|Google Maps satellite view of the "mystery cabins"|
The first thing I noticed was a fair number of dead Joshua Trees. There must have been a fire that come through this area a number of years ago. This poor fellow seems to have collapsed about waist high!
Much more common to see the skeletal remains lying on the ground. In the dry, desert air, who knows how long it would take a Joshua Tree "skeleton" to decompose? I'm guessing a very long time. Which reminds me, I was reading that some of the largest Joshua trees in the Park are 800 - 900 years old! Pretty amazing.
This guy died but is still standing. Oh, and I was right. Very hard to follow the jeep trail that I spotted on Google Maps. I ended up just making my own path, checking my waypoints, and trying to avoid thorns and stickers (pretty much impossible).
Another "fallen soldier"... this one in black & white. He looked liked he was a big boy in his prime. May be at least a few hundred years old??
Ah ha, you see it?? After about a mile or so, this is the view you will see. Look closely and you can just make out a cabin in the middle of the photo at the base of the hill. Based on Google Maps, there should be a second cabin around here somewhere. So far, no fences or signs anywhere.
Hiking west, here is the first cabin you will come across. A bit of a disappointment. I was hoping to see an old homestead in something close to original condition. Instead I found a house that was being totally rebuilt from the ground up with cinderblock walls and a big front deck being added.
Here's the view looking directly at the front of cabin #1. That's going to be a nice deck with a killer view when it's done! I can only wonder what the original cabin looked like, who built it, when was it built, and what was it used for?
Above is just a small piece of the view from the front deck. Pretty nice, right? Nobody around for miles.
Here's mystery cabin #2. It's a couple hundred yards west of mystery cabin #1. Like cabin #1, it's in the process of being totally rebuilt, and much further along in the process. Hard to say what the original construction looked like, but it appears someone is putting stone over concrete block. When completed, it will look like an old stone cabin. The windows and doors are covered by heavy steel shutters big locks. Built like Fort Knox for some reason, and unfortunately, no place to peek inside to see what it looks like.
This side of the cabin is facing south (toward the hills). Look closely and you can kind of see how the stonework is being cemented to concrete block.
|Closer view of front of mystery cabin #2|
Lot's of old debris on the west side of mystery cabin #2. It appears the cabin has been "gutted", with no plans to reuse the original materials. Which is too bad. Makes me wonder about the history of these cabins, and wouldn't it be worth the extra effort to preserve them in their original condition?
Old desert outhouse locate behind cabin #2. Too bad they didn't cut out some windows so you could enjoy the view!
Not too far from the cabin and the outhouse is the shower. You can forget about modesty here, but no one around for miles, so it probably doesn't matter! I didn't see any signs of a well in the area, so not sure what the water source was (or is) for these cabins. Probably a well somewhere... I just missed it.
Hiking up the hill a little ways provides a nice view of the cabins and the beautiful little valley they sit in. It's one of the prettier areas in the Park.
A few days after completing this hike I reached out to David Denslow, Lead Park Ranger, JTNP. He's a good guy and always quick to respond to my emails. I asked him if he was familiar with the "mystery" cabins, if they are private property, and who is doing the work to rebuild the cabins? He responded that yes, definitely private property, and the Park Service is in the process of researching and writing the history of these structures as part of the "Homesteads & Inholdings Historic Resources" study being conducted by a PhD candidate at UC Riverside.
It's good to know that the history of the cabins is being studied and hopefully recovered and will be shared with the public. However, this experience did raise a bunch of questions in my mind. I'm sure it's the Park Service doing (or at least supervising) the rebuilding of these cabins. In the spirit of "national parks aren't owned by anyone, they are owned by everyone", should the public have input (or did they have input) into how these cabins are being restored? How about input into how they will be used in the future? Will they be restricted for use only by Park employees, or will they be open to the general public? What is the mechanism for general public Park users to have input into these important decisions?
Running out of time, so join me next time for some photos from my return hike back to my car from the "mystery cabins". Thanks for dropping by!!
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