Publication: Contra Costa Times
Article Title: We are living in a land of extremes
Author: John Weeks
The highest elevation in Southern California is the 11,500-foot Mount San Gorgonio in the San Bernardino Mountains about 10 miles south of Big Bear Lake.
The lowest point in all of North America is Badwater Basin, 300 feet below sea level, in the southern portion of Death Valley that extends partially into San Bernardino County.
The highest and the lowest. There's no doubt that we live in a land of extremes.
The point is vividly illustrated in a pair of new books, "Big Bear" by Russell L. Keller, and "Death Valley" by Robert P. Palazzo.
One takes us to our mightiest mountain, the other to our most dramatic desert.
Keller is a longtime resident of the San Bernardino Mountains and columnist for two mountain newspapers, the Crestline Courier and the Mountain News.
His book charts the growth of Big Bear Lake from a rustic, hard-to-reach wilderness settlement in frontier days to the busy, year-round resort that it is today.
The book is loaded with terrific images. One shows a bear drinking deeply from a purloined bottle of milk, which he is holding with both paws. Another shows a couple of daredevils who have driven their jalopy onto the frozen lake in wintertime. My favorite shows the old Grizzly Theater, an open-sided cinema built in 1920. You actually can see the screen inside and the film playing on it: "Lifting Shadows," a 1920 silent movie starring Emmy Wehlen.
The other new book, "Death Valley," offers a pictorial record of how this vast desert basin evolved from a no man's land during the Gold Rush era to become one of the most famous, most-visited deserts in the world.
Palazzo, the author, is an attorney and author who has chronicled Death Valley and the American West for more than 30 years. Most of the 200 historic photos in the book are from his personal collection.
There are some amazing shots. I thought I had seen every photo ever taken of Death Valley Scotty, the legendary prospector and promoter whose outlandish desert abode, known as Scotty's Castle, is now Death Valley's No. 1 tourist attraction.
But no, there are several photos here I've never seen before, including one showing Scotty wrangling mules in the 1930s with one of his many celebrity visitors, the actor John Barrymore.
Both "Death Valley" and "Big Bear" are from Arcadia Publishing, priced at $19.99. They can be found or ordered at local bookstores, or through online booksellers, or from the publisher.
By the way, Saturday is Local History Day at Barnes & Noble Booksellers at Citrus Plaza in Redlands. More than 20 local authors will be present from noon to 3p.m. to sign copies of their pictorial history books from Arcadia.
You'll find mainstays of the series such as "Rim of the World Drive" by Roger Hatheway, "San Bernardino" by Steve Shaw, "Lake Arrowhead" by Rhea-Frances Tetley, "Riverside's Mission Inn" by Steve Lech and "The Norconian Resort" by Kevin Bash and Brigitte Jouxtel.
You also will find more recent titles such as "Cherry Valley" by Kenneth M. Holtzclaw and Tom Chong, "The Harris Company" by Aimmee L. Rodriguez, Richard A. Hanks and Robin S. Hanks, and "Riverside's Camp Anza and Arlanza" by Frank Teurlay.
I'll be there, too, signing copies of my own new book, "Inland Empire," which takes readers on a nostalgic tour of our entire region.