I knew if I hiked along the wash it would lead me back to Keys Ranch Road, which I could follow back to my car. However, this particular wash had all kinds of interesting stuff in it! Old car springs, cans, broken dishes and bottles, etc, etc.
The wash was so interesting that when it reached the road, I decided to follow the wash a little further (opposite direction of my car). That's when I spotted it.
An old graveyard with a metal fence around the perimeter sitting up on a beautiful knoll below the boulders. Wow, totally unexpected!
As I got closer, it became obvious that this was a small family graveyard. And not just any family, but the early pioneering Keys family! I was shocked because I didn't know this graveyard existed, and I've never seen any photos of the graveyard. A quick Google search of "Keys Graveyard" prior to publishing this post did not turn up any images... The graveyard must not be on the Keys Ranch tour, and is a well kept secret.
There are a total of about eight graves. Each headstone appears to have been hand-made, and each grave has a horseshoe on it. It's very touching and more than a little eerie to see a little family graveyard like this out in the middle of nowhere, and a reminder of how difficult life must have been. The grave above is of an 11-year-old boy, and below is a 5-day-old. Sad and touching.
|Willis Lawton Keys (son of Bill Keys), 1/5/21 - 6/10/2015|
This is the tallest and most ornate headstone in the Keys Family Graveyard. Could this be the grave of Bill Keys?? When I enlarge the image, I think I can just make out the name Frances, so this must be the grave of Frances Keys, Bills wife.
I didn't think much of this headstone at first. It's small and not very ornate and illegible to boot. However, since it's right next to Frances' grave, it says "Dad", and I can make out "1879" (the year Bill Keys was born), this has to be the grave of the late great Bill Keys.
After taking these pics, I made a hasty retreat back to my car, feeling a bit guilty about stumbling into an off-limits area. Bill Keys is held in extremely high regard and is a local legend, so hoping he isn't looking down on me shaking his fist!! I would hope he would say "Heck ya, share my story!! That's why I donated by home and land to Joshua Tree National Park."