Marshall South Site / Ghost Mountain Hike

One of the highlights of the Southern California Dirttime 2007 gathering at Anza Borrego Desert State Park was a hike to the Mashall South homestead site atop Ghost Mountain adjacent to Blair Valley. The hike is one mile each way. Going there it is uphill almost every step of the way, but the trail is well groomed and very doable. Don't be scared off by the warnings that the trail is steep. Don't miss this hike. The panoramic views are exceptional!

At the trailhead at road's end in Blair Valley.

Sign at the trailhead (repeated below). family's attempt to live off the land

In February 1932, while the country felt the grip of The Depression, Marshal and Tanya South came to this mountain to build their home and live off the land. They raised their children here, wrote magazine articles, grew vegetables, gathered native plants, and after 16 years decided to call it quits.

Yaquitepec, or Ghost Mountain, still carries the reminders of South's homesteading adventure. The steep, mile long walk to the homesite will give you a breathtaking view of the land the South family called home. Look for signs of the ingenious water system with its cisterns and troughs. The adobe structure is quickly becoming a victim of the elements.

Living off the land proved difficult. Supplies had to be brought by Model T from Julian and carried up on foot. Tanya South tired of her eccentric mate's life-style and the family split up, leaving Yaquitepec to the sun and the wind.

The stories of the South family fade with time in the pages of old copies of Desert Magazine but the melting adobe and the garden terraces will remain atop Ghost Mountain for years to come.

At the trailhead with Ghost Mountain in the background. Front (L-R) Jim, Ouchie, Dude. Back (L-R) Dave, Brumbie, Kim, Swede, Griz.

And we're off.

Shortly into the hike, looking back to the trailhead and Blair Valley.

Ouchie on the trail.

A small plateau about 3/4 of the way up provided nice views of the other side of Ghost Mountain.

The final ascent.

Cholla cactus.

Ouchie and Dude on the trail.

Homestead site ruins.

Dave at the homestead site.

Cistern at the homestead site. Imagine hauling the bags of cement and water up here to create this!

Swede, Kim and Jim examine another cistern.

Me at one of the cisterns.

Outstanding views to the southeast...

...and to the southwest.

View of Blair Valley. The cars at the trailhead can be seen between the rocks in the foreground.

Swede at the sundial. Or at least that's what they say it is. I theorize the man just didn't want you sitting on his rock!

Swede loaned me his hiking staff as I needed some help going downhill due to problems with my leg. Thanks, Swede!

Back at the camp, Dude explains the "pole of shame" while Brumbie holds said pole.

I was the first to leave Ghost Mountain as I knew I would be slow due to my leg. I thought everyone was right behind me, but they took quite some time to catch up. Turns out they all went the wrong way!

Pole of shame honorees (L-R) Griz, Brumbie, Swede, Jim, Dude, Dave, Ouchie. And there's Vector with his mouth still open!

Copyright © 2007 by Bill Qualls.
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