Return to Ghost Mountain

We are preparing to revisit the area near Ghost Mountain where we enjoy the quietude of non-hook-up camping while savoring the yipping of  coyotes under the starry Anza-Borrego desert night skies.  As you may recall, this is the area where I saw strange lights in the sky last fall that I investigated with the help our our vertical thrusters. This is also the area where I spotted a possible UFO while on a hike up Ghost Mountain last spring with Rich and Sadira.


Although the above “UFO” is actually a lenticular cloud formation, what lies below the sky on this mountain is just as fascinating.  It is Yaquitepec, the home site of the Marshal South family experiment in primitive living from 1930 to 1947.


One year ago, writer and photographer,  Bert Gildart, and his wife, Janie, also hiked up here, explored the ruins of Yaquitepec, and he recounted Marshal South’s story, and reflected on the “Lessons From Yaquitepec“.  I also contemplated the story while sitting on Marshal South’s melting adobe walls…


and peering eastward out of the door that he and his family passed through for over 15 years.


In 1946 Marshal South’s wife, Tanya, took their three children and left the mountain and Marshal.  In 1948 Marshal died of heart failure in nearby Julian, CA, where he had obtained supplies to build Yaquitepec, collected his mail, and mailed in his 102 monthly articles to Desert Magazine (which were praised by Wally Byam and documented in the article, “Marshal South & Wally Byam – Parallel Roads, Different Destinations”, pages 36 to 39, in the Fall 2008 issue of Airstream Life).  Marshal had also painted a frieze on the walls of the Julian Library and befriended, the librarian, Myrtle Botts (who was at Marshal’s side when he died). The exact location of Marshal South’s unmarked grave on the hill in the Julian Cemetery had been lost for years.  David Lewis, a 4th generation Julian resident, civil engineering designer, and historian of the Julian Cemetery, determined the site of Marshal’s grave, based on information in a letter written by Myrtle Botts. (1)  (Last year David Lewis wrote, Last Known Address – The History of the Julian Cemetery, published by Headstone Publishing, and he curiously left out any mention of Marshal South in his book).


In 2005, Marshal’s son, Rider, placed a headstone on his father’s grave.


Marshal’s grave marker bears the sacred symbol of the House of the Sun – “that of a sun, an eagle and a cactus – carrying thus, in symbology, the truth of the upward passage of men’s souls from the thorny bitterness of earth to the higher realms of light.”(2)

Marshal wrote:

Let my House be a house of Love and Understanding.  Let the pillars thereof be the mountains and the trees and its pavement be the wide earth.  Let its roof be the arch of the sky, and its music the songs of the birds and of the wind and of the harps of the rain.  Let its lights be the lights of the sun and the moon, and of the glow of the everlasting stars.  Let Fellowship and Peace and Brotherhood dwell therein.  Of man and of every creature.  And I, the Spirit, shall dwell in that House, and walk beneath its arches, and bless it, from Everlasting to Everlasting. (3)

Note 1: Page 38,  “Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles – An Experiment in Primitive Living“, edited and with a forward by Diana Lindsay and with an introduction by Rider and Lucile South, 2005, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, California, ISBN: 0-932653-66-9.

Notes 2 & 3: The quotes in the above two paragraphs are provided with the kind permission of Diana Lindsay and Sunbelt Publications from pages 28, 29 and 30, “Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles – An Experiment in Primitive Living“, edited and with a forward by Diana Lindsay and with an introduction by Rider and Lucile South, 2005, Sunbelt Publications, San Diego, California, ISBN: 0-932653-66-9.

Note 4:  The newly released DVD of John McDonald‘s full length and uncensored documentary, The Ghost Mountain Experiment, is now available and previewed here.

Airstream Alley, part three

Hiking our way into the New Year…

Our Alley-not-a-rally had no scheduled activities.  For example, on the first morning after our arrival in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, Rich came by and knocked on our open trailer door as I was brushing my teeth by the Vanity sink.  I smiled when I saw him and immediately quoted back to him the first line in one of his posts, “The knock on the door always seems to come at the worst time”.  (Salt Creek Recreation, Joyce WA)  He laughed and announced that David, Ari and their son, William, would be riding with them in the Armada to visit Slot Canyon and Split Mountain and that anyone else would be welcome to follow them.  I thanked him but I said I wanted to spend some time completing the set-up our base camp.

The closest we got to scheduling anything was on the night before the event, we chatted about taking a hike up Palm Canyon and decided that a 9 a.m. time would be doable. The next morning at 8:55 a.m. I saw Rich’s door swing open and he came over and munched on sweet orange slices as Eleanor and Emma got ready, while I put the polarized lens on my camera.  “Hey, let’s go for a hike!”, he said.


The Palm Canyon Nature trail is adjacent to the Palm Canyon Campground, where we are staying in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, and reveals the dramas of past floods that uprooted palm trees and pushed them, along with massive boulders, down the canyon. (Palm Canyon Flash Flood!)  This hiking area is always a wonderful photo opportunity, especially when the wild flowers are blooming (First Field Report).   Ongoing and special events are listed on the Anza-Borrego Foundation website.


With luck, patience, right timing and being quiet, sometimes Bighorn Sheep can be spotted here.  It seemed we might be in luck.  I spotted Rich, Eleanor and Emma ahead studying an auspicious sign, fresh scat.


Zoe the cat, in Emma’s day-pack, smelled something’s up.  (Zoe the cat goes with Emma on all major hikes, including Death Valley.   I’m rather skeptical, too, because this is at least my third hike here and I’ve never seen a Bighorn Sheep. I am tempted to think that this is a myth perpetuated by rangers who periodically sprinkle scat on the paths. But, then again, writer and photographer, Bert Gildart spotted 21 of the elusive and endangered Peninsular Bighorn Sheep here last year. (Note that all, including myself, are observing sun safety by wearing wide-brimmed hats.)


Even if we don’t see sheep, we know we will eventually be rewarded by the Palm Oasis ahead and its refreshing shade. We just have to decide which way to go. Here Eleanor contemplates going over or around a boulder, while Rich decides to cross the stream.  After a while, it seemed evident to me that Rich was choosing the more challenging way at every turn in preparation for his rim-to-rim Grand Canyon hike later this year.  This tested our agility and became a balancing act.


The Palm Oasis beckoned us on ahead.


Once under the shade of the oasis, Rich adjusted his camera (Nikon D70 with the same lens that I use, a 18-200mm VR zoom lens).


We felt at home in the oasis as we relaxed…


and snacked…


Emma is showing us her now almost empty box of raisins.  She dug her fingers down into the box and found a raisin to give to Rich.  As he accepted it, he exclaimed, “Wow, I’ve seen peas bigger than this!”, and Emma giggled with delight.  Oops, one raisin fell to the ground and Eleanor reminded her to pick it up so that the ants would not get it.  Later I questioned Eleanor about this and she said she had learned how ants can be damaging to our national treasures, such as the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde. Even items like soda and juice are not allowed on their cliff dwelling tours (they could attract animals and insects which could lead to damaging the dwellings).  Beyond this, Leave No Trace philosophy reminds everyone to be responsible for their actions and leave parks unaltered so that they may be enjoyed by future generations.

As we got up to leave the oasis, Eleanor’s hat fell and was stained with mud.  We decided to go up the canyon a bit higher, as Eleanor looked for a waterfall to wash her hat. She was delighted to find one.


Rich forged ahead and found an even larger waterfall for Eleanor and a better photographic opportunity for himself. But she had to lean dangerously forward and swing her hat into the falls.


Great fun was had by all!


Well, we never did see sheep, but we did have a fun and enriching time…

And time for contemplating…


… crossings and passages.


Airstream Alley, part two

Cooking, feasting and entertaining our way into the New Year(s)…

This alley-not-a-rally had no scheduled, organized activities and events.  Even dinner details were decided at the last moment.  We set up our base camp (which faced away from the main campground) with picnic tables, umbrella, flagpole, lights and mats.  Participants and dishes varied from night to night as our spontaneous rolling party continued.


Rich and Eleanor’s 2005 30′ Safari Bunkhouse is just ahead of ours, followed by David and Ari’s 2006 28′ Safari LS Slide-out.  Larry made siu mai, a form of dim sum as our Pug, Pau Hoa supervised.


These pork and shrimp siu mai were then steamed for 20 minutes in the steamer seen here.


Meanwhile, Rich and I played “The Galaxy Song” on our ukuleles.


A pre-dinner “Ain’t Misbehavin‘” was played by Rich on his tenor uke.


Seen at the dinner table on one of the feast nights were David and Ari, who brought tomato-shrimp pasta, stir-fried vegetables, and cheese cake.   Eleanor brought curried beef and a spicy, Indian curry lentil dish with macadamia nuts.  Terry and Greg brought Chinese spring rolls on one night and a pumpkin pie fresh out of their 19′ Safari Bambi’s oven on another night. (We are bundled up due to temperatures in the 40’s at night, but wear T-shirts during the day when the temperature is in the low 70’s.)


You can see above that, besides the Oval Office, remnants of Rich’s “Beach Club” fabric also made their way to our cushions.

Seen below are Bill and Beth who brought an assortment of sweets that included nut bread, caramel corn, and Chocolate Crinkle Cookies, based on a recipe by Shirley Corriher (the recipe and how to bake the perfect cookie is found here).  Bill and Beth’s 1979 23′ Safari is pulled with a 1977 Lincoln Continental.  In addition to siu mai, Larry made coleslaw with sesame seeds.  Eleanor brought string beans and a salad with pomegranate seeds.  Also seen here are Bob and Theresa who pull a 2008 30′ Classic Slide-out with a F-350 dually.


After-dinner entertainment was supplied by Larry and Emma who animated Griff, a griffin shoulder puppet that Larry found at Renaissance Faire.


The following morning, just before our hike up Palm Canyon, Rich savored the very sweet and juicy navel oranges given to us by Ron and Aldrene, who have a 16′ Bambi.  Highlights of our adventurous hike up Palm Canyon will be featured in Airstream Alley, part three.


Each year we celebrate three New Years (Rosh Hashana, Western new year, and Chinese New Year).  The new Chinese New Year, the Year of the Earth Ox, begins with the new moon on January 26 and we already have a string of auspicious, red Chinese firecrackers hanging on our pod bay door. The focus of the new year is on our family and friends. Larry is already at work researching Chinese recipes and I just found an Astro Chinese New Year 2009 Song.

From our family to yours, we wish you a very Happy New Year, with health, wealth, and prosperity.

Airstream Alley, part one

Based on Tucson Terry and Greg’s report on snow in Julian, we decided that it would be prudent to once again engage our vertical thrusters and fly over the Cuyamaca Mountains.  The flux capacitor apparently needs some tweaking because our craft still tends to drift higher in interstellar space than we intend,


but our brake actuator worked and we safely landed…


and set up base camp in the light of the waxing Wolf Moon.


The surrounding terrain looked picturesque in the daylight.


Other silver craft had also safely landed at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.


An unplanned, rolling party of eight Airstreams settled in to greet the new year. Captains Rich and David are seen below, standing in front of David and Ari’s 28′ Safari LS Slide-out pulled by a silver F-350.


As Rich walked down Airstream Alley, he pointed to other Airstreams that had also landed. Co-pilot and cook Larry set up the array of holiday lights on our trailer (which is seen fully set-up, along with the campsite).


As darkness descended and the temperature dropped, our three Airstreams lit up the night with holiday lights in addition to the running lights that are put on by connecting the two top pins of the 7-pin connector with a 10 watt blade fuse as Larry illustrated here.


The rolling party has just begun… cooking, feasting, entertaining, ukulele playing (we spared Dr. C’s eyes by not wearing Hawaiian shirts this time), hiking and wildlife will be featured in subsequent posts.