©Bert Gildart: In 1932, on top of a remote mountain, deep in the heart of a wilderness desert, Marshal and Tanya South built an adobe home which they occupied for 17 years. They called their home Yaquitepec and there, in this austere setting of southeastern California, though they had no artificial light, no conventional fuel for staving off the cold winter weather, Tanya gave birth to three children.
The family endured what we call hardships today, but it was that unconventional lifestyle that provided them with the independence to pursue their respective forms of art. From atop Ghost Mountain, this “savage wilderness of rock,” as Marshall called their homestead, Tanya painted, while Marshall wrote novels — and contributed hundreds of stories to some of the nation’s leading magazines of the time. Certainly their lifestyle represented the creation of a Brave New World.
Though Janie and I have hiked often to Yaquitepec, we never tire of the mile-long uphill grind, especially when we can examine with others the results of the couple’s occupancy. About 1948 the land was designated as Anza Borrego Desert State Park, and the hike always provides an opportunity to examine what remains of their old homestead.
L to R: Watching as last rays of sunlight cast glow over Borrego Badlands; Borrego Badlands; Susan, Greg and Janie descend from Ghost Mountain.
This past weekend Greg and Susan, Janie’s brother and her sister in-in-law, were our hiking companions, and together we attempted to evaluate the struggles the South’s endured each time they left and then returned to their home. As well, we examined the degree to which the old homestead has endured the ravages of time. Finally, as a last minute thought, just prior to returning to our Airstream now parked in the Springs of Borrego, we took a quick trip to Font’s Point, which offers one of the nation’s best examples of Badlands formation.
At the end of our hike to Yaquitepec, we concluded that the old homestead might be on its last legs. Cholla, ocotillo and mesquite are slowly rooting out the metal frame of the old bed as well as the arch that once provided egress to their small home. The adobe forming the old cistern from which the family scooped up water is beginning to crumble, and the sun dial seems to have lost its “face.”
Of course the Badlands (shown above) have also changed, but they are a reflection of the erosional forces present here in this premier desert state park. Looking at it from another point of view, one could also conclude that the associated badlands epitomize the extreme challenges of coping with desert life. Nevertheless, for a time, the South’s rose to the occasion, and for a while, created a life few others could have managed – had they wanted. Certainly, it was a Brave New World.
NOTE: Clicking on above links will provide thoughts and descriptions about previous journeys to Ghost Mountain and the Borrego Badlands.
THIS TIME FOUR YEARS AGO:
*The Slabs (Partially an account of Leonard Knight who befriended Christopher “Supertramp,” the young man described by Jon Krakauer in his book Into the Wild.)
BOOKS FOR SALE:
4th ed. Autographed by the Authors
Hiking Shenandoah National Park
Hiking Shenandoah National Park is the 4th edition of a favorite guide book, created by Bert & Janie, a professional husband-wife journalism team. Lots of updates including more waterfall trails, updated descriptions of confusing trail junctions, and new color photographs. New text describes more of the park’s compelling natural history. Often the descriptions are personal as the Gildarts have hiked virtually every single park trail, sometimes repeatedly.
Big Sky Country is beautiful
Montana Icons: 50 Classic Symbols of the Treasure State
Montana Icons is a book for lovers of the western vista. Features photographs of fifty famous landmarks from what many call the “Last Best Place.” The book will make you feel homesick for Montana even if you already live here. Bert Gildart’s varied careers in Montana (Bus driver on an Indian reservation, a teacher, backcountry ranger, as well as a newspaper reporter, and photographer) have given him a special view of Montana, which he shares in this book. Share the view; click here.
$16.95 + Autographed Copy
What makes Glacier, Glacier?
Glacier Icons: 50 Classic Views of the Crown of the Continent
Glacier Icons: What makes Glacier Park so special? In this book you can discover the story behind fifty of this park’s most amazing features. With this entertaining collection of photos, anecdotes and little known facts, Bert Gildart will be your backcountry guide. A former Glacier backcountry ranger turned writer/photographer, his hundreds of stories and images have appeared in literally dozens of periodicals including Time/Life, Smithsonian, and Field & Stream. Take a look at Glacier Icons
$16.95 + Autographed Copy