Marshal South Home / Ghost Mountain
[Due to the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19 and the Governor of California issuing a stay-at-home order on 19 March 2020, I will have to dig down deep into the darkest depths of Mordor and pull out some older treks to write about, just until after the order is lifted.]
Saturday, 20 April 2019, Blair Valley, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, California.
It was a bright and full moon that day, but I couldn’t see it in the sunlight… LOL. It was also Easter weekend. So, after the atmospheric river that Thor pounded down two months earlier that led to the super bloom, I decided to look for myself. But, being a mostly solitary person when exploring, I didn't head up to Lake Elsinore where thousands of people were flocking to see the California Poppy on the hillsides, or the flower carpets at the north end of DiGiorgio Road in Borrego Springs. No, I decided to head over to Little Blair Valley and the adjacent Blair Valley, where there is much less traffic. My goal wasn’t to see flowers, though the desert flowers are quite beautiful. It was just to spend the day exploring the area, which I have been to several times over the decades.
It was very windy this day. Check out this video clip
After traveling my usual loop starting at the north entrance that meanders around a stony outcrop and ends up in the culturally sensitive area known as Little Blair Valley, stopping for a few flower pics along the way and a quick walk down the Morteros Trail to a seasonal Kumeyaay village, I came to the base of Ghost Mountain. This is the place where Australian eccentric Marshal South brought his family in the 1930s to homestead and live off the land. He is also the one who named it Ghost Mountain.
I have never climbed up to the top of this 3,215’ mountain, so I said, “Why not? What could be so hard?” I started up the winding old trail that seemed easy at first. Then, it started getting steeper and rockier. I took it slow and steady with an occasional break. The views were getting spectacular looking over Blair Valley to the northwest. Finally, I reached the top of the ridge. Was I there yet? I didn’t see any structures, so I continued along the pathway leading eastward with larger and larger granite boulders surrounding me. I finally saw one couple walking toward me and asked them if I was close. The guy answered in an English accent that it was just over another ridge. I scampered up very narrow passages between large granite boulders wondering if I was even on the trail still.
Finally, up onto the boulder-ridden top, I scanned for any structure. Nothing. I walked some more and “bam!” (As Emeril would say) there it was! Not was I expecting at all. Just part of a wall and some cement structures for water. I did find it extremely interesting, though. Upon closer inspection, I saw an old bed! Just the rusted frame was left, and I wondered, "They carried that all the way up here?" Not only that but all building materials and water! I was tired just hiking up here and I only had my camera! LOL
After taking some more pics and wandering around a bit, I headed back down. I passed another couple hiking up and we greeted each other with smiles. Back at the bottom, I had a snack while scanning the mountain I had just traversed. Not very attractive from below, but much better looking from the top. Back in my street Jeep, I headed out from Blair Valley proper onto S22 and back home. I was happy I had decided to come out today.
Take away… Interesting history, has great views and is not too difficult.
Total distance: 2.0 miles
Total time: 2 hours
More on Little Blair Valley: https://www.parks.ca.gov/pages/21299/files/anza_borrego_cps_littleblairvalley_6-10-10.pdf
More on Marshal South: https://www.desertusa.com/desert-people/marshal-south.html