Thursday, December 3, 2015

New Treasures in an Old Place

Old to us.  Bill's family lived in Eagle Mountain, north of Desert Center, for 18 years. He "played" in the desert around the area for years.  My dad lived 40 miles further "out in the desert" at Iron Mountain for 28 years, and I too spent a lot of time exploring the wide open spaces, old mines, and back trails that make up this part of the Mojave Desert.

Neither of us had seen most of what our good friend Coy showed us on Wednesday!  The exception was Castle Rock where as teenagers we spent many a Friday or Saturday night partying with our crazy friends. It is a beautiful spot that I know we never appreciated enough back then.

Caves and arches make up much of Castle Rock
The new treasures began with a short hike up a wash and behind a few palo verde and ironwood trees. Petroglyphs of incredible designs, and a few more modern signs of early visits.

Coy tells us he has seen herds of mule deer in the area. All our years out here, we never even saw signs of them. Now we notice droppings and tracks all day. He explains there are several water sources further up the mountain.

Deer track

Followed by large cat tracks
Further out the dirt road we turn left to a spot with more arches and large boulders - it is completely quiet and absolutely beautiful. Signs that people come here to camp and shoot. It is sad to see the broken glass and clay pigeons scattered around, but we enjoy the remoteness of the place in spite of others' disrespect.

Bill pointed out the heart in the rock

Apparently at the same time we kids were partying at Castle Rock there were at least two small "communities" in the nearby hills.  

The first is the remains of a small hippie commune where a tiered garden with rock stairs and a sitting area were built along the deep creek bed. Large pieces of shiny quartz remain at the site.

Large tiered garden
Before heading to the next community site, we look for the road to another treasure in the area.

We don't see the road so "find" our way through the rock and sand, adding some more desert pinstriping to the Jeep, appreciating the trail-rating in several spots.

Just before we reach our destination, we join the road :-)

"Hidden" at the top of a large boulder. We knew the family, but not Roi
One of many wonders at this stop
Desert Nomad
Spotted pumpkin rock
More signs of humans. Shade made for bad photos of the stove and bed springs "inside".
Our final stop of the day is the Zion site. Coy and another friend found the place on one of their many explorations of the area. The first surprise is after a short rock scramble to a large water basin built from concrete and rock into the side of the mountain. There are two spigots at the bottom, but it is dry.

Complete with plumbing
Coy and Tessa
The water tank is about four foot deep and twenty yards long, solidly constructed
Back down the rocks, around a corner, to a rocky trail. On the left is a huge dry river bed, beautiful slate hills on both sides. Several "signs" are painted along the path. Some instructional and others inspirational.

Parts of the trail still have concrete sections, but most of it is loose rock, narrow in places. When we round the final bend and see the 20 foot tall "Mustard Seed Dam" built of large rocks, and the large concrete slabs to the other side of it, we wonder how they hauled everything up there - and who stacked all those heavy rocks that high? Perhaps divine intervention? Likely mules. I'm also impressed with the paint that has lasted at least 38 years on these dark rocks exposed to the harshness of the desert!

The path to "Zion"
Mustard Seed Dam
I love these guardian stones along the trail
Not sure what it's waiting for
Until I see the other side. Okay, sorry......
Other than limited information on a cult calling itself the Kingdom of Zion, and signs at the site of inhabitants from 1968 to 1977, we couldn't find anything about what and who was here. The fact that we were in high school less than ten miles away at the same time is......well, it's weird!

We had such a great time hiking just under four miles, back in our desert, enjoying these new discoveries with our good friend. Many thanks Coy.


  1. This was the neatest exploration!! How very cool to see all the different remnants of others' lives. I love when we find these hidden treasures. I love those rocks and arches. Great find with the heart Bill!! Good eyes! The quotes look like they were freshly painted. Too bad you couldn't find any other info. And to think you were only ten miles away when younger!! Think of all you missed!! Now where exactly was this area? This is an area I would love to visit!! Did you take your Jeep? Four miles is excellent! Good to see you three out on the trail:)

    1. Off I-10 at Desert Center/Rice Road on the south side of the highway for the two "communities", north side for the glyphs and heart rock. Yes our Jeep, and in 4x4 low for some of it. It felt great to get out and climb in those rocks :-)

  2. You definitely found a treasure. There are so many to find out there.

    1. Indeed, from old mines to nomad camps, there's lot's of great things to explore.

  3. You definitely found a treasure. There are so many to find out there.

  4. It is kind of surprising that a bunch of high school kids weren't aware of the "hippies" or a "cult" that existed nearby at the same time. Though,of course, high school kids are in their own world! What a neat find!

    1. That's what we thought! We were hippies too - although we were loud and stupid with our motorcycles and dune buggies, so they probably made sure we didn't "find" them.

  5. What a great day! Exploring is so much fun...especially knowing you lived so close by in earlier days.

  6. Now that is just totally neat to find out that there were "things" going on right in your neighborhood that you knew nothing about. What wonderful childhood and teen age years you must have had in such fine natural playground. They say those things mark a child his entire life long. Just like growing up in a city does. The former sounds much more re-markable to me.

    1. We were initially blessed to enjoy such an amazing area during our youth - and doubly blessed to enjoy it again in our retirement years. That it is still in its natural state is an amazing bonus.

  7. How cool to go back and explore an area that you spent so much time in while growing up -- and to find new discoveries. Even better to explore with an old friend! I've never seen such intricate petroglyphs -- very interesting area.

    1. The petroglyphs were definitely a highlight - the patterns so beautiful. We learned there are canyons with water and more rock art further into the mountains. So we're going back next month to see more!

  8. Marvelous to make new discoveries in a well known place. Magical rock sculptures with faces everywhere. However, very weird to think a cult survived in the desert so close to your youth.

    1. We met with a couple from high school tonight and told them about it - they too couldn't believe we wouldn't have known about them! It was an amazing discovery.