TREE NATIONAL PARK – KEYS RANCH TOUR
Joshua Tree National Park celebrates its 75th Anniversary in 2011. The California desert land speckled by the angular spiny trees and the fascinating and mystically beautiful piles of rock was first named a U.S National Monument in 1936, though it wasn’t made a National Park, requiring an act of congress, until 1994. The park will commemorate the birthday with a number of events throughout 2011, but newly inaugurated and continuing into future is the walking tour into one of the wilderness’s secret treasures, neither buried, nor a pot of shining gold, but a legacy of the American pioneer spirit, the Keys Ranch Guided Walking Tour.
takes a special sort to settle and prosper in the desert. A lonely
existence with no urban services, takes a rugged and
hardy individual. William F. Keys was such a fellow. A few other Californian
pioneers had tried their hand at taming the desert,
the hard scrabble shrub-stubbled earth, mining and homesteading. Bill
Keys left Nebraska at the age of 15 to make his way across the west working
odd jobs until becoming an assayer at the Desert Queen gold mine in
after the owners death, but the mine. He filed a claim on 80 acres
of desert in a box canyon with only one road in to build his personal
view of paradise.
in 1969, acquiring the land from another local character, a sometime
cattle rustler Bill McHaney. He built his own dam to hold the precious
little water the desert provides, pumped
a dwelling and barn workshop from scraps of lumber, fences from odds
and ends. He found the love of his life, Frances Lawton in 1918, and
convinced her that living out in the middle of nowhere under starry
skies of the Mojave Desert was
of a lifetime. Once the mine was
exhausted, Keys maintained his life by gathering the
discards of others and supplying parts and goods to his neighbors. Keys
his little corner of the world the Desert Queen Ranch, borrowing the
name from the mine. Desert fans have to travel
way to visit ghost towns like Bodie, but the Keys' Desert Queen ghost
ranch is only about an hour from the oasis idylls of Palm Springs.
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