Thursday, April 21, 2022

Conejo Well

 So you've never heard of Conejo Well in Joshua Tree National Park? You're not alone. It's kind of an obscure and remote location, with not much remaining to hint at what it once was. But at one time, there was a prospector by the name of Lee Lyons who built himself a sweet little cabin and lived here. There was an active spring, a well, and pipes that brought water to or near the cabin. There was even a "road" of sorts. A beautiful little desert paradise!

This part of the road looks quite passable, but as you follow it straight ahead, things get sketchy. 

The "road" continues, but see what I mean about sketchy? Can you imagine trying to drive this road to and from your house for food and supplies way back in the 20's or 30's? This area is remote even today. Imagine what it must have been like back then!

The best write-up I've seen on Conejo Well is by the DZRT GRLS and can be found here. If you're interested in taking a deeper dive to learn about this area, I highly recommend it!

Just before we head up into the canyon, we come across this clearing site with lots of old stuff. Really interesting old stuff! At first I wondered if this might be the Lee Lyon's cabin site, but I don't think it is.

I can imagine these rocks being in the shape of a fire ring 90 or 100 years ago. But it's hard to explain the large amount of cans, glass, and other debris in the area. Perhaps this was where Lee dumped his trash? The old rusty cans are everywhere, even down in the adjacent wash. Someone spent a lot of time here!

Biscuits, anyone??
 

Soldered hole and cap cans were in use in the early 1900's, which is consistent with when Lee Lyons would have been living here, doing a little prospecting, and enjoying his desert cabin.

Condensed milk must have been a favorite with prospectors, because the cans are commonly found. This can appears to have been opened with a hole punch of some sort.
 
Perhaps a coffee can??
You could easily explore here for hours and hours looking through all the old rusty stuff. Really interesting, but we need to move on.

After following the old "road" that parallels the wash, we come upon this clearing. I'm almost certain this is the site of Lee Lyon's cabin. There's debris in the area, and someone put in a lot of work to clear this spot.


More evidence, and you're going to have to trust me on this one. Straight ahead, in that mess of thorny brush, is a large hole. Parts of it even appear to be lined with stone, but it appears to be more rectagular than round. Because of the brush and deep shadows, I couldn't photograph it (that's the trust me part). I'm thinking this is likely Conejo Well. Either a traditional well, or perhaps more of a holding tank for water piped here from the wash. This is very close (just behind) the cleared area that I suspect was the cabin site.

Right next to the well site is this pile of stones with a couple of iron bars stuck in the ground. Your guess is as good as mine!

More evidence that the cleared area is the former cabin site: Rusty nails everywhere! Which raises an excellent question that I know you are asking: Where is all the wood from the old cabin? Perhaps a cabin fire destroyed it all, but I see no evidence of charred wood, so I doubt it. I'm guessing someone came and carried it off. Bill Keys was a well known scavenger, and his family ranch is filled to the brim with building material, car parts, and anything else he could scavenge. Wood was extremely hard to come by given how remote this area was. If Lee decided his prospecting wasn't paying off and moved on, I'm guessing someone came and helped themselves to the wood used to build his cabin.
 
Old pipe going up the wash near the cabin site. How far up the wash it goes is hard to say. Parts of the pipe are broken and gone, and parts are under sand and rock, so it's difficult or impossible to follow. During our visit, we could find no standing water. Sections of the wash are heavily overgrown with plants, so it's possible there could be a spring here and we just didn't see it.

It appears that a critter had been digging in the soft sand in the wash, and yes, that's a little pocket of water. Looks like the groundwater here is very close to the surface.

Parts of the wash are completely overgrown and impassable. We got about as far as that big juniper bush, rested for a bit, and decided it was time to start the long hike back to the car. It would have been interesting to explore further up the wash, but we just didn't have time.
 
We spot what looks like a pipe or pole sticking out of the ground up on top of the ridge overlooking the wash. If you look closely, there are actually two poles (one short and one long). That would be a long, difficult climb to get up there, so we will have to save that for another day, but we can't help wondering what it is.
 
About a mile from the car, we spot this beautiful rosy boa. This is only the second one I've seen in the park, and I think they are pretty rare. We try not to disturb him, take a quick photo, and move on.
 
As we were finishing up the hike, clouds moved in and the sky became very dramatic. I ended up with a lot of pretty sky shots that I will share with you on a future post.
 
Thanks for joining me on another adventure to a seldom seen location in JTNP!!
Linking with Skywatch Friday.

34 comments:

  1. It is surprising how nature obscures traces of humanity over time.

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  2. Now that turned out to be an interesting hike. Like how you looked around for the cabin and came up where you think it was. A bit of an archaeologist at heart. The last photo made it for me

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  3. ...more barren beauty, the last is a BIG WOW! Thanks for taking me along.

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  4. Another great adventure. An archeologist friend here in Tulsa says that trash and garbage are archeological gold. There are several trash heaps on Turkey Mountain left there by oilwell drillers, ranchers, and railway people and the managers of the place want people to leave them alone because they tell a lot about the people who live there long ago.
    You really did a lot of investigating and have some questions for later. Such a lot of work to build and maintain a site as remote as the cabin was.

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  5. A remote cabin is one person's paradise and another's nightmare. The trash really interests me. I wanted to be an archaeologist back when I was 13 yo. Ah well.

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  6. I kind of expected to see the remnants of a cabin. Sigh. But I guess waste not, especially in the desert.

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  7. Fascinating post ~ almost reads like a story book ~ Great photos and beautiful sky shot to end your post ~ Xo


    Wishing you laughter and love in all your days,

    A ShutterBug Explores,
    aka (A Creative Harbor)

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  8. Thank you so much for sharing this.

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  9. It must have been so interesting what you found - baking powder - you think there was a cabin there with an oven inside? You could write a book about all the things you found and turn it into a novel, haha. Have a great weekend in the desert!

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  10. Thanks for sharing this almost unknown place.
    Have a lovely day.

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  11. Another one of your very nice illustrated desert explorations. Love the explanation of the tins and rusty remains.

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  12. Interesting! I love finding old stuff that makes you wonder who it belonged to and what their life might have been like.

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  13. Your discoveries in the desert are interesting, the baking powder is a classic. Love the azure skies in the last photo with the chemtrails

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  14. Looks like you had a great trip out there. The pipes on top of the ridge certainly are intriguing!

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  15. I should have listed you as one of the anodynes helping me get through the present "moment." Both my husband and I enjoy your adventures and photos, and appreciate the effort you go to in order to produce this blog.

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  16. It's amazing what you find in the remote desert. Interesting things to think about. Thanks for sharing another wonderful hike.

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  17. biscuits & condensed milk . . I'm thinking I would be okay . . . hot in summer . . . but, okay.
    Thank you for so many marvelous adventures!

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  18. Beautiful snake, especially when seen from the safety of my computer! It's always fun to speculate about historical sites. Thanks for taking us along for the ride on this one!

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  19. Nice to think they might have recycled the cabin wood into another home. This place has me wondering what future people will think of our trash left behind. Compared to then, now will expose an avalanche!

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  20. My first comment disappeared so I'll try again. I enjoyed your exploration of the cabin and well (I'll trust you on that). As you well know, archeologists learn so much from trash dumps. I didn't know there were any native boas, and I discovered that rosy boas are kept as pets, and considered a beginners pet for those interested in keeping snakes. I also enjoyed a brief clicking through the DZRT GRLS site - too bad they stopped posting several years ago. Quite an informative post. I look forward to the sky pictures from this hike. Alana ramblinwitham.blogspot.com

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  21. Interesting photos and information. The last photo is really beautiful!
    Have a wonderful weekend!

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  22. You always find something interesting from the past.
    It was nice tagging along.

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  23. Amazing finds, captures and commentary!

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  24. Greetings and Salutations! I remember opening cans with the turn key on the side like that rusty one. I don't remember what was inside though. I enjoyed the cyber tour. Your adventures are so interesting. I can hardly wait till next week.

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  25. What an interesting place this is. You found all kinds of things to examine. I remember those turn-key cans too. I know coffee came that way because I remember my parents struggling with the key. Wasn't tuna in cans like that once too? The desert holds all kinds of secrets to unravel.

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  26. I have been to Joshua Tree. It is beautiful desert scenery. Loved seeing your "find" from long ago.

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  28. Fascinating! And that rusty old trash has become interesting by virtue of age and curiosity.

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