#9 – Mojave Air and Space Port: A Hub of Aerospace Innovation


The Mojave Air and Space Port, located in Mojave, California, is a unique and significant facility that plays a crucial role in the aerospace industry. Here’s an expanded look at what makes it a popular attraction and an important center for aerospace activities:

History and Significance

  • Establishment: Originally established in 1935 as a small rural airfield, the Mojave Air and Space Port has become a major center for aerospace research and development.
  • Spaceport License: In 2004, it became the first facility in the United States to be licensed as a spaceport, allowing it to conduct spaceflight activities.

Key Features and Attractions

Virgin Galactic’s second SpaceShipTwo vehicle, VSS Unity, soars on its first-ever glide flight on Dec. 3, 2016. (Image credit: Virgin Galactic)
  1. Aerospace Innovation and Companies:
    • Scaled Composites: the first privately funded spacecraft to reach space, is known for developing innovative aircraft, including SpaceShipOne.
    • Virgin Galactic: Developing commercial spaceflight services with its SpaceShipTwo spacecraft, aiming to offer suborbital space tourism.
    • Masten Space Systems: Working on vertical takeoff, landing rockets, and lunar lander technology.
  2. Public Tours and Educational Opportunities:
    • Guided Tours: The Mojave Air and Space Port offers guided tours that provide insights into the operations of various aerospace companies, the facility’s history, and ongoing projects.
    • Visitor Center: This center features exhibits on the history of aviation and space exploration, including models and displays of historic and modern aircraft and spacecraft.
  3. Aircraft Storage and Boneyard:
    • Aircraft Boneyard: The air and spaceport is home to a large aircraft boneyard where retired commercial and military aircraft are stored, maintained, or dismantled for parts. This is a fascinating area for aviation enthusiasts to see a variety of aircraft up close.
  4. Flight Testing and Demonstrations:
    • Test Flights: The air and spaceport is a premier location for flight testing, with companies conducting regular test flights of new aircraft and spacecraft. Visitors can often witness these test flights, adding to the excitement of the visit.
    • Air Shows and Events: Periodic air and aerospace events showcase cutting-edge technology and historic aircraft, allowing the public to engage with the aerospace community.
  5. Space Launches and Rocket Testing:
    • Rocket Engines: Various companies conduct rocket engine testing at the facility, and on occasion, space launches are performed, offering a rare chance to see rocket technology in action.
    • Experimental Spacecraft: The development and testing of experimental spacecraft, such as those by Virgin Galactic, offer a glimpse into the future of space travel.
  6. Mojave Transportation Museum Foundation:
    • Historical Exhibits: Dedicated to preserving the rich history of transportation in the Mojave Desert, the museum features exhibits on aviation, railroads, and automotive history in the region.
    • Educational Programs: The foundation offers educational programs and events to inspire the next generation of engineers, pilots, and aerospace professionals.

Unique Aspects

  • Climate and Location: The Mojave Desert’s desert climate and wide-open spaces are ideal for aerospace testing and development.
  • Innovation Hub: The air and space port fosters a culture of innovation, attracting various aerospace companies and startups pushing the boundaries of technology.

Visitor Information

  • Accessibility: Located just off the main highways, the Mojave Air and Space Port is easily accessible for visitors traveling by car.
  • Amenities: The facility offers amenities such as a visitor center, dining options, and ample parking.

Future Developments

  • Expansion Plans: Ongoing expansion and development projects aim to enhance the air and space port’s capabilities, including new hangars, testing facilities, and infrastructure to support increased spaceflight activities.
  • Commercial Space Travel: As companies like Virgin Galactic move closer to offering commercial space travel, the Mojave Air and Space Port will continue to play a pivotal role in making space tourism a reality.

The Mojave Air and Space Port is not only a hub of aerospace innovation but also a fascinating destination for anyone interested in aviation, space exploration, and cutting-edge technology. Its combination of historical significance, active testing and development, and public accessibility make it a unique and exciting place to visit.


Swarthout Lodge

Big Pines Recreation Area, Angeles National Forest

Swarthout Lodge, located in the Big Pines Recreation Area of the Angeles National Forest, has a rich history tied to developing recreational facilities in Southern California. Here’s a detailed overview of its history:

Early Beginnings

  • 1924: The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors established the Big Pines Recreation Area as a mountain resort to promote public recreation. This was part of a broader effort to make the natural beauty of the San Gabriel Mountains accessible to the public.
  • Initial Development: The area quickly became popular for winter sports and summer activities. Facilities such as lodges, cabins, and a ski jump were constructed to accommodate visitors.

Swarthout Lodge

  • Construction: Swarthout Lodge was one of the central buildings in the Big Pines Recreation Area. Named after H. L. Swarthout, the lodge served as a visitor hub.
  • Architecture: The lodge was designed in a rustic style typical of mountain resorts of the era. Its focus was on blending into the natural surroundings while providing essential amenities for guests.

Role in Recreation

  • Winter Sports: The lodge played a significant role in promoting winter sports, particularly skiing. Big Pines became a premier destination for Southern Californians seeking snow sports, and Swarthout Lodge was at the heart of this activity.
  • Summer Activities: During the summer, the lodge served as a base for hiking, fishing, and other outdoor activities. Its location in the Angeles National Forest provided easy access to numerous trails and scenic spots.

Decline and Changes

  • Mid-20th Century: As recreational trends changed and other mountain resorts developed, the popularity of Big Pines and Swarthout Lodge began to decline. Additionally, natural disasters like fires and floods affected the area, leading to periods of reconstruction and change.
  • Transition: Over the years, the lodge’s management and use evolved. Parts of the original facilities were repurposed or fell into disrepair, reflecting broader changes in public recreation and forest management policies.

Legacy and Current Status

  • Preservation Efforts: In recent years, efforts have been made to preserve and restore historic structures within the Big Pines Recreation Area, including Swarthout Lodge. These efforts aim to maintain the historical significance and promote the area’s rich heritage.
  • Modern Use: Today, the Big Pines Recreation Area offers recreational opportunities, although the focus has shifted to more sustainable and environmentally conscious practices. Swarthout Lodge’s history remains a testament to the early efforts to make natural landscapes accessible for public enjoyment.

With its historical significance and role in the development of outdoor recreation in Southern California, Swarthout Lodge remains an important part of the heritage and history of the Angeles National Forest.



Ashford Mill


Ashford Mill in Death Valley, located in California, has a fascinating history that dates back to the early 20th century. It was named after the Ashford brothers, who were prospectors in the area.

Ashford Mill – Death Valley National Park
  1. Discovery of Gold: The story of Ashford Mill begins with the discovery of gold in the Black Mountains of Death Valley. In 1907, two brothers, Harold and Erwin Ashford, staked claims in a canyon known as Golden Canyon.
  2. Operation of the Mill: The Ashford brothers lacked the experience and resources to develop the mine, so they leased it to a businessman, B.W. McCausland. McCausland recognized the need for a mill to process ore and built the Ashford Mill in 1914. The mill was constructed to process gold ore from the Golden Treasure Mine, located about five miles away in the Black Mountains.
  3. Technological Features: The mill was a typical representation of the ore-processing technology of its time. It included structures for crushing, mixing with chemicals, and separating gold from the ore.
  4. Short-Lived Success: Despite the investment in the mill and the initial enthusiasm, the operation was short-lived. The ore from the Golden Treasure Mine was of lower quality than expected, making the operation unprofitable.
  5. Abandonment: By 1915, just a year after its construction, the mill was abandoned as the dreams of profitable gold mining faded. The harsh conditions of Death Valley and the lack of substantial gold findings made it impractical to continue.
  6. Today: The ruins of Ashford Mill stand as a reminder of the brief gold rush in Death Valley. The site is preserved within Death Valley National Park. Visitors can see the remnants of the mill’s foundation and some of the walls, offering a glimpse into the early mining history of the region.

The history of Ashford Mill is a typical example of the boom-and-bust cycle that characterized many mining ventures in the American West during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It reflects the optimism, hardships, and eventual disappointment those seeking fortune face in this harsh and unforgiving landscape.