: The First Organized Speed Trials In 1931, one of the first known organized amateur speed trials took place at Muroc, sponsored by Gilmore Oil Company of Los Angeles and organized by George Wight, owner of Bell Auto Parts. Recognizing the need for coordinated rules and regulations, Wight invited hot rodders to an organizational meeting in East Los Angeles. Early rules categorized cars based on engine types, including Model T flatheads, Model T Rajos, Model T Frontenacs and Chevrolets, Model A flatheads, and Model A overhead valve conversions. Supercharged cars were not allowed to compete. The first organized meet was held on March 25, 1931, followed by another on April 19, 1931. Safety measures were implemented, such as a 40 mph speed limit for returning cars and penalties for jumping the start.

Formation of the Muroc Racing Association By the end of 1931, the Muroc Racing Association was formed, complete with officers and a race program. The association collected a one-dollar entry fee to cover expenses, and the Purdy Brothers developed an electrical timer to clock the cars’ speeds, further formalizing the events.

1932-1933: Changes in Classification In 1932, the trials continued under the same rules, but significant changes in car classification were introduced. Cars were now categorized as either stock-bodied or modified. Stock-bodied cars could have certain parts removed, while modified cars were significantly altered. Between the 1932 and 1933 seasons, classifications shifted to speed and body type, with new classes based on potential top speeds. This change aimed to ensure fairness and safety, with measures like painting speedometers with white shoe polish to prevent drivers from knowing their exact speed.

Military Establishment and World War II

September 1933: The Arrival of the Army In 1933, the United States Army arrived at Muroc, recognizing the lakebed’s potential as an airfield. The Muroc Bombing and Gunnery Range was established, and by 1937, the United States Army Air Corps set up Muroc Air Field for training and testing purposes.

World War II and the Establishment of Muroc Army Air Base During World War II, Muroc Army Air Base was activated, serving as a major training site for bomber crews and fighter pilots. The flat, hard surface of Rogers Dry Lake was ideal for aircraft testing, including early jet planes like the Bell XP-59A and the Lockheed XP-80. On October 1, 1942, the Bell XP-59A Airacomet, America’s first jet plane, made its first flight at Muroc. The base played a crucial role in the war effort, training crews and testing new aircraft.

Post-War Developments After the war, Muroc continued to be a central hub for aviation research and development. The Bell X-1, piloted by Capt. Charles E. “Chuck” Yeager, broke the sound barrier on October 14, 1947, marking a significant milestone in aviation history. The base was renamed Edwards Air Force Base in February 1948 in honor of Capt. Glen W. Edwards, who died in a test flight accident. By 1950, Edwards Air Force Base was officially dedicated and recognized as the U.S. Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC).

The Hot Rodding Era

Post-War Racing and El Mirage The end of World War II marked a transition from racing activities at Muroc to El Mirage, another dry lakebed south of the air base. While El Mirage was not as ideal as Muroc, it continued to host hot rodding events. The SCTA (Southern California Timing Association) organized several “reunion” races at Muroc in 1995, bringing together a generation of racers who had participated in early SCTA events. However, racing activities at Muroc were halted following the events of September 11, 2001, due to security concerns.

Legacy and Continued Significance

Aviation and Hot Rodding Heritage Muroc’s dual legacy as a pioneering site for both aviation and hot rodding remains significant. Edwards Air Force Base continues to be a premier flight testing center, contributing to numerous advancements in aerospace technology. Meanwhile, the early days of hot rodding at Muroc are fondly remembered by enthusiasts and are considered a foundational period in the history of American motorsports.

Current Status and Future Prospects While racing activities at Muroc have ceased, El Mirage remains an active site for hot rodding events. The SCTA continues to organize races, preserving the spirit and tradition of early speed trials. There is hope that, in the future, Muroc might once again host racing events, allowing the sands to echo with the sounds of high-speed automotive competition.

In conclusion, Muroc’s history is a testament to its unique geographical features and its adaptability, serving as a critical site for both military aviation and automotive racing. The integration of these diverse historical elements highlights Muroc’s significant contribution to American technological and cultural heritage.

Aviation in the Antelope Valley


The story of the aeronautics industry in Antelope Valley, California, is like a thrilling adventure packed with innovation, daring feats, and a community of passionate people pushing the boundaries of what’s possible.

The Early Days: A Desert Transformed

Dryden Flight Research Center and Edwards Air Force Base 1983.
(Courtesy of NASA, NASA/Dryden Flight Research Center)

In the 1930s, Antelope Valley’s vast, quiet deserts started humming with activity as the Muroc Army Air Field, which would become Edwards Air Force Base, took root. The endless skies and isolated expanses were perfect for daring pilots to test new aircraft far from prying eyes.

World War II: A Boom of Innovation
Fast forward to the 1940s, and the skies over the Antelope Valley were buzzing with the energy of World War II. The desert became a crucible for innovation, with pilots and engineers working tirelessly to develop and test new aircraft that would give the Allies an edge.

Breaking Barriers: The Jet Age
Then came the post-war era and, with it, a leap into the unknown. In 1947, Chuck Yeager made history by breaking the sound barrier in the Bell X-1 at Edwards Air Force Base. Imagine the exhilaration of that moment—the roar of the jet, the shattering of records, and the sense of stepping into a new era of aviation.

The Space Race: Reaching for the Stars
The 1960s brought the space race, and the Antelope Valley became a launchpad for dreams of space exploration. NASA’s Flight Research Center at Edwards AFB buzzed with activity. Engineers and astronauts worked side by side, testing the limits of humans and machines. The X-15 rocket plane, for instance, soared to the edge of space, paving the way for the Apollo missions.

Modern Marvels: From Stealth to Space
The Antelope Valley continued to be a hotbed of innovation in the following decades. The 1980s and 1990s saw the development of stealth technology, leading to iconic aircraft like the B-2 Spirit bomber and the F-117 Nighthawk. Every test flight was a step into the unknown, with engineers and pilots working together to make the impossible possible.

The Commercial Space Age: New Horizons
As we moved into the 21st century, the Mojave Air and Space Port became a playground for the new pioneers of space—the private companies aiming to make space travel accessible to all. Think of the excitement as companies like Virgin Galactic and SpaceX took bold steps towards commercial spaceflight, testing rockets and spacecraft in the very place where aviation history had been made for decades.

A Community of Innovators
One thing remained constant throughout these eras: the spirit of the people in Antelope Valley. This community has been the heart and soul of aviation innovation, from the test pilots risking their lives to the engineers working late into the night to the local educators training the next generation of aerospace workers.

Milestones and Memories
The Antelope Valley is more than just a location; it’s a living testament to human ingenuity and endurance. It’s where the sound barrier was broken, the Space Shuttle first touched down, and new frontiers in aviation and space continue to be explored.

The story of the aeronautics industry in the Antelope Valley celebrates human achievement. It’s a narrative filled with high-flying dreams, ground-breaking successes, and the persistent pursuit of the skies and beyond.

Aeronautics Industry in Antelope Valley, California

The Antelope Valley, located in northern Los Angeles County and the southeast portion of Kern County in California, is a significant hub for the aeronautics industry. This region is often referred to as the “Aerospace Valley” due to its rich history and ongoing contributions to aviation and space exploration. Here are some key highlights about the aeronautics industry in the Antelope Valley:

  1. Edwards Air Force Base:
    • Edwards AFB is a major center for flight testing and research. It is home to the Air Force Test Center and the Air Force Test Pilot School.
    • Historically, it has been the site for testing experimental aircraft, including the X-1, in which Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier, and the Space Shuttle, which landed here after its missions.
  2. NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center:
    • Located within Edwards Air Force Base, this NASA center focuses on aeronautics research and testing advanced aircraft technologies.
    • Notable projects include the testing of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and new propulsion systems.
  3. Mojave Air and Space Port:
    • The Mojave Air and Space Port is a civilian aerospace test center and home to several private aerospace companies.
    • Companies such as Virgin Galactic, Stratolaunch, and Masten Space Systems have conducted significant testing and development here.
  4. Plant 42:
    • Air Force Plant 42 in Palmdale is another critical facility, serving as a production and testing site for major aerospace companies like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and Boeing.
    • It is known for the assembly and modification of aircraft, including the B-2 Spirit and the F-35 Lightning II.
  5. Aerospace Companies:
    • Several prominent aerospace companies have a significant presence in the Antelope Valley. Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin, and Boeing all conduct major regional operations.
    • These companies are involved in developing and testing cutting-edge technologies for military and civilian applications.
  6. Historical Significance:
    • The region has a storied aviation history, from the early days of flight testing to the modern era of space exploration.
    • It has played a crucial role in developing many iconic aircraft and spacecraft.
  7. Educational and Research Institutions:
    • Institutions like Antelope Valley College, California State University, and Bakersfield offer programs related to aerospace and engineering, supporting the industry with a skilled workforce.

The Antelope Valley continues to be a cornerstone of innovation and progress in the aeronautics industry, playing a pivotal role in advancing aerospace technology and exploration.

Aviation Leaders in the Valley

The Antelope Valley has been home to numerous aviation leaders who have significantly contributed to advancing aerospace technology. These pioneers and visionaries have left an indelible mark on the industry, driving innovation and inspiring future generations. Here are some notable aviation leaders from the Antelope Valley:

  1. Chuck Yeager
    Accomplishment: First person to break the sound barrier.
    Contribution: On October 14, 1947, Yeager piloted the Bell X-1 at Edwards Air Force Base, achieving supersonic flight. His courage and skill made him an aviation legend and set the stage for future high-speed aircraft development.
  2. Jack Northrop
    Accomplishment: Founder of Northrop Corporation.
    Contribution: Jack Northrop was a visionary engineer and designer known for his innovative aircraft designs, including the flying wing concept. His company played a crucial role in developing advanced military aircraft.
  3. Kelly Johnson
    Accomplishment: Founder of the Lockheed Skunk Works.
    Contribution: Johnson was a brilliant aerospace engineer who designed iconic aircraft such as the U-2 spy plane, the SR-71 Blackbird, and the F-117 Nighthawk. His work at Skunk Works in Palmdale pushed the boundaries of stealth and reconnaissance technology.
  4. Burt Rutan
    Accomplishment: Founder of Scaled Composites.
    Contribution: An innovative aerospace engineer, Rutan is known for designing SpaceShipOne, the first privately funded spacecraft to reach space. His work at the Mojave Air and Space Port has revolutionized the field of private space exploration.
  5. George S. Patton Jr.
    Accomplishment: WWII General and namesake of Patton Aviation.
    Contribution: Although primarily known for his military leadership during World War II, Patton’s legacy extends to aviation through the Patton Aviation company, contributing to aviation training and services in the Antelope Valley.
  6. Bill Dana
    Accomplishment: NASA test pilot and astronaut.
    Contribution: Dana was a key figure in testing the X-15 rocket plane, reaching the edge of space. His work helped bridge the gap between atmospheric flight and space travel, contributing significantly to the understanding of high-speed, high-altitude flight.
  7. Frank Kendall
    Accomplishment: Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition.
    Contribution: Kendall has played a vital role in developing and procuring advanced aerospace systems, ensuring the U.S. Air Force remains at the cutting edge of technology. His work has supported the Antelope Valley’s position as a leader in aerospace innovation.
  8. Richard Branson
    Accomplishment: Founder of Virgin Galactic.
    Contribution: Branson’s company, Virgin Galactic, based at the Mojave Air and Space Port, is pioneering commercial space tourism. His vision and investment have opened new private space travel and exploration frontiers.
  9. Elon Musk
    Accomplishment: Founder of SpaceX.
    Contribution: Though not based in the Antelope Valley, Musk’s SpaceX has conducted numerous tests and operations at the Mojave Air and Space Port. His leadership has accelerated the development of reusable rockets and the goal of making life multi-planetary.
  10. James Webb
    Accomplishment: NASA Administrator.
    Contribution: Webb’s leadership during the Apollo program laid the groundwork for modern space exploration. The James Webb Space Telescope, named in his honor, represents the next generation of space exploration technology.

    These leaders have each contributed uniquely to the aerospace industry, driving the boundaries of what is possible and cementing the Antelope Valley’s reputation as a cradle of aviation and space exploration innovation.

The Mourning Dove Song

Three short, sad notes the Mourning doves call to each other from bunches of thick green leaves in the cottonwood trees. The heat pushes up the canyon, and the bright sun chases the shadows into themselves the way a mirage disappears as you approach.

Boots crunched softly in the thick sand along the trail and spotted lizards dart frantically in the low scrub. The pointed ears of a coyote catch your attention as it leaps over a clump of gray grass to pounce on a squirrel eating a seed. A tortoise marches on steadfastly and fearless in his search for a mate. A cottontail nibbles on a juicy young leaf and listens closely to every scratch and pop.

The late morning finally gives way, and high noon approaches as bold as a bully. The air is clear and hot. The sun burns the back of your hands, bringing salt to your dry lips. Your forehead tingles; you push the brim of your hat back and tilt your head forward a bit to keep your face in the shade.


Pancho Barnes

Pancho Barnes was an extraordinary pilot and a living legend from the early days of aviation. Born over a century ago as Florence Leontine Lowe, she was fierce, witty, and always ready to take on a challenge. In 1930, she shattered Amelia Earhart’s speed record, becoming the fastest woman in the world for a time. Beyond setting records, she also made her mark as a Hollywood stunt pilot, leaving audiences in awe with her breathtaking aerial acrobatics for the cameras.

But Pancho Barnes didn’t stop there. She started the first stunt pilots’ union and the Happy Bottom Riding Club, a place to hang out near Edwards Air Force Base. Aviators and Hollywood stars loved it. Her ranch became legendary, and test pilots would visit regularly, including those who broke the sound barrier.

Pancho lived life on her terms and never buckled to society. That’s why she’s so important and loved in aviation history. Her story is strength and adaptability personified – the adventurous and pioneering spirit of the early flyers.

Willow Springs Raceway: A Storied Legacy in Motorsports

Willow Springs Raceway

Willow Springs Raceway, also known as Willow Springs International Motorsports Park, stands as a storied institution in the world of motorsports. Located in Rosamond, California, this iconic racing facility has been a cornerstone of American racing since its inception in 1953. Known affectionately as “The Fastest Road in the West,” Willow Springs boasts a rich history, diverse tracks, and a reputation for challenging and exhilarating racing.

A Storied History

Founded by a group of racing enthusiasts led by Bill Huth, Willow Springs Raceway opened its doors in November 1953 with its inaugural race, quickly establishing itself as a premier racing destination. Over the decades, the track grew in popularity and prestige, attracting top racers and becoming a hub for automotive testing and media production.

Famous Figures and Vehicles

Willow Springs Raceway has a storied legacy and has been home to many iconic drivers and vehicles. I’m impressed by the list of notable names who have raced there, including Mario Andretti, Ken Miles, Carroll Shelby, and even James Dean. Steve McQueen was also a frequent visitor.

As for the cars and motorcycles, the list is just as impressive. The Shelby Cobra, Ford GT40, Porsche 911, and Ferrari 250 GTO are all iconic names in the automotive world, and Willow Springs Raceway has hosted them all. And then there are the motorcycles, like the Yamaha YZR500, Honda RC30, and Ducati 916.

Willow Springs has also hosted famous riders like Kenny Roberts, Wayne Rainey, and Nicky Hayden. The track has been a part of many famous moments in racing, and it continues to offer a challenging and exhilarating experience for drivers and spectators alike.

Diverse and Challenging Tracks

Willow Springs Raceway is a storied institution in the world of motorsports, known for its high-speed straights and challenging corners. The main track, Big Willow, is ideal for those who enjoy an adrenaline rush. But Willow Springs Raceway is home to several tracks, each catering to different types of racing and experience levels.

Streets of Willow is a smaller, technical course, while Horse Thief Mile is favored by drifting enthusiasts and time attack events. The Willow Springs Kart Track is perfect for those who want to test their skills in a competitive environment. Whether you’re looking for speed or technique, Willow Springs Raceway has a track to suit your needs.

Endurance Racing and Top Races

One of the most significant events in the track’s history is the Willow Springs 24-Hour Endurance Race. This grueling event tests both the durability of vehicles and the stamina of drivers, attracting a diverse field of competitors from professional teams to amateur racers. While not held annually, endurance races remain a highlight, showcasing the track’s versatility and challenge.

Other top races include SCCA national races, NASA events, and the Willow Springs Motorcycle Club (WSMC) races. The track has also hosted the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race and various vintage racing events, adding to its reputation as a premier motorsports venue.

Accidents and Safety

Willow Springs Raceway has experienced its fair share of accidents over the years. Other incidents have occurred during private track days and club racing events. Despite these challenges, the raceway has continually made safety improvements. These include enhanced barriers, runoff areas, and emergency response protocols to ensure a safe environment for all participants.


Willow Springs stands as a testament to the enduring appeal and excitement of motorsports. It has a rich history and diverse tracks, and it continues to attract top racers, automotive enthusiasts, and fans from around the world. With its challenging racing environment and diverse and thrilling experience for drivers and spectators alike, it’s no wonder that Willow Springs remains a beloved and iconic racing facility. It’s a great place to learn how to race, test your skills, and watch professionals.

Stage Stops & Relay Stations

Stagecoach relay stations and accommodations were vital for the stagecoach travel system, especially during the 18th and 19th centuries. These stations were strategically located along stagecoach routes to ensure efficient travel and the well-being of passengers, horses, and drivers.

Relay Stations

Relay stations, also known as “staging posts” or “stage stops,” were positioned every 10 to 20 miles along the route. Their primary purpose was to provide fresh horses for the stagecoach, as they would be exhausted after traveling long distances. At these stations, tired horses were replaced with rested ones, ensuring the stagecoach could maintain a steady pace without long delays.

Key features of relay stations included:

  • Stables: For housing and caring for horses.
  • Feed and Water: Ample supplies of food and water for the horses.
  • Blacksmith Services: For shoeing horses and making necessary repairs to the stagecoach.
  • Shelter: Basic accommodations for passengers if they need a brief rest.


Beyond just relay stations, more substantial accommodations were often provided at larger intervals or significant points along the route. These accommodations varied widely, ranging from simple inns to more elaborate hotels, depending on the route’s location and prominence.

Key features of stagecoach accommodations included:

  • Sleeping Quarters: Rooms for passengers to rest overnight, often shared with other travelers.
  • Dining Facilities: Meals were provided, typically hearty and designed to sustain travelers for the next leg of their journey.
  • Lounge Areas: Common rooms where passengers could relax, socialize, and recover from the journey.
  • Washrooms: Basic facilities for washing up, although these were often quite rudimentary by modern standards.
  • Repair Services: Facilities to fix any damage to the stagecoach or passenger belongings.

The Experience

Traveling by stagecoach was often uncomfortable and tiring. Roads could be rough, and the constant need to change horses meant frequent stops. However, relay stations and accommodations provided necessary breaks and a chance for passengers to stretch their legs, eat, and rest. These stops were crucial for the safety and efficiency of the stagecoach system, making long-distance travel more manageable during this era.

Despite the hardships, stagecoach travel was an essential part of life, enabling communication, commerce, and transportation across vast distances before the advent of the railroad and the automobile.

Overview of Desert Stagecoach Lines Before Railroads

Before railroads revolutionized transportation, stagecoaches were a critical means of public transport across the desert regions. Here are some key stage lines and their operations:

  1. Goldfield Stage (1905): This stage provided transportation services in the Goldfield area.
  2. Applewhite’s Stage: This stage used a three-bench buggy to transport miners from Calico to town for business and lodging.
  3. Arizona Overland Mail (1866-1868): Initially, it was a weekly mail service from Camp Drum to Prescott, Arizona, which later became twice-weekly. It overcame significant challenges, including Indian troubles.
  4. Barnwell to Death Valley Route: A daily stage route from Barnwell to Manse, Nevada, that remained crucial for travelers and miners even after the completion of the Salt Lake Railroad.
  5. Barnwell to Searchlight Stage Line: Operated until 1906 when the Barnwell & Searchlight Railroad commenced.
  6. Black Canyon Stage Station: A stop for the Panamint Transportation Company along the Black Canyon route.
  7. Brooklyn Well: A stage stop on the Dale to Amboy route, providing necessary water and rest.
  8. Butterfield Overland Stage Company (1858-1860): A major mail route running from Missouri to California, passing through the Mojave Desert.
  9. Calico Stage Line (1): Operated between Daggett and Calico from 1885 to 1887 using a six-horse Concord Coach.
  10. Calico Stage Line (2): Provided twice-daily trips between Calico and Daggett with improved coaches and horses.
  11. California Southern Stage Line: Connected Calico with Barstow and San Bernardino.
  12. Cottonwood Stage Station: A notable station that was raided in 1875 by Cleovaro Chavez’s gang.
  13. Crackerjack Auto Transit Company (1907): Introduced auto-stage services between Silver Lake and Crackerjack.
  14. Daggett & Skidoo Stage Line: Operated through Black Canyon.
  15. Dale to Amboy Stage Line (1903-1916): Known as the Buckboard Stage, this line included lunch in its $5 fare.
  16. Death Valley Chug Line (1907): An auto-stage operated by “Alkali Bill” Brong, transporting passengers around Death Valley.
  17. Domingo Stage & Freight (1887): Ran from Providence to Fenner, primarily hauling ore.
  18. Goldstone-Los Angeles Auto Stage: Provided bi-weekly trips between Los Angeles and Goldstone.
  19. Harrison’s Calico Express Line (1882): Connected San Bernardino with Calico, taking a day and a half each way.
  20. Huntington Stage: The first public transport service between San Bernardino and Calico.
  21. Livingstone & Cahill Stage Line: Operated between Barstow, Daggett, and Calico.
  22. Mecham’s Panamint Stage (1874): Charged $30 for a one-way trip from San Bernardino to Panamint.
  23. Nipton & Searchlight Stage Line (1910): Transported passengers and freight between Searchlight and the railroad at Nipton.
  24. Orange Blossom Mining & Milling Company Stage Line (1908): Served the Orange Blossom mines and camp.
  25. Panamint Transportation Company (1873-1874): Ran from San Bernardino to Panamint City, a challenging and critical route for the time.
  26. Perew Auto Stage (1905): An innovative auto-stage line from Manvel to Searchlight.
  27. Pioneer Stage (1890s): Charged $2 for a 5-mile trip from Manvel into Vanderbilt.

These stagecoach lines were essential in connecting remote areas and facilitating commerce, mail delivery, and passenger transport before the widespread advent of railroads. They navigated rough terrain, faced threats from bandits, and dealt with challenging weather conditions to keep the region connected.