Up bright and early, we feasted on bagels and oatmeal, loaded up on coffee, packed up camp and set out to explore Owen's Valley. This morning we had a very important first stop: the renowned Mahogany Smoked Meats shop. Here many students loaded up on jerky that will forever shame even the finest gas station selection. Once properly fortified we made our way to the Bishop Power Plant.
Distinguished Professor of Law Stephen McCaffrey and Professor Karrigan Börk stand with students in front of the Bishop Power Plant.
Standing in front of the Bishop Power Plant, we learned how aqueduct power plants and reservoirs generate power. We also extended our understanding of Public Trust Doctrine by learning how the Public Trust Doctrine could require dam-related water appropriations to leave enough water in stream to maintain fish populations.
Professor Karrigan Börk and students at a mine site at Mazourka Canyon.
Mazourka Canyon. After making our way down a dirt road and through a landscape that looked like something out of a western, we parked our rigs and took a brief hike through BLM land to a mine site. There we learned about the different types of mine permits and the ways that they may be obtained. Travelling back past heaps of mine debris, cacti, and more than a few bullet shells, we returned to the roadside where we parked. Like a well-oiled machine, we pulled out lunch supplies and while people ate their cold cut or PB&J rollups, a student presented on the general features of torts claims on public land. Takeaway: for torts purposes there is a very limited duty to warn. If you decide to jump from a 35-foot rock into a shallow lake, the government probably isn't liable for not posting a sign. However, if the government builds a road leading over a cliff and doesn't post a sign warning that the road leads right over a cliff, you just might have a valid claim.
The inside of one of the barracks at Manzanar Internment Camp.
Manzanar Internment Camp. As with many of the stops on this trip, it's apparent that places themselves frequently tell stories that surpass anything that can be revealed by mere words or photos. Manzanar is undoubtedly such a place. From the moment we entered the parking lot, the sense of the place's isolation and sadness was tangible. Something about the place felt immediately oppressive. In 1942, over 10,000 American Japanese and resident alien Japanese were forcibly removed from their homes and relocated to the desolate Manzanar for no reason beyond their ancestry. Watchtowers outfitted with searchlights and machine guns stood prominently, reminding the encaged citizens of their lack of choice and denial of the freedom they were rightfully entitled to. As we visited the camp, it was impossible not to think of the current situation where children are in cages, separated from their parents who entered America without proper paperwork. Over 75 years later, the visit to Manzanar should be one that represents a horrible period in America's past. Instead it served as a very poignant reminder of what is happening in our present.
The group at the Eastern Interagency Visitor Center.
After a somber experience at Manzanar, we made several other stops including a visit to the Eastern Interagency Visitor Center where a large model of the region helped put our journey into context.
Tuttle Creek Campground.
After a full day, we pulled into a very windy Tuttle Creek Campground. Battling the wind, students helped each other get tents set up. Resourcefully, many students found large rocks to weigh their tents down. One student had at least six large rocks holding her tent in place. A valiant kitchen crew got to work doing advanced calculations for making rice while others cooked up fresh veggies for the evening's stir fry. After dinner, one group decided to linger by the campfire while another set out to enjoy a dip in the nearby Keough Hot Springs. Those who stayed behind in camp were treated to appearances by some adorable kangaroo rats and an inquisitive lizard. At some point we all adjourned to bed. The return to our tents occurred just in time because the brutal wind soon kicked up again. Fortunately, the wind was no match for tents now weighed down by our slumbering bodies.
About the author: Anna Lisa Thomas is a third-year law student at McGeorge. She has a MA in History from UC Davis where she studied Early American and Environmental history. She also has a current National Parks Pass and has road tripped from San Diego to Seattle on the West Coast and from Acadia National Park in Maine to Key West on the East Coast. She has crossed back and forth across the United States by car four times (always different routes) and is looking forward to a fifth trip after graduation in May. She has been to Europe, but she still abides by the advice that her professor of History of the West offered her sophomore year at UCSB which went something like: "this is an amazing and beautiful country, go get in a car and see it."
About the course: The McGeorge course "California Environmental Cases & Places" centers on a four-day field trip that takes students on a camping trip across California, exposing them to a broad range of natural resource issues. The 2018 trip traced a 1,000-mile loop from Sacramento, east over the Sierra Nevada to South Lake Tahoe, then down I-395 to Mono Lake and then southeast to the dustbowl of Owens Dry Lake, Death Valley, and the Mojave Desert, and then finally back to Sacramento via the farmlands of the Central Valley.