The Lot in the Desert, Part 3 – Soggy Dry Lake, Big Bear, and Home

Where were we?

In part 2 the last image posted was this view of the totally flat desert without any indications of where to go. My only guide here was the compass and Google maps.

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When last we met, I was pondering the flat expanse pondering my next move

Actually, it was pretty simple to follow the invisible blue Google line across the flat to the road and my final destination. When I arrived, the following popped up the phone. It’s alway nice to know.

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Some Historical Context

Robert Lonnie Walker was born in 1909 in North Carolina a long ways from the California desert. My Grandmother was born Beulah Estell Graham in 1908 in Georgia.

He was a handsome man and my memory (which is flawed and colored by time) tells me that he had a hand in making moonshine as a young man. Beulah was a young beauty that was crowned Miss Daytona Beach in 1926 at the age of 18. I have no knowledge of how the two met, but they got married in Florida in 1932.

My mother, Joan Louella Walker was born in 1933 in North Carolina, but the census puts her in New York in 1935. The Walker clan moved to California (probably Ontario, CA) sometime in the 40’s. My Grandfather worked for the railroads for some time, and as an accountant for the now defunct Guasti Winery in Cucamonga. I have this picture of my grandfather holding me when I was a few years old.

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Yep, that’s me!

I believe the photo was taken in my grandparents back yard on J street in Ontario CA around 1955, or about 10 years before he bought the property. My grandfather had the greatest silver-grey hair in his later years. I always thought that I wanted hair like that when I was older.

No one alive knows why my grandfather bought this property. The idea that he bought it as an investment is an assumption that I have made. But for all I know, he was planning on growing oranges, or date palms, out there some day. Nobody can say why he did it, only that he did.

Back to the Story

That’s enough time spent on background and disclaimers. Before I show you pictures of Walker’s Folly, let me share some pictures of what I was hoping it looked like.

I mentioned several times in the last post to remember how green the desert looked in some of the pictures. The creosote is green, waist high, and pretty. That was my vision of grandpa’s land.

Here was the reality.

My grandfather’s land was the driest, most desiccated, piece of desert that I had seen on my entire journey. The picture in the lower right shows some green in the background. That is the irrigated orchard on the land directly to the west of ours. Most of the plants I saw looked like the sorry bush in the foreground of the picture on the lower right.

I wandered around on the property looking for signs of life. No birds, a few holes in the ground for ground-dwellers, and one jackrabbit I saw before I parked the car. Yes, I had hopes that the property would be more interesting. but discovered that the meat of the story was the journey itself.

While wandering around I picked up 4 lava rocks, one each for my siblings, and one for me. I thought we should each have a piece of this place. The quartz rock was for Gretchen. I picked that up at the hill hike earlier.

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After getting the rocks, I wandered over to the orchard next door and took a few pictures. The entire operation was on auto-pilot. There was a well, a pump, a timer (I assume), and probably a mile of drip irrigation. I took a picture of the trees but could not figure out what they were, and I was reluctant to hop the fence for a closer look. People come out here after all to get away from the rest of us.

There was no house here, and there seemed to be plenty of water. This probably means there is water under grandpa’s land, but I haven’t checked the deed to see if we have mineral rights. The other scattered residences in the area (about 3), all seemed to have trees and and a water tank. Please note the upside down large sailboat mold in the back of the lower left hand photo.

The Road Home

Feeling a little let down, I set my wheels rolling due south for highway 247. The plan from here was to eat lunch in Lucerne Valley, take highway 18 into the mountains towards Big Bear, and then head for home.

My car back on the blacktop, I soon covered the 15 or so miles back to Lucerne Valley. I passed this little bit of desert art on the way into town, and thought I should share it with you. It is a stuffed moose, and two stuffed bears in a cage, in a garden. Art is art.

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Back on the road, I cruised slowly through town looking for a likely place to eat. I decided to gamble on the 2nd Mexican restaurant that I passed.

Adelita’s was dark and cool after being out in the sun most of the day. There were only 2 tables occupied out of about a dozen. The waitress told me to sit anywhere and I picked a booth along the wall across from the front windows.

She quickly brought the chips and salsa. The salsa was tasty and the chips were fresh. I ordered two carnitas tacos “a la carte”, and just had water to drink.

Let me back up some. I usually order carnitas when trying out a new Mexican restaurant. It gives me a point of comparison to all the others I have been to. Is the meat tender? Are the spices right? How does it look. It may not make sense, but so it goes.

Soon the tacos arrived (in less time than it took to write down the carnitas diatribe). Two tacos, 4 tortillas, right amount of carnitas, cilantro, onion, green salsa on the side, and lime slices. Simple food, prepared well. They tasted great.

When I was paying my bill, I asked my waitress if I could take her picture for my blog. She was gracious, and said yes to the picture. I told her I would post it, so here it is.

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With lunch over it was time to head home. My route back was through the Big Bear area, back to the flats, and home.

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I took more pictures as I climbed into the mountains. The drive out of the desert and into the mountains was pretty and climbing from desert scrub to conifer forest was interesting.

I stopped at the Cactus Flats OHV area at about 6000 feet elevation. We have already left the creosote behind, but there are still joshua trees mixed in here with the oak trees. I thought they would be gone at this altitude.

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The joshua tree is hidden under the oak on the right side

The rest of the trip is pretty tame. I drove non-stop until I reached the dam at the west end of Big Bear Lake where I stopped to stretch my legs and take a few photos. The lake was pretty from that location and you can see the fishermen out enjoying the sunny day.

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I returned to the car and had started to sit when I looked across the road and saw this rock ruin on top of the bluff above me. Re-locking the car, I crossed the road and hiked up a short driveway with signs saying no trespassing. I decided to press on and found this really cool old rock structure up there. I have no idea what it was, and there were no signs (not surprising, since I wasn’t supposed to be there in the first place).

I hiked to the car, pushed the start button (can’t say turned the key anymore), and finished the trek out of the mountains, across the basin, and back to the beach.

What Have I learned?

This journey has brought up lots of past memories. I believe I remember my parents, and even my grandmother, telling my grandfather, Robert L. Walker (yes my namesake), that he was crazy to buy this property.

But now at the end of this journey, I think he would have felt he got his money’s worth out of it by getting his grandson to relive his journey a little and thereby remember him.

I had a great time, got to visit some places I haven’t been to before, and found out you can get good carnitas in Lucerne Valley.

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Thanks for following me on this quest. It has been fun.

Have a great day. Remember to vote.

BZ

 

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