It isn’t often that I get up north to my old stomping grounds around Ridgecrest. Since moving 165 miles south to Joshua Tree four years ago, I can count on two hands (maybe one) how many times I’ve been in the El Paso Mountains. It is a shame really, this range is where I feel in love with the desert. One of the first places that I experienced petroglyphs, ghost towns, and mines. I walked the distance of the range some years ago, it was my first time doing a long distance through hike. These mountains had a significant influence in crafting me into who I am today. I miss them dearly, but for the most part I’ve begun to feel disconnected from them.
In my years here, there was one place that I had wanted to see, but that always managed to elude me. For years people told me about a cabin that stood on top of one of the southern peaks of range overlooking Fremont Valley. It was always told to be above Goler, but nobody remembered exactly where, or how to get there. Some stated that it had fallen down. Whatever the deal, I never found it and just assumed that the reports of it having collapsed were correct.
A couple of months ago I was reviewing satellite images of the area when I saw what appeared to be a glimmering metal roof perched on a southern peak above the old town of Garlock. A road led up to it, branch off from Mesquite Canyon Road, a road that I had traveled probably a hundred times before. I kicked myself, in all of my travels up and down Mesquite Canyon, how had I never managed to make that turn?
I was stoked when I began planning a trip to the region to work on my upcoming book, Mojave Desert: Yesterday & Today. I knew that I’d be taking some time to check out that glimmering roof, and hopefully closing the mystery on the cabin that I had only heard about, but never actually seen.
It was a scorching afternoon when I turned off of Garlock Road and onto Mesquite Canyon. The temperature gauge in my Jeep read 109°F. I was on my way to Colorado Camp, a small old miners camp in the middle of the range with only a standing fireplace remaining. I have a photo of the structure from when it was still standing, and I was going there to recreate it. On the way in I paid close attention, looking for the road that leads up the mountain to the cabin, because on my way back out, I was going to find that illusive cabin.
After a successful shoot at Colorado Camp I returned the way that I had come, then made the turn that would hopefully put some closure on this long time mystery. The road was steep, narrow, and rocky, climbing nearly 1,000 feet in less than a mile. Along the way it passed by a large tailing pile from the Copper Chief Mine, then spit me out on top of the mountain near the Garlock Benchmark.
I passed by a couple of mine shafts from the Copperola Prospect, or maybe the Laura Quartz, or even possibly the Queen. Various sources list different names for the prospects, but they at one time were all owned by Mike Walsh and Jim Jackson, the same gentlemen who had built the cabin that I was looking for.
I made a turn to the east, and the Walsh Cabin came into sight. It is an ugly ass cabin; wind beaten to hell and back. It would have probably collapsed by now if it wasn’t for the reinforcement of a dozen cables holding it in place. When I noticed that the BLM sign outside of the cabin had been burned, I knew that the inside of the cabin was going to be in shambles, and in shambles it was. Windows had been broken out, doors ripped from their hinges. Everything that was made of steel had been scraped. The random pieces of furniture that had once added a homey touch to the desert shack were filthy, and better left to the rats than to sit on. It was a sad state of affairs, but honestly far too common in these parts.
Outside of the cabin there are expansive views of Fremont Valley to the south, east, and west, and Black Mountain to the north. What the cabin lacks due to senseless vandalism, the views more than make up for. It is easy to see why Walsh and Jackson chose this spot to build on.
According to my research, at the time of this writing, both Walsh and Jackson are still alive, and have ten active claims in the region. At one time they had upward of thirty. Jackson is a resident of Oak View, CA, while Walsh resides in Ontatio, CA.
For me this closes a mystery, unless of course there is yet another south-facing peak with a cabin. With my luck there probably is, but until I’m told otherwise that is a wrap.