Old Spanish Trail

The Old Spanish Trail is a 700 mile long historical trade route that connected the northern New Mexico settlements near Santa Fe, New Mexico with those of Los Angeles, California. The trail’s rugged terrain discouraged the use of wagons. It was always a pack route, mainly used by men and mules.

The routes and trails link California, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado. The Old Spanish Trail consists of a series and different trails and routes some of which are in service today.

The Told Spanish Trail BLM Sign
The Told Spanish Trail BLM Sign

Old Spanish Trail Routes

All routes came together at Fork of Roads, east of present-day Barstow in the Mojave desert, and then crossed Cajon Pass between the San Gabriel and San Bernadino Mountains to Coastal California. After negotiating the pass, traders had an easy two to three days travel to the San Gabriel Mission and beyond to Los Angeles.

Armijo Route

Exterior, south facade of Mission San Gabriel Arcangel - 1878
Exterior, south facade of Mission San Gabriel Arcangel – 1878

The first complete trip across the trail began in Abiquiú, northwest of Santa Fe. The Armijo party followed well-known trails northwest to the San Juan River, then nearly due west to the Virgin River. They used the Crossing of the Fathers, cut into rock canyon wall some 75 years earlier by the Domínguez-Escalante party. Armijo’s caravan went down the Muddy River and across
the Mojave Desert to the Amargosa and Mojave Rivers, through Cajon Pass and down to Mission San Gabriel.

Main Northern Route

First blazed by William Wolfskill and George C. Yount in 1831, this route veered northwest from Abiquiú through Southern Colorado and central Utah. It avoided the rugged canyons of the Colorado River that the Armijo party had encountered and took advantage of the better water and pasture resources across central Utah before returning to the Colorado River and Armijo’s route not far from Las Vegas.

Northern Branch

This route followed well-known trapper and trade routes north through the Rio Grande gorge to Taos and into southern Colorado. It then went west through Cochetopa Pass, largely open during the winter when other passes were snowed in and up the Gunnison River valley, rejoining the Northern Route near present-day Green River, Utah.

Mojave Road

The Mojave Road is a 188-mile crossing of the Mojave Desert long used by area Indians and by Spanish explorers and missionaries, it was first traveled by Jedediah Smith, an American trapper, in 1826.

Old Spanish Trail Locations

Government Holes in the central section of the Old Mojave Road.

Old Mojave Road

The Old Mojave Road (Government Road) is an east-west route that enters the Mojave National Preserve off the highway 95 in Nevada, and Afton Canyon…
The Told Spanish Trail BLM Sign

Old Spanish Trail

The Old Spanish Trail is a 700 mile long historical trade route that connected the northern New Mexico settlements near Santa Fe, New Mexico with…

Old Spanish Trail – Mountain Springs Pass – Nevada State Historic Marker

Old Spanish Trail - Mountain Springs Pass is located along highway 160 and Nevada State Historic Marker No. 142. The Old Spanish Trail is a…

References

Myers Ranch

Myers Ranch is a privately owned ranch located in Goler Wash in the Panamint Mountains of Death Valley National Park, California. The forty acre ranch is privately owned ranch and located about .5 miles from Barker Ranch.

 Myers Ranch, Panamint Mountain
Myers Ranch, Panamint Mountain

A Family Affair

Bill and Barbara Myers settled in Goler Wash in 1932, building themselves a comfortable house complete with such amenities as flush toilets, a swimming pool, an orchard, and of course, a garden. They raised three children there: Charles, Pat and Corky. The Myers family reluctantly moved to Fresno in 1960, so that their children could have a better education.

The ranch is built from wood ties used by the Searles Lake epsom salt monorail, it burned in 1999. The Myers ran a gas and food stop called Wildrose Station, which was demolished by the National Park Service.

Manson Family

Myers Ranch was the original destination for Charles Mason and his “family”. In 1968 he started to look for a desert location to move his “brood”. He choose the desert because “Out there, things aren’t so crazy”. One of his followers is Cathy (Cappy) Gilles is a grand daughter of Bill and Barbara Myers. “Cappy” obtained permission from the family matriarch for her and some girls to come up and stay at the ranch. He later received permission and based his activities at Barker Ranch.

From October 1968 to January 1969, Manson lived / camped in the area. In October 1969, CHP Officer Jim Pursell and a task force raided Goler Wash. Over the course of two days, they arrested seventeen people in the area. Charles Manson was arrested while hiding in a cabinet in the bathroom of Barker Ranch.

Myers Ranch Map

Myers Ranch Summary

NameMyers Ranch
LocationGoler Wash, Panamint Mountains, Death Valley, California
Elevation3700 Feet
Latitude, Longitude35.86162,-117.08227

References

Barker Ranch

Thomason/Barker Ranch is a five-acre property within Death Valley National Park. This historic site is located off of Goler Wash in the southern Panamint Range in the southwestern portion of the park. Barker Ranch is commonly referenced as being the location that mass murderer Charles Manson was arrested after the Tate – La Bianca killings in 1969.

This image, taken circa 1940, shows the main residence, workshop, retaining walls, and ornamental vegetation. Note the windmill located behind the workshop. View north (DEVA collection) - NPS
This image, taken circa 1940, shows the main residence, workshop, retaining walls, and ornamental vegetation. Note the windmill located behind the workshop. View north (DEVA collection) – NPS

Thomason Era (1937 – 1956)

In 1937, Blouch Thomason, a retired Los Angeles County detective, recorded three quartz lode mining claims named
“Tommy Group,” “Tommy Group No. 2,” and “Tommy Group No. 3” and a mill site located. The original structures consisting of three tent shelters is built in 1939.

In 1940, major improvements are made to the land. Thomason built the main ranch house, windmill, workshop, chicken coop, corral, fences, entry road, fences, water conveyance system, and planted ornamental and fruit-bearing vegetation. He also built a single rock building for “shop and storage” at the ranch. Later, a guestroom and garage are added to the shop. The Thomas ranch is inhabited full time by Blouch and Helen Thomason. They ceased mining operations due to poor yield

In 1950, Blouch passes away while visiting relatives in the Trinity Alps. Following his death, Helen moves away from the ranch, but still maintained the property as a vacation retreat.

Barker Era ( 1956 – 1971 )

James and Arlene Barker, from Oklahoma, purchased the Thomason Ranch, in 1955. In 1956, the Barkers recorded the “Chespa Mill Site” with the Inyo County Recorder’s Office. The Barkers built a 5,000 gallon water reservoir ( swimming pool ) and a 14 foot by 20 foot bunkhouse, sometime during 1957.

In 1968, Arlene Barker gave Charles Manson permission to occupy the Ranch in exchange for a Beach Boys Gold Album. After Manson’s arrest, the Barkers continued to maintain the property. In 1971, the Barkers ceased filing mining reports with the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on the family’s mining activity. The land (and improvements) then reverted to government control. In 1976, the ranch became part of the California Desert Conservation Area.

In 1994, Barker Ranch is incorporated into Death Valley National Park.

Manson Era ( 1968 – 1969 )

Barker Ranch - The building complex was heavily vegetated with trees, with a sparsely planted understory. Note the Manson bus in the left hand side of the image. View northwest, 1969 (DEVA collection). - NPS
Barker Ranch – The building complex was heavily vegetated with trees, with a sparsely planted understory. Note the Manson bus in the left hand side of the image. View northwest, 1969 (DEVA collection). – NPS

The Thomason / Barker Ranch history was stained forever, in October 1968, when Charles Manson obtained permission from Arlene Barker to occupy the ranch. Paul Watkins, a Manson Family Member, stated the Mason agreed to watch over the place in exchange for maintenance and work on the Ranch. Manson and his band of opted to stay and Barker Ranch over the Myers Ranch which is located about .5 miles away. A total of 19 Manson followers performed a phased relocation to the property over time. Manson family members are known to drive to Los Angeles or Las Vegas to bring in supplies.

On October 10 and 12, 1969, CHP officer Jim Pursell and the INYO Sheriffs Department along with California Highway Patrol and NPS Rangers raided Barker Ranch. Actually, they raided the area around Barker Ranch. A raid is executed in search of vandals of earth moving equipment which repaired damage to the playa in Racetrack Valley. Over the coarse to several days, the task forced hunted down Family members who were scattered about the area. The diminutive Manson is arrested when found hiding under the sink in the bathroom at Barker Ranch.

To this day, Barker Ranch is the subject of investigation into the crimes of Charles Manson.

Barker Ranch Map

NPS

Barker Ranch was built by “recreational ranchers” who moved to the desert to enjoy the solitude and simplicity of living far from civilization. Bluch and Helen Thomason moved into the area the the late 1930s to try their hand at gold mining. Around 1940, the constructed a small stone cabin and outbuilding, with electricity. provided by a wind mill and generator, and drinking water from a nearby spring

In 1955, the ranch was sold to Jim and Arlene Barker, who moved to the desert from Oklahoma. To accommodate their family gatherings, the Barkers enlarged the house and constructed more building.

The ranch became infamous when Charles Manson and members of the “Manson Family” were captured at the site. Family members attracted the attention of local law enforcement when they were suspected to burning a piece of road maintenance equipment. Detectives later discovered that the vandalism suspects were responsible for a series of murders in the Los Angeles Area.

Barker Ranch became part of Death Valley National Park in 1994. Tragically, the main house and workshop were destroyed by an accidental fire in May 2009.

National Park Service – Barker Ranch

Sources

Wild Burrow ( Equus africanus asinus )

Scattered across the south west scattered small populations of Wild Burrow ( Equus africanus asinus ) thrive in the harsh landscape. The burrow is also known as a donkey, wild ass. The animal is first first brought to the desert southwest by the spanish explorers in the 1500’s as pack animals. The humble burrow help haul goods and open the west. The burrow populations across the desert are the result of escapes, abandoned animals or stranded by the death of their owners.

Wild Burrow photographed in Beatty, Nevada - Photo by James L Rathbun
Wild Burrow photographed in Beatty, Nevada – Photo by James L Rathbun

This animal, which was originally found in Africa and later domesticated, is well suited to the dry desert landscape. The frame of the animal is short of ruffed, standing about four and half feet tall and weighing about 350 pounds. The long ears and short manes are a well defined feature of this beast of burden.

"Wanderers of the Wastelands" vintage postcard of an unknown prospector and his burros. | Courtesy of Orange County Archives.
“Wanderers of the Wastelands” vintage postcard of an unknown prospector and his burros. | Courtesy of Orange County Archives.

Today, all across the desert, the little burrow can be seen in a variety of locations including, Mountain Pass California, Beatty Nevada, and Oatman Arizona. The great state of Nevada established the Marietta Wild Burro Range. The Marietta Wild Burro Range sets aside 68,000 acres. The range is managed principally, but not exclusively for the population of 100 or so, burrow in the area. The burros freely roam near the ruins of the historic Nevada mining town of Marietta.

It is not uncommon for them to approach people looking for hand outs. It is a common practice to pass laws prohibiting the feeding of burrow.

Classification

Kingdom:Animalia
Phylum:Chordata
Class:Mammalia
Order:Perissodactyla
Family:Equidae
Genus:Equus
Species:E. africanus
Subspecies:E. a. asinus

References

Atolia California – San Bernardino County Ghost Town

Atolia is a ghost town and tungsten mine located in the Mojave Desert in northwestern San Bernardino County, California. The town is located just off the scenic 395 highway near Randsberg, California.

Atolia and mine in the Mojave Desert, circa 1908 postcard.
Atolia and mine in the Mojave Desert, circa 1908 postcard.

The town’s named was created from the combination for two mining company officials, Atkins and DeGolia, The site started as a tungsten mine in 1905. The town peaked around the time of World War II, when it is known as the largest producer of tungsten in the world. Despite this honor growth is hindered and the town is overshadowed by towns producing more glamorous metals such as gold and siler. Tungsten is a common component used to harden steel alloys. Prior to World War II, Germany is one of Atolia’s largest customers, when their trade access is severed with the formation of British Blockades.

Not to be outdone, the Germans developed cargo submarines known as U-Boats to run the blockade. On July 9th, 1916 the German U-Boat “Deutschland” arrived in Baltimore, Maryland to be loaded with tungsten from Atolia. The town reached a population of 2,000 people during World War I. Following the great war, demand for tungsten plummeted along with its price. The price dropped caused the tungsten mines for close.

There was a brief resurgence in Atolia during World War II, when demand for hardened steel opened the mines again for a brief moment in time.

Atolia Town Map

Town Summary

NameAtolia California
LocationMojave Desert, San Bernardino County, California
Latitude, Longitude35.3147387,-117.6170878
GNIS1660280
Elevation3,280 Feet
Population2,000
Post Office1906 – 1922, 1927 – 1944

References