Hike to Ghost Mountain

Borrego Springs, CA

Our friends, Terry and LuAnn, (Paint Your Landscape) are spending the winter near Temecula, about an hour drive from Borrego Springs.  We drove up to visit with them during our recent stay in San Diego and invited them to join us for some hiking here in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.  Two years ago we were here and did three short hikes in Blair Valley, about forty miles south of us, with Howard and Linda of RV-Dreams.  We enjoyed the hikes, so we decided to go back and hike them again with Terry and LuAnn.

Our first hike was a short one to the top of Ghost Mountain to visit the remains of the home of Marshal South and his family.  A one mile long steep trail from the southern edge of Blair Valley leads up to the site on a flat mesa just below the top of the mountain. The skeletal remains of the house, known as Yaquitepec, still stand — a rusted bed frame, the base of a large adobe oven, the frame for an arched doorway, and many cement and barrel cisterns that once caught the seasonal rainfall, the only water available other than what was hauled up the trail.  Here is where poet, author, and artist Marshal South and his family lived from 1930 to 1947, pursuing a primitive and natural lifestyle that became well known through South’s monthly columns written for Desert Magazine.  Abandoned for 68 years, the desert is slowly reclaiming the mesa as the structures deteriorate.

The trailhead – our destination is the top of the hill in the background

Heading up the trail

Remains of the house

A cistern to gather precious rainwater

Storage for the collected rainwater

Keeping the time

Possibly a meditation site (the Souths were devotees of the activity)

Standing near the edge of the mesa it is easy to see why the Souths loved the area.  It is quiet, peaceful, and the views are impressive.

After returning down to the Jeep, we drove a few miles to the trail leading past some pictographs and into Smuggler’s Canyon.

Ancient Artwork (according to John it is Early American Graffiti)

Heading down into Smuggler’s Canyon

Smuggler’s Canyon ends abruptly at the top of a dry waterfall with a spectacular view of the valley below.  We sat here for lunch while enjoying the scenery.

Hiking back up the wash we enjoyed a rare phenomenon, a sun halo.  Also known as a 22 degree halo, the ring is caused by sunlight passing through ice crystals in cirrus clouds within the Earth’s atmosphere.  The crystals bend direct sunlight, projecting it elsewhere into the sky, and at a certain angle — you guessed it, 22 degrees — a halo can be seen around the sun.

Returning to the Jeep, we drove a short distance to a trail head leading up a canyon to a collection of morteros.  For almost a thousand years Native Americans visited this area on a seasonal basis.  From September to May they used the canyon as a base from which to gather pinon nuts, mesquite beans, and desert agave.  Nuts and seeds were pounded into meal in morteros, the large depressions we saw in the granite boulders.

After driving back to the Borrego Springs area, we drove a few miles to the west to show Terry and LuAnn the beautiful views from Font’s Point.  LuAnn is an avid photographer so we knew she would enjoyed the great photo ops there.

We didn’t intend to stay at Font’s Point very long, but as the sun began to go down it looked like we might be treated to a great sunset.  So we stayed around a while to see what would develop.  Our patience was rewarded!

We watched the light show for a while, then began the return trip to town.  But as we drove away we had to stop a few times as the light show continued.

A great day ended with a great meal at Carmelita’s Mexican Grill.

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20 Responses to Hike to Ghost Mountain

  1. Laurel says:

    Gorgeous! Those are some of our favorite sites around Anza Borrego. Short hikes, as you said, but so interesting. There’s a short film at the Anza Borrego Visitor’s Center about Marshall South and his family — they showed it to us several years ago by request. I hope they still have it around because I want to see it again. You might enjoy it. 🙂

  2. Looks like a fabulous day. Those sunset shots are fantastic!

    Blair Valley holds another decent hike you might like to try sometime, Whale Peak. We did it in a big loop shortly after Hans and I met…it’s probably what prompted Hans to call my former hiking “death marches” because we did 16 miles!

  3. myancey254 says:

    I I’m a faithful follower of your blog.

    My wife mary Lou and I are prospective full-timers and are testing it out by vacation rving – not the same but it’s what we can do now. We have owned 2 previous RVs and just bought a travel trailer to get re-introduced to RVing.

    I have also started my own blog to share my experiences and hopefully get some advice along the way. Maybe you and/or your readers would be interested in taking a look.


    Mike Yancey

  4. LuAnn says:

    Thanks for planning the itinerary for the day. We had a fabulous time. So glad we decided to hang around for awhile at Font’s Point. We caught a great show! 🙂

  5. Jim and Barb says:

    Awesome sun halo and sunset pictures! We like what we are seeing out east but are missing the hikes and sunsets.

  6. rommel says:

    How lucky are you to chance upon the sun halo. Very very cool! You and Lu are looking very very good. 🙂 Now, I really felt so left out. How I wish I saw Lu before I left California. I was in Anza Borrego two months ago. Just for a day to see the metal structures there. Next time I go Anza, I will definitely do this hike. Thanks for the head’s up. Awesome landscape and even more on the sky pics.

  7. What a spectacular sunset you were treated to!

  8. Sherry says:

    I’d say it was worth the wait. What a blazing sky. This was definitely a great day and a sun halo to top it off. Do you know if South’s columns were ever collected into a book? Sounds like it would be a great read. I love “the clock”. Say Hi to LuAnn and Terry for us. We met them at Greenbelt in summer 2013 and haven’t seen or heard much from them since.

  9. A definite gorgeous sunset in the CA desert!
    We had been to this area many times in the past. Anzao Borrego is one of Steve’s favorite destination to fly into while visiting his parents who used to winter in the desert. During those times we never hiked or even ventured out in the desert. The only good thing I can remember is that movie we watched at the Visitor center, which I frankly forgot the title but we were happy we watched it then.
    The west this winter seemed to be the place to meet up with great friends and new ones. That is a very nice pic of Terry and LuAnn.

  10. debbiemc14 says:


  11. Gay says:

    Now that’s a sunset!
    Friends, hiking, a beautiful sunset and Mexican food…does it get any better?

  12. Jodee Gravel says:

    Settlers, smugglers and tribes – the area has such a great history. Looks like you all had a wonderful day exploring a lot of it. Don’t think I’ve ever seen a sun halo that big – great pic!! So glad you stayed for the show, those colors are incredible.

  13. Holly Ritger says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed your hike and noticed you using hiking poles. I don’t remember seeing the poles on past hikes… That was a spectacular sunset and it’s such a good thing you stuck around to see it. It brightened even a cold, wet, rainy day in Atlanta 😊

  14. pmbweaver says:

    Another gorgeous header!

    What a wonderful day with good friends. The view is fabulous. We wrote this hike down to do when we get there in a few short weeks.

    Love, love, love the sunset. We will be there FOR SURE!

  15. Sheila says:

    Wow, what a gorgeous area to hike in and you captured the it beautifully! Like I said – you guys are expert hikers! Looks like you had a couple of other expert hikers with you this time. How fun!

  16. Wow! That looked like a fantastic day. Beautiful pictures! I can’t wait to return to Borrego Springs to do those hikes and see all the sights that we missed when we were there. Thanks for sharing!

  17. Pingback: Nature’s History Lesson ~ Anza Borrego Desert State Park, CA | Paint Your Landscape

  18. Nancy says:

    What a fantastic hike! Now since this was called Ghost Mountain… did you happen to notice in two of your pictures there is an Orb? …just sayin’ !!
    Love the sunset!

  19. Nickie says:

    Looks like a fine day for hiking. Those have to be a couple of the best sunset photos I’ve seen in a long time. Thanx for sharing.

  20. libertatemamo says:

    Love that hike! So glad you got to share it wirh good buddies too!

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