California Desert trips,interesting places to visit: ghost towns, old mines, lost treasure, personalities and bits of the old west


The desert is sort of my second home. The places described below are special and worth visiting provided you know the story. That's what this blog is all about. Now I have tried as best I can to be factual but sometimes you hate to let facts get in the way of a good yarn.

Monday, January 01, 2007



Willow Springs are now within the East Mojave National Preserve administered by the U.S. Park Service. They are located at 34* 44’ 52” North Latitude and 115* 41’ 32” West Longitude near the south end of Granite Mountain and the Interstate 40 / Calbaker Road interchange. They are mentioned in the 1906 publication “Some Desert Watering Places” giving general location and noting that “A prospector’s trail leads to them."

“Mojave Crossing” is a western novel written by Louis L’Amour, a man who spent a considerable amount of time on the California Desert collecting historic information that he shares in his series of bestsellers -- adventures of the Sacketts, an extended family hailing from the hills of Tennessee.

In this particular adventure, Tell Sackett, a rawboned man, six-foot-three, well actually six-foot six when booted up, with excellent credentials for survival in the old west and a willingness in life to do what has to be done, is ready to leave Hardyville, Arizona Territory for Los Angeles. He’s traveling by horseback and plans to follow the “Old Government Road” (Mojave Road) through the desert. I’m guessing this was to have taken place sometime in the 1870s.

While reposed at the local bar, our hero is confronted by a “black eyed, black haired” woman, “She was medium tall, with a way about her that set a man to thinking thoughts best kept to himself.” Her name is Dorian Robiseau and she is very anxious to leave town as soon as possible. The stagecoach is out of commission and she has no way to leave. In desperation, she turns to Tell and pleads with him to take her with him to Los Angles. And, as good looking women often do, she got this tall country boy to agree. It was clear that a number of unsavory characters seated at the bar show interest in what was being said between the two. Tell, sensing trouble, decides that they must leave Hardyville that night.

The old road takes them first to Piute Springs where they stop to water the horse. Here the author, who knows this county well, describes the general landscape and special features that make up the East Mojave Desert. He does this in all of his novels giving the reader a sense of place and time.

Next stop, Marl Springs for a bite to eat. Tell, still nervous about what’s coming along behind them, decides to leave the Old Government Road and head south moving fast to gain some distance. Tell admits that this is new territory to him and he’s not real sure were the next water hole will be found. They eventually round the south end of the Providence Mountain Range and allow their horses full rein in order to let them find water. Sensing water, the horse bring the desperate riders to a rock cove were they find a number of springs and a pool of good water. They had reached Willow Springs, an ideal place to freshen-up and water the horses and hope that they had eluded those in possible pursuit.

Tell narrates what happened next:

"It was hot and still. Far off over the desert a dust devil danced among the galleta grass and the creosote brush, but I saw no dust of human make. It could be we had shaken them. Maybe we would have no trouble after all.

What made me turn my head I’ll never know, but glancing over my left shoulder I caught just a glimpse of a rifle muzzle as somebody drew sight on me.

Mister, I left off of that rock like I was taking a free dive into a swimmin’ hole, and I hit
that heaped-up sand on my shoulder and rolled over. When I came up; it was on one knee, the other leg stretched out ahead of me, and my Winchester coming up to firing position."

Pretty exciting stuff -- Tell manages to kill a number of the bad guys before leaving Willow Springs.

More adventure awaits them as they move south along the edge of Bristol Lake, into Hidden Valley located in Joshua Tree National Monument, then west through San Gorgonio Pass to Los Angeles.

.[Source: Murphy, Bert; Trailing Louis L’Amour From California to Alaska, MBAR Publishing, New Mexico, 1999]


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