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The Makers of: "RockHounds: The Movie," "North Texas Explorer," "Oklahoma Rocks!" and "Geology Kitchen"
2014 was a great year for us but as we look back on it, it's important to remember those that are no longer with us. This past summer we lost our friend Dr. Ken Luza from the Oklahoma Geological Survey. Dr. Luza was kind enough to appear in our documentary "Oklahoma Rocks!" to talk to us about the Meers Fault and to show off the seismograph that monitors it.
Here is the clip from the documentary in which he appears:
This excerpt from the OGS obituary (you can read the full text HERE) may describe him best:
Not too long ago, while shooting Geo-RoadTrip 2014, we found ourselves in the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range near Lone Pine, California. While driving up Mount Whitney, enjoying the 50 degree temperature difference from our afternoon in Death Valley, we come upon some dark discolorations in the rock:
Upon closer inspection, we had more questions, than answers. And further investigation was clearly necessary. We pulled over and here's what we saw:
So we need your help to figure this out. Devin breaks it down:
One of the last stops on the trip was an historically sticky situation. The Le Brea Tar Pits in Las Angeles is the final resting place of scores of unfortunate animals who became permanent LA residents. The Pits' museum utilizes the mammoth mascot in both robot and skeleton form:
You can also get your fill of other unlucky mammals who may or may not have appeared in the Ice Age movies:
The trip is almost done but the video is coming soon!
We couldn't go to California without trying to get a good look at the famous San Andreas Fault. And the best place we found is in Pelona Vista Park in Palmdale, CA. It's a pretty decent uphill hike to get to the view but once you get there you can get a good look at some distortion and folding:
After we had our fill we had to head to holy ground: Vasquez Rocks! What makes this place so special?
This is the location of the famous fight between Captain Kirk and the Gorn! Check out Shatner in front of the same rocks swinging his Captain's Log:
Further down the road we arrived at an interesting geologic wonder known as Fossil Falls. The name may be a little misleading since there's been no actual running water for a looong time. But when there was, it helped to create the unique shapes in the basalt:
Cartago, CA is a little ghost town that takes very little time to drive through, which is fine since there is very little to see there. But what is there is definitely worth a stop. The mysterious orange building along the highway is a roadside work of art made complete with a dinosaur skeleton statue:
Legend has it that this was originally meant to be a beef jerky store but the other jerky store down the road didn't seem to have a lot of details. It's worth noting that the creepily non-abandoned motel next to it has a giant metal ant on the roof. The artist remains unknown.
After that quick stop, we got back on the road...more pics tomorrow!
We don't always post about the restaurants where we eat on these trips but occasionally we find one post-worthy. For example, the Alabama Hills Cafe was a great find and our last stop in Lone Pine, CA. Not just for the food but for the geologic ambience. They are smart enough to take advantage of their namesake hills for a little educational decor:
There are some handy references on the walls to some of the more famous and unique rock formations in the area and even some artistic interpretations:
The previous day we had gotten a picture of the "Visible Man" (also known as the "Monster Rock") which you can see on the bottom row, in the middle or in this pic:
It's one of the easier ones to find since it's right along the road to the hills and, of course, the face painting.
But at this point you're probably wondering, how is the food? The cafe has its own bakery and even the toast is handmade. It's, hands down, the best breakfast in town. Check out that morning's special: Shrimp, tomato, mushroom and spinach scramble with fresh fruit:
Definitely worth the drive through the desert. Next up, we head further into California!
After a little minor mountaineering we headed back to Lone Pine for the night and had some time to kill before dinner. Luckily the Lone Pine Rock & Gift store was right in the middle of the town. It was time to do a little geo-browsing.
They had a pretty good selection of specimens ranging from local rocks to those found far and away. Here's a sample of some of the things we found:
Not too far from Lone Pine, CA is an area where you might not have been but have almost certainly seen on the big screen. The picturesque views in the Alabama Hills have been attracting Hollywood producers for almost as long as there have been Hollywood producers. You can see some of these famous vistas if you travel along Movie Flats Road.
The area was a natural fit for Westerns, with lots of stunning rock formations for the bad guys and bandits to hide behind. But over the years, just about every genre has utilized the incredible look of the area including several scifi films. Two different Star Trek films filmed here since the area seems to be a good fit for cowboys as well as aliens.
And if you find yourself in the area you'll want to take the drive up to Mount Whitney. At its peak it has the highest elevation in the contiguous 48 states (which is great symmetry to our stop at Badwater Basin). That height also comes with cooler weather which felt great after soaring temperatures at Death Valley.
While in Lone Pine, CA amongst the picturesque landscape provided by the Sierra Nevada mountain range that has attracted so many film production crews, we had to delve into some of the Hollywood history of the area. To do that we had to stop at the Lone Pine Film History Museum.
The museum has an impressively extensive collection of props and costumes from moves shot in the area. The mountains, hills and geologic formations are the perfect backdrop for Westerns. It was also the setting for one of our favorite franchises, "Tremors." And the museum offered up a menagerie of monsters and props from the films:
But more traditional Westerns and the cowboys that starred in them are represented as well. For example, Tom Mix's saddle:
There are also several costumes on display that range from Roy Rogers and Dale Evans to Tony Stark (Iron Man):
After leaving Death Valley we headed down the road to Lone Pine, CA. It's a small town but has a lot of interesting things going on and is a great access point to the Sierra Nevada mountain range including the Alabama Hills and Mount Whitney. But before tackled the mountains, we made a stop at the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center.
Inside they have a great interactive, 3-D model of the mountain range:
As well as a section of the Los Angeles Aqueduct that delivers water from around the area to Los Angeles:
Exploring Lone Pine further led us to a monument to a tragic natural disaster. In 1872 the area was the site of an earthquake estimated to be 7.6 to 8 on the Richter scale killing 27 people and destroying most of the town's structures. Today a small stone marker commemorates the event in front of the mass grave of the victims:
At this point in the trip it was time to get low. And by low, I mean very low...the lowest point in North America. Not too far from the Devil's Golf Course, in Death Valley, Badwater Basin has an elevation of 282 feet below sea level.
You can the salt flats covering portions of the ground which add to the long list of things that make Death Valley a dangerous place. Further into the park is the visually stunning area known as Artist's Palette. Here are a few shots:
The various colors are a result of the oxidation of different metals and tend to look differently depending ton factors like time of day, cloud coverage and occasional rainfall. This was our last stop in Death Valley as we headed out to other places to explore.
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