Naming Phelan


Phelan, California

A high desert community NW of San Bernardino. The area was known as Sheep Creek in the early 1900s ) and when the AFPO was filed on 2 May 1916, the name “Renfroe” was requested, allegedly to the surprise of natives who crossed it off the application and substituted Phelan. Phelan was for former San Francisco mayor James Phelan, and again, the locals claimed the name was “foisted” off on them against their wishes by the P.O.D. At any rate, the name was given the P.O. and remains the community name. Before the P.O. was established, mail was delivered from Victorville 3 times a week for five years by Isaac McAllister, who had homesteaded in 1915.

Postmaster Ruth McDaniel states the office had four different locations in and around the small town since 1916 and is presently located in a mall at 4184 Phelan Rd. It has over-flowed its building and has a permanent trailer for retail sales in front of the facility. The office has ten employees making 4,000 deliveries to an estimated patronage of 10,000.

From Postal History of San Bernardino County
by Lewis Garrett

Twentynine Palms


The name “Twentynine Palms,” referring to the city in California, indeed lacks a hyphen, which might seem unusual given the norm in English to hyphenate compound numbers from twenty-one through ninety-nine. The reason for this absence of a hyphen in “Twentynine Palms” is more historical and conventional than grammatical.

Oasis of Mara (colorized vintage photo)

The city’s name comes from the original designation of the area by the Oasis of Mara, where it was noted by early settlers or possibly by surveyors that there were twenty-nine palm trees at the site. This naming convention stuck, and the specific styling of “Twentynine” without a hyphen became the city’s official name. Over time, this styling was retained in official documents, signage, and local usage, making it the standard spelling.

In-place names, especially hyphens, can vary widely and are often dictated by tradition or local preference rather than strict grammatical rules. Once a name is established and recognized in official records, it tends to remain unchanged to preserve historical consistency and identity. This is why “Twentynine Palms” remains without a hyphen, reflecting its unique history and how it was originally named.

Building Randsburg


Randsburg, often called a “living ghost town,” is a unique and fascinating study in architectural resilience, adapting to both the harsh desert environment and the boom-and-bust cycles characteristic of mining towns. In the high desert of California, Randsburg’s architectural style reflects its history as a late 19th-century gold mining town that has managed to retain a small population even as its mining operations have largely ceased.

The architectural significance of Randsburg lies not just in the individual structures but in the town’s overall ability to maintain its historical character while adapting to modern needs. It serves as a case study in preserving historical architecture in challenging environments and economic conditions.

Randsburg’s architecture tells the story of its past, from the optimism of the gold rush era to the perseverance required to survive once the initial boom faded. The town’s ability to attract tourists and maintain a sense of community amidst its historic buildings is a testament to the enduring appeal of architectural heritage.

Randsburg’s architecture offers valuable insights into the life and times of a mining town that has weathered the ups and downs of fortune. Its buildings, both preserved and decaying, provide a tangible connection to the past. At the same time, the town’s ongoing adaptation speaks to the resilience of its community and the enduring relevance of its architectural legacy. Randsburg stands as a living ghost town where architecture plays a crucial role in keeping its history alive.

Route 66 – Bottle Tree Ranch


Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch is a unique outdoor art gallery on the historic Route 66 in Helendale, California. This folk art installation is a fascinating example of American roadside culture and creativity. Elmer Long began creating his Bottle Tree Ranch in the early 2000s, using bottles collected from his childhood adventures in the desert with his father. The ranch features hundreds of metal trees adorned with thousands of glass bottles and various found objects and antiques, creating a colorful and whimsical landscape.

Visitors to the Bottle Tree Ranch can wander through the forest of bottle trees, each clinking and clattering in the wind, creating a serene yet eerie musical symphony. The installation is not just a display of recycled art; it’s a personal history and homage to the spirit of exploration and beauty in discarded items. Each tree and item on the ranch tells a story, making it a poignant stop on the journey along Route 66.

Elmer Long’s Bottle Tree Ranch is a testament to the artist’s creativity and dedication to transforming everyday objects into something magical. It’s a must-see for travelers interested in folk art, Americana, and the history of Route 66. The ranch provides a unique photo opportunity and a chance to experience one of the most iconic and imaginative roadside attractions in the United States.

Boy in a Box

The “Boy in the Box” incident occurred in 1969 at Solar Ranch near Vidal, California. This case involved a six-year-old boy named Anthony Saul Gibbons, who was found sitting inside a six-foot by six-foot box with a chain padlocked to his left leg and attached to a heavy metal plate. This incident was connected to the Solar Lodge of the Ordo Templi Orientis, a magical organization established in 1965 in California. The lodge owned several businesses in Vidal, including a gas station with a cafe, motel, bar, house, and grocery store​​​​​​.

The case became infamous when it was revealed that the boy was mistreated by members of the lodge, leading to charges of child endangerment. It was alleged that the boy had been chained inside the box for 56 days; however, it was later clarified that he was only in the box for 10 hours. To avoid prosecution, several officers of the lodge fled California​.


Sierra Highway


Looking north on the Sierra Highway from Mojave, Ca.

The Sierra Highway is a road in Southern California, United States, with a rich history. Here’s an overview:

  1. Early Beginnings: The history of the Sierra Highway can be traced back to the early 20th century. It was initially part of the state highway system established in 1910 under the State Route 4 designation. This route was part of the Midland Trail, a transcontinental route established in the early days of automobile travel.
  2. Ridge Route Connection: In the 1910s, the Sierra Highway was connected to the Ridge Route, a significant engineering achievement that connected Los Angeles to the San Joaquin Valley. This connection made the Sierra Highway a vital link in Southern California’s road network.
  3. U.S. Route 6: In 1937, the Sierra Highway became part of U.S. Route 6, a transcontinental highway that at one point stretched from Provincetown, Massachusetts, to Long Beach, California. This made it one of the longest highways in the United States.
  4. Changes and Decline in Importance: Completing the Interstate Highway System, particularly Interstate 5, led to a decline in the importance of the Sierra Highway as a major through route. Much of its role was supplanted by these newer, faster roadways.
  5. Modern Era: The Sierra Highway still exists today, but it functions more as a local road than a major thoroughfare. It passes through or near towns such as Santa Clarita, Palmdale, and Mojave, and it offers a scenic alternative to the faster interstate highways.
  6. Cultural Significance: Beyond its practical use, the Sierra Highway holds a place in California’s cultural and historical landscape. It represents an era of early automotive travel, the state’s infrastructure development, and Southern California’s growth.

The Sierra Highway, like many historic roads, tells a story of technological progress, changing transportation needs, and the development of communities along its path.




Braided Trails

Braided wagon trails become braided due to a variety of factors, primarily stemming from the behavior of the travelers and the physical environment they traverse. Here’s an overview of how this process occurs:

  1. Multiple Path Creation: Initially, a wagon trail starts as a single path. As more wagons follow the same route, the trail becomes more pronounced. However, when a part of the trail becomes difficult to traverse due to obstacles, mud, steep inclines, or other challenges, travelers may start to create alternate paths to bypass these difficult sections.
  2. Environmental Conditions: Factors like weather conditions (heavy rains creating mud, snow, etc.), natural obstacles (fallen trees, rockslides), or changes in the landscape (river course changes, growth of vegetation) can render parts of the original trail less passable. Wagon drivers then seek easier or safer routes, leading to the creation of parallel tracks.
  3. Heavy Use and Erosion: With heavy use, the main trail can become deeply rutted and eroded, making it increasingly difficult for wagons to pass. This encourages travelers to forge new paths alongside the original one. Over time, with many wagons choosing different routes to avoid these ruts, a braided pattern of multiple trails emerges.
  4. Avoidance of Conflict or Danger: Sometimes, the creation of braided trails is also influenced by the travelers’ desire to avoid conflict with other groups or dangerous wildlife. This could lead to detours that contribute to the braiding.
  5. Search for Resources: In some cases, particularly during long journeys, wagons might veer off the main path in search of resources like water, grazing land for livestock, or better camping spots, which further contributes to the braiding of trails.
  6. Lack of Central Coordination: In many historical contexts, there was no central authority planning or maintaining these trails, so they evolved organically based on the immediate needs and decisions of the travelers.

This phenomenon was particularly notable in the era of westward expansion in the United States, where many trails, like portions of the Oregon Trail or the Santa Fe Trail, exhibited this braiding due to the heavy traffic of wagons over decades, all facing various environmental and practical challenges.

Mountain High North

Wrightwood Ski Resorts

Mountain High North, previously known as Ski Sunrise, is part of the Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood, California. This area of the resort has its own unique characteristics and offerings. Here’s an overview:

Ski Sunrise – 1996

Mountain High North, previously known as Ski Sunrise, is part of the Mountain High Resort in Wrightwood, California. This area of the resort has its own unique characteristics and offerings. Here’s an overview:

  1. Location and Terrain: Mountain High North is located in the San Gabriel Mountains near Wrightwood. The terrain at Mountain High North is generally known for being more beginner and family-friendly compared to the other areas of Mountain High. It’s an excellent place for those new to skiing or snowboarding.
  2. Integration and Development: Mountain High North was integrated into Mountain High Resort following the acquisition of the Ski Sunrise area. This integration expanded the overall capacity and variety of terrain offered by Mountain High, making it one of the largest ski resorts in Southern California.
  3. Facilities and Services: Mountain High North typically offers various services, including ski and snowboard lessons, equipment rentals, and food and beverage options. The facilities are designed to cater to families and beginners, focusing on creating a welcoming and accessible environment.
  4. Snow Play and Tubing: One of the unique features of Mountain High North is its emphasis on snow play and tubing. This makes it a popular destination for skiers and snowboarders, and those looking to enjoy the snow in other ways.
  5. Operating Schedule: Mountain High North sometimes has a different operating schedule than the West and East resorts, often opening later in the season and closing earlier. This is due to its specific focus and the varying snow conditions across the different areas of Mountain High.
  6. Events and Activities: Mountain High North hosts various events and activities throughout the season aimed at families and beginners. These can include special holiday events, beginner workshops, and family-friendly competitions.
  7. Contribution to Mountain High: The addition of the North resort has allowed Mountain High to offer a more diverse range of experiences to visitors. It complements the more advanced and diverse terrain in the West and East resorts, making the combined Mountain High Resort appealing to a wider range of winter sports enthusiasts.

Mountain High North, with its focus on beginner-friendly slopes, snow play, and tubing, plays a crucial role in the overall appeal of Mountain High Resort. It caters to a segment of visitors looking for a more relaxed, family-oriented snow experience in the proximity of Los Angeles.

Mountain High West

Wrightwood Ski Resorts

Blue Ridge (Mountain High West)

The Blue Ridge Ski Resort in Wrightwood, California, is a historical part of the region’s skiing heritage. However, it’s important to clarify that Blue Ridge Ski Resort is the former name of what is now known as the West Resort of Mountain High.

  1. Early Beginnings: Blue Ridge Ski Resort was among the earliest ski areas developed in the San Gabriel Mountains. Its origins trace back to the 1930s and 1940s when the potential for winter sports in the Wrightwood area was first realized.
  2. Development and Growth: The resort grew in popularity through the mid-20th century. The development of ski lifts and other infrastructure helped establish Blue Ridge as a notable destination for Southern California skiers.
  3. Transition to Mountain High: Blue Ridge Ski Resort evolved and expanded over time. It eventually became part of what is known today as Mountain High. This transition involved a change in name and significant upgrades in facilities and services. The West Resort of Mountain High, the direct successor of the original Blue Ridge Ski Resort, retains much of the historical charm and ski culture from its early days.
  4. Terrain and Features: The area that was once Blue Ridge and is now Mountain High West Resort is known for its varied terrain, catering to skiers and snowboarders of different skill levels. It features a mix of beginner, intermediate, and advanced runs.
  5. Modernization and Improvements: After becoming part of Mountain High, the former Blue Ridge Ski Resort saw substantial improvements, including the installation of more modern and efficient lifts, enhanced snowmaking capabilities, and the development of terrain parks.
  6. Cultural Impact: The history of Blue Ridge Ski Resort is deeply intertwined with the development of skiing culture in Southern California. It was crucial in introducing and popularizing winter sports to a region more commonly associated with beaches and sunshine.
  7. Legacy: Today, while the name Blue Ridge Ski Resort has faded into history, its legacy continues through the West Resort of Mountain High. It remains a testament to the early days of skiing in Southern California and the region’s growth in the sport.

This brief history highlights the transformation of Blue Ridge Ski Resort from its early days to its modern incarnation as part of Mountain High, underscoring its significance in the development of skiing in Southern California.

Mountain High East

Wrightwood Ski Resorts

Holiday Hill Ski Resort, located in the San Gabriel Mountains near Wrightwood, California, has a significant place in Southern California’s skiing history. While less known today, Holiday Hill played an important role in the region’s winter sports scene. Here’s a brief overview of its history:

  1. Early Beginnings: Holiday Hill Ski Resort started in the mid-20th century. It was part of the burgeoning ski industry in Southern California, which capitalized on the region’s mountainous terrain and winter snowfall.
  2. Location and Accessibility: Situated near the town of Wrightwood, Holiday Hill was easily accessible to the growing population of Southern California, especially those in the Los Angeles area. This accessibility contributed to its popularity as a ski destination.
  3. Facilities and Attractions: The resort offered skiing and snowboarding opportunities, with various slopes catering to different skill levels. It was known for its family-friendly atmosphere and was a popular choice for beginners and intermediate skiers.
  4. Transition and Development: Over the years, Holiday Hill underwent several changes, including ownership transitions and developments in its infrastructure. These changes were part of the broader evolution of the ski industry in Southern California.
  5. Integration into Mountain High: Eventually, Holiday Hill became part of the larger Mountain High resort. This integration was a significant step in consolidating the ski areas in the Wrightwood region. The once Holiday Hill area is now part of the expanded Mountain High complex, specifically the East Resort.
  6. Legacy and Modern Era: Today, the legacy of Holiday Hill lives on as part of Mountain High. The East Resort of Mountain High, which encompasses the former Holiday Hill area, continues to offer skiing and snowboarding, emphasizing varied terrain and scenic views.
  7. Cultural Impact: Holiday Hill contributed to the growth of the skiing culture in Southern California. It played a role in introducing many Southern Californians to winter sports and helped establish the region as a destination for skiing and snowboarding.

In summary, Holiday Hill Ski Resort was a key player in developing the skiing industry in Southern California. Its integration into Mountain High Resort has allowed its legacy to continue, contributing to the region’s rich history of winter sports.