Ghost Mountain is a small and unassuming promontory along the southern edge of Blair Valley. At first glance, the peak doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy, but for 16 years in the 1930’s and 40’s, it was the home of author Marshal South and his family.
During the Great Depression, South and his wife Tanya built their home atop Ghost Mountain. They called their homestead “Yaquitepec,” or “House of the Sun,” and lived there for nearly two decades. They raised three children in their desert sanctuary, making their living by writing articles for Desert Magazine and hauling everything they needed to survive up the nearly 1-mile trail we were about to ascend.
We had a much easier time of it, clamboring out of our air-conditioned car at the foot of the mountain and donning our lightweight daypacks.
This is one of three short, easy trails along the southern portion of Blair Valley. To make the most of your trip to this area, I highly recommend hitting the Morteros and Pictograph trails while you’re out here. While the road that winds through this part of the park is unpaved, narrow, and sandy, it was overall in decent condition and we didn’t run into any problems with our small passenger car. Your experience may vary, especially after recent rains.
The trail began climbing immediately, making its way up the flank of the small mountain. Even though we were far from wildflower season there was still lots of interesting vegetation to see along the trail. Desert agave, with its tall, protruding stalks sticking up, and fuzzy-looking cholla plants and dotted the hillside.
It didn’t take much climbing before we started to get some sweeping views of the surrounding area. Blair Valley spread out before us, with the immense form of Granite Mountain rising in the distance. The red soil contrasted sharply with the dark greens of creosote and juniper bushes along the valley floor.
The years had taken their toll on the old homestead. The walls had all but disappeared, leaving only a couple posts and an old door frame standing. The rusted remains of an old metal bed sagged in the middle of the former abode.
Life atop this mountain clearly must have been challenging, but as we walked around the site taking in the breathtaking views and reveling in the still silence of the desert, we could see the appeal of such a remote homestead.
The trail ended at the homestead site, but it looked like a short scramble up the rocks would bring one to the actual summit of Ghost Mountain. We contemplated this off-trail adventure for a moment, but eventually decided against it.
The full story of the South family and their life in the desert can be found in the book Marshal South and the Ghost Mountain Chronicles: An Experiment in Primitive Living.
From Scissors Crossing (intersection of 78 and S2), head south on S2. At just under 6 miles you will see the dirt turnout for Blair Valley on your left. Follow the dirt road south for 3.2 miles then turn right, following signs for Ghost Mountain/Marshal South Trail. map
A note on road conditions:
Once you turn off S2 you will be driving on a dirt/sand road that becomes increasingly exciting as you go. We made this journey in a Scion xD and other than a lot of bouncing around, didn’t run into any problems. However, that was after endless dry months of no rain and conditions may vary based on weather. Its a good idea to contact the Anza-Borrego Visitor’s Center at 760-767-4205 to inquire about current road conditions before you head out.
|Total Distance:||1.5 miles|
|Difficulty:||Easy – Moderate|
|Total Ascent:||570 feet|
|Dog Friendly?:||Dogs not allowed|
|Bike Friendly?:||Bikes not allowed|
For more information, visit:
California State parks: Anza-Borrego State Park