CLUI Conducts Tours of High Desert Region
Series of Van Tours Introduce Students and Educators to Remarkable Region

1127 Tour from Otis College of Design admires the new "Forks in the Road" monument, erected by the E Clampus Vitus organization, at the point on the Mojave River where ancient Indian trails, pioneer routes, railways, and now interstate highways converge/diverge on the way into/out of the points east, near Barstow, California. CLUI photo

THE CLUI CONTINUES ITS INITIATIVE to introduce college and university-level students and teachers to compelling environments normally outside of the realm of discussion. A four day Field Session was recently organized for a group of environmental art students from Otis College of Design, located in Los Angeles. The session was composed of different types of programming, designed to encourage the students to think about the range of perspectives and interpretations of selected sites.

Over two consecutive days, the Otis group convened in the morning at the CenterÕs Desert Research Station, near Hinkley, California, and departed for site visits in passenger vans, guided by CLUI staff members Lize Mogel, Chris Howlett, and Matthew Coolidge. During each site visit, students filled out a "Site Impression Form," which asked them to record thier impressions about the site. At the end of the day the forms were collected, and a publication with selected quotes from the forms was distributed to all participants on the last day of the field session.

Sites visited by the group included the PG&E's Hinkley compressor plant, which contaminated the groundwater with chromium (and was recently featured in the Hollywood film Erin Brockovich), an abandoned Strategic Air Command communications bunker, and the new visitors center at the US Borax mine, the largest open pit in California. In the evenings, the group stayed in motels in nearby Barstow, or camped out in the desert.

1128 Otis students explore the edge of the largest solar array in the world, on recent CLUI Field Session. CLUI photo

1129 While on a CLUI tour, teachers from Antelope Valley College assisted with the righting of sanitary facilities at the windswept Blackbird Airpark, at Air Force Plant 42, near Palmdale. The docent at the site was much relieved. CLUI photo

On the third day, students went off on their own to investigate and select sites to interpret for the group on the following day. Sites the students found include a dead tree farm, an unimproved camp site, and artwork that was constructed on a hill top.

Another tour conducted by the CLUI in recent months was a day-long van tour of sites in the Antelope Valley, a desert valley north of Los Angeles. This tour was conducted for teachers from Antelope Valley College, and focused on film location sites in the area (which is the "back door desert" for Los Angeles' entertainment industry), as well as aerospace sites such as the Boeing radar cross section facility (which has recently been vacated), and the Mojave Airport boneyard, full of parted out commercial airline hulks, and a favorite stop for CLUI tours of the region. This tour followed a lecture presented to the public at the College, given by CLUI Director Matthew Coolidge.

This series of tours is part of continuing CLUI programming in the desert regions outside Los Angeles. The Center has a staging yard in Boron, California, to support activities in the region, and is developing an interpretive center at a former Desert Research Station near Hinkley, outside of Barstow and down the highway from Boron. Additional tours and other programs are in the works for this Fall, and beyond.