Desert trails and mysteries, 1

Modern-day Peg-legger, writer and photographer Bert Gildart arrived at our campsite below Ghost Mountain bright and early with enthusiastic, positive energy and sensitive curiosity.  He took notes as we showed him our space-saving solutions inside our trailer and then we sat around the picnic table under the mesquite tree and chatted for the next two hours on a variety of topics, issues and concerns.


I pointed to one of the ridges on nearby Ghost Mountain and said that is Yaquitepec, where Marshal South and family had their experiment in primitive living as detailed in Diana Lindsay’s, Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles and brought to life in the recently released full-length documentary, John McDonalds’s The Ghost Mountain Experiment.  Last week Bert hiked up to Yaquitepec, and now he was interested in retracing Marshal’s monthly trip into Julian, 14 miles away up Banner Grade, where he mailed in his monthly articles to Desert Magazine, picked up mail and supplies, painted a frieze in the Julian Library, and where he was buried.  So I grabbed my camera and day pack and Bert drove up to Julian for the first time (going from an elevation of 1500′ to 4000′ and from a temperature of near 70 degrees to near 50).  Upon arrival, Bert shared a sandwich that Janie had made and then I took him up the Casket Walk of the Julian Cemetery and showed him Marshal South’s gravestone marker (with its symbols of the cactus, eagle and sun) that his eldest son Rider had placed in 2005, after the site had been determined by David Lewis of Julian based on information in a letter written by former Julian librarian, Myrtle Botts, who befriended Marshal.


(In 2008, 4th generation Julian resident, David Lewis wrote, Last Known Address – The History of the Julian Cemetery, published by Headstone Publishing, Julian, Ca., which also tells interesting stories of the early families of Julian, and curiously leaves out any mention of Marshal South’s interactions with Julian and of his burial location in the Julian Cemetery.)


As the cold wind picked up and the rain clouds rolled over, I took Bert down the hill to the center of town for an opportunity to photograph the frieze that Marshal painted in the Julian Library in the fall of 1946 in exchange for Marshal being able to live there in the library with the permission of librarian Myrtle Botts. (Marshal’s spending more time in Julian was one of the factors leading to his wife, Tanya, taking the kids off Ghost Mountain and seeking a divorce.) This former library is now the home of Julian Realty and is next to the Town Hall.


I suggested that Bert go in first and, if getting permission, do a photo shoot. After a few minutes, I started to see flashes from his camera so I knew he had succeeded.

After 20 minutes or so he came out and took me back in and introduced me to the one lady there and, after getting her permission, I quickly took photos of the frieze on the upper portion of all four walls, which must have been just above former stacks of library books. Using historical, spiritual and religious symbology, the frieze depicts the story of people from the cradle of civilization (Egyptian pyramid) to the horrors of World War II (planes flying over a city in flames as bombs and rockets fly).  Much of history is subjective and I’m sure much of what I saw can be interpreted in many ways.  For example, the frieze image below suggests to me the beginnings of the town Julian, which was at first a tent city when quartz gold was discovered in 1870 by Confederate Drury Bailey, from Georgia. He homesteaded 160 acres of land, laid out a town, and named it after his cousin Mike Julian.


But prior to this, Native American Indians, the Kumeyaay, lived here, and their ancestors, the San Dieguito Paleo Indians, can be dated back 10,000 to 12,000 years ago.  Marshal shows them hunting and gathering…


And tending fires.


In 1542 Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the first documented European to sail the Western shore of North America, sailed under the Spanish flag into what is now called San Diego Bay and named it San Miguel.  His burial place is still a mystery.


More trails and mysteries will be explored in my next article, “Desert trails and mysteries, 2”.

Meanwhile, here is music (and history) to listen to while contemplating the first California Gold Rush.