Exploring Eagle Mtn., and SNOW in SoCal!

Trip Start Jan 01, 2007
Trip End Dec 31, 2007

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Flag of United States  , California
Friday, January 12, 2007

Today we took the car and went for a drive about 40 minutes east and north of here, to Eagle Mountain, California, known as a modern-day ghost town. Greg, having driven by there for years on his way to Phoenix, had always wanted to explore the area, which is about 10 miles off the highway.

The drive out there was beatiful, with bright sun and puffy clouds making the landscape a protrait in light and shadows. The following is what we found out about Eagle Mountain from Wikipedia - the free encyclopedia: Eagle Mountain was founded in 1948 by iron magnate Henry Kaiser. The town, or what's left of it, is at the entrance of the now-defunct Eagle Mountain iron mine, once owned by the Southern Pacific RR, on the southeastern corner of Joshua Tree National Park. The town's fully integrated medical care system was the genesis of the modern-day Kaiser Permanente health maintenance organization.  Eagle Mountain grew to a peak population of 4000, with over 400 homes, 200 trailer spaces, and the businesses and school systems necessary to a community of this size.  In the late 1930's, Kaiser decided to build the West Coast's fully integrated steel mill. In 1942, Kaiser decided to build the West coast's first fully-integrated steel mill at Fontana, California  (112 miles west of the Eagle Mountain Mine). Today the Fontana mill property is the site of the California Speedway.  Production at Fontana began in 1948 and a mining town was constructed below what was soon to become Southern California's largest iron mine. It connected to the Southern Pacific via a 51-mile-long  railroad branch.  Ore shipments to Fontana steel plant began in October, with five to eight 100-car trains running weekly. In 1981, Kaiser Corporation announced the phasing out of half the Fontana works and the entire Eagle Mountain Mine operation over several years. The population dwindled as layoffs began. The grocery store closed in October 1982 and the post office, which had been active since 1951, closed in January 1983. In June of that year the last official graduating class celebrated their commencement at Eagle Mountain High School, followed by closing of both the mine and mill.
We drove up to the property, only to find it pretty much all fenced off, with the high school still looking pretty much as it must have looked some 24 years ago when it closed. 
Huge mountains of waste rock are pretty much all that is visible of what was once a huge iron mine.  The Army seemed to be doing some maneuvers or having war games in the fenced-off area, and we didn't poke around too much more than that.  Most of all, the sky, the sun, and the shadows created on the mountains by the clouds were magnificent, and I took lots of pictures.   As we drove back downhill from Chiraco Summit,  we caught glimpses of snow on top of the higher mountains, and the dark clouds with rays of sun shining though sure reminded us of some of the winter skies of years past and places far away.
When we watched the local (Los Angeles area) news this evening - we realized that the clouds looked that way for a reason!   We knew there was an arctic blast heading this way, and we were expecting temperatures below freezing tonight - but we were surprised to find out that most of Southern California, including our old neighborhoods of  Loma Linda and Redlands, that we just moved away from  last week, had all experienced snow this morning!  It was fun to see the pictures on the TV news showing how people in the area celebrated and enjoyed this most unusual event in this part of the world, with snowmen and smiley faces in the snow on their windshields!  Pretty strange, when most of the Northern states are still waiting for their first snow of the winter, and Denver, whose motto has always been "we keep our snow in the mountains where it belongs" is still trying to dig out of the 3 or 4 feet they've had! 
An added note the day after the above:  we left early this morning to drive up to Riverside, where Greg was helping Gary finish that baseboard project they started last weekend. 
The view that greeted us,  of the mountains covered with snow, was breathtaking!   We talked to the manager of the RV Park in Redlands that we stayed in from Dec. 4 - Jan 4, and found that they DID have almost an inch of snow covering the park yesterday - something they've never seen before there! 

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