What's the dark California history behind HBO's True Detective?
Hosted by Kevin Ferguson

Where the 'True Detective' characters meet their end

The largest trees in the world grow in Tulare County, where the final scenes of Ray Velcoro's life are filmed in
The largest trees in the world grow in Tulare County, where the final scenes of Ray Velcoro's life are filmed in "True Detective."
The largest trees in the world grow in Tulare County, where the final scenes of Ray Velcoro's life are filmed in
ARTIC, the Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center as seen in HBO's "True Detective."
The largest trees in the world grow in Tulare County, where the final scenes of Ray Velcoro's life are filmed in
Frank Semyon is brought to an inhospitable, dusty place to die. This is actually called Dry Soggy Lake, a recreation area about 120 miles northeast of Los Angeles.
The largest trees in the world grow in Tulare County, where the final scenes of Ray Velcoro's life are filmed in
Ray Velcoro's final moments come in Balch Park in Tulare County, California.

Subscribe to Welcome to Vinci, our podcast about "True Detective" in iTunes and Stitcher. We're also mapping the show's significant and lesser known locations.  Note: many spoilers follow.

It ends here—Velcoro gunned down, helpless. Half Butch Cassidy, half "Thelma and Louise." Frank Semyon hallucinating as the vultures follow his trail of blood. Ani Bezzerides, dissolving into a crowded Venezuelan street.

In the last episode, unique and spectacular California environments are on display.

We talked once again with Caleb Duffy, the guy who found and managed shooting at many of these neat locations.

Q: Was there a location in filming the second season where you were like, “Damn, I nailed it?”

A: ARTIC down in Anaheim. It’s the new transit center and it’s awesome. It's right between the Honda Center and Anaheim Stadium. It’s brand new -- it opened in December. They’d never had filming in there before and we broke the seal. We were there for three days.

It’s written in the script. It’s actually one of those other locations that was specifically on the pages that we went after, because it’s on paper.

Q: In that last scene, where Velcoro meets his maker -- tell me about how that came together and how you ended up at that location.

A: That’s huge, actually. It’s one of the coolest sequences I’ve ever been a part of. You’re working in an area that has trees that have been on the planet for over 3,000 years. And they’re 20 feet in diameter. Very few areas that have these trees.

Q: How do you not screw up the environment when you’re doing something like that?

A: Lot of specific planning with special effects, with the art department about what we’re gonna do with bullet hits and squibs. A squib is a little electric charge on a surface that you see the bullet hit [and] explode with dust. They’re all connected by wires. You work with the fire department, you work with the park people and operations.

On the pages it’s in the sequoias. And California has a few areas that have the big trees: the redwoods in Big Sur, Central California, south of Fresno, Northern California up by Cascade. We had a team of 18 people, which was enormous for a location department. This guy Clay Valenti, he’s a nature guy. And I said “this is for you.”

Jurisdictionally, you try to find an area that you’re not gonna have to deal with so much red tape. There’s going to be red tape anyway, because we’re blowing s--- up. We’ve got gunfire, we’ve got special effects, we’ve got catering -- we’ve got all the elements that go along with production. You want to be as close as you can to LA. So that takes away San Francisco, because you have to travel everybody. And you’ve got to logically figure out how we’re going to get all the equipment and the big trucks up the mountain.

Clay started from a smaller circle and started going outside the circle to eventually land in a place called Balch Park.

Q: So tell me about the day of shooting.

A: It was a very windy road. And it was an hour from base camp and the hotels. So we did a pre load-in day where everything was loaded up. The next day for production we started up that hill at 4am. Everyone landed and we went through the sequence for the day. The first sequence was a drone shot in a cathedral of trees where Velcoro dies. That’s where we shot first. And we shot the huge gunfight.

Then, we went back and shot the sequences: chase, foot chase leading up to that demise spot. It was like a playground, it was so cool!

Among the many locals in Balch Park is Dianne Shew.  She and her husband Tim run the Balch Park Pack Station, where tourists and campers go on guided horseback treks around the enormous, mountainous wilderness:  She’s from Tennessee.

SHEW: I came here because I met my husband on a blind date, and he said, “Well I pack out of Balch Park.” I didn’t know what packing was – that you put things on horses and go out to the backcountry to stay. He said, “You should come visit!” Being adventuresome I came just to visit. Once I saw these mountains and how high they were, and how quiet, with the streams running through them and the wind blowing through the trees and all the deer and how remote they were, I wanted to stay. The first giant sequoia I saw, it looked like something that you would make up in Disneyland. Standing alone, it looks like it just sits on the ground and spreads out its roots - they’re just huge. And they usually have little chipmunks or things running around them with green ferns growing around.

Q: You’ve seen forests in Tennessee, how do those compare?

A: Totally different. I just got back from Tennessee last week, hiking the Appalachian Trail. So there, you have heavy growth. Not a lot of vistas because you can’t see out. The mountains are gorgeous, but lots of directions you look, you can see a road. Here you can go for days and not see anyone.

Q: The character who ends up here, the main character on the show, he’s desperate and needs somewhere to hide out. Would you go here if you had to hide out?

A: It’s totally the place to go. This sounds weird, but we do this thing all the time - and we just did it Sunday - you’re in different places in the forest, and there’ll be bones. It’ll be like a deer bone or a bear bone - but then, you go, “If I were going to do something to someone, I would totally put their body here.” If I wanted to disappear and nobody to find me, I would go to Balch park, because, yes, there’s the campgrounds and stuff, but that’s a very small area of it. The remoteness and the fact that it’s not like Pacific Crest Trail or the Summit Trail where there’s all these really hardcore hikers. These are really just family people, and people that want an outdoor experience. Yeah, you could disappear here and never be found.

Oh, and if you're wondering if the production traveled to Venezuela or Latin America for the last sequence, the answer is no. We watched the finale with Tom Carroll of Tom Explores Los Angeles. He immediately nailed the buildings and streets for LA's Garment District.  We'll go looking to see if we can find the block.welcom