Monday, August 04, 2008

Barker Ranch - Where Charles Manson was Captured

One of the places we visited during our trip up Goler Wash was the Barker Ranch, made famous as the place where Charles Manson was captured on October 12, 1969.

I actually missed the turnoff to the ranch as I was driving up the wash. The road turned under some overgrown trees, which was a pleasant change from the rest of the canyon. The ranch then appeared on the left. The place was ringed by a barbed wire fence and the yard even had a few healthy trees.

The various trees and plants are meant to be watered by an irrigation system made from PVC pipes that are fed from the concrete lined cistern. that system is long past its useful days. the plants that still live have probably sent their roots deep enough to draw from the spring water.

I've read that Manson was found hiding in the bathroom cabinet. That cabinet appears to have been removed. It's probably now in someone's personal museum.

There was a log book in the kitchen, along with various items left by visitors. Out front was a small park service bathroom sign post with an arrow directing people off to the left where another such sign post pointed them to a gate in the fence. Outside that was the lovely latrine. Not exactly up to the traditional park standards, but functional. There was even toilet paper in a small wooden cubby on the side.

Overall, it was lonely, hot, and desolate place. I can't imagine living there.

On a side note, the authorities dug up the area this past May in the hopes of possibly locating remains of several bodies that were reported to have been buried there (even by Manson family members who were there). Nothing conclusive was reported to have been found. Here's a CNN report and Anderson Cooper blog about that. If you Google, you'll easily find even more news stories about it.

For more information about the Manson family activity at the Barker Ranch, you might read this page. I have no idea if any of that is true.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Goler Wash and Mengel Pass

Mark and I made a big loop yesterday to explore remote places in the southern portion of Death Valley National Park. We started at Ballarat and headed south to drive through Goler Wash and over Mengel Pass. We stopped briefly in Butte Valley to check out the cabins and take photos of Striped Butte. I wanted to hike up the butte, but it was getting late. We drove out Warm Springs Canyon and then down Harry Wade Exit road ending up next to Ibex Dunes. It was a fun way to spend a day with lots to see and do. If you're unfamiliar with these places, here's a map centered on Striped Butte and here's one centered on Ibex Dunes.

While we were preparing to take off toward Ballarat, a lone F-16 flew overhead at a couple hundred feet altitude. Cool. Goler Wash was pretty interesting. Several sections had a trickle of water running down the road. We came across one small big horn sheep, but it got away before I could get a photo. We stopped off at Barker Ranch. That was interesting, and I'll put the details in a separate post.

The section of road between Barker Ranch and the pass was pretty fun. Rugged enough to keep our attention, but not scary. Here are a few photos of that section.

Here's a photo of our cars parked at Mengel Pass. The spur from there leads up the hill to a nice vantage point for photos.

From that high point, I took this photo of Butte Valley.

The only difficult section of road was the 30 yard stretch just NE of Mengel Pass. That's the only part that was more difficult than my drive up Lipppincott Road in May. We were both very happy to get down that without scraping bottom. Here's a photo of Mark inspecting that section to choose his route through it. My biggest challenge was the wide track of the LR3. Narrower trucks have more line choices.

Two burros watched us carefully when we visited the Geologist Cabin.

The 105F heat started to wear me down around Warm Springs Canyon and I finally turned on the AC. Mark claimed that it was pleasant in Warm Springs Canyon, but he said he really noticed it when we dropped down into the valley and the temps rose to 122F. This photo is looking west down Warm Springs Canyon Road from its intersection with West Side Road.

Harry Wade Exit Road was in excellent condition and we think it was much faster than taking the highway.

The 6pm shadows on the Ibex Dunes made for some nice photos.

We didn't have time to drive out via Ibex Spring Road. Maybe another day.