Saturday, May 1, 2021

~ Farewell my Friend ~


"The only way to have a friend is to be one." — Ralph Waldo Emerson


Warnell on my Yamaha Road Star at his home in Hanford, CA.


One summer day, a moving van arrived at the vacant house directly across from our home on Elizabeth Street. The new family was busy hauling boxes into their house at 1004 East Elizabeth Street in Barstow, CA. 

My mom encouraged me to go say hi to the boy who appeared to be about my age.

He was two years younger. I was nine years old. I managed to say, "My name is Robert and I live over there, pointing and looking back to my house." He had a sister, Diane who was much younger. Then his mom called, "Warnell it's time to come inside for lunch," and off he went. 

That was the day our friendship began. It would continue for nearly 65 years.

We grew up and shared our adventures, even at seven and nine years old. We camped out in our front yards, rode bicycles, attended Cub Scouts, went fishing at Lake Isabella, and then there was baseball. We both played little league on perhaps the worst team in the league - the Mustangs - but we didn't care. We loved the game and had fun.  

Years later, he would tell me that I taught him how to throw and catch a baseball. He had an iron-tight mind for the game of baseball. He once told me the seats we sat in at Dodger Stadium, who they played, the final score, who pitched, and how we nearly missed getting a fly ball hit into the bleachers from where we always seem to see the game.  As one can imagine, we took our baseball gloves to the game. We were ten and twelve at the time. How our parents, at that young age, allowed us to travel by ourselves from Barstow to Los Angeles was remarkable. We rode the train and by a miracle made it safely to Dodger Stadium. 

We went there to see Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, Johnny Roseboro, Maury Wills, and my idol - Duke Snider. 

Warnell was the cornerstone of the game for me; a true Dodger Blue fan.

As we grew up, we owned identical black Yamaha 125 cc's and continued with our adventures on two wheels. His family eventually moved from Elizabeth Street to Pallesi Street in central Barstow. He attended Barstow High School and I went to John F. Kennedy High School.  We, however, remained close as we went our separate ways.

Many years later, Denise and our 1 1/2 old son, Keith traveled to Botswana, Africa to serve as Peace Corps Volunteers working for the Department of Wildlife and National Parks. I had forgotten but he reminded me that he drove us from Barstow to the Ontario Airport in our 1973 Dodge Van.  I trusted him that much, and he returned our van to Barstow where it was parked for nearly three years. He loved to hear about our tour in Botswana.

We frequently talked about our childhood, our adventures on Elizabeth Street, baseball, and our families. 

Sixty-five years is a long time to share a friendship.

"Warnell, I'll miss you dearly.  Farewell, my friend."



I was leaving for Barstow the morning his sister, Diane called to say that Warnell had passed away.
I thought about him the entire 600-mile round-trip. He and his sister were part of our family.









Farewell, my Friend.





Friday, April 23, 2021

~ National Park Week 2021 ~

The article "National Park Week 2021" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" website on 4/19/21.



National Park Week 2021

Apr 19, 2021View Commentsby 



“There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.”– President Theodore Roosevelt



There are more than 400 parks available to everyone, every day and they are America’s best idea. The fee-free days provide an awesome opportunity to visit that favorite park or perhaps one that you have never been to before.

2018 National Park Week RoadRUNNER Motorcycle Touring & Travel magazine

My favorite National Park is in my backyard here in Three Rivers  – Sequoia National Park. My wife and I were hiking the short trail to the little known, Hanging Rock when I spotted this awesome motorcycle parked along the highway amidst the Giant Sequoias. The road continues to the more famous Moro Rock and Crescent Meadow. To reach the top of this granite dome, follow a stone stairway over 350 steps that climbs 300 feet to the summit for panoramic views. At the top, you can see the mountains of the Great Western Divide. Peaks in the Great Western Divide climb to more than 12,000 feet. Don’t climb Moro Rock if ice or snow are present on the stairs; it is very dangerous.

You can read more about Sequoia National Park in my articles – Celebrating 100 Years of the National Park Service and Exploring the Backcountry of Sequoia National Park. The Chronicle, In Pursuit of Wildness features other great National Parks like Pinnacles National Park, Joshua Tree National Park, Mount Rainier National Park, and El Morro National Monument.  Undoubtedly, there are hundreds more favorites – just pick one.

For one week each April, the National Park Service welcomes you to celebrate America’s treasures upfront, close, and free. This year, National Park Week for 2021 will be celebrated April 17 through April 25! There are some special programs and events to be celebrated at most park such as:

  • April 19: Military Monday
  • April 20: Transformation Tuesday
  • April 22: Earth Day
  • April 24: National Junior Ranger Day

Celebrate National Park Week at a park in your backyard. Now, I need to climb those 350 stone stairs to the top of Moro Rock.  I know the view will be amazing.

 

Sunday, December 13, 2020

~ In Pursuit of Wildness: North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park ~

The article "In Pursuit of Wildness: North Rim Grand Canyon National Park" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" website on 12/11/20.


Text and Photography by Robert Griego


The North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona has been on my bucket list due to its grand vistas. Still, in all honesty, I never would have come this far if a close friend, who once lived at Grand Canyon National Park and hiked most of it, hadn't recommended the destination.

“The South Rim is beautiful, but the North Rim is special,” he said. He told me there are fewer people and the views are breathtaking. Dispersed camping in the Kaibab National Forest is available outside of the park, and on a bike it will be a nice ride. 

And with that, I was hooked. The North Rim sounds like a perfect destination. Now, I need to convince my brother, Gilbert, that this will be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“How many miles from California?” is his first question.

“Well, I’m not too sure, but maybe about 2,500 miles round-trip.”

He continues: “Have you been there before?”

“No, but my friend Scott who once lived there made the recommendation. We could camp along the way.” 

He didn’t think long, and simply replied: “OK.”


Onto the Road

There is something unique in traveling across the country on motorcycles with your likeminded brother. He rides a Harley-Davidson Street Glide, while my mount is a Yamaha Road Star. Over the years, we have traveled together across 25,000 miles, visiting natural areas mostly in the West. We camp lightly on the land, always following the “leave no trace” rules. Our campsites are always in a better condition when we leave.

We head north from Flagstaff, AZ, on US 89. Since neither of us has been on this route before, we stop often to explore. The Cameron Trading Post next to the Little Colorado River catches our attention. The parking lot, full of motorcycles, is a good rest stop to look over the map. It should be a short 60 miles to Bitter Springs, from where we follow US 89A to Jacob Lake. We fuel up and buy some food before heading south on SR 67 to the North Rim. 

Gilbert spots a dirt road leading into an aspen forest, where we make camp next to an abandoned horse corral. We settle for the night in the cool high-elevation air and have a hearty dinner with popcorn for dessert. The night sky is brilliant, with a shooting star streaking across the vastness above us. The next day, we enter the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Gilbert wants to hike some trails and we are both eager to explore some of the vistas. We remove our riding gear and slip into comfortable shorts and tennis shoes. Looking over the park map, we set off on the Bright Angel Point Trail—a short half-mile round trip—from the Grand Canyon Lodge. The pace of everything around us slows down. It is quiet. Looking down into the depths of the canyon is mesmerizing. The solitude and serenity I feel with each step exceeds my expectations.

We continue onto the Transept Trail, which is a longer four-mile round trip offering views of the Transept, a stunning side canyon. We soon realize that there are more rigorous trails that we will save for a future trip. The North Kaibab Trail interests me. It is the only maintained trail into the canyon from the North Rim and one best taken on the back of a horse or mule with a wrangler guide.



Robert and Gilbert Griego


Reluctantly, we leave, knowing that we’ll be back for a longer stay.

“Robert, I thought you said that this ride was about 2,500 miles round trip. By the time we get home, it will be more like 1,500 miles,” my brother says.

“That’s true, but I thought we could go see Monument Valley and Goosenecks State Park in Utah on our way back,” I reply. 

With a smile on my brother’s face, we continue our adventure.

 

PLANNING A VISIT

When planning a visit to the Grand Canyon, it’s best to start by picking between the South and North Rims. The hiking distance from the south to the north is a strenuous 21 miles, while driving would take about 5 hours over 220 miles. The North Rim—more than 8,000 feet in elevation—is visited by only 10% of all Grand Canyon visitors. 

The best time to visit the North Rim is between May 15 and October 15. During the winter months, the North Rim is closed due to snow. For lodging, it is best to make reservations either for the Grand Canyon Lodge or the North Rim Campground.

TO DO

Point Imperial and Cape Royal along the North Rim Scenic Drive can be reached via winding roads with ample pullouts providing grand scenes across the canyon. Plan on taking half a day or more for these drives with some short walks along the way. 

Cape Royal is a popular destination for both sunrise and sunset. Point Imperial is the highest point on the North Rim at 8,803 feet and provides sweeping views of the Painted Desert and the eastern end of the Grand Canyon.

There are free, daily park ranger programs to learn about geology, fossils, plants, and animals, in addition to numerous park trails.

HOURS

The North Rim Visitor Center is open from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. There is a hiker shuttle service from the Grand Canyon Lodge to North Kaibab Trailhead. Reserve space 24 hours in advance at the lodge front desk.

FEES

Entrance fees, good for seven days, are $30 per motorcycle, $35 per vehicle, and $20 per individual (bicyclist, hiker, or pedestrian). An annual park pass is $70. For more information, see www.nps.gov/grca.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

~ Our Desert Jewels: RED ROCK CANYON STATE PARK ~




Our Desert Jewels

RED ROCK CANYON STATE PARK

Text and Photography: Robert Griego


Red Cliffs Natural Preserve.


The evening sun dips behind the towering sandstone cliffs at Ricardo Campground as I arrive at Red Rock Canyon State Park. I've never been here before, though I grew up in the desert community of Barstow, not far from here.  Immediately, the desert solitude renews my soul. The sweeping desert view kindles fond desert memories.


Sweeping views welcome me to Red Rock Canyon State Park.


Once, I served as acting superintendent at Joshua Tree National Park for the National Park Service, so protecting our desert jewels is important to me.  The March 2017 issue of RoadRUNNER featured, “In Pursuit of Wildness: Joshua Tree National Park” which was my tribute to the late, Johnny Cash.  When Sandy Smith, Executive Director at Destination Lancaster took interest in my desert perspectives, I was honored.  I love the desert, and I think Johnny Cash did too. 



Ricardo Campground is perfect.


Today, I'm astride my Indian Springfield searching for that perfect campsite, and honestly, all the sites look inviting.  There is potable water and restrooms nearby.  The sweeping views to the east with scattered Joshua Trees captures my imagination.  A roadrunner darts through Rabbit Brush as I unload my gear at campsite 20, nestled below the sandstone cliffs.  The moon will be out tonight and the evening sun is a perfect time to go visit Red Cliffs Natural Preserve, but where?  There is another camper about a quarter-mile away who, as I pull off my helmet astride my motorcycle, is intently reading her book.  

“Ma’am, where is the famous Red Cliffs Natural Preserve?”  She lowers her reading glasses, lays down her book, and points her arm to the east: “It’s on the other side of Highway 14, a short distance from here.”  Picking up her book again, she adds, “The evening sun will make for great pictures, you should hurry.”



Desert solitude renews my soul.



ON TO THE RED ROCKS

The Red Cliffs Natural Preserve is impressive and trying to capture the towering presence is a challenge as the sun dips below the surrounding mountains.  I park my motorcycle and gaze towards the red rocks cliffs, walking deliberately with camera in hand towards the massive 300-foot crimson cliffs.  As I get closer, the rocks begin to take on different forms and shapes as the evening light changes.

I encourage you to leave the comfort of your car and walk.  Walking into the desert is special, it always is rewarding.  The quiet consumes me.  I sit on the ground, gazing up at lofty cliffs.  The screech of a Red Tail hawk breaks the silence as I put down my camera and head back to my motorcycle, now a half-mile away. 

The towering crimson cliffs embraced me.  If they could talk, they might whisper: “Robert, what took you so long to see this desert jewel”?



Imagination is powerful.




"Robert, what took you so long to see this desert jewel?"




The end to a perfect day among the crimson cliffs.




MOON, STARS, CAMPFIRE


My campsite, beneath the towering cliffs.



Ricardo Campground with my warm cozy fire is perfect.  The full moon provides ample light and that’s when I hear them.  

One owl hoots.  A second owl responds from a short distance away along the towering cliffs.  The hoots alternate in perfect rhythm.  The dueling owls seem to enjoy talking to each other.  I wonder what they might be saying. 

Then, a lone coyote shatters their personal rhythm as it uncontrollably shouts at the moon.  Both sounds are comforting as I gaze up towards the billions of stars that hang within easy reach.  Mars is directly before me towards the east; perhaps, that had something to do with the dueling owls and the lone coyote – nature’s music.  



Dancing in delight.


My comfort blanket is always the stars; their light always shines for me.  As they tuck me into my bed, sleep easily takes over – a perfect day for my first visit to Red Rocks Canyon State Park.  



Leisure, easy walking with children.


Tomorrow, I plan to hike along some of the nature trails at this desert jewel before heading south to Lancaster to see some of the new murals along with The BLVD Cultural District.


POW! WOW!

Destination Lancaster describes The BLVD Cultural District as “A thriving and dynamic cultural center located in the California’s High Desert.”  I knew that Lancaster recently hosted the 2020 POW! WOW! and I’ve always loved murals that bring communities across America alive. 

Today, I strolled leisurely along The BLVD to capture some of the spectacular artwork.  Yesterday, I walked beneath the Red Cliffs – each took my breath away.  I can’t wait to return for a longer visit to these jewels in the desert.



Stunning, massive art.



The architecture is stunning along The BLVD.



Simple, captivating.



Intricate, beautiful.



Larger than life.



Colorful, eye-popping.



The Oxfords Suites, centrally located in Lancaster, provides relaxing accommodations.



Heading home over Walker Pass towards Lake Isabella.



OVERVIEW: PLANNING YOUR VISIT

Red Rock Canyon State Park is located in beautiful Southern California, 120 north of Los Angeles, and about 50 miles from Lancaster, CA.  The park, located where the southernmost tip of the Sierra Nevada converge with the El Paso Range, was established to preserve 27,000 acres including the scenic desert cliffs, buttes, fossils, and spectacular rock formations.  Historically, the Kawaiisu Indians once inhabited the area and left petroglyphs in the El Paso mountains.  In about 1950, the 20-mule team freight wagons stopped by the colorful crimson rock formations for recognized land bearings and water.

THINGS TO DO
The best time to visit is in the spring and fall.  The sun can be intense so always carry water in the desert. 

Activities: Visitor Center, picnicking, hiking, camping, equestrian use, bird watching, biking, off-highway vehicle, star gazing, and wildflowers viewing in the wetter spring months. Guided nature hikes and campfire programs during the spring and fall.  Desert View Nature Trail and Hagen Canyon loop trail are good for children.

Ricardo Campground has 50 primitive campsites with fire rings, potable water, pit toilets, and tables. 

HOURS
Red Rock Canyon State Park is open from sunrise to sunset for day use.  Ricardo Campground is open 24 hours.  The Visitor Center is open in Spring and Fall.

FEES
Day-use parking is $6, camping is $25 ($2 senior citizen discount), an additional motor vehicle is $6 and motorcycle and ATV is $6 per day.  

For more information, see www.parks.ca.gov.



Saturday, October 17, 2020

~ Into the Wild West's FOUR CORNERS ~


The article, Into the Wild West's FOUR CORNERS by Robert Griego, was published in the 2020 Special Collector's Issue by RoadRUNNER Magazine.










End of preview text by RoadRUNNER:

"Our 2020 Special Collector's Issue showcases a regionally balanced mix of both previously-featured and new motorcycle tours with trip planning information and spectacular photography, as well as new Destinations features. The issue is printed on the high quality paper that you've come to expect from RoadRUNNER, and finished with a beautiful matte coating for the cover — a perfect gift for friends and loved ones, and to add to your personal RoadRUNNER collection."


~ Muir Woods National Monument ~

The article, Muir Woods National Monument by Robert Griego, was published in the 2020 Special Collector's Issue by RoadRUNNER Magazine.







Tuesday, September 22, 2020

~ In Pursuit of Wildness: Canyon de Chelly National Monument ~

The article "In Pursuit of Wildness: Canyon de Chelly National Monument" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" website on 9/22/20.



"The heart of the Navajo Nation"


The rain is hard and relentless. The gas station ahead, a few miles from Window Rock, AZ, offers shelter. In seconds, the parking area is flooded, but my motorcycle is safe and dry.

“Do not go out further just yet,” the old Navajo man says. “The roads will be full of mud, and it will be very dangerous.” I nod in agreement, wet from the quick downpour. The rain intensifies, and many more people seek shelter. The gas station has a small market, and to my surprise, sells tamales. I love tamales, so I buy three. There is a very old Navajo woman who is taking a long time getting into her pickup truck. I want to help but hold back. She has likely done this a thousand times; as she makes the final push, she sends a smile my way. Without hesitation, she starts the truck and leaves. The rain stops, just like that. Several of the other Navajo begin to leave as well, and I do the same.

The road is full of mud, and the four-wheel-drive trucks slosh forward while I move cautiously slower. Indian Route 112 takes me north and crosses into New Mexico. The scenery is spectacular, especially along Wheatfields Lake as I head for Tsaile and the north rim of Canyon de Chelly National Monument. At my first overlook, there are two young Navajo boys selling jewelry. “I like these earrings,” I tell them.

“My grandmother made them,” one of them says, quietly. “She lives over there,” pointing his arm toward the south. He adds proudly, “She is 80 years old and still rides a horse.” The turquoise pair of earrings pack easily in my saddlebag. I know that my wife, Denise, will love them.



A SACRED PLACE

Canyon de Chelly National Monument is a place that my brother Leo has always talked about: “It is a sacred place. You easily go back in time.” He said that the town of Chinle has food, gas, convenience stores, and ample lodging but encouraged me to find the Cottonwood Campground inside the park. The campground, operated by the Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department, is perfect for the night. I normally lay out my camping tarp and sleep on the ground. Not tonight. There are millions of small red ants everywhere. Most of the other campers are in RV trailers. There are several cottonwood trees, so I rig up my hammock for the night. I make a mental note to stay at the Thunderbird Lodge, located inside the park, on my next trip.

The White House Trail (2.5-mile round trip) is the only trail that one can take without a Navajo guide. It winds down from the top of the parking lot to the canyon floor in the open sun. The trail is easy and brings you to the White House Ruin, which was built and occupied centuries ago by the Pueblo Indians.

I am thankful for the sweeping views with water flowing before me. The high canyon walls often have horses roaming freely along the cliffs. Tomorrow, I’ll hire a Navajo guide and travel on horseback into the canyon. I’ve ridden horses extensively in Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks, in California, and I’m looking forward to this particular horse ride.

Stanley, an authorized horse tour operator, greets me warmly at 9:30 a.m. John, from Alabama, joins us, and the three of us trot off into the canyon. A Navajo guide adds so much history to the ride, and Stanley seems to love what he does. He begins by telling us that, in Navajo, Chinle means “water flowing out,” a reference to water leaving the canyon. I’m seeing the towering canyon walls from a new and wild perspective. We ride into history that time seems to have forgotten. The horse beneath me is a big part of the experience, and together we are one within the moment. I feel alive.

In a quiet moment, Stanley’s horse bolts left, then right. After getting the animal under control, Stanley leads his steed back to where it got spooked. He speaks calmly to his horse in Navajo, telling it, “Look: It is just a stick.” Laughing, he tells us that they’ve been up here thousands of times, but his horse still thinks that the stick is a snake. This ride into Canyon de Chelly was magical. I know that I’ll return another day.


John, from Alabama


FAREWELL, CANYON

The Navajo reservation is huge, and I am on small roads. Approaching the community of Leupp, I spot a van selling tamales. “They are freshly made and hot,” a Navajo man tells me. I find a tree with some shade and enjoy three delicious tamales—one red and two green. I tell him that I just came from Canyon de Chelly, loved it, rode a horse, connected with nature, and I’m returning home to California.

He nods and says: “The canyon is a sacred place. One is taken back in time.”


PLANNING A VISIT

Canyon de Chelly National Monument was established in 1931, primarily to preserve and protect its rich archaeological sites, and, to this day, the homes and farms of many Navajo. The monument is located entirely within the Navajo Nation reservation, in northeastern Arizona. The National Park Service and the Navajo Nation share resources and work in partnership to manage this unique place. Mid-September to mid-October is a good time to visit.

TO DO

On the North Rim Drive, approximately 34 miles round trip, you’ll see some of the most beautiful cliff dwellings (Antelope House, Mummy Cave, Massacre Cave overlooks). If you have time, take the South Rim Drive; it’s 37 miles round trip and offers panoramic canyon views at seven overlooks. Spider Rock Overlook, an 800-foot sandstone spire, provides spectacular photos ops.

Private hiking, backcountry camping, horseback riding, and four-wheel-drive vehicle tours are available with authorized Navajo guides who have a deep understanding of the culture and history of the area.

HOURS

The visitors center, in Chinle, is open every day except for major holidays. It’s best to check operating hours before you travel, however, to ensure there aren’t any unexpected closures or restrictions.

FEES

There is no admission fee to enter Canyon de Chelly National Monument. The Navajo Parks and Recreation Department operates the Cottonwood Campground and charges a fee to camp.

For more information, see www.nps.gov/cach.


Text and Photography:

Robert Griego

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

~ In Pursuit of Wildness: Manzanar National Historic Site ~

The article "In Pursuit of Wildness: Manzanar National Historic Site" by Robert Griego was published on the "RoadRUNNER Travel & Touring" website on 8/26/20.


“Our differences in beliefs do not truly separate us or elevate us over others. Rather, they highlight the rich tapestry that is humanity.”
— George Takei


Once upon a time, Manzanar National Historic Site was called Manzanar War Relocation Center. It was one of 10 camps where Japanese American citizens were incarcerated during World War II. I had never been there, and I knew little about this site, though I knew that it is managed by the National Park Service, for which I once worked at Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, just west from there over the Sierra.

Manzanar National Historic Site, established on March 3, 1992, can be found along a section of US 395 known as the Sierra Vista Scenic Byway, about 10 miles from Lone Pine, CA. Lone Pine is a springboard to some amazing motorcycle routes: the towns of Bishop and Mammoth Lakes, Death Valley National Park, Yosemite National Park, Devils Postpile National Monument, and Lake Tahoe. This story begins at the Lone Pine Campground, one of my favorites. The campground sits at an elevation of around 6,000 feet and has a birds-eye view of 14,494-foot, snow-laced Mount Whitney on the eastern Sierra mountain range. There are over 40 campsites located next to a babbling creek.

The campground is virtually empty as I circle the loop looking for just the right site. Every campsite has a yellow “reserved” sign that expired last night. Then a pattern begins to emerge. All the names were reserved with Japanese surnames. Why so many? Surely, the campground host approaching in his golf cart would know. “Why are there so many Japanese names?” I ask as he removes the signs.

“They were here for a pilgrimage of sorts. They went to Manzanar for a special celebration. They reserved all of the campsites yesterday, and left early this morning,” he explains. “You’ve picked the best site,” he adds.

The campground is quiet and the night sky is bright as my campfire crackles. A shooting star crosses the entire sky. I wait for another one; perhaps the Japanese campers did too. Sleep comes easily as I look for the next shooting star. I think the coyote in the distance waits too, or maybe the sliver of the moonlight caught his attention. I think more about the Japanese campers and what they must have been looking for in these night skies. Perhaps it was only a glimpse into the past. I can only imagine the talk around the campfire, full of respect and honor, paying homage to family and friends who endured hardships beneath the ever-watching eye of Mount Whitney. Sleep finally comes, but my mind is lingering on the Japanese campers. Tomorrow, I will go to Manzanar National Historic Site.

There is a light rain as I head north on US 395; I exit onto the frontage road, Blue Star Memorial Highway. The guard tower points me toward the former Manzanar War Relocation Center. But first, I must pass by the original Military Police Sentry Post before heading to the visitor center.

The camp opened on June 1, 1942, and closed on Nov. 21, 1945. More than 11,000 Japanese Americans were processed through the facility, which at its peak had a population of 10,046. Overall, the U.S. government detained more than 110,000 men, women, and children—Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens—at this and other military-style camps. It is painful to read the statistics.

Manzanar National Historic Site will force you to think about this time in our history. It’s hard to understand, yet war does that to even civilized nations. We may not be proud of what we did, but the National Park Service has done an outstanding job to help define this moment in time. How do we right a wrong? The question is hard. The National Park Service has started by telling the story, written by survivors of that era, and that’s a step forward.

PLANNING A VISIT

Manzanar National Historic Site tells the story of the thousands of Japanese Americans who spent all or part of World War II at the war relocation camp at Manzanar. Start your visit by watching the award-winning 22-minute film Remembering Manzanar, which is shown every half hour at the visitor center’s theater. The film includes rare historic footage and photographs as well as personal recollections of several people who were incarcerated at the remote desert facility. As the park literature states, the film “gives viewers a sense of the place and its past, and a glimpse into a time when American citizens were exiles because of their ancestry.” When planning your trip, keep in mind that this can be a windy area, and temperatures vary from 100 degrees in the summer to 40 degrees in the winter. These are the same conditions encountered by those incarcerated here during World War II.

TO DO

In addition to the visitor center, which has the film and exhibits, there are ranger-led activities, a 3.2-mile self-guided driving tour, “Block 14” exhibits depicting life at Manzanar, and opportunities for biking, birding, and wildlife viewing. The Annual Manzanar Pilgrimage event traditionally is held in April.

HOURS & FEES

Manzanar National Historic Site is open year-round. The Manzanar Visitor Center is open daily from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is free.

For more information, including holiday operating schedules, see www.nps.gov/manz.

Text and Photography:

Robert Griego