Zipping through Wrightwood
November 06, 2011
WRIGHTWOOD • There’s nothing like flying through the air at 35 miles an hour, 300 feet off the ground.
I was one of the lucky ones to spend an exhilarating three and a half hours on the Navitat Canopy Adventure zipline tour in Wrightwood.
Zipline tours are not for the faint of heart. Luckily, I do not have a fear of heights or fear of falling. I am, however, weary of being suspended in midair, relying only on a harness, various clips and ropes to keep me from plummeting to the earth. While nothing is fool-proof, the safety equipment can hold thousands of pounds, so you’re basically safe. The trick is getting your mind to trust the equipment.
The Navitat Canopy Tours consist of 10 ziplines, three repelling experiences and four suspended sky bridges. The zip lines range from 200 to 1,500 feet in length.
Our experienced (and extremely patient) guides, Taylor Small and Chris Gearheart taught our group the proper safety techniques of ziplining and repelling, such as how to brake, body positions and how to pull yourself to the platform in case you come to a stop too soon.
Is it scary? Oh yes. It is unnerving, to say the least. But once you get your bearings, you’ll be just fine. On the 1,500-foot zip, you are on the line for approximately 35 seconds, but it is the longest 35 seconds of your life. Believe it or not, you actually do have time to look around and below you. In the distance, you can see the High Desert, and below, the brilliant colors of fall. The zip is fast and the chill of the air is invigorating. I was less nervous as I repelled from 65 feet, as I felt a little more in control.
The speed of the zip can be overwhelming, but it is definitely thrilling. If you tuck your body into a cannonball position, you gain more speed. I learned that on one of the faster lines. For a rookie such as myself, I found it a bit harder to slow down. With visions of myself flattened against a tree trunk, I learned that the safety equipment really does work and my guide and savior Chris was there to safely pull me to the platform.
As I stood on a wooden platform, high among the trees, I have never felt so free and alive. I gazed out at the surrounding forest below me from one of the many platforms. The trees we stood in swayed as the wind blew. Standing in a tree while it blows in the wind can give you a very peculiar feeling, but it is one you won’t soon forget.
I really enjoyed the sky bridges. If you’ve seen “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom,” you have an idea of what a sky bridge is. I slowly made my way across the bridge, as the wind blew. I found it particularly incredible because it gave me a little more time to take in the scene around and below me. Others in my group found the bridges a little more intimidating than the zips. I found the bridges to be just as exciting.
During the tour, I learned some of the history of Wrightwood and the flora and fauna of the forest. I also learned a little more about myself: I discovered I was a little more adventurous than I thought. If you are an adventurous soul, don’t miss this tour. But you have to hurry: Navitat Canopy Tours will be closing for the season on Nov. 30. It will be an experience you won’t soon forget.
Good things come to those who recycle
September 03, 2011
Apple Valley • With giant sunflowers towering above him, Greg Anderson goes out to his garden every morning to harvest the bounty from the vines. From many varieties of tomatoes to watermelons, Anderson’s garden has it all.
One day in January, Anderson decided to plant a small backyard garden. He had heard the common clichés from naysayers, such as “You can’t grow anything up here,” “The soil is bad” and so on. In this case, that is not so. Anderson is a master composter. There is no bad soil in this garden. His soil will grow just about anything he plants.
The entire garden is made from recycled materials. He began with square foot gardening. Square foot gardening is a simple system: You can grow all you want in a small space. Square foot gardens are easy to manage and earth friendly.
Now his yard has literally blossomed into a recycled paradise. Everything that comes out of his garden, goes right back in.
“There’s no reason for all things to go in the trash,” Anderson said. “It can go back into the soil.”
Anderson took master composter classes hosted by the Mojave Desert & Mountain Recycling Authority. There, he learned the fine art of creating his own soil. “I get grass clippings and leaves from my neighbors and I put it into my compost bins.” He also built the bins from discarded wood materials. Nothing is wasted.
Anderson’s creativity doesn’t stop at the soil. Throughout his yard, he has whimsical scarecrows, honeybees made from coffee cans and free range chickens. He also has a natural pest control system: He has a home for bats above the garden. You can see their little heads peak out from the bottom of their bat house.
“The bats eat the bugs and their guano is perfect for composting,” Anderson said. The waste from the chickens is also used.
His latest project is his earth oven. It took three weeks to build. He even made his own bricks. “It can cook a pizza in minutes,” Anderson said.
Anderson’s garden also boasts a worm bed for vermicomposting. “They’re good for fishing too,” Anderson chuckled.
He spends about 30 minutes a day tending to the garden. Now he is preparing for autumn. This summer, his garden has produced hundreds of tomatoes, peppers, watermelons and many other various fruits and vegetables. Not only is it a delicious addition to his home, it is a beautiful one as well. The colors of the ripe fruit and vegetables are a charming contrast against the green of the leaves and vines.
“This is what you get for recycling,” he says. “You just need a little ingenuity.”
To learn more about becoming a master composter, call the Mojave Desert & Mountain Recycling Authority at (888) U-RECYCLE or go to www.urecycle.org/composting/master-composters
A Magical Opportunity
October 22, 2010
VICTORVILLE • It was showtime in Victorville. Keynote Speaker Earvin “Magic” Johnson was greeted by a sold-out crowd at the 29th annual High Desert Opportunity at the San Bernardino County Fairgrounds on Thursday.
With a bright smile and infectious enthusiasm, the former Los Angeles Laker spoke of his humble beginnings in Lansing, Mich., his incredible NBA career and his successful business ventures. Since his retirement from the game, he has been involved in organizations addressing the educational, health and social needs of children and young people in urban communities.
“I learned my work ethic from my dad,” Johnson told the lunchtime crowd of 940. He said that his father, Earvin Sr., taught him that no matter what job you do, you should do it to the best of your ability. That commitment to work helped Johnson lead the Los Angeles Lakers to five NBA championships.
From his AMC Magic Johnson movie theaters to the numerous books he has written, Johnson touched on the key points of running a successful business.
“You must know your customer,” he said. “It’s not enough to deliver. You have to over-deliver. Reinvest in your business. That’s the key. Never make your business about you."
Taking a flight in history
Story and photos Karen Yosten
LONG BEACH — One by one, the four engines of the B-17 Flying Fortress begin to rumble. You’re in position, ready to take flight. The engines roar as the plane lifts off the runway and into the sky.
It feels just like you’re on a mission in Europe during World War II. Difference is, you’re in Southern California and the German Luftwaffe isn’t trying to shoot you down.
The newly restored B-17G, the Liberty Belle, is making her first appearance in Long Beach on Saturday and Sunday. With the World War II generation slowly slipping away, the Liberty Belle is a piece of history that tells an important story.
The Liberty Belle stands alone in glory. Although the plane seems as humble as those who served in the war more than 60 years ago, her mere presence draws respect.
Liberty Belle pilot John Hess says the chance to fly a B-17 is a dream come true.
“When you get in the cockpit, you realize what those men and women went through,” Hess said.
This plane was built near the end of the war, so it never saw combat. It was sold for scrap in 1947 and changed hands many times throughout the years. The plane was heavily damaged in a tornado in 1979, breaking her back. It was later purchased by aviation enthusiast Tom Reilly, of Kissimmee, Fla., in 1987.
The plane’s path to restoration began in 1992. In 2000, Don Brooks, founder of the Liberty Foundation, bought the B-17. The plane had very special meaning to Brooks. His father had flown 39 missions as a tail gunner onboard the original Liberty Belle with the 390th Bomb Group in the Eighth Air Force during the war.
In honor of his father, Brooks decided to paint his B-17 like the original Liberty Belle. After 14 years and $3.5 million worth of painstaking restoration efforts, she finally took to the skies again in 2004.
For many people, taking flight in an antique aircraft is only a dream. The Liberty Foundation helps those dreams come true and keeps the memories alive for veterans and enthusiasts. The foundation was formed to honor our country’s veterans, to educate people of all ages and to preserve aviation heritage.
If you’re looking for a smooth, quiet ride, you’re on the wrong plane. A B-17 flight is loud, bumpy and simply amazing. The entire experience is 45 minutes long, with about 30 minutes in flight. And it is a 45 minutes you will never forget.
For a first-time flyer, this can be very unnerving. But the crew’s experience, coupled with the obvious love and attention this plane gets on a daily basis, helps put you at ease. Due to the loudness of the engines, ear plugs are provided. Even if you don’t fly, just watching the B-17 is incredible.
Once the plane is in flight, you are free to move about the plane. You can view the various combat positions that were held during World War II, such as the waist gunners, radio operator, flight engineer, navigator and the bombardier. The only places you can’t get into are the ball turret and the tailgunner’s position. The guns, the replica bombs in the bombay, the radio and other equipment are in their original positions.
Head into the cockpit and watch the pilot and co-pilot fly this mighty plane. The best seat (other than the pilot’s seat) is the bombardier’s position, in the glass nose of the plane. The Norden bombsight is intact, waiting for action.
The flight takes you over the city and Port of Long Beach, where you get breathtaking views of the Queen Mary and Pacific Ocean.
The exhilaration of sitting in the bombardier’s position and watching the huge propellers turn is purely indescribable. The sound of the engines may be deafening, but it is an exciting sound that you won’t soon forget. Being able to feel every movement and hearing every rattle on this old warbird is thrilling, and an experience of a lifetime.
Fortunately for us, when we fly on this plane, or any other restored antique aircraft, we are doing it for the fun of it. Sixty years ago, when men were flying in B-17s, they were fighting for freedom.
Thanks to the Liberty Belle and efforts of the Liberty Foundation, it is a sacrifice that won’t be soon forgotten.