Whats Up With LA Taking All of the Water?


In our recent jaunts to the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada mountains, be it to go to the desert, the mountains, or visit the hot springs, we’ve encountered many signs of land and water being “owned” by the LADWP. Like signs saying, “No Overnight Camping Allowed – LADWP land.” After a while, we wondered who LADWP was. Then we figured out that its actually the city of Los Angeles and LADWP stands for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. So why the hell do they own so much land so far away from the city of LA?

It’s because they need to own the land so they could have the right to suck all of it dry! And it’s very apparent when you drive down HWY 395 and look at all of the “lakes” like Mono Lake or Owen’s Lake. In the case of Mono Lake, the LADWP started diverting water out of the river that fed it in the early 1900s and the water level dropped like a rock. Conservation efforts in the 1970s and 1980s stopped them taking as much water as they liked, and now the lake is actually rising again, but it’s still below its natural level. What’s amazing is that Mono Lake is roughly on the same line of longitude as San Francisco, but LA is taking its waters. In the case of Owen’s Lake, it’s even worse. LA completely sucked it dry. It turned from a salt lake like Mono to a salt playa in the 1920s, and now it whips up alkali dust every time there is a wind storm. The people who lived around it complained so much from the dust ‘pollution’ that LA agreed to wet the soil a bit to prevent dust storms. In fact, one of our professors at Berkeley was part of the scientific study which showed how the wind patterns in the Owen’s Valley made the dust storms so bad. She studies how the wind (air) flows over mountains and in mountain valleys. She said that the dry lake bed which was once Owen’s Lake was the largest point source of dust in the western hemisphere! Could you believe that!? After the study was published, that’s when LA decided to start wetting the soil. However, when we drove by Owen’s Lake a couple weeks ago, during a crazy wind storm, we could see the dust storm for miles away!

Owen's Lake Alkali Dust Storm
An alkali dust storm on Owen’s Lake

The wind was really ripping across the Owen’s Valley and picking up a lot of salts and other minerals and dust that cover the now dry lake bed. The cloud formations show just how windy the valley was. The low clouds over the Sierras to the left are caused by condensation of moist air over the mountains. The air is moving very fast downwards into the valley where it dries up, and picks up a lot of dust. In fact, the winds can get so strong that they knock over semi trucks driving on Hwy 395! Then the wind flows back up over the White Mountains to the right, forming this huge front of clouds that runs parallel to the valley. These are the crazy winds that pick up all of the dust and create a hazard when it is windy.

Not only that, but you can’t even camp in the Owen’s Valley because LA owns it to take water from the Owen’s River. Many natural hot springs pop up in that valley and the run off drains into the river, which is tapped by LA. Therefore, LA doesn’t want any new hot tubs built which would interfere with their water supply (even though they wouldn’t at all), nor campers who would just like to enjoy the pleasant scenery.

Inspiring places over the last few months

IMGP2915 Van with Mt Shasta backdrop

Mount Shasta’s snow covered peak on 19 December 2009

  Arrived in Mt Shasta

After setting off on our first day and not being sure how the van would manage getting up and over the pass, Mount Shasta was a welcoming sight at the end of hours of driving through fog and rain and a boring greyness. When suddenly the fog lifted, and the white volcanic peak surprised us out of the blue, our spirits were lifted.

One month later, we found ourselves in the sunshine again in another magical place.

Ridgewood Ranch mobile park 19 Jan 2010

Seabiscuit statue
This time it was the birthplace of famous Seabiscuit, at the Ridgewood Ranch north of Ukiah and south of Willits.   Seabiscuit was a legendary racehorse. Through his example of winning against stronger competitors, this smaller horse had inspired the common man to rise above his lot, as he himself did many times on the race track. He truly was an inspiration at the time and his name lives on.



Another month on and we never expected to find a red barn in California. New York state yes, but not here in CA. This was on the way out to the coast from the San Francisco Bay area, on a small road that came out a few miles later at San Gregorio, after which we headed south towards Monterey. Not the kind of scenery we had expected, but inspirational nevertheless. We enjoyed the surprise of seeing the unexpected, just as much as that first day when Mt Shasta had appeared.

A red barn towards San Gregorio on our long drive from SF to the coast

Another month on and we are now further south and still in California ……

19 March 2010 Santa Barbara Mission

…. at one of the twenty one inspiring Missions in California. This one in Santa Barbara was the tenth to be built. It was founded on December 4, 1786 by Father Fermin Lasuen, named for Saint Barbara. The mission sits on a hill, overlooking the city with majestic views of the valley and ocean.

Apparently the spanish missions introduced christianity to this part of America.

This sign caught our eye and made us think about this journey of ours today.




What ideas are we trying to introduce or what learnings are we trying to share?  And …. are all travelers pilgrims and missionaries of one kind or another?

Seashore treasures

More photographs like this can be found on our page at FACEBOOK

California musings – Part 1

What can I say about California (a mini-series)

That first day in December of driving the van up and over the Ashland pass wondering if it would make it up several thousand feet, and then miles of tiring driving in the fog and rain with the unfamiliar noise of the VW engine piercing my brain, had made me wonder if I was insane to start this journey. But as Oregon faded behind and the fog suddenly cleared to reveal the white snow topped volcano of Mount Shasta, 14000 feet against a clear blue sky, California greeted us with her sunny smile and we were captivated.

Since then the van and I have been stunned by the foothills of mountain ranges with their angular profiles that are brought into full contrast by the sun at a certain times of the day more than any other. I am mesmerized by the shape of the ridgebacks and valleys that tell of ancient geological ages, with names that I’ve long forgotten, that speak volumes about the earth and its fits and starts, of its turmoil and plates rubbing up against each other to form a landscape that defies description.

Between the central valley and the coast, the roads are narrow and steep with hairpin bends galore, reminding me of Italy. Only the giant Redwood trees and vast forests make me realize I am on a different continent, yet the valleys of vines and olive trees evoke memories of my Italian heritage and I wonder if it’s true that my grandmother’s family had vineyards near Le Pastinelle and Cassino.

I spend an idyllic Christmas and New Year in nature of the most glorious proportions. Hundreds of acres of virgin Redwood trees, ferns, mosses and mushrooms provide a sanctuary of peace and quiet for my prayers and appreciations. A creek outside my window gurgles and chuckles and my log fire crackles and warms my bones.

Walks with new friends introduce me to flora and fauna, the likes of which I have not seen before in the damp dew of the forest. My blog and photos and videos cannot do them justice. I am thrilled on the first rainy morning when I walk outside to see black newts walking in the undergrowth; four of them marching in unison towards a target invisible to the human eye. I make a video of these yellow-bellied creatures but I can in no way capture the magic of the moment.

One day I am taken up to the top of the canyon to where the forest has been cleared. Wild horses canter and roam to their hearts content. No wonder my host decided to release her horse from its confines to join her brothers and sisters here, where the sun lights up the top of the earth. Acres and acres of pastures spread out and below us with only one house and barn visible to the naked eye.

I am told that the legendary horse Seabiscuit lived one valley away and I’m also treated to the sight of my friends clipping the hooves of three horses that they have taken ages to entice into the paddock. They were more than an hour standing quietly and patiently to build trust between human and horse, whispering in the spiritual realm that connects man and beast. The tension and connection were palpable.

As I write, I wonder … will my connection with my readers be instant or will I have to wait quietly and patiently … will my whispers in the spirit world be heard?

(Written by Carole Brown on 25 March 2010 about the period 20 December 2009 to 4 January 2010)

A Stroke of Insight

At the weekend a new friend in Santa Barbara, hearing of my interest in neurophysiology, introduced me to a wonderful book, “A Stroke of insight”. Today in Carpinteria I walked into a used book store to search for a copy of this book and asking if they had it in stock, a kind lady offered to look. Then we got talking ….. and when she set eyes on the Van she said it brought back wonderful memories of her own tour way back when. In 1981 in her 1967 VW bus she and a girlfriend had toured 19000 miles around the USA.

This lady was not the only traveler in her family we soon discovered. She offered for us to stay overnight in her yard and, when we got to her home, we met her parents who were up from LA. Her mother told stories about her travels to India years ago and she also spoke of the Self Realization movement. Being the second person to have mentioned this particular movement to me in the past two weeks, I knew to pause and take note. I then shared a story of my own healing training at the Self Realization and Meditation centre in Somerset, UK, in 2000 and of my earlier journey across the USA that same year (though on that occasion it was east to west) to visit sister centres in Michigan and in British Columbia, Canada.

The Self Realization movement follows the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda – more on this later.
Thinking of this also reminded me of another spiritual journey in 2000. I had been learning about holographic repatterning and taking training seminars in this alternative approach to change, and I’d noticed that many of the practitioners I’d met were followers of Radha Soami Satsang Beas. On my last visit to California in 2005, I had had the wonderful experience of attending Satsang in Petaluma with dear friends Kay and David.  I couldn’t help smile when I noted that a few months ago when I’d come through Petaluma in January, I’d actually attended early morning prayer – this time at Catholic Mass, a very different experience.

What of all this?  ?  ?

One wonders when people are put in our path to make us stop and listen, what is life all about. I’ve had enough experiences to know now that there is no such thing as chance meetings or coincidence. It is divine intervention, the presence of a will greater than our own if only we can stop to listen and surrender.

When I met my new friend today at the used bookstore, another lady joined in the conversation as we stood by the Van, for she too had stories to tell about her dearly departed VW camper. Then she just happened to mention that she worked at a spiritual retreat in Montecito and would I like to come by and visit. The day before I had picked up a poster at the Trinity Episcopal Church in Santa Barbara about attending early morning meditation prayers after my attendance. I now intend to visit both next week. Stay tuned for more and thank you for being with me on this journey.

A journey is a journey – it’s has neither a beginning nor an end – one does not even need to move to discover what one needs to find.

(written by Carole the ‘YesWeCan CamperVan’ driver)

Memories are made of this

It’s ironic that the last post I wrote on Tuesday in Monterey mentioned Alfred Hitchcock and his movie Vertigo. Shortly after I left and started the coastal drive on Highway 1, the weather worsened and I found myself being buffeted by head on winds and driving round hairpin bends in pouring rain. Watching the waves crashing below me on the right and watching out for mudslides on the left, I felt caught in the middle of a Hitchcock thriller myself. No wonder he had chosen this coastline to make a movie of that name!

Hours of driving around tight 20mph bends and through narrow stretches where road works were clearing up mudslides, made me incredibly tired and also very hungry, so imagine how pleased I was to finally find a place to stop.  Ragged Point, so aptly named (for I am sure it wasn’t only me who’d felt ragged on arrival) had a safe area for parking in front of its welcoming restaurant.

After some delicious chicken gumbo soup and finding there was no room at the inn, I decided to park on Highway 1 just a few hundred yards down from the restaurant, where there was a small pull in between the mountain range to the east (my left) and the road drop off to the ocean on my right. The howling wind and crashing waves below were not that conducive for sleep, but I thought that I’d challenge myself by sleeping in the van in such inclement weather, for I could not expect fair weather skies all across America, now could I!

Also there was nowhere else to stop, for there are no roads off Highway 1 south of Monterey, until you reach the area just south of San Simeon (north of San Luis Obispo). At Ragged Point, I was still one and a half hours away from San Luis and I couldn’t drive one more minute, I was that exhausted. I had no choice but to stop and rest on the edge of the cliffs.

After taking hours to get to sleep (too much adrenalin in my blood stream from the hairy drive) I awoke to find it was only 03:00am!! Laying in bed listening to the rain hitting the roof above my head, meant I could not get back to sleep, so I decided to get up and continue driving. It seemed a good idea to reach a town sooner rather than later and find a nice place to stay. It seemed sensible to me … but it turned out not to be so.

A little while later I wondered what kind of madness had intervened as I encountered the worst point on the coastal drive south. It was a very dark night, with no moon, yet I could feel my campervan gently descending and when the road became straighter and wider, it was at first a real relief from the ups and downs of the hairpin bends around the steep bluffs. But suddenly in the pitch blackness, huge waves appeared just in front of me and came crashing down on the road ahead. I hadn’t known that the sea was beside me until then. I will not write here what I screamed out, but my foot hit the pedal like nothing else! Until that moment I never knew the van could go that fast.

A few miles further on, when I saw a sign for Hearst Castle and could see lights in the distance up a hillside , I turned left in the hope that I could find a safe haven. After a few hundred yards, gates appeared. I thought about stopping outside the castle until daylight but the sound of the rain and wind were not at all relaxing. Looking at the map, it appeared the worst of the drive would be over, so I decided to carry on. This time it was a better decision.

I arrived in San Luis Obispo on Wednesday at 05.00 in morning after a day and a half of exhausting driving. I had no hesitation this time in whether or not to stay in the van. I had to find a safe and warm place to relax and rest and after some research on the internet, I drove south to the Inn at Avila Beach. I am pleased to say the Inn lived up to comments made by previous guests and I was met with the warmest of welcomes by manager, Edward.


The one advantage of wet and cold weather in California (did I mention that the winters of the last ten years have been warm and dry) is that there are lots of rooms available. My room on the second floor overlooking the bay was just what I needed: cozy, decorated in warm colors and with a comfy bed. The flat screen TV and video/DVD library was a perfect addition, the only question being whether or not to chose a Hitchcock movie ……

Barking Mad in Monterey

Hi from one of the wealthiest places in California and the whole of the USA. I’m in Monterey and Pacific Grove, close to Pebble Beach.

This morning as I took an early morning walk along a scenic park by the ocean, admiring the beautiful homes and manicured lawns, I wondered why I tend to get mesmerised by such ‘things’. I love buildings and architecture, and views of shorelines, but I did find myself once again wondering could I live here. In my search for meaning and happiness, when am I going to realize that aesthetically pleasing buildings and views do not make a spiritual ‘home’?

Later as I explored other parts of Monterey, I found the commercial wharf – home of fishermen, seagulls, and pelicans. As I walked closer to take some photographs, I heard some strange sounds. Was that barking? To my delight, as I leaned over the wharf guard rail, I saw a seal … and then another … and another. They appeared to be swimming in pairs. Maybe it’s mating season, since Spring seems to come early here in California.

Lots of photos … of pretty flowers, trees and creatures (great and small) … are on the camera waiting to be downloaded.

Photos and video coming later, promise
Maybe some more musings on searching for meaning, too.

Inspiration – kd lang at the Olympics

Ever since I read about k.d. lang in ‘All you Get is Me’ (and saw her at Heathrow airport the day after I bought the book), I have been inspired by this woman whose integrity is of the highest calibre.

Last night, as I sat at my friends home east of San Francisco and watched the Opening Ceremony of the 21st Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, I had no idea that I was to be yet again stunned by the incredible voice of this legendary artist. As she sang Hallelujah, a song written by fellow Canadian, Leonard Cohen, the huge crowd were stunned into silence.

On waking this morning, the memory of the night before beckoned me to search for a recording of her performance. On the web I found several interviews that I had never seen of KD on British TV and I added these as favourite’s on my youtube channel (you can find these by selecting the Youtube link in the left column).
I also discovered that Google had received more searches for KD’s performance at the Olympics than anything else. Thousands of people were looking for her recording. After much perseverance, including finding it at some sites where it had been later removed due to copyright, I located the official NBC version (I’m writing this in the great United States of America).

You can view kd’s rendition of Hallelujah by going to http://bit.ly/cXDXN0

If you would like to be even more inspired by her philosophy on life, you can view some interviews with kd under my favourites on my youtube channel. There you’ll see a selection that I made from those available. Like the ‘No Impact Man’, whom you will also find there, kd Lang is a prime example of leadership in a world where many people have lost their connection to nature and their spirit.


[For my favourite’s on youtube: https://yeswecanjourney.wordpress.com and then click on the YouTube link]

P.S. There is an amazing interview of kd lang on PBS (PBS = public broadcasting service in America, a bit like the BBC).  Ernie Manouse has a wonderfully intelligent interview style. Find his interview on PBS at Inner VIEWS with Ernie Manouse.

Redwood Forest Foundation

Carole is buying three Redwood trees

At the end of the meeting on Saturday, Lin Barrett was selling a truck full of small Redwood trees to raise funds for Redwood Forest Foundation Inc (RFFI).

Lin told Carole about how 70,000 baby trees came to be available for planting due to the demise of a local lumber company. The cessation of clear cutting in recent years followed by loss of demand for lumber has meant that there is little need to re-plant. Therefore the baby trees that were ordered a year or more in advance had no where to go (for full article go to the Press Democrat)

Thanks to the efforts of Lin and other RFFI friends, it looks like all the trees have found a happy home.
For more information and photos on what happened with the trees on Saturday, click here to be taken to the RFFI website article.

REDWOOD FUTURES: Jan.29 & 30 at Mendocino College

Friday, January 29th, 6-9 pm:

Mike Fay will present his National Geographic video Climbing the Redwood Giants
Center Theater, Mendocino College, Ukiah, California

Saturday, January 30th, 9:00 am – 3:00 pm

Menocino Futures Initiative
Center Theater, Mendocino College, Ukiah, California
RSVP required. For more information, email Susan Strom at sjstrom@mcn.org and see www.mendofutures.org

Carole Brown's photo of Redwoods on Christmas morn 2010

See more photos at The YesWeCan CamperVan’s Facebook Page at http://bit.ly/cvh1cX