Yuma Territorial Prison

Yuma, Arizona

Welcome to the Hellhole

In the second half of the 1800’s people rushed west to claim land for themselves, to pan for gold, and to build their own prison cells. The latter wasn’t actually a plan, but it is what happened to the first of the criminals to be imprisoned in Yuma Territorial Prison. The first inmates were required to build their own cells. The prison officially opened in July of 1876. 

I think the backyard party lights really enhance the prison atmosphere.

Yuma Territorial was named Hellhole by the inmates that were incarcerated there. The average summer daytime temperature in Yuma was 110 degrees. Hellhole, indeed. Cells were open-air, with no air conditioning or heaters for the winter nights in the desert. 

 All the amenities.
Cozy 6 bedroom
The 2 bedroom model.

In it’s 33 years of operation the prison housed an assortment of criminals. 3,069 prisoners were in and out of the Hellhole population, including 29 women, and for a few years, even one child that was born at the prison by his incarcerated mother. 

Unlawful plural marriage.
A woman after his own heart… <3
“Became a media sensation…” she was very popular on Insta.
Prisoner Statistics

The prison was under constant construction during its years of operation, with most of the work being done by the inmates. I would think that building your own cage is an especially fudged up kind of prison. 

 

Prison air conditioning
Bunks built by prisoners in 1901. There were wooden bunks before, but they had to be removed due to bed bugs.

While the inmates claimed the conditions were hell, they also took advantage of various clubs, sports teams, and live music. The prison band was apparently quite good. 

Hellhole Country Club
Infirmary

Besides the dreadful heat of an Arizona summer, the Hellhole was also named with their solitary confinement in mind. The Dark Cell. The dark cell was used as solitary for prisoners misbehaving. The cell was a 10×10 dug out of the rock. Aptly named, the dark cell had no open windows, only a small vent in the ceiling that guards would drop the prisoners’ daily meal of bread and water through. At night, there was not a speck of light available to the inmate shackled in the solitary cell, wearing only his skivvies. Prisoners with an extended stay in the dark cell were often sent to the state run insane asylum in Phoenix upon their release from solitary. The dark cell is said to be haunted…and with the trauma of being left in pitch black with only the bats for company, I can see why it might be…although if I was a ghostly presence hanging out in prison in the after life, I would probably haunt the kitchen, not the dark cell. 

Hello darkness, my old friend. We’ve come to shit on you again….
The floor of the dark cell
Dark cell shackles

Due to overcrowding, Yuma Territorial Prison was shut down in 1909. The prisoners were sent to a larger prison in Florence, Arizona. After the closure of the prison, the local schools used the facility for a few years. By 1920 the empty prison was being used as shelter by the homeless, and during the depression it was transformed into temporary housing for unsheltered families. 

Yuma Territorial Prison is now a state historical park. You can attend scheduled tours by volunteers, or follow a self-guided tour through the prison campus. There are many artifacts and photographs of the years as a prison, as well as historical documents and history of individual inmates and guards. 

Ghostly apparition of a prison guard long lost to the years of Yuma Territorial Prison…or a volunteer tour guide. 

 

 

 

Trona Pinnacles
near
Ridgecrest, CA

Imagine, if you will, an alien terrain. Towers piercing the endless blue sky. Sharp ridges cutting into the horizon, and stubby tombstones erupting from the soil. 

 

What world is this? A world where Captain Kirk finds god. A planet where those damn dirty apes rule the land. A place where kids can jump over holes as they run away from the villains and find some sploosh for dinner. A place where Wil Robinson is alerted of danger while lost in space. 

These are the Trona Pinnacles, and they are a pretty popular location for Hollywood. The pinnacles have been seen in Star Trek, Planet of the Apes, Holes, Lost in Space and more. 

These otherworldly pinnacles are located just a stone’s throw from Death Valley National Park. The pinnacles are made up of over 500 spires; some as tall as 140 feet. The pinnacles rise from the dried bed of the Searles Dry Lake basin. They vary in size and shape from short and wide to tall and thin. The spires are made primarily of calcium carbonate, and they were formed in Searles lake back when it was an actual lake – between 10,000 to 100,000 years ago.

Searles Lake Dry basin contains samples of at least half of all natural elements known to man….which creates a lovely smell to experience. If you visit, it is probably not your dogs or your spouse pulling their own finger.  

The Trona Pinnacles are located on Bureau of Land Management land, and you are able to camp right up against them. There is no charge to visit or camp at the pinnacles, just don’t forget to bring your Febreze. 


For More Information

Bureau of Land Management

California Through My Lens

 

Abandoned Highway 395
California

Highway 395 in California runs north to south about 100 miles west of Death Valley. The highway runs east of the Northern Sierras with views of the tallest mountain in the continental United States, Mt. Whitney. 

Photo Credit: Wikepedia

Highway 395 is dotted with natural and man-made sites to see, which includes multiple abandoned and “living” ghost towns. 

This high desert has some pretty weird history.

California City

The City of California City was incorporated in 1965 in Kern County, California. Covering over 200 square miles, California City ranks 3rd in land area on the state’s largest cities, but population checks in at barely 14,000.  California City is not a ghost town, but is not exactly what it was created to be. 

In 1958 real estate developer Nathan Mendelsohn bought 33,000 acres of Mojave Desert to build a metropolis city that would rival Los Angeles. What he ended up with was 200 square miles of dirt roads and lots, still waiting to be paved. 

I first learned of California City from a show on the Science channel, What In The World? The show uses satellite photos of weird stuff on our beautiful planet. CalCity can be seen from space as a large city still waiting to happen. 

Photo Credit: Atlas Obscura

Olancha

Historic graffiti marketing on a rock in a nearby abandoned truck stop area.

Olancha is an unincorporated town along highway 395 in Inyo County. It was first established in 1860 when ore was found nearby. Olancha became a full fledged town in 1870 when a post office opened. 

A cabin that is part of an abandoned motel.
The service stop
Olancha Cafe

Olancha’s claim to fame is a small cameo appearance in the Charles Manson saga. In August of 1969 Diane “Snake” Lake, the youngest member of the Manson Family, and Manson’s right hand man, Charles “Tex” Watson were ordered to go stay in the Olancha area by Charles Manson himself. It was only two days after Tex Watson assisted other members of the Manson Family in murdering a very pregnant Sharon Tate and her house guests. Snake was not an accomplice in the murders, and didn’t even know anything about them until they were in Olancha and Tex Watson admitted to her what he had done at Manson’s request. While in Olancha, Snake was arrested for indecent exposure for swimming nude in the motel pool. Shortly after, Snake and Tex left Olancha for Barker Ranch in Death Valley, where the whole of the Manson Family was arrested for theft and vandalism. While in custody multiple members were charged in the Sharon Tate and La Bianca murders. 

The rustic motel Diane “Snake” Lake got arrested for swimming nude?

Dunmovin

Dunmovin is an ghost town in Inyo County, California. Dunmovin was originally called Cowen Station, named after James Cowen, the first homesteader in the area. Cowen Station was a freight station for the nearby silver mining town of Cerro Gordo.

Very welcoming, friendly town.

James Cowen cashed out his mining claims in 1936 and moved away. The name was then changed to Dunmovin, and a post office even moved in and operated from 1938 to 1941. The town consisted of a service station, cafe, and store. Like many other communities along Highway 395, it ended up drying up and blowing away.

This car is for sure Dunmovin.
For those moments when you aren’t Dunmovin.
Please wash your hands. Covids exist.
An abandoned garage.
Mountain Man, you ain’t alone, friend.

While we visited the ghost town in November of 2020, there did seem to be one residence still occupied…but I am unsure if it was a squatter or …? 

This house did have a vehicle parked nearby that looked as though it might run, which had a tRump bumper sticker on it. Then this creepy doll on their fence. It’s a bit weird…and yet..

Fossil Falls Campground

Our temporary residence while exploring Highway 395 was the Fossil Falls Campground, 5 miles south of the Coso Junction. Fossil Falls is a primitive campground with picnic tables and fire rings. There is an old fashioned hand pump for water. Inside the campground are the actual Fossil Falls, which are not falls, but are indeed fossils. The campground is BLM land and the nightly charge is only $6.00. 

Rusty exploring Fossil Falls Campground with his sniffer.

There were many more places to visit along Highway 395, but our little travelling family had a bit of a tragedy in the area. Our very loved, and very missed yellow lab, Milo, passed away while we were in the area. He took ill very suddenly. We traveled over 100 miles to get to the nearest veterinarian clinic, and they were hopeful, but things took a turn for the worse. We spent the rest of our visit in the area in mourning…and to be truthful, we still are. Our “pets” are our family. They are our soul mates. Their love is unconditional, and they make us better humans. 

Milo. The cherished saint of dinnertime.
Best Buds, Milo and Rusty
The coolest kids ever.

Rest in peace, my Milo love. We love you. 

 

Drift Creek Landing RV Park

We stayed at Drift Creek Landing RV Park near Waldport, Oregon in the spring of 2020. We were already a few months into the real 2020, which started sometime back in 1987 I think. I don’t know. Time doesn’t seem to flow correctly this year. It’s all timey wimey, but not fun at all. 

Wiggly-wobbly, timey-wimey

Anyway…we stayed there during May. It was more than reasonably priced at $450 for the month for full hookups. They don’t have any age restrictions on RV’s and since we drive a 1991 TropiCal,  we really do appreciate that. 

Views from the RV Park

There are a lot of long-term residents, but there are many short-term spots too. We stayed right on the banks of the Alsea River, with beautiful river views out our bedroom window. 

Alsea River

This is not an RV Resort by any standards, but it is great for those of us that like to spend as little as possible on space rent, so that we can spend more on local experiences, exploration, and restaurants. 

Rusty and Milo loved the RV park for the setting of their new album cover for ‘Good Boys are Bad Asses.’
Lily pads on the river bank
Duck, duck…duck!

When we find ourselves back on the central Oregon Coast area, we will definitely stay at Drift Creek Landing RV Park again. 


For more information 

Drift Creek Landing RV Park & Marina

3851 Alsea Hwy

Waldport, Oregon 97394

541-563-3610   

 

 

A Nice Day for a White River

After a short visit with half of our spawn, we knew we’d have to go into a 2-week long quarantine before trying to visit a more elderly member of our family. So we searched our maps, discussed a couple of places we’d like to see, places we had already seen, and we found out that it was a nice day (2 weeks) for a White River trip. 

“It’s a nice day for a white river It’s a nice day to start again” – Billy Idol

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A dispersed camping area in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, right alongside the White River would suit our purposes nicely. We had food, water, a beautiful view, and a way to walk our canine writing assistants off leash and without other humans. 

For Rent: Wood Nymph Housing
You belong among the wildflowers…
View from the front door!
🙂 Hi

 

Milo is his natural habitat…wet and dirty.
Fresh flowing water is one of Rusty’s most favorite things in the world.
Come on! Follow me! I don’t know the way!
Happy trails!

 

 

What did we learn about the White River area? Not much ‒ come on we were quarantined, not partying with the locals. We did discover that our little section was right next to a popular dirt bike riding trail. And cars just kept coming and coming and coming into our little dead end spot. 

 

Our annoyance turned into a bit of embarrassment when we discovered (thanks dude who knew how to have a conversation at medically prescribed social distance) that Google maps says that there is a road there. Apparently a storm years before had washed out the road. No one bothered to repair it; they just restrung a power line, added a jersey barrier, and let Google keep thinking the whole road was there. 

The storm also knocked down this tree and tore off part of the small cliff overlooking the river. The tree still has some green on it’s branches, because…uhhh…life finds a way.
This used to be the road. It’s a very active dirt bike trail now. Shine on.

 

The traffic was the only negative thing for the whole two weeks, and once we realized that we were parked in the middle of the “road” it didn’t really bother us much.

We visited Mt. Rainier and marveled at its beauty from the pandemic-safe enclosure of our car. We even found ourselves an empty picnic spot, but we did have to share with a rather large crow who had absolutely no shits to give. 

Ooooohhhh
aaaaaahhhhhh
Randall Flagg looking for his shits to give…or a sandwich. 
Sunbeam Creek Falls
Mt. Rainier’s version of the Overlook Hotel. 
Jack Torrance not included.

 

The rest of this two weeks was spent with him carving, sanding, staining, and wrapping a walking stick, that he would later break, while she re-potted her succulents and watched Umbrella Academy season 2. A 2-week long scrabble championship event was hosted by the dogs, and he lost. Then with a day left to go, she points out what a lack of wildlife we had seen in the area – except for the mosquitoes and endless hordes or raiding field mice. 

Oh. Hello. I was just wondering if ya’ll were looking for a roommate or 10? Ohhhh, look! Cheese on a funky little tray! Thank y-

 

So what is the point of this blog? Is it just a rundown of two relatively uneventful weeks in the middle of nowhere, Washington? Nope. You read this entire thing just so you could see this beautiful creature, and her spawn, who spent half of our last day hanging out with us.

“Any glimpse into the life of an animal quickens our own and makes it so much the larger and better in every way.” ― John Muir
“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” —Albert Einstein
“I believe in God, only I spell it Nature.” —Frank Lloyd Wright
” If you can’t be in awe of Mother Nature, there’s something wrong with you.” —Alex Trebek

 

 

In September of 2016 we began an adventure. We documented our journey for our faithful reader (maybe two) on this website. For reasons, we had to move the website, and being the amateur web designer that I am…we lost everything down into a dark void of WTF do we do now? 

What we do now, we decided, is to follow the teachings of a great Sicilian philosopher…go back to the beginning. 

…and then I procrastinated.

 

Alright, alright! Welcome back to Write on the Road!