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Recently, I’ve been going through my old VHS video tapes and digitizing them to DVDs.  These tapes contain my travels and explorations between 1995 and 2009.  I thought I’d start releasing some video shorts of my early travels on this forum.

The back story for this particular video is as follows.  On March 30, 1996, I made a short hike of about a mile and a third up the lower third of Surprise Canyon, on the western slopes of the Panamint Range, Inyo County, California.  This canyon is just outside of Death Valley National Park.  This canyon has running water running year round through the stretch shown, fed by substantial Limekiln Springs, and the canyon is a water wonderland.  For those not familiar with the area, refer to the two maps.  The first one shows the canyon in relation to the region, the other a close up of the canyon and the ghost town of Panamint City.  The blue line in the close up image shows the route that was taken.

Surprise_1996a.jpg

Surprise_1996b.jpg

I made the trip with author/publisher Alan Patera, of Oregon.  I had been this way several times previous, but this was Alan’s first time.  Alan publishes the WESTERN PLACES series of monograph publications, centering on the history of locations now ghost towns.  He and I have collaborated on several published historical writings over the years, and have traveled to and have camped in many historical locations.

On this hike, we drove up and parked at what is shown on the topo maps as Chris Wicht Camp.  Chris Wicht was a colorful character, businessman and prospector who lived in the region in the late 19th century and early 20th century; who was a barkeep at Ballarat, now a ghost town a few miles away on the Panamint Valley floor.  He is buried in the nearby community of Trona.  At the time of the hike, Chris Wicht Camp was inhabited by father and son George and Rocky N.; George has since died and Rocky has since been operating the seasonal general store down at Ballarat.  Alan and I then hiked upstream, through an increasing flow of water, topping out at the top of what is locally known as the falls, about a third of a mile below Limekiln Spring.  At that point, there are found in the copious overgrowth of willows mining equipment and a vehicle or two.  Above this point, the road the remaining way to Panamint City has been left alone by the elements and is still in drivable shape but now out of bounds.  Since Alan and I weren’t prepared and it was too late in the day to continue up to Panamint City, we returned back to my vehicle.

Believe it or not, this byway used to be a maintained road, accessing historic Panamint City, one of the region’s early mining booms, founded in 1873.  The remains of Panamint City are high up the canyon, at an elevation of about 6,350 feet.  Though Panamint as a town was a ghost town by the 20th century, a few hardy souls have often lived in one or other of the structures that stood up there thereafter.  There was always some mining activity going on up there, thus Inyo County kept the road maintained.  Severe flashfloods of 1984 totally destroyed the road in the lower canyon.  Inyo County didn’t have the funds, nor did the few who worked their prospects and mines and who lived in one of the few shacks provide the tax base to undertake such a major rebuild.

The route above the high point that Alan and I reached is still in very good shape and could be taken by most vehicles.  The route that we walked was the goal for hard core off road enthusiasts with extremely modified rigs and big winches to about the year 2000, when a large environmentalist group sued the U.S. government and the road has been closed to vehicles since.  Protests and lawsuits were made by land owners and those who had patented claims at Panamint City, without success.

At the time Alan and I walked the road, there were still occasional groups who made it up this canyon with their vehicles, as the closure was still about four years in the future.  There were owners of patented mining claims who drove as far as they could then hiked in to do their annual assessment work.  Death Valley had changed from National Monument to National Park status the year previous.

Alan and I didn’t make it to Panamint City that day, which is several miles further on up the canyon.  But we did make a hike up there the following year and camped overnight, along with two other people, which is another video I’ll add in time.

In the days I took this video, I was using a Sony Hi-8 video camera.  In those days, most of my video editing was simply dubbing video off the camera and onto the VHS tape in the VCR, using the pause button on the VCR to edit out unwanted video.  This particular tape was edited using a complex, cumbersome, old style video editing system, which utilized the camera, a monitor, a VCR and a box that contained an archaic computer.  All editing took place by archaic and hard to use on screen menus.  That is why the video begins with some graphics and text indicating some of the details of the trip.

This video segment is just over 10:38 long.  Put on your waders and enjoy!

NOTE: There is a blank section midway that is about five seconds long and doesn’t show anything.  Don’t worry, the video will come back and continue.

Surprise_1996.mpg

Surprise_1996.xmp [Note: This file is a corresponding file to the video file above and will not do anything of its own if clicked.]

Surprise_1996.wmv

UPDATE: A retry of the original video, plus the same video in two other formats attempted to see if I can get any to work.  This will also help me to determine what video file format works best on this board.

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FWIW, I found that if I just downloaded the file, it played fine locally.  Embedded, it's not playing nice, but the file itself is intact and valid.

 

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I can't get it to play at all, either downloaded or uploaded to the gallery. What player are you using to open it? I only get the audio when I play it on my computer.

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I just checked in on my iPad to see if there was any resolutions since I quit yesterday. I recalled this morning that when I created the .mpg video file, my Adobe video program also created a small .xmp file. I thought I'd try uploading both the original video file and its companion simultaneously, as the second file may contain instructions to the video file so it know what to do with itself.

Also, I brought the original .wmv file created with the default Windows video editing program that came with my Windows Vista laptop (which I used to cut out the desired footage, as for some reason, the Adobe program won't show more than nine minutes of any video dubbed to the program that you want to edit from DVD).

I also created a .flv file (Adobe Flash Video) to upload also. However, the result is a tiny window size.

So, I'll get on one of the libray's Internet computors (I have to use them, as I have the files on a thumb drive) and see what's successful.

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11 minutes ago, Bob said:

I can't get it to play at all, either downloaded or uploaded to the gallery. What player are you using to open it? I only get the audio when I play it on my computer.

I have no trouble playing the original video file in Windows Media Player. However, yesterday I attempted to play the file from my thumb drive with the Libray's Windows 10 computer and it wouldn't play. That's what made me eventually wonder if it was because of the missing .xmp file that computer wouldn't play it. Since the file is on my computer, when I clickd on the video file on my thumb drive, my computer knew where to access the companion file to get instructions to play the video. But the library's computer didn't have that to play the video.

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38 minutes ago, Bob said:

I can't get it to play at all, either downloaded or uploaded to the gallery. What player are you using to open it? I only get the audio when I play it on my computer.

QuickTime is playing it fine for me, but the lack of an XMP file should not make a difference.  I don't now offhand exactly what the .xmp specifically holds, but it's all metadata (or should be).  Everything necessary for playback should be encoded in the .mpg (MPEG-2) file.  If it's not, then something else is wonky in the encoding. 

Does it behave better if you transcode it as a .avi file or .mp4?

 

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I use Adobe Elements to edit my videos (it is a video editor only, other Elements programs are also available for photo only editing).  I need to go and educate myself on some of the seemingly endless formats available.  When I go to put the video on disk (or thumb drive), I have choices of what kind of video format I want (for upload direct to the Internet, to DVD, VHS, computer drives).  But, within each of those choices are many sub-choices (NSTA [or something similar to those letters], PAL, HD720-25, 1080px720p, AVI, FLV, MPG, MPEG, MPEG4, and many more I can't recall their names currently.  But, I haven't a clue as to what their file extensions would be until the video is created on the drive, I have to wait an hour or more before it's done and then I can look at the directory to determine the file extension.  Last night, I tried to make a Windows Media file (.wmv), in HD720-25, and found it needed to make two passes.  When the first pass was completed in just over an hour (and it was time for bed), the estimated time on the second pass was nearly five hours.  Not acceptable!  So, I need to do some homework, I see.

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OK.  I re-upploaded the original .mpg video file, its companion .xmp file, as well as a .wmv Windows Media file into my original post above.  I opened both and they played fine in Windows Media Player on the library computer.  I don't know if the original has anything to do with the .xmp file or not.  I'll leave the .xmp file embedded in the post so as not to jinx myself ... 

Anyway, the .wmv file is only the raw video cut from my original DVD.  In the .mpg file, I added some auto color and contrast enhancements, as the original video is a bit overexposed.

I also uploaded the .flv file, but it opened in a Windows video editing program for Windows 10 and refused to do anything.  So I removed it.  On my home computer, it plays in a tiny, thumbnail size window anyway.

So now you can bet into your waders and make the hike up Surprise Canyon with me!

By the day, DD, how did you like the video?

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Just in case you see my video and wonder how the heck it can be done in a 4x4, take a look at this video.

 

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3 hours ago, David A. Wright said:

OK.  I re-upploaded the original .mpg video file, its companion .xmp file, as well as a .wmv Windows Media file into my original post above.  I opened both and they played fine in Windows Media Player on the library computer.  I don't know if the original has anything to do with the .xmp file or not.  I'll leave the .xmp file embedded in the post so as not to jinx myself ... 

Anyway, the .wmv file is only the raw video cut from my original DVD.  In the .mpg file, I added some auto color and contrast enhancements, as the original video is a bit overexposed.

I also uploaded the .flv file, but it opened in a Windows video editing program for Windows 10 and refused to do anything.  So I removed it.  On my home computer, it plays in a tiny, thumbnail size window anyway.

So now you can bet into your waders and make the hike up Surprise Canyon with me!

By the day, DD, how did you like the video?

After I downloaded it, I got about 1/3 of the way through and then the database geek came over to harass me for help.  I haven't finished it yet, but so far I like it!

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An interesting photo I found years ago was this 1950s Buick at Panamint City, accessing it via the road up Surprise Canyon.

Panamint_Buick.jpg

When I lived in Trona during the latter half of the 1980s, I knew a woman in her 80s who lived there for decades.  Back in the 1940s and 1950s, she drove a Buick Roadmaster.  Each year she would take a holiday meal to then Panamint City resident "Shotgun Mary" Thompson, who also drove a Buick.  Mary's Buick still sits at Panamint City.

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@David A. WrightYou wouldn't happen to recognize the names Lyle and Ida Bell would ya? 

The mpg plays fine for me, the .xmp isn't necessary for playback, it just has extra information about the file and strictly for adobe products..

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I just left the .xmp file in there, because before I put it up, no one could run the video.  Since I put it up, now it works.

22 hours ago, braindead0 said:

@David A. WrightYou wouldn't happen to recognize the names Lyle and Ida Bell would ya? 

The name sounds familiar with both my wife and I, but neither of us can figure out why.

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4 minutes ago, David A. Wright said:

I just left the .xmp file in there, because before I put it up, no one could run the video.  Since I put it up, now it works.

The name sounds familiar with both my wife and I, but neither of us can figure out why.

At the risk of derailing the topic.. ;-)

That would be my grandparents. My grandfather worked for CalTrans stationed at Panamint Springs right about here 36.336418, -117.473136 (last I was out it's just pads where the garage and a few houses were).  I believe they were there around late 70's/early 80's.. I would have been very young so I don't remember much, except sorta learning how to shoot pool at the bar down the hill. 

My grandmother is short (kinda tiny), red haired and very friendly.. and super adventurous.  During my grandfathers 50 some odd years of CalTrans work they moved around the Desert, Barstow, Bridgeport, Yucca Valley.. And every one of these places my grandmother explored fully, seemed like she knew everyone.. there was a crazy artists living in a tiny trailer somewhere... middle of nowhere.. she found him.

Grandfather liked to play Santa Claus every year, and he looked the part..  Not really fat.. but built like a barrel.. full beard.. full head of hair mostly gray as long as I can remember and always a cowboy hat and boots. All I have handy for pics is really old, and a really recent picture of my grandmother.  She'll be 94 this year, still going strong.. living along in Las Vegas and spending all her money at Arizona Charlies just they way she likes it ;-)

Sure would be funny if you knew them... wouldn't be terribly surprising considering the low population of that area... and my grandmother always seems to be out tooling around in the desert in their '65 Scout..

lyleandida.jpg

ida.jpg

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4 hours ago, Bob said:

I would love to hear the stories your grandparents could tell.

By the time I thought the stories would be interesting...well..   age has a way to messing with memory.  Grandfather passed away many years ago, and I'm lucky if grandma remembers me.  I'm afraid those memories are lost to time.

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100_7919.jpg

100_7919a.jpg

Around 1988, a couple of friends, Rick (in denim shirt) and Cliff, and I attempted to get into Panamint City.  Rick was the only one successful in getting there.  These two photos were taken on our way down the canyon.

IMG_0041.jpg

This photo is noted that the American Silver Company is working on blasting the road open to Panamint City to work their claims.  The notes also state that the photo was taken in September, 1946.

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On ‎12‎/‎9‎/‎2016 at 1:12 PM, braindead0 said:

That would be my grandparents. ... Sure would be funny if you knew them... wouldn't be terribly surprising considering the low population of that area... and my grandmother always seems to be out tooling around in the desert in their '65 Scout..

OK.  I doubt I'd know them, then.  If they did their shopping in Trona (as opposed to Lone Pine), my wife might have crossed paths with them (I didn't come to Trona until 1987, and we both left in 1992).  I bet they would have many stories to tell.  I know and used to work with a guy born and raised in Trona, now of Ridgecrest.  He's a Scout fanatic and had them during the 1970s.  He likely knew your grandparents because he explored all over Death Valley and Panamint Valley country.

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On ‎12‎/‎9‎/‎2016 at 1:12 PM, braindead0 said:

During my grandfathers 50 some odd years of CalTrans work they moved around the Desert, Barstow, Bridgeport, Yucca Valley..

My wife and I are friends with a couple here in Winnemucca who was born and raised in Barstow.  I was born in Victorville, raised in the foothills between Apple Valley and Lucerne Valley.  I worked for Mono County (county seat Bridgeport) out of my office in June Lake in the 1970s and 1980s.  And I just moved my90-something parents up from their acreage and large home north of Joshua Tree to Winnemucca.  I guess I've worked in concentric circles around your grandparents.

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Sounds like it.. you may have crossed paths with them sometime.. passed my grandfather on a grader cleaning up the shoulders or fixing washed out roads...  My grandmother did a lot of shopping in Trona, only went to lone pine every so often.  They may have been out of there by the mid 80's though..  Small world ;-)

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I just put up a new video, my 1997 backpack trip to Panamint City ghost town, near the head of Surprise Canyon. The video includes hiking up the canyon to the camp. It is located at:

 

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      Echo Canyon winds its way easily up into the Funeral Range. It’s easily passable by any truck based 4x4. On our trip, a two-wheel-drive vehicle could have made it, except for one spot at the mouth of the canyon where the road dropped into a hole with a couple of bedrock boulders in it. Just enough to cause the chassis to flex, lifting up each tire off the ground as our vehicles passed by it. Along the way is the Eye of the Needle, a triangular hole in a large thumb of rock projecting up from the canyon floor. Continuing up the canyon we started driving through swarms of wasps or hornets that flew with their abdomens downward as if they were flying straight up. They came in through my open windows, making driving and swatting at the wasps an interesting exercise in dexterity. Just below the Inyo Mine complex the canyon splits into two forks. Our road took us up to the Inyo Mine, where there is a substantial group of photogenic ruins.
      The Inyo Mine, as well as most mining activity in this section of Death Valley, was an outgrowth of the fabulous southern Nevada mining phenomena initiated by Tonopah in 1900, Goldfield in 1902 and Rhyolite in 1904.  With activity further north at Keane Wonder, prospectors eventually made their way into Echo Canyon by early 1905.  In early March, two prolific prospecting partners, Chet Leavitt and Moroni Hicks, staked off 20 claims that became the Inyo Gold Mine.  By October, the Echo Mining District was formed, which later merged with the Lee district to the northeast (see also my video taken at Lee elsewhere on this site).  By December, the Inyo Gold Mining Company was formed.  In 1906, the towns associated with Lee on the other side of the range created so much energy that Echo Canyon also flourished, including the Inyo Mine.  A substantial camp formed below the mine, which included a boarding house, store, and other accommodations for its employees.  The financial panic of 1907 put a damper on the mining boom.  The Inyo sputtered off and on with development and production, but that was far better than other nearby towns and mines.  Though quiet and idle during much of the 1910s and first half of the 1920s, by the Depression years work began again with enough vigor to keep a small population at the camp until it was shut down for good in 1941.
      The two Alan’s and I explored and photographed the Inyo Mine complex.  Then we set up our camps.  Note, currently, camping is prohibited at the Inyo Mine.  At the time of our visit, we were ignorant of any regulations of camping at the site, if indeed there was any prohibition, and our written literature stated that camping was prohibited only along the first four miles of the road.
       
      Since we made the Inyo Mine at a relatively early hour with plenty of sunlight left in the afternoon, we explored the site. The temperature was far more moderate than down in the valley floor, my thermometer reading only 82° and a pleasant breeze coming up the canyon.  Alan Patera hiked up to the top of the canyon above the mine camp to investigate the main mine complex and structures up there. Alan Hensher, dressed only in shorts, T-shirt and sandals, stayed with me down at the mining camp. We found numerous buildings in various stages of decay and collapse, plus machinery.  It was our understanding that one of the larger structures still standing at the mine, one with a cupola on it, had just collapsed in the months previous to our visit.
      Alan and Alan teamed up to set up Alan’s tent (Alan Hensher’s), I set about setting up my camp in the back of my truck.  Our camp was along the road at the edge of the Inyo Mine camp.  Alan Patera set up his camp in his Explorer, parked a few dozen yards further up the road.  I prepared my meal on the tailgate while the two Alan’s talked history.  While doing so, I enjoyed a couple of cold cans of beer.
      Clouds built up in the west as the sun was setting, but then suddenly parted and the most wonderful glow of the last rays of sunlight created some of the most exciting coloring I’ve laid my eyes on. I was in the middle of eating my dinner when this light show suddenly descended upon us, I was compelled to grab my video and digital cameras to record it.
      As darkness descended upon our camp, a horrible swarm of gnats then later moths descended with the night. Liberal amounts of Cutters repellent helped, but the gnats were still irritating. We found that lighting my Coleman lantern and Alan Hensher’s florescent lantern and placing it away from us attracted the gnats to it and they left us alone to enjoy conversation about everything from our location to the history of lynching in California.
      At 9:30 PM, I took a sponge bath and crawled into the back of my truck to read before turning out the light at 10:45 PM and going to sleep at the Inyo Mine Camp, Echo Canyon, Funeral Range, Death Valley National Park.


       
       
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