Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Death Valley Overland - Part 4 - Ballarat, Goler Wash, Newman Cabin, Keystone/Lotus Mine and Barker Ranch

Goler Wash Heading In Towards Barker Ranch

So after a rough night's sleep in the wonderful World Beater Cabin (rough because the wind was howling and blowing smoke DOWN the chimney into the cabin - not because of the cabin), Paul and I decided we were going to get up while it was still dark and finish watching Helter Skelter.  

Mr. Jingles Waking Up From A Nap in the World Beater Cabin

As we slowly started to move around the cabin, Paul noticed a lightning fast movement when he picked up a piece of wood.  There was a little tiny mouse living in the wood pile!  Not more than a couple inches long, and cute as a button, Paul and I sat on our cots and watched him watch us for a bit.  As it was freezing outside, and he kept climbing up on the top piece of lumber (right underneath the stove), we assumed he was trying to get warm.  We decided to just enjoy his company, although obviously we double checked that everything was sealed up tight, etc.  It was - so no worries on feeding the little guy - but again, we think he just wanted to be warm.  We named him Mr. Jingles (after the pet mouse in The Green Mile - a movie we both love).

Biscuits and Sausage Gravy To Fill The Tummy!

I decided to make biscuits and gravy this morning as we had a nice little kitchen area and a new can of propane to try.  By this time, Mr. Jingles is warming up and is hanging out over by me (because I have the food) so I'm having to make sure every little crumb is picked up and the trash can lids are sealed down tight.  I don't mind - he's not hurting anything, and it IS cold outside...we are still occasionally stopping everything and watching him run into a hole in the floor...

Our Coleman Camp Oven - Sitting on the stove at the World Beater Cabin to see how hot it gets.

Our Coleman camp oven, which didn't work as well as we had hoped a couple nights ago, worked great this morning - so clearly, you need a full can of propane and some high heat to make it work well.  I had some canned biscuits left over from Christmas, so I popped those into a little pie tin I have in our mess kit, and cooked up the biscuits.  They didn't cook quite evenly, so I checked on them frequently, turned the tin around, then turned the biscuits over in the pan.  But for a camp oven - hey - it worked out great!  And it got HOT!  This is definitely an addition we will use for camp cooking in the future.  

Paul makes the coffee and tea while Bobbi Jo makes breakfast - Mr. Jingles is sleeping under the stove!

Meanwhile, I cooked up the remaining sausage, and got out the flour that I purchased in Panamint Springs.  I forgot to bring milk, so we use my "creamer" - which is actually heavy whipping cream that I then water down - to make milk.  I threw some pepper in, a little bacon grease, and made up some delicious gravy to go over the top of our biscuits!

Claire Camp Mill Workings

After we finish up breakfast - I decide it's time to wash my hair - it's been four days.  And Paul wants his washed too.  So I heat up some water from our water can on the trailer, and we wash our hair over the sink in the cabin.  The World Beater Cabin doesn't have running water, but it does have a sink that drains out and down into the wash.  So we sparingly use water and shampoo, Paul's hair dries almost instantly, and I put my hair up in braids, and we start breaking down our camp.  

Stamp Mill Hammers at Claire Camp

Claire Camp - Wide Angle of Mill Workings

Claire Camp Overlooking the Private Cabin - Lewis & Clark with the Expedition Trailer is right in the center!
After everything is packed up and we said our goodbyes to Mr. Jingles and the World Beater Cabin - by far the nicest cabin we've ever seen, we head back down.  We stop again at Claire Camp to take some better photos, and then head down Pleasant Canyon to Ballarat.  The ride down Pleasant Canyon is - well - pleasant.  

Pleasant Canyon by the spring

We stop for Paul to check out some potential mine adits (none of them panned out), and as Paul jumped back in Lewis & Clark and took off from the last one, he suddenly says "hey - did you see that guy?"  I was like "what guy?"  Apparently there was some guy that waved to us.  He was walking on the side of the road.  No vehicle in site.  No idea who he was, but he wasn't under stress.  Just waving hello.  We are several miles up a canyon from the nearest "living" place...so who knows who Paul saw - because I didn't see anything or anyone (insert spooky/scary music here...).

Austin-Western Grader left abandoned in Pleasant Canyon

Austin-Western Grader
Once in Ballarat, we stop as we wanted to take a look at the cemetery, the old jail/morgue, and the Tex Watson Power Wagon.  As I stated in Part 3 of my blog, I have some pretty definitive proof that this is not actually the Power Wagon that Tex Watson used to escape Barker Ranch, and then in turn got stuck in the mud flats outside of Ballarat.  This Power Wagon WAS likely up at Barker Ranch, but the one that Tex Watson used was purchased by a local miner, who took it up to his cabin and promptly took it apart.  It is believed that part of the Tex Watson Power Wagon is buried in the canyons, or abandoned and rusting back into the Earth.   But it's still a cool truck - and to know that part of the Manson family used this Power Wagon - well, that just makes it a bit creepy...and it makes for a great marketing point for Ballarat - which is clearly holding on by a thread.  
Panamint Valley Overlooking Ballarat from Pleasant Canyon
Power Wagon in Ballarat - Marketed as Tex Watson's Escape Power Wagon

We poked around Ballarat, saw the old jail/morgue - which didn't look very secure for a jail (it's been rebuilt), and then moseyed over to the cemetery.  The Ballarat Cemetery has some interesting characters buried in it.  The most "famous" is Charles "Seldom Seen Slim" Ferge.  Slim was a prospector in the Panamint Mountains.  He was born 1881 in Illinois, and moved to the Panamint Mountain area sometime between 1913 and 1917.  He was known as a cantankerous old recluse who was the last official "resident" of Ballarat.  He was another miner who didn't believe in showers or baths because they were a waste of water (a limited commodity in Panamint Valley!), but did take one annually.  

Charles "Seldom Seen Slim" Ferge's Final Resting Place

Ballarat Cemetery
Slim died in 1968, and his funeral was broadcast on television.  He is famous as the last of an old breed of prospectors - Walter Knotts had statues of him made and placed in Knotts Berry Farm and Ghost Town in Buena Park, CA.  His headstone has a famous quote of his on it - "Me Lonely?  Hell no!  I'm half coyote and half wild burro."  Rest in peace Slim - your memory carries on...

Ballarat Jail and Morgue

Old Buildings at Ballarat - Panamint Valley in the background
Paul and I leave Ballarat - we are anxious to get to Barker Ranch - someplace I've always wanted to go.  Since I was a child, I've been fascinated by Charles Manson.  Any cult leaders really - I'm fascinated by their hold on people and how they use that hold to do evil and despicable deeds.  As an adult, I understand the psychology behind it, but I still am drawn to documentaries, books and informational articles about them.  And today I'm going to see where Charles Manson was arrested.  Charles Manson - the mastermind behind the Tate-LaBianca murders, amongst others.  
Goler Wash - probably the best photo we have of Goler Wash
The ride down Wingate Road to the Goler Wash road is relatively boring as we travel along the Alkali Flat.  The Alkali Flat looks like a giant salt flat - but inches under the salt in this huge flat is a muddy, mucky base that is several feet deep - the store owner in Ballarat says he pulls people out almost weekly from this mess.  There are posted signs telling people not to drive in it, but apparently they always do.  It's an interesting phenomenon - this salt flat that looks dry but isn't.  As we drive along Wingate Road, we see small bits of marshes and you can see the large amount of water under the salt crust.  
As we turn off Wingate Road (more like Wingate Road turns into Goler Wash road), we start heading into the Panamint Mountain Range again - but this is stunning.  I mean, the video doesn't do it anywhere near justice - neither do the pictures.  We couldn't capture the immense beauty of Goler Wash from Panamint Valley to Barker Ranch - it was simply stunning!  Quite possibly the most beautiful place we had been this entire trip!  Excuse the "wobbles" in the video - still learning how to take videos.  Next time we will bring the windshield mount for the GoPro!
Newman Cabin
Window in the Newman Cabin with a Manson decal
As we came out of the wash, we came upon a "Y" in the road - with Jeeps coming out of the right hand trail.  They tell us there is a cabin up there, but that it is too tight to take Lewis & Clark with the Expedition Trailer up there.  So we park and hike in to the Newman Cabin.  There was plenty of room to park and turn around, but it was nice to jump out and hike a bit.  
Lewis & Clark with the Expedition Trailer where we parked at the Newman Cabin
The Newman Cabin was built by Wilmot (Billy) Hyder (1877-1954) who was a local resident of Ballarat.  He was a family cousin of the Newman family, who still own and operate a mining claim there.  There appear to be several different outhouses and other small outbuildings around - but the cabin is small, single room, and currently not in the best of shape.  I understand that periodically volunteers will "restore" the cabin, as it is over 80 years old now and is therefore historic.  

Keystone Mine Stone Cabin
Keystone Mine - Stone and Concrete Cabins
We left the Newman Cabin and headed up towards our first intended stop - the Keystone/Lotus Mine. As we pulled up, the Jeeps were coming down from the mine.  We waited patiently for them to come down and then we pulled up to the first set of buildings.  They Lotus Mine claims were acquired from Carl Mengel in 1935.  In 1972, Dr. Ralph E. Pray staked a claim at the location and renamed it the Keystone Mine.  He established a permanent camp in the old buildings, and the mine went on to produce several million dollars in gold in the 1980's.  Paul has been up here before, but said that it has been cleaned up since he was here in 2015.  It is possible they are getting ready to mine there again, or to mine the tailings - but either way, there were several buildings in very poor condition.  I understand there is much to look at up at the mine itself, but because we were unsure of the road, we opted not to pull the Expedition Trailer up there.  
Inside the Stone Cabin at the Keystone Mine
Lewis & Clark with the Expedition Trailer coming down from Keystone Mine
We poked around for a bit at the Lotus/Keystone Cabin site, but I was anxious to reach our big destination for the day - so off we went in search of Barker Ranch.  
Barker Ranch Interpretive Sign - With Photo of the Original Barker Ranch Home Before it Burned in 2009
I'm not going to go into a great deal of detail here about Charles Manson.  If you don't know who he is, you should.  A basic Google search will tell you.  But it was at Barker Ranch that Charles Manson and several of his "family" members were arrested - for destruction of property.  Unbeknownst to the authorities at the time, Charles Manson and the Manson Family were responsible for the absolutely horrific Tate-LaBianca murders in Los Angeles (among other murders and crimes). Charlie was found tucked into a bathroom vanity when the authorities came to arrest him.  
Barker Ranch Main House Ruins
There isn't much left of the Barker Ranch.  It was mysteriously burned down in May of 2009, and the remainder of the ranch is slowly crumbling back into the desert.  All that is left is the stone foundations and tumbling walls of the main house, an out building (perhaps a ranch hand cabin?), and the corrals and animal shelters.  But just knowing what they had done before they came here makes the Barker Ranch a rather creepy place to be.  
Barker Ranch - Main House Ruins

Barker Ranch - Out Building
On a positive note, we found where Paul had "signed" the wall in 2015.  We were there - to the day - 5 years later after Paul and his good buddy Mike "Duner" Schuette and Duner's wife Connie, came to visit.  Again - excellent memories for Paul, and fun to know we were honoring Duner's memory with a repeat - to the day!
Paul Pointing to his "signature" from December 31, 2015.  
Mike "Duner" on New Year's Eve, 2015 in the bathroom where they found Manson hiding
Paul - New Year's Eve, 2020 in the bathroom where they found Manson hiding.
Paul and Duner in the kitchen nook - New Year's Eve, 2015

Paul and Bobbi in the kitchen nook - New Year's Eve, 2020
While this was not the end of our day, I will save the rest for the finale - again, remembering good friends, and visiting famous, yet remote and far away places, has made for an amazing day of exploration and fun!  And who better to do it with than your exploration partner and best guy?
FJ Cruisers STILL Rule!!

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