Thursday, October 8, 2020

The Lonely Desert

I remember driving the Jeep east on Highway 62 with my wife and granddaughter. It was hot, so I had loaded a 5-gallon water container in the Jeep. I wanted to check out an old mine that was only a few miles off the highway. Going east on Highway 62 out of 29 Palms quickly turns into open space. It's been called "one of the most desolate stretches of highway in California." Once you get past the Wonder Valley homestead cabins that dot the landscape, that's it. Nothing else.

Back when I was skinny!

After driving due east for about 30 miles, we came to the little GPS dot on my cell phone map that indicated the turn off. There was a very faint road heading south, toward the mountains, which is what I was looking for.


After driving just a couple hundred yards, I felt the Jeep sinking into the sand. Even 4WD didn't seem to help much. The sand was powder-fine. What the locals call "blow sand"... the really small particles that are picked up by the wind and then accumulate in certain areas. I just barely managed to turn the Jeep around without getting axle-deep in the sand. No mine today. We spread out a blanket and let our granddaughter play. I went out to explore the local area.


The desert Smoke Tree (Dalea spinosa) is primarily seen in desert washes, which would seem like a nearly impossible environment for a plant to survive. For most of the year it looks more or less dead, with a grey color hinting at green, but not really green. It really does resemble a puff of smoke. But they have a certain ragged beauty when you come across one in the late afternoon light.



Not far from where the Jeep was stuck parked, I was surprised to came across some old fence posts, barbed wire, a rusty water tank, and a concrete foundation that indicated a cabin had been here. Someone, or perhaps even a family, had lived here many years ago.


Judging by the amount of rust and decay in this old water tank, it was a long time ago. Just a guess, but may be in the 1930's or 40's? A quick search on Wikipedia tells me the state highway between Yucca Valley and 29 Palms didn't even exist until 1962. For most of the years before that, it was just tracks in the sand. And the road beyond 29 Palms going east (leading to this location) was added even later. When this little homestead cabin was built and lived in, there was no paved road. A trip to 29 Palms from here would have taken hours. Perhaps a full day, and the risk of getting stuck in the soft sand or having a breakdown would have been high. 


Whoever lived here would have needed to be very self-sufficient. It would be much to far to drive for water or groceries. The fence posts and barbed wire tells me they likely had livestock of some kind. No electricity. No running water. This would have been bare knuckle survival. Who were they? Why did they choose such a remote, lonely location? Another desert mystery!


This side of the water tank is badly rusted away. Let's go take a look inside (or course, first we will look closely for snakes and other critters!).


Capturing the setting sun through the rusty, eroded side of a metal water tank. We went looking for an old mine and instead found the abandoned dreams of a desert pioneer. The old mine will just have to wait!

Thanks for stopping by. Stay safe and stay healthy!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

47 comments:

  1. Captures These Images In BLK & White Was A Damn Good Move - Really Enjoyed The Story As Well - Looking Forward To The Old Mine Adventure Some Day - Stay Strong Mr Desert Pioneer

    Cheers

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  2. Wonderful historical post and photos ~ last one is very creative! another adventure ^_^

    Live each moment with love,

    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

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  3. the black and white photos do look more lonely and have a vintage feel

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  4. ...black and white is wonderful for this baren, but beautiful landscape.

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  5. B&W was just perfect for this. I would love to know that story, too - why they set up there, their lives, why they (I am assuming "they" but who knows)left. I hope someone knows that story and finds you.

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  6. You have arisen to literature level with your thoughts and thoughtful images. I would quit and feel quite heroic way before axle-deep in the sand! Please stay wise, keep safe, keep researching. These posts would comprise a wonderful book, or at least e.book linking to local interested scholars, citizens and agencies. Lecture over. Resume playing 😸

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  7. You reminded me of getting stuck in sands in Baja and something interesting to post on my blog. Your photos are thoughtful, wow, I just noticed the comment above said the same thing. It just caught my eye, so it must be true. Thoughtful photos and writing. It has been a wonderful experience to view the desert you love so much in black and while photos.

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  8. Love the black and whites of the desert. Good to get a chance to see that arew thru your eyes.
    Sherry & jack back in Florida

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  9. Looks like you found a different sort of treasure.

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  10. I love that fourth photo. Such a strange unusual combination of lines. You have a great eye!

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  11. Presumably when the road was built they thought it was getting too crowded out there and moved somewhere quieter! These images really capture the isolation and desolation of the place. I'm amazed that smoke trees can survive there, let alone human beings.

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  12. I love finding old stuff like that. It really makes you scratch your head when you see how far they were from anything. Great discovery.

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  13. I love driving in a desert. I took a read trip through the Australian outback (95% desert), it was fantastic. Your photos in B&W are terrific!

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  14. Beautiful, beautiful pictures, oh, I love the desert, driving endlessly, seeing no-one and if, the other driver greets you. But living there like that?! If you find out more, please make a post on it!

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  15. The monochrome lends itself perfectly to the lonely, isolated feeling. A fine post! Take care of yourself and your family!

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  16. That's a very special find again, Peter. I like the story as well as the black & white photos. Especially the 4th and the last images a great.

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  17. In this case I admit that I miss the colors how nice it otherwise may be.

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  18. Not a place to get bogged down in the sand, great photos and such a change seeing them in B&W

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  19. Very interesting to read about the desert pioneer and lovely captures specially that of the desert smoke tree.

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  20. Dearest SP&P,
    Wow, those people living there had a lot of courage!
    Yes, getting stuck in that kind of sand is treacherous and you have to live with that uncertainty ongoing. Having no running water, nor electricity in itself would freak out most of us!
    No doubt, it was an education for your granddaughter!
    Hugs,
    Mariette

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  21. You're doing what I used to do. I'd circle things on the map and go to them-or find them accidentally. The park was full of these things in the '80's. Now it's overrun with people so the adventures are on the outskirts. You bring back so many memories (damn I sound old!!)

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  22. EXCELLENT BLACK AND WHITES! Just beautiful.

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  23. I'm unfamiliar with areas like this, and find this fascinating! It's a shame you couldn't drive further, but I'd be loathe to find out how long AAA would take to find me if it were me lol Imagining the life led by the people who chose this location to settle is interesting.

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  24. It must be very exciting to live in a place where you can explore as often as you'd like. I know I sure love checking out where you've been and what all you found!

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  25. To be a desert pioneer takes an incredible amount of bravery. The black and white photos are perfect for this series, they are outstanding. Thanks for sharing this wonderfu post. Have a good weekend and stay safe.

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  26. The composition in that fourth pic is especially wonderful.

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  27. Beautiful, dramatic shots in black and white. Have a great weekend.

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  28. Your photos are vivid and sharp in black and white too. The effect upon the viewer is incisive. Very nice to see.
    Stay well and safe you too!

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  29. Some settlers certainly chose harsh areas to try and scratch out a living. Hard to imagine anyone these days even attempting to live under such conditions.

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  30. I admire your Wheels and driving skills. Lesser Car or lesser Driver would so be stuck. I also admire your b n´ w, tonal range is fantastic. Solid photography and post processing.

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  31. love your mystery story ;-). and I admire self- sufficient people/skills.

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  32. Beautiful landscapes and wonderful B&W series. Take care, enjoy your weekend!

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  33. The B&W were perfect for this day trip, Rick, as they seemed to enhance the mystery of finding that old water tank. Glad you were able to turn the jeep around and not get bogged down in sand. I wondered too how people could have managed to live in such a desolate environment.

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  34. Oh wow! What a find. I always wonder about people--families who homestead a way off the beaten track. So many question--how did they find the place? what was the air? and the biggest question of al--what happened? we were hiking years ago up in the hill east of sultan wa. and came across a falling down cabin--nothing inside but some old mattresses with mushrooms growing and out side look a bit like a stump farm. What? Who? and why? I am still wondering.
    Glorious pics as always
    MB

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  35. You find the coolest things...but be careful out there.

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  36. Very interesting discovery and story. Love the sunset picture through the rusty water tank!

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  37. That was a fascinating find SPP, certainly gets the imagination going.. when, who and even why 😉 We've been stuck a few times in soft sand, not fun! You always manage to capture a series of wonderful images, nice work 💜

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  38. Great black and white post, Peter. Especially like the one with the big clump of grass, and the waves of sand leading to it. Stunning! Jesh

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  39. Another beautiful post. Your choice of black and white emphasizes the starkness of the desert (which I love).

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  40. Wonderful black and white images !
    Infrared ?

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    1. Thanks so much, Karl. No, not infrared. I usually do a little post processing on the original color images. For a few of them, I convert them to B&W if the mood strikes me!

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  41. I am enthralled by the Desert Smoke tree! How unusual and it makes me amazed how nature can conforma nd adjust to climate. It gives me hope.
    The abandoned homestead is also interesting. The why and hows of that. Maybe there is buried treasure under the old foundation? Someone wanted a good hideout?

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  42. What a story .... Whoever lived there really knew the meaning of isolation. (Can you imagine what they would think of how people are whining today about what we can’t do!)...... but what a life that person or family had... I wonder why and how .... fascinating to think about. Great discovery and wonderful photos. I like to think about how you introduced your granddaughter to the wonders of the desert when she was so little! No wonder she’s so at home there now.

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