Thursday, September 22, 2011
CALIFORNIA’S BLAIR CANYON NEAR GHOST MOUNTAIN
Spent some more time with my Atlas's today looking for interesting places and travel ideas for this winter's wanderings after we leave south-western Colorado. Warm weather and new areas will be our priority this year plus revisiting a few favourite spots. We'll probably spend a little time around Borrego Springs California again but will scout out some new boon docking areas this time. We have boon docked at the Clark Dry Lake Bed for the past 3 years but it has become too familiar for us now and we knew last winter that if we were to return to the Borrego Springs area we would be needing a change.
HIKING UP TO GHOST MOUNTAIN WITH CALIFORNIA’S LAGUNA MOUNTAINS TO THE WEST
There is a great area near Ghost Mountain in the Blair Valley that I think would be great for us but last time we were there we heard Verizon did not cover that region yet. It is necessary for us to have an internet connection because Kelly will once again be handling all the Deer Park Lodge reservations for the following summer. We may further scout out the Vallectio Valley south of there this year as well. The Valley is just on the east side of the Vallecito Mountains with San Diego being on the west side. That Valley had a magic feel to it when we drove a fair ways down through it two years ago. Not a lot of civilization in or near the Blair or Vallecito Valleys which of course makes them great nature areas and……….perfect for us. Always love the challenge and great scenery of new and different areas.
LOTS OF ROOM IN BLAIR CANYON FOR BOON DOCKING….PHOTO TAKEN FROM ATOP GHOST MOUNTAIN LOOKING NORTH WITH THE SAN YSIDRO MOUNTAINS ON THE FAR HORIZON….BORREGO SPRINGS IS TO THE RIGHT AND AT THE FOOT OF THOSE MOUNTAINS
FROM ATOP GHOST MOUNTAIN THIS IS LOOKING SOUTHEAST OVER THE VALLECITO VALLEY WHERE WE MAY SPEND SOME TIME THIS WINTER…SAN DIEGO IS ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE LAGUNA MOUNTAINS TO THE RIGHT…..TOP LEFT HORIZON IS MEXICO
In case anyone happens to be interested in my 4 treks up Ghost Mountain in the last 3 years to the Marshal South homestead, you can just type either ‘Ghost Mountain’ or ‘Marshal South’ into our search bar at the top of the right hand column of our blog. The Marshal South site spoke to me like no other place I have ever been and it has continued to draw me back up Ghost Mountain every time we are in that area. I fully expect to be up there again this trip, standing atop my favourite large boulder, wind blowing through my hair with the Vallecito Valley stretching out to the horizon below and beyond. The above photo was taken from atop that rock.
CLIMBING THE STEEP ROCKY PATH TO GHOST MOUNTAIN WITH BLAIR VALLEY IN THE BACKGROUND
GHOST MOUNTAIN IS DEAD AHEAD ON TOP OF THAT RIDGE
GROANER’S CORNER:(( My mind works like lightning,...........one brilliant 'Flash' and it is gone!!
-Tourists see the world, travelers experience it.
-Until one has loved an Animal, their soul remains un-awakened.
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The only thing better than right now will someday be the memories of right now...AL.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
JAN & MIKE ON LEFT GIVING AN INFORMATIVE TALK ABOUT GHOST MOUNTAIN BEFORE THE HIKE
When I'm able to start the blog off without complaining about the wind you will know that we have probably left the Southwest. We were both up in the middle of the night again retracting slides before the wind ripped the awnings off. Needless to say I was awake a big part of the night & this morning I felt like I'd been run over by a road grader.
SOME YAQUITEPEC RUINS
Sometime in the night our Sitemeter recorded over 100,000 hits on our site since starting the blog. "WoW, who would have ever thunk it!! Thanks folks:))
Had to be over in Blair Valley by 9 a.m. to meet a group of people for an organized hike up Ghost Mountain to the Marshal South homestead site. It's close to an hour's drive through the twisting & winding Yaqui Pass southwest of here so I was out the door & on my way by 7:30.
IN THE BLAIR VALLEY
Beautiful morning & I enjoyed the challenge of the drive as it took me back many years to those snappy sports car days of old. When you can hear the tires squeal a bit in the curves you know your having a fun time:))
A PROPERTY NEAR SHELTER VALLEY
This was my 3rd trip to Ghost Mountain & I couldn't help but think back 2 years ago when Kelly & I first drove out to Blair Valley in search of a place where a family had eked out an existence back in the 30's & the 40's. That day standing atop Ghost Mountain in the few sparse ruins of the Marshall South homestead made a lasting impression on me & I came down of the mountain that day with a fascination for the man, his family, & their story. Bought the book, 'Marshall South & the Ghost Mountain Chronicles' & my interest deepened. This is the BLOG I wrote that day & these are the PHOTOS
SMALL WORLD...Couple on right lived in London Ontario back in the early 60's & had a cottage in Grand Bend. Grand Bend is a 20 minute drive south of Bayfield where we live. (Standing in the homestead ruins)
Last year while boondocking near Borrego Springs I blogged about plans to hike up Ghost Mountain again. A few days later we received an email from director John McDonald who had done a documentary about Marshall South & the Ghost Mountain story. John & his wife Lydia were camping in the area & said the 'Ghost Mountain' alert program on his computer kept showing him people were clicking on a site called, The Bayfield Bunch because of the blog I had written about our hike the year before. To make a long story short Kelly & I drove out to Ghost Mountain a few days later & I hiked up to the top again. Kelly was nursing a sore ankle at the time so waited at the bottom. By the time I came down John & Lydia had arrived at the foot of Ghost Mountain & we were able to meet them & pick up a copy of his documentary. Here is my BLOG & PHOTOS of that day.
STRONG WINDS ARE BLOWING HEAVILY ON MIKE'S HAT (click pics to enlarge)
I knew our stay at Borrego Springs this year would not be complete if I didn't hike myself up to the Marshall South site again so I had been watching for an organized hike this time. I knew hike leaders would be able to point out things I had missed before.....and so they did.
GHOST MOUNTAIN IS IN THE BACKGROUND AT THE TIP OF THE TALLEST BRANCH ON THIS OLD TREE
Turned off highway S2 for the 3 mile hard packed sandy drive along a bumping road to the meeting point at the bottom of Ghost Mountain. Met hike leaders, Mike & Jan Bigelow. Six other people arrived & after an informative talk by our hike leaders we were in single file making our way up the steep, narrow, & rocky switch back trail leading to Yaquitepec. About a quarter of the way up two separate hikers cell phones rang & I thought, wonder what Marshall South would have thought of all this modern technology on the trail.
SEPARATE CELL PHONES RANG AT THE SAME TIME
Jan led the hike while husband Mike brought up the rear. We had a couple of informative rest spots on the way up & then crested the last ridge & walked the short distance to the ruins. Questions were asked & answered standing amidst the homestead remains & the group split up to explore around & take some photos. Time there lasted about 25 minutes & the group reformed for the hike back down the nearly mile long rocky path. Everybody but me of course.
TODAY'S GROUP AT YAQUITEPEC
From the first time I set foot in the ruins of Yaquitipec 2 years ago I was aware of a very special feeling. That feeling returned last year on my second hike when I spent about 40 minutes wandering around the site by myself. And that feeling was present again today as I walked around looking at a few spots mentioned in the book. Jan had pointed out to me the very spot Marshal South had sat among the rocks to write his many Desert Magazine articles. She also pointed out the rock piled kiln they used.
ROCK PILE KILN & MARSHALL SOUTH'S SUNDIAL
It was quiet on the mountain after the group left except for the cool & heavy west winds blowing across the ridge. it made a howling sound in some of the tall Agave stocks. I had brought a thermos of coffee & a nature bar with me & what better place to drink my hot coffee than in the exact same spot Marshall South sat with his old typewriter on his lap. He had mortered up a short wall of stones between two large boulders in the lee of a pinion Juniper. It blocked him from the sometimes howling chilly winds & gave him a quiet secluded refuge not far from the house. I could look out & see the exact same landscape this writer, spinner of tales, & talented craftsman could see some 70 years ago. It was a special moment for me & a cup of coffee in a place I shall always remember.
THIS IS WHERE MARSHALL SOUTH CAME TO WRITE HIS ARTICLES FOR THE DESERT MAGAZINE AND THE VIEW HE HAD SITTING THERE
I ambled around the site taking a few photos, looked at the kiln, & then took Socky Geepers out of my bag & did a little photo shoot with him around the site. It was after I had take the photo of Socky in the old 'wading pool' that I turned around & saw something orange underneath a Juniper tree. Upon closer inspection I saw a dark garbage bag wrapped around something. Moved some rocks & twigs away & felt that there was something hard & rectangular in the garbage bag. Carefully lifted it out & looked inside the bag. I had just accidentally discovered a Geocache. First one I have ever seen. It was a metal military ammunition box. Opened the lid & discovered a treasure trove of articles that other folks had left inside. A religious pamphlet, some lip balm, business cards, some coins, & maybe a half dozen other things. A zip lock bag contained a list of people's names & the dates they had been there since the cache was left at this site back in 2008. A small piece of paper had children's drawings on it. I recognized a rocket ship. Only thing I had to leave was a Bayfield Bunch card. Carefully put everything back & re-wrapped it all up in it's garbage bag. Placed it under the tree & put some rocks & twigs over it. Later wished I would have thought to look for information on who put it there & what the co-ordinates were. Next time I will know what important things to look for.
THE GEOCACHE AS I FOUND IT, SOCKY GEEPERS DISPLAYS THE CONTENTS, & THE GEOCACHE AS I LEFT IT (Socky Geepers is with me:))
The unrelenting winds finally worked their way through my clothes & I began to feel the cold creeping in. It was time once again to leave Yaquitepec. I had been there alone on the mountain for a whole precious hour. As twice before, I said good-bye to the many mountain spirits present here. The Indian people who inhabited the mountain & roasted Agave stocks & hearts nearby. Goodbye to the spirits of Tanya & Marshall South. Goodbye to Yaquitepec & goodbye to Ghost Mountain. I hope to one day pass this way again.
GOODBYE YAQUITEPEC......I'LL TRY TO MAKE IT BACK AGAIN NEXT YEAR:))
MARSHALL SOUTH & GHOST MOUNTAIN - THE STORY
PHOTOS OF MARSHAL SOUTH'S FINAL RESTING PLACE - JULIAN CEMETERY
I was down the mountain & in the car headed back across Blair Valley in the direction of Borrego Springs by 12:45 p.m. Great drive stopping for a few pics here & there. All & all this day will remain one of my more memorable days on this trip so far this year. Hope I can squeeze a few more in before heading home. Back to the rig by 2 & the rest of the day was spent semi-dozing in my chair. Winds have substantially picked up again just in time to keep me awake for another night..........Ooooohhh:((
A SNOOZY LITTLE MOTORMOUSE
And as we pass the 100,000 visitors mark today I noticed tonight we have two new followers. Welcome aboard to Julie & RickNB. Didn't look like you folks have blogsites or I would have linked them here.
GROANER'S CORNER:(( Q: Who has the right of way when four cars approach a four-way stop at the same time?
A: The pick up truck with the gun rack and the bumper sticker saying "Guns don't kill people. I do."
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The only thing better than right now will someday be the memories of right now...... AL.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Not sure why the MARSHAL SOUTH & Ghost Mountain story captivated me so much, but it did. We were boondocked outside of Borrego Springs in the heart of California's ANZA-BORREGO DESERT STATE PARK back in January of 2008 when we drove to the Park's nature center in Borrego Springs to check on day trip adventures in the area. A ranger behind the information desk told us of many sites to see & mentioned something about a family that had lived atop a mountain back in the 30's & 40's. Said the site was over in Blair valley, there were a few ruins of the old cabin left, & it was a wee bit of hike to get up to the homestead. That thought stuck with me & a week later we were on our way to Blair valley in search of Yaquitepec on GHOST MOUNTAIN.
THE LONG ROCK STREWN NARROW PATH LEADS UP THE SIDE OF GHOST MOUNTAIN FROM BLAIR VALLEY BEHIND ME
BLAIR valley is about a 40 minute scenic drive west of BORREGO SPRINGS through the Yaqui Pass. You can read about our first trip to Ghost Mountain HERE & see our photos HERE. A few days after that visit Kelly picked up the book, MARSHAL SOUTH & THE CHRONICLES OF GHOST MOUNTAIN. I immediately set about reading the book & finished it a few weeks later while we were boondocked over in Quartzite Arizona. I knew at that time I wanted to not only return to Ghost Mountain again but also wanted to see if I could find where Marshal South was buried. The book said his final resting place was in the little mountain town of JULIAN not far from Blair Valley. We also found out a documentary had been made by director John McDonald & a second more detailed documentary DVD by the same director was due to be released shortly but not until after we had already headed back to Canada. I definitely wanted to get a copy of that DVD somehow. Little did I know that less than a year later director John McDonald himself would actually contact us, meet us at the foot of Ghost Mountain, & give us a signed copy of his DVD documentary, ‘The Ghost Mountain Experiment.’
In January of this year we once again found ourselves boondocked near the CLARK DRY LAKE BED close to Borrego Springs at the foot of the Santa Rosa & San Ysidro mountains. I mentioned in a couple of my daily blogs that we were going to head over to BLAIR VALLEY for a second trek up to the Marshal South site on Ghost Mountain. And I also blogged about our day trip to the little mountain town of JULIAN in search of Marshal South's final resting place. That day's blog is HERE & the photos of our visit to Julian & the cemetery are HERE.
MARSHAL SOUTH’S STONE IS THE FLAT ONE IN CENTER FOREGROUND BELOW, WITH THE TOWN OF JULIAN IN THE BACKGROUND
About this time we received a surprise email from the documentary's director JOHN McDONALD. Said him & his wife Lydia were camping in the area & could meet us at Ghost Mountain if we liked. He said our BAYFIELD BUNCH site kept coming up on his computer & he had known of my interest in the Marshal South story for quite awhile. He has a program on his computer that alerts him whenever Marshal South or Ghost Mountain are entered into a search engine, so people clicking on our site kept bringing up the Bayfield Bunch on his computer. He began to wonder who this Bayfield Bunch was & decided to email us. Assuming that is how that search program works you may be reading this blog right now John, so a big 'Hello to you & Lydia from the Bayfield Bunch up here in Canada:))'
JOHN & LYDIA McDONALD WITH GHOST MOUNTAIN IN THE BACKGROUND. YAQUITEPEC IS JUST ATOP THAT RIDGE ABOVE THEIR HEADS
The blog for our second visit to Ghost Mountain & meeting John & Lydia McDonald can be found HERE & the photos from that day are HERE. We did pick up an autographed DOCUMENTARY DVD from John that day as well.
JOHN AUTOGRAPHS THE DVD JACKET
We will probably be back in the Borrego Springs area sometime in January of 2010 & if we are you can be assured I will once again strap on my hiking boots, throw a camera over my shoulder, & head on up the mile high old rocky trail leading to Marshal South's Yaquitepec atop Ghost Mountain. As I mentioned at the beginning of the blog, I don't know what it is that captivates me about this spot but it's as if I sense something special when I am there. Being the totally logical person I am I certainly am at odds with my feelings about all that...........but, in a nice sort of way.
REST IN PEACE YAQUITEPEC
GROANER'S CORNER:(( If you don't have a sense of humor, you probably don't have any sense at all.
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The only thing better than right now will someday be the memories of right now...AL.
Friday, January 04, 2008
The name Marshal South didn't mean anything to us until we stopped into the Anza Borrego visitor center a few days ago. We were inquiring about hiking in the area & the park ranger suggested Ghost Mountain. Well, anything with the words mountain & ghost in the same sentence is going to perk anybody's imagination so we bookmarked that one to do.
Thursday we did that hike & it turned out to be one of the best days on our trip so far.
Here is a short background on Marshal South, his wife Tanya, & their 3 children.
In February 1932, while the country felt the grip of The Depression, Marshal and Tanya South came to this mountain to build their home and live off the land. They raised their children here, wrote magazine articles, grew vegetables, gathered native plants, and after 16 years decided to call it quits.
Yaquitepec, or Ghost Mountain, still carries the reminders of South's homesteading adventure. The steep, mile long walk to the homesite will give you a breathtaking view of the land the South family called home. Look for signs of the ingenious water system with its cisterns and troughs. The adobe structure is quickly becoming a victim of the elements.
Living off the land proved difficult. Supplies had to be brought by Model T from Julian and carried up on foot. Tanya South tired of her eccentric mate's life-style and the family split up, leaving Yaquitepec to the sun and the wind.
The stories of the South family fade with time in the pages of old copies of Desert Magazine but the melting adobe and the garden terraces will remain atop Ghost Mountain for years to come.
For seventeen years (1930 to 1947), poet, artist, and author Marshal South and his family lived on the remote, waterless mountaintop in California's Anza-Borrego Desert State Park and is referred to as "Ghost Mountain". For nine of those years, Marshal South chronicled his family's controversial primitive lifestyle through popular monthly articles written for "Desert Magazine". The articles reflected his passion for the desert while praising its early inhabitants and their lifestyle. An acrimonious divorce ended the "experiment in primitive living" and with Marshal's death in 1948, fifty years of silence and speculation followed. Family secrecy, altered names and dates, lost and burned records and letters, left Marshal's grand experiment in obscurity, hidden from even his surviving family members.
More on Marshal South http://www.dzrtgrls.com/yaquitepec/yaquitepec.htm
The drive from Borrego Springs to Ghost Mountain is a twisting, winding, roller coaster, & scenic ride through the mountains to a place called Blair Valley. The old Butterfield Stagecoach used this route back in the 1800's. A turn off the highway west of the little town of Shelter Valley headed us out onto the desert floor & around a large dry lake bed. The road is bumpy with hard & loose packed sand, but is ok. Spotted here & there were a few RV's snuggled up against high rocky ridges. Ghost Mountain doesn't really have a peak on it & we were at the trail head before we realized it. There is a cairn there with a brief description about the South family & their time on the mountain.
Right from the start it's obvious that this is going to be a totally uphill 700 foot climb on a narrow & rocky pathway that is a 2 mile round trip. Good hiking footwear is a must. One of the first things I noticed was the many & multi-colored rocks along the way. Vegetation also increased as we climbed higher. Algava, yucca, cholla, ocotilla, hedgehog & barrel cactus are but just a few of the plants that dotting the landscape. Because of the steep incline, the path had many switchbacks zig zagging back & forth. Wasn't long & we were huffing & puffing a bit. Sleeves got rolled up. The view back down & out across the Blair Valley was beautiful & we could see the sandy roads snaking across the desert floor. Can't imagine how Marshal South made the trip in his old model T to the town of Julian & back for supplies 14 miles away across this valley & along hazardous gravely mountain roads. About 20 minutes into the hike we reached a plateau with a panoramic view & we could see for miles & miles. http://picasaweb.google.com/stargeezerguy/49JAN3MARSHALSOUTHGHOSTMOUNTAIN#Ahead, the path disappeared amongst a mass of boulders leading even higher to another ridge line. We picked our way along the narrow path up & over the fairly easy rocky terrain. Only a bit of rock scrambling here & there. In some places I'm sure large rocks had been moved to form steps. And all along the way are the beautiful desert plants. It was Mother Nature's desert landscaping at it's very best. Just about when you think your legs are not going to go any farther, your there. It was about a hundred yards over that ridge, nestled in the rocks that I first caught site of the homestead ruins. A couple sections of adobe wall, an old iron bed, weatherworn window & door frames, a water gathering cistern system, a smaller iron bedspring, a few upright wood supports & some old rusted cans laying in the sand where the kitchen once was. That's about all that is left of what once was a family of 5 living here for 17 years back in the 1930's. It is incomprehensible how & why Marshal South chose this spot. Every nail, every piece of lumber, every rain barrel, & every bit of building material had to be physically carried up from the desert floor 700 feet below, along that steep rock strewn grueling narrow path to the top. Everything!! But, standing there among the ruins I can kind of understand his reasoning, although it be a little harsh. They were totally alone on a mountaintop, far from the maddening crowds & civilizations far below & far away. In many ways I can identify with this man's feelings. It is an unending view for miles & miles in all directions from this site & I can only imagine how beautiful it must have been on those warm clear summer nights with the stars stretching from mountaintop to mountaintop. As I looked around I tried to imagine the children playing on the rocks, the family sitting down to meals, Tanya grinding seeds in a mortero we found near the house, & Marshal South working on his water system or sitting on the rocks writing his articles for, The Desert Sun. It's a quiet place now with only the wind rustling through the cactus. This is truly a special spot & one that we will always remember as we walked among the ruins, the rocks, & the abundant desert plant life. We were fortunate enough to spend a quiet half hour here before the tell tale sounds of human voices began to drift up from the pathway below. People were on the way so it was time for us to go. It's not likely we will ever pass this way again so it's always with a bit of sadness that we leave a place, & especially a place as peaceful as this. A last look back as we began our descent, & wait......was that Marshal South I saw standing tall on a rock looking over the valley, did I hear the children laughing & was that Tanya by the door watching the children play........maybe, just maybe.
We picked our way down through the boulders passing half a dozen people on their way up. I jokingly told them they only had another 8 miles to go. Kelly picked up some tall yucca stems complete with dried flowers on the end. We also picked up a few small colorful stones. Sometimes the descent down a steep grade can be more difficult than the climb up. It's easier to slip on loose gravel but we finally made it down ok & it was a great feeling to open that car door & sit down on a soft comfortable car seat.
From the Ghost Mountain trailhead we headed south a couple of miles to the site of an old Indian village site where we found many morteros in rocks where Indian women had spent countless hours grinding seed pods, beans, & lentils. http://picasaweb.google.com/stargeezerguy The morteros are the only visible sign that there had once been people here & it's hard to comprehend how these women could grind these holes into solid rock using nothing more than another solid rock. Again, wandering amongst these huge boulders, one can only vaguely try to imagine what life must have been like a few hundred years ago in these parts.
The overcast sky was turning dark to the west so it was time for us leave Blair Valley. I turned & said good-bye to the Marshall South family, the Indian families at the mortero site & Ghost Mountain itself. Good-bye & thanks for making this a memorable day for us.
The park's signage is very poor & as we headed off across the desert floor we weren't sure which way the highway was. Sandy roads criss crossed here & there but we stayed on the one that looked most traveled & I felt we were headed in the general right direction Probably took us the best part of half an hour before we saw some vehicles moving along a road in the distance which indeed turned out to be the highway. Always a nice feeling to get un-lost:))
Because the little mountain town of Julian was only 12 miles away we decided to go there & pick up some dog food & a couple of much needed coffees. This is a quaint little village in the heart of the mountains. I think they might have got a bit of snow last week too. The scenic 28 mile trip from Julian back to Borrego Springs was uneventful as I once again got to feel like a Grand Prix driver gearing up down on the tight mountain curves & grades. Just as we reached the Borrego valley, the sun poured out of the clouds lighting the valley floor ahead & it felt like we were home...... even though we've only been here a little over 2 weeks.
This California place is truly remarkable & filled with lots of adventures & wide eyed wonderment & we've come to love it. It will be with sad hearts when we leave her in another week or so.........................:(( (A lot of pictures for the web album so they might not be uploaded yet)