Mineral County residents took to a Facebook post after a column called “Uncommon Sense – It looked better on the map” by Carne Lowgren of the Inyo Register in Bishop, Calif., wrote, “The truth is that Walker Lake, Grant Mountain and Hawthorne are not beautiful.” The article was printed on Dec. 10 of this year.
Lowgren claims he’s a big map fan and while reflecting back on these maps after moving to the Bishop area in 1998, thought that a place with had a “very large lake dominated by an 11,000-foot mountain in mostly empty high desert country…suggested this would be a grand, magnificent place.”
To say the least, Lowgren was disappointed in what Mineral County had to offer.
Put on his high list of area’s to visit, Lowgren did just that and wrote, “I’m talking about the area around Hawthorne, Nev., which includes Walker Lake and Grant Mountain. If you’ve been there you know – it’s one of the ugliest places in the West. The lake has the requisite blue, but its shores are absolutely desolate. Whatever shelter from the wind and the sun you have there you have to bring yourself because nature does not provide any.”
Local residents, who spend their summers enjoying Walker Lake, know how to survive the brutal sun and pack accordingly. To say “mother nature” doesn’t provide clearly shows that the desolate yet beautiful terrain may frighten him.
And where is Grant Mountain? I too have spent days pouring over maps looking for the mountain named Grant. Lowgren obviously didn’t make it to any Hawthorne Army Depot signs that are clearly marked “Mt. Grant” or stopped to ask any local the name of the large mountain that many fondly look at each morning to gauge the weather.
Describing the largest mountain overlooking both Walker Lake and Hawthorne, he states, “Grant Mountain is a big pile of ugly from all directions, and because it stands in a military reservation you cannot just show up and climb it to at least get a god’s eye view of the surrounding region. The other mountains in the area are not blatantly ugly, but with grander and more interesting mountains nearby in all directions they are not charismatic enough to invite exploration either.”
We residents know about our mountains. The charm they hold and where hidden gems can be found. Many are not found on a map nor can they be viewed by standing on the highway and gazing at the range as a whole. We each have a favorite spot in “these ugly mountains” that pulls our heartstrings and we visit often. Most of us can make it there, without a map.
The 9/11 Mt. Grant Memorial Challenge brings avid hikers from around the world to experience climbing from lake level to the top of our highest peak. From there, locals and tourists ARE able to get a God’s eye view of the beauty that surrounds us each day. Possibly Lowgren needs to lace up his hiking boots and join others for a day of blood, sweat and tears as mile after mile, hikers are reminded of why they walk that majestic mountain.
Unhappy with not only Walker Lake and Hawthorne, Lowgren went on to bring down those who make Schurz their home. Stating, “While much of Walker Lake is on an Indian reservation, the local Indians aren’t the sort to sell jewelry, handicrafts and idealized Native culture to the kind of tourists that frequents the Anasazi hotspots.” Once again, not on a map, the native community of Walker Lake boasts artists on all levels, including beadwork, painting and song and dance. Unfortunately, Lowgren didn’t realize most of those on the reservation were at work while he was passing through.
Hawthorne received the kindest words from Lowgren. Calling it both “unlovely and unloved.” He continued to profess, “Unlovely and unloved places invite utilitarian and generally ugly human development, and the Walker Lake region features the ugliest: Its town Hawthorne is the home of the Hawthorne Army Ammunition Depot, which occupies much of the southern, eastern and western portions of the region. Military bases are determinedly utilitarian in keeping with the military’s general no-nonsense git ‘er done philosophy where aesthetics is a frill that distracts from the purpose at hand – which is storing explosives and training people how to blow things up.”
“The truth is that Walker Lake, Grant Mountain and Hawthorne are not beautiful. For those who live and work there it is no doubt functional enough, but for almost all of the rest of us it is one of those places that looks better on the map than it does in person.”
Need I remind Lowgren or anyone else, the business in which the Hawthorne Ammunition Depot conducts keeps families fed and clothed. Despite what his commentary said, Lowgren forgot to mention that war is ugly but damn, our freedom is beautiful.
As a member of the Mineral County population, Lowgren’s comments unfazed me. He only saw what he wanted. He has not sat behind the news desk as I have for years, watching you – the true people of Mineral County – support and comfort one another.
From the avid photographers who take daily to the roads and byways of Mineral County and come back to share your photos with those of us near and far, you continue to find the beauty in the ugly Lowgren states.
As a county closes down to bury a young U.S. Army soldier, welcomes home a double amputee survivor or hugs each other as they mourn for seven Marines lost in training, the beauty is the warmth and caring we each have for one another. We may not say hello each time we meet, at times we may not like one another – but when push comes to shove, we are united.
On the map of Mineral County, you will find beauty in a place where your children are still safe to walk home from school, play in their front yards and the elderly are watched out for. Murder is rare and you know the sheriff deputies and police officers by name. This cannot be found on a map.
The mountains, lakes and scenery are just added beauty to Mineral County. We are so much more than what can be seen in a quick day trip.
I know I’m not the only one who calls this place home. Lowgren’s opinion couldn’t break the spirits of such Mineral County residents (or residents by heart) such as:
Eric Poole of Raymondville, Mo., who wrote, “I would give anything to be 18 again and back in that wonderful magical place. I have lived in many places (Navy brat) including Hawaii, Japan, many states, etc., but NO PLACE captured my heart like Hawthorne has…ever.”
Judy Yocum of Pennsylvania who comes home each May for Armed Forces Day and holds the largest potluck for friends and family writes, “I haven’t lived in Hawthorne for over 50 years but it still pulls on my heartstrings and I go home every year. He knows not what he speaks.”
Local photographer and retired Justice of the Peace for Hawthorne, Vic Trujillo, summed up what others were thinking, simply stating, “I find beauty here every day.”
So Mineral County, it’s your turn to weigh in on the beauty and ugliness of Mineral County. Tell me what makes this place beautiful or ugly to you. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or write a “Letter to the Editor.” I’d love to hear your thoughts.