In The Desert
Content including photographs are Copyright © 2011 - Present - Don & Linda Gilmore
Anza Borrego, California
Dave and Scott lead the way down Carrizo Wash. The ultimate goal of the hike is the location of the stagecoach station built for the Butterfield stage line that ran all the way from Missouri to San Francisco, starting in 1858. Also of interest, the remains of the Graves Ranch, and Frank Fox’s Grave. At this point the wash is wide, flat and sandy, with the Badlands to the south and north of us.
Day trip and photos in the desert by
Dave Taylor and Jon Larson.
Walking east into the Carrizo Cienega, an especially handsome cloud strikes a pose over the Coyote Mountains.
Editors note: Cienega in Spanish means swamp or spring at the foot of the mountains.
Jon spots a bug running across the wash.
Editors note: this is the Desert Spider Beetle, in the same family as the Blister Beetle.
Here the cienega closes in. One of the reasons to walk this route and not drive it is because, on the 1:24 topo map, there’s a trail to the north of the main trail that’s been closed to road travel. Personally, I think this must be the original stagecoach route. What stagecoach driver would purposely run right through the middle of a water hole if he could go around it? Besides, when the wife and I first started driving down here, the road dipped in and out of the water, a serpentine route that no horse-driven vehicle could have maneuvered.
What would have proved that this slightly more northern route is the original stagecoach route you see in the picture, would have been coming across any of James Jasper’s metal poles. Jasper, the first road superintendent of San Diego County, marked this route, every mile, with a metal pole marker. This way the driver knew how many miles he had to go, and also, that he was still on the trail and not wandered off into the many washes that branch off from here. We didn’t spot any, though. The one remaining marker further west has become famous for having a cheesy "Hollywood and Vine" souvenir-style street marker on it, probably dating back to when this was an Army camp during WWII.
You can imagine the wildlife attracted to the area. In the cienega, there’s an abundance of water, although, except for the road that cuts through it, you can’t get close enough to it to actually see it. Mostly Tamarisk, the bane of desert water holes, it none-the-less, gives cover and food to the local wildlife. The Badlands that surround this spot are well named. Though once the bottom of a shallow sea, the Badlands now are desiccated sun-baked clay. The plants that grow in them are sparce and mean, except after a rain.
Dave and Scott on another section of the Road Less Traveled, that I think is the original stagecoach route, not the main road, now to the north of us. We’re looking south east, across the cienega and the Coyote Mountains.
When we first started getting back there, the Graves Ranch was still private property, with big "No Trespassing Signs" all along its barbed-wire fence. When it was acquired by the ABDSP, we went in and checked it out, and it was interesting, although a mess. Now all the ramadas and the rock and mud structure that were once there have been knocked down. The old Wallis tractor in the photo was long stripped of its parts, but now someone decided to shoot its block some. Here I am trying to Heal It Through The Powers That Be.
I’ve got pix of my little ones standing on this from years ago, but Scott spotted something about this tractor I’d never noticed. The engine block is an integral part of the frame. Do a search for Wallis tractors.
Dave and Scott stand on the bluff east of the Graves Ranch, west of the stagecoach station. Beyond us is the Coyote Mountains. To the right is a grave. There are three graves on this bluff, a beautiful place to spend eternity, I would think. One of the graves is that of a mother and her new born child, both dying in childbirth. The coffin, it is said, was built by some soldiers that were there, out of the seat and planks of a buggy.
Scott and Dave On the north side of the bluff, the Badlands and the Impact Area beyond. When this area was used by the Army and then the Navy, artillery practice as well as bomb practice. The Army did a sweep of the area after WWII, declared it safe, and gave the land back to the state park. Within a year three people were killed as they scrounged for scrap metal in the Impact Area. The state closed it, and now only has ranger-guided tours into the area.
A corral just east of the bluff, the Coyote Mountains in the distance. I have always assumed this was the last remaining remnants of the stagecoach station, the adobe mud structure long gone. I was told, only recently, though, that in fact this is more of the McCain efforts to make a living out here, dating from the 1920’s and '30s.
Another shot of the corral on the east side of the bluff, this time looking north.
Frank Fox’s grave. This photo was taken two days before the 111th anniversary of this Forgotten Tragedy. Like many things in the desert, this is hidden in plain sight, and you have to make the effort to find it. The mound of stone to the right is Frank’s present residence. The black marble monument to the right is the work of the ubiquitous Clampers. I urge all the vandals of the desert to heed the last line.
Jon stands over the Frank’s grave. You might want to check out Ed Davies article from the June 1940 issue of Desert Magazine , page 17. Although Phil Brigandi’s June 2006 article is much more historically correct, it has disappeared from the Internet. Ed Davies directions to the grave, though, are what helped us get there. That and a couple who showed up in a Samurai and pointed it out to us.
Closeup of the grave marker. The last line is the important one. Don’t mess with the Clampers.
From the north side of the cienega, looking south-west, towards Canyon Sin Nombre.
Many thanks to Dave Taylor for taking us on another day trip in the desert southwest. The Anza Borrego is always interesting and with Dave as a guide you'll get to know the area and it's history.
Jon Larson took quite a few nice photos of flowers blooming in the Anza Borrego Desert State Park on this trip -- presented here with his permission in a slideshow.
Interactive Satellite Map of the area below --
Wikimapia Map, Anza Borrego, Ca.
Dave Taylor has offered us a look at the history of the killing of Frank Fox and the reason for his death. You can read the whole article at the link below