Charlie spends his winters at the Keyes Ranch in Joshua Tree National Park, just him and his dog. They live in a little camper. They greet visitors and “keep an eye on things” at night when the winds howl and whistle through the canyon walls and temperatures drop into the 20s.
Charlie is the park volunteer who welcomes us on our visit to this fascinating, ghostly remnant of another time.
Stepping into this ranch is like stepping back in time. Beds, bottles, wash tubs, stoves, tables, mining equipment, model T trucks and pieces of a forgotten life stand frozen there.
Today, in this isolated, quiet place, it seems as if those who lived here suddenly stepped away in mid task…and never came back. I’m fascinated.
We walk past a tidy home, complete with an ingenious irrigation system which piped water to a simple kitchen.
Tattered curtains still flutter in an open window.
This is a place thick with the presence of the past.
I’m honored to walk the paths of miners, mothers, children and cattle rustlers.
The history here is rich and colorful, albeit covered with layers of desert dust.
A family lived here amid the harsh realities of an unforgiving Mojave Desert. They died here, too. And I, a mere visitor, sense the sacredness of this place.
I am grateful to have come.