One evening last week around dusk (or “magic hour,” as we call it in the film business), I found myself lost in the Mojave. Which, admittedly, was somewhat intentional.
In the particular area of the desert I’ve been scouting, there are the roads which meet your standard definition of a road – those with pavement and painted lines and the occasional speed limit sign (no need for traffic lights, of course).
And then there are roads for which the term is, at best, a rough approximation – unpaved, unmaintained, often obstructed by trash and deep ruts. These were the roads on which I’d found the most fascinating and unexpected surprises.
I was taking a detour down one such road when I happened to notice a crumbling structure in the distance…
There are a LOT of abandoned homes in this part of the Mojave, most just simple one-room wooden structures, barely qualifying as shanties. But this one was different…
The remains of a multi-room stone house, abandoned and left to decay for God knows how long, yet still gorgeous against the pink and blue skies of a desert sunset:
I wish I could tell you when it was built, who lived here, what it was used for, or why it was abandoned – one of the most frustrating things about exploring the desert has been knowing most of this history is forever lost to time.
But that doesn’t stop my imagination from asking the questions. Was this room once someone’s living room? Did the owner relax here on a sofa or rocking chair, taking in the spectacular view of the surrounding mountains?
Was this room a kitchen…
And which were the bedrooms?
The ruins of a fireplace:
In another, steps leading from one room to the next…
Locals have told me every last inch of metal left in the desert was illegally stripped by salvagers over the last few years when scrap prices were at record highs, so little of that to be found.
But piles of wood were piled outside – perhaps timbers from the roof?
Surrounding the home – a patio, or driveway?
Nearby, a door:
Then I noticed a larger structure in the distance and realized there was more than just the house…
Just a short distance away, an enormous series of stone corrals stretching out almost a football field in length:
Many of the older structures in the area date to the early 1940s, and while the region is relatively remote today, it’s nothing compared to how extremely cut off it was then. The amount of work that must have gone into building these stone walls is mind-boggling.
Some have a post or two left…
Others offer no hints at what type of livestock once resided here:
Below, the full length of the corrals, with farmhouse in the distance.
I noticed two final structures on a hill nearby…
The first was off to the east…
The ruins of a stone chimney:
On the opposite side…
…what I believe was a cistern.
Almost all of the folks I’ve met out here over the past few weeks moved to the desert to escape the world, an anonymity that has inevitably spread to its history. While it’s frustrating, there’s also something liberating about it.
As the sky lit up with reds and purples and the sun disappeared behind the mountains, all I could do was stare at this strange stone structure in the desert and appreciate it for what it was, a singular record of its own existence, a mystery deepening with each passing day.
I think, ultimately, I preferred it that way.
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