Clipped From Redlands Daily Facts
With a Grain of Salt By FRANK MOORE Second of two After observing from the air the controversial pit and strip mines of Death Valley National Monument Saturday we skedaddled for home. Mrs. Joe "Pinky" Brier assured me she would get me back to Tri-City Airport, base of her charter operation, to keep an 11:30 date. That didn't leave us time to skim over the southern backbone of the Panamint Mountain range to investigate two place names she had spotted on the map: "Redlands Canyon" and "Redlands Spring." Although the city of Redlands lies almost due south of Death Valley, we were compelled to detour 30 miles east around the vast Fort Irwin, military reserve. Flying just outside of the boundary, and toward the morning sun, we could see a valid reason for avoiding that restricted airspace. Scattered here and there on the dark desert rocks were mirror-like reflections of the sun. These were created by the shiny metal of tetrahedral targets, shot out of the sky by military pilots. In the distance we could see the numerous buildings of Fort Irwin, as isolated as if situated, on the Moon. The Goldstone Tracking Station, still farther in the distance, was hidden by hills. After flying for mile upon mile over the arid, desolate desert of the Death Valley region, we passed over Newberry Springs, a region where artificial lakes abound. In this district, east of Barstow, the water table is shallow. All that it takes for a lake is a bulldozer to make levees and a turbine pump to raise the water. We looked down on several catfish farms, I think, although I could not tell them from other fishing and waterskiing lakes. As we crossed the San Bernardino mountains, Lake Arrowhead seemed to rise under us to give a better view. On that winter morning, not a boat was sailing or buzzing. The shoreline is a sawtooth of boat docks, nearly all empty at this season. On the side of the earthen dam, away from the lake, a fleet of earthmoving vehicles was parked in formation, as if ready for a general to give the command: "attack!" Although I am aware that a new dam will be built for earthquake safety reasons, just downstream from the old dam, I couldn't make any sense out of what I observed. It looked as if the bulldozers were chewing away on the downstream side of the present dam, but not yet building a new one. Just as we came over the ridge, I was struck with the north-south alignment of Lake Arrowhead, Redlands and (well to the south) Lake Perris. On the ground you lose all sense of this linear relationship because the road pattern, connecting those three positions, wriggles all over the mountains and hills. Dropping right out from under us, the ridge leading down into the west fork of City Creek canyon looked as if some crazy nut had built a fairway down it, but forgot to water the grass. This brown strip is one leg in the great fuel break that the U.S. Forest Service has been building across the Front Country of the range for years. Straight ahead, the north- south streets of Redlands gleamed with reflected sunlight. But the streets on the slope of the town, canted 33 degrees, were hidden by trees. I tried to explain to Pinky why Redlands has three street patterns, but you have to observe from the ground to understand the logic of it. The "bombed out" rectangle in Downtown, I had supposed, would make a strong landmark from the air—but it didn't. From altitude, the eye sweeps a large area of Redlands, and, on that scale the Redevelopment Area is not 'dominant. However, it is conspicuously naked, the ground being graded clean. As Pinky banked to the right to approach Tri-City, she pointed toward the crest of the town and cried: "pit mining!" She had spotted the ridge between Alessandro, Kincaid and Sunset—approximately east of Hillside Memorial Park. In long ago times this steep hogsback was terraced and planted to oranges. Because of the hardpan, the grove did not prosper, was abandoned and eventually torn out. The low winter sun was casting shadows on each terrace, causing them to look quite similar to the terraces we had seen in the deep pit mine in Furnace Creek wash. The only difference was that the boron miners dug down; the orange growers dug terraces on the hillside. Did you ever think of that before? Orange growers really did mine the hillsides for fertile soil (instead of boron) and failing of productive ground, abandoned the terraced groves. From the air a citrus "mine" and a pit mine can look much the same. In a few minutes I landed at Tri City and dashed off to go down in a deep mine, only 15 miles from home. That is tomorrow's Grain.