WITH THE LAGUNA MOUNTAINS ON THE HORIZON KELLY MAKES HER WAY UP GHOST MOUNTAIN
This is my Thursday December 25th 2014 Christmas Day post
I knew all the clatter outside was not Santa & his reindeer landing on our roof Christmas Eve but we were pre-warned about what that clatter would mean. In fact San Diego had issued an overnight wind advisory for Borrego Springs & having experienced some of the heaviest winds ever over the years right here in Borrego we knew what was coming. And come it did. We luckily had our levelers down so we weren’t rocking & rolling like other times but it was a vent flap in the range hood somewhere that messed up my night with it’s noisy flapping. An outside small aluminum table was the culprit for keeping Kelly awake. Our sleep turned out to be one of these kinds….zzzzzzzzzzz#%!!!!&*zzzz!!!!%**##zzzz%@#%@!!&%!! But no matter we were up early anyway with a destination in mind. Luckily the winds eased off around 7 a.m.
MOODY CLOUDS SITTING ON THE SAN YSIDRO MOUNTAINS OVERLOOKING BORREGO SPRINGS DEAD AHEAD AS WE HEAD FOR THE BLAIR VALLEY
STOPPING JUST WEST OF BORREGO FOR A FEW PHOTOS
With a few sandwiches packed & a big old beautiful Anza-Borrego sunrise behind us we all piled into the Jeep about 7:25 this morning & headed off for Ghost Mountain in the Blair Valley about an hour southwest of our location. What better way for us to spend Christmas day with a customary hike somewhere. Last year it was a bouncing Jeep tour in & around behind the Kofa Mountains in Arizona.
THIS RAINBOW FOLLOWED US ALL THE WAY & RIGHT TO THE TOP OF GHOST MOUNTAIN
And just a few words about our destination here. Long time readers have read my posts over the years about hiking up Ghost Mountain to what’s left of a homestead up there. Most people have probably never heard of Marshal South or Ghost Mountain & rather than me explaining the story I will just include some links here. Also, if you type ‘Marshal South’ or ‘Ghost Mountain’ into the ‘Search’ panel at the top of my side bar you can read about my/our hikes & of course see tons of photos as well. I recommend you read my Marshal South posts from the beginning to see how I felt about my first visit there, hiking up with a group of people, meeting the ‘Ghost Mountain Experiment’ DVD director & producer John McDonald & his writing wife Lydia at the trailhead, a drive by Ryder South’s home in Silver City NM, & of my gloomy cold rainy day search in the Julian California cemetery for desert writer & poet Marshal South’s final resting place. Am a bit obsessed with the Marshal South story?? Well perhaps I am & you just might be too if you read the book & understood what all took place atop that mountainous California ridge line. Marshall South & The Ghost Mountain Chronicles (this is the book I have) ::: Ghost Mountain Trail To Yaquitepec ::: Finding The Real Marshal South
AS ALWAYS IT WAS A BEAUTIFUL DRIVE THROUGH THE YAQUI PASS EARLY THIS MORNING
HERE WE ARE BARRELING OVER A CLIFF:))
LUCKILY OUR 4 WHEEL DRIVE GOT US BACK UP ON THE ROAD AGAIN
AND OF COURSE THIS ANOTHER ONE OF MY FAVORITE STRETCHES OF ROAD…NOTICE THE NICER LIGHTING ON PATCHY STORM CLOUD DAYS
THROUGH YAQUI PASS & ON OUR WAY TO BLAIR CANYON
It was a perfectly picturesque morning with just the right combination of sun & clouds to give the sky a grumbly personality. Some of the dark low to the ground clouds were packing rain & we soon picked up a rainbow just west of Borrego Springs. This rainbow traveling along the base of the San Ysidro Mountains followed us all the way to the Yaqui Pass, waited patiently for us to exit the other side of the narrow canyon then followed us on to Blair Valley. In fact this rainbow stayed with us in the western sky all the way up the Ghost Mountain Trail right to the Marshal South homestead.
FOLLOWING A SANDY WASHBOARD ROAD IN SPOTS THROUGH BLAIR VALLEY TO GHOST MOUNTAIN
It was a mile climb from the trailhead parking area crisscrossing the face of Ghost Mountain to our destination. Took us about an hour & 15 minutes. It was a cold climb with the hillside in shadow & a strong wind a blowing. Good thing we had warm clothes with us. On this rocky climb pretty well every step forward is a step upward. It’s a tough trail with it’s washouts, gravely stones & huge boulders. And one has to be very aware of the many needle sharp Agave plants along the path just waiting to totally impale a careless leg passing by. Cholla & other prickly Cactus await unwary wanderers as well. Kelly, using her walking stick took her time & did well all the way up with Pheebs & I readily not to far ahead to lend a hand if needed. No hand was needed. (both Kelly & I have this independent ‘I’ll do it myself’ streak) All the way up this steep trail one has a totally unrestricted view back over the Blair Valley where one has just driven in from. We made about half a dozen viewing stops. Closer to a ridge top winds became stronger but also as we cleared a rocky ridge onto a plateau we were bathed in warm morning sunlight from the east……but it wasn’t to last.
TRAILHEAD AREA AT GHOST MOUNTAIN
AND THE RAINBOW IN LEFT PHOTO HAS FOLLOWED US ALL THE WAY HERE
GAINING SOME ALTITUDE
WE BEGIN OUR ASCENT IN THE COLD MORNING SHADOW OF GHOST MOUNTAIN
Should mention that Ghost Mountain really isn’t a mountain as one imagines a mountain to be. It’s more of a high ridge line running in a long stretch at the south end of Blair Valley. It quite handily divides Blair Valley from the Vallecito Valley. It’s maybe only a few hundred yards wide running east west for maybe a couple or more miles or so. But it’s high, it’s rocky, it’s beautiful, & it is home to a great variety of Cactus plants. Probably more huge Agave plants than anything else. And I do love Agave plants despite their deadly sharp needle points.
LOOKING NORTH ACROSS BLAIR VALLEY
TRAIL CAN BE ROUGH GOING AT TIMES
AT LAST WE ARE GETTING INTO SOME WARM MORNING SUN
DARN WIND KEEPS BLOWING MY HAT OFF
There is a break in the climbing when a flat mesa like plateau is reached. This is where the sweeping Vallecito Valley is first seen stretching off to the far eastern horizon. On the far side of the scenic plateau lay a steep incline of huge boulders. More climbing & clambering but having been up Ghost Mountain to the Marshal South homestead probably half a dozen times or more I knew atop that boulder strewn ridge lay the ruins of Yaquitipec. We had about another 20 minutes of climbing ahead of us. And then there it was as I caught sight of a weathered board sticking up. And then part of an adobe wall, a door frame, the cistern,& at last what’s left of an old rusted iron bed frame. I noticed right away the bed frame had been moved since our last time there. But no matter, we had reached our destination.
ATOP THAT HILL OF LARGE BOULDERS LIES THE MARSHAL SOUTH HOMESTEAD
KELLY USING HER BLACKBERRY TAKES A PICTURE OF OUR FOLLOWING RAINBOW
THEN SENDS IT INSTANTLY OFF TO HER CHILDREN
PICKING OUR WAY ALONG A FAINT PATH THROUGH THE BOULDERS
How special it was to be standing here amidst the ruins of what is left of the Marshal South homestead on a Christmas morning. In the book Marshall South has written lovingly of how Christmas mornings were spent with his wife Tanya, 2 boys Rudyard & Ryder as well as daughter Victoria. Standing in the disintegrated adobe ruins of where the kitchen stood I can almost smell Tanya’s Christmas cooking. The kids playing by the Christmas tree, the presents sent to them from folks across America who for years read Marshal South’s stories in Desert Magazine, the hand made Christmas decorations. Yes it was all here years ago on many a warm happy & merry Christmas morn.
AND AT LAST WE ARE STANDING AMID THE RUINS MARSHAL SOUTH'S ‘YAQUITEPEC’
KITCHEN AREA IS THERE IN THE RIGHT PHOTO WITH THE REMAINS OF TANYA'S STOVE BOTTOM CENTER
THEIR SUNDIAL FOR TELLING TIME
THE AMAZING WATER GATHERING CISTERN SYSTEM THEY USED & OF COURSE…….THE PHEEBS:))
We stayed at Yaquitepec for about an hour looking around at all the familiar places we have read about in the book. The sundial, the alcove where Marshal South wrote his stories, the area where they roasted Agave hearts, a shallow pool they made for the kids, cisterns for gathering water, remains of the stove Tanya cooked on. And probably the most noticeable memory of all. The old bent & rusted bed frame.
THE POOL THEY BUILT TO GATHER WATER FOR THE KIDS TO PLAY IN DURING MONSOON WEATHER
As per my tradition I climbed atop a big boulder just east of the pool & stood for awhile gazing across the immense & awe inspiring Vallecito Valley below. To the right one can see highway S2 making it’s way along. This was once the old Butterfield Overland Mail Stagecoach Line. This is always a special moment for me standing atop this boulder. Not sure why, it just is.
LOOKING SOUTHEAST OUT OVER THE VALLECITO VALLEY…A VALLEY OF MYTH, MAGIC, & LEGEND
PHEEBS LOOKS OUT ACROSS THE LONG STRETCHING VALLECITO VALLEY
KELLY SITS IN THE VERY ALCOVE WHERE MARSHALL SOUTH SAT WITH HIS TYPEWRITER TO WRITE HIS ARTICLES FOR DESERT MAGAZINE
I STRIKE MY MARSHAL SOUTH POSE
Kelly spotted a rusty can with pencils & bits of orange paper in it under some overhanging bricks in the kitchen area. She lifted out the can & noticed writing on the squares of paper. People leaving short messages & the first one Kelly looked at was a popular fellow Blogger. We’ve never met him but Kelly reads his blog all the time. Randy from Mobile Kodgers. Kelly also left an orange paper note & I wrote the date on the back of a Bayfield Bunch card & dropped that in the can as well.
I EVEN MANAGED A SELFIE STANDING ATOP MY FAVORITE HIGH ROCK PLACE OVERLOOKING THE VALLECITO VALLEY
JUST LOST IN THOUGHT I GUESS & THE OLD RUSTED TIN CAN WITH ALL THE MESSAGES IN IT
While looking & walking around we had not been keeping an eye on the sky & unnoticed to us a big black rain cloud had drifted over from the heavily rain clouded area to our west. Noticed a sudden drop in temperature as we lost our sunlight. Wind picked up significantly & we felt quickening raindrops. Our Christmas morning visit to the Marshall South homestead was over as we hastily scrambled to pick up our things. I didn’t waste any time taking off my heavy warm flannel shirt, re-strung my 2 cameras around my shoulders & quickly put my shirt back on to keep the cams from getting wet. Kelly hurriedly re-donned her nylon jacket, grabbed her back pack & we were off on our way back down the mountain. A quick wave & a goodbye to Yaquitepec for another year.
WITH RAINDROPS ALREADY ON MY LENS KELLY QUICKLY GATHERS HER STUFF TOGETHER
ALTHOUGH SUNNY OVER THE LAGUNA MOUNTAINS THE RAIN CLOUD WAS RIGHT OVER TOP US
GINGERLY PICKING OUR WAY THROUGH THE BIG WET BOULDERS
Wind was really biting at us & with lower temperatures I had to keep my hands in my pockets for warmth when I could. It was not pouring rain but it was coming down enough to give us that cold & wet miserable feeling. Pheebs not being a water dog was not impressed with what was drizzling out of the sky. Had to take our time, wet rocks & boulders can be slippery. Kelly’s balance is not always the best so she had to take it very slow. Made it back across the plateau & started the gravelly & treacherous descent down the northwest side of the mountain.
PATH THROUGH THE BOULDERS IN FOREGROUND & ACROSS THE PLATEAU CENTER
Had only made it a third of the way when we were struck with a ray of sunshine. Temperatures began coming up as the black cloud passed & slowly drifted eastward. Remainder of the trail remained in sunlight & we were sure glad to reach our Jeep where egg salad sandwiches & soft seats were waiting. We could both feel today’s hike in our legs & I was happy Kelly was able to make it all the way to the top & down again for another year. It was a good thing we had done our hike early because on the way back out the winding sandy road across the desert floor in Blair Canyon we passed 4 other vehicles heading in to do some Ghost Mountain hiking. Glad we missed meeting anyone. The Marshall South story & Ghost Mountain is something you want to experience yourself or with a close friend/friends who have the same interests as you do. To me it’s a special place.
RAIN HAS FINALLY STOPPED & THE SUN RETURNS
REST STOP BEFORE THE LAST LEG OF THE HIKE
LAST FEW STEPS & WE ARE BACK AT THE TRAILHEAD
Our hour & a quarter drive back to our boondocking site at the Clark Dry Lake Bed a few miles northeast of Borrego Springs was uneventful but beautifully scenic as always. We were home about 12:45. Kelly was needing a big rest. I was too but had a blog to write & a 146 photos to edit but no matter because I’m a happy guy whenever I have a creative project in front of me & something to do I enjoy doing:))
COYOTE MOUNTAIN DEAD AHEAD AS WE HEAD BACK TO OUR RIG
Hope everyone had themselves as fine a day as we did & Friday is going to be a big day of rest for us. For sure for sure:))
GROANER’S CORNER:(( "Now Japanese mobile operators (companies) are taking phone sound systems to the next level with stereo-quality songs that can be fully downloaded and edited, as well as surround-sound systems that trick users into hearing a bell ringing behind them or a ball whizzing by." What a genius idea: you hear your cell phone ringing, but can't tell where the sound is coming from. Wonder what techno whizz-bang kid thought that one up.