Wednesday, February 02, 2011


PERHAPS THIS MAN AND HIS FAMILY WILL INSPIRE YOU TO LIVE YOUR DREAM. A real live Tarzan of the desert----Marshal South---- scans the valley below his mountaintop home in the remotes of Southern California ---in the 1930's. When I saw this photo in the library of Julian, I knew that I must go visit the site.
You can drive to the base of Ghost mountain, with only a few miles of dirt road.
And then you must hike a mile uphill to this spot. (approximately where Marshal was standing) Below is Blair Valley.
Incredible as it now seems---an entire family of 5 lived 16 years in this unlikely place.
What remains of their house.
Can you see the cistern to my left? It's one of several---In front of me is a collection bowl. Searching around, I found several water collection sites and a likely spot for their garden.
Also this sun dial.
Marker at the base of the mountain ----says: YAQUITEPEC----ONE FAMILY'S ATTEMPT TO LIVE OFF THE LAND. In 1932 while the country felt the grip of depression, Marshal and Tanys South came to this mountain to build their home and live off the land. They raised their children here, wrote magazine articles, grew vegetables, gathered native plants and after 16 years decided to call it quits. Yaquitepec, or Ghost Mountain still carries the reminders of South's homesteading adventure. The steep mile-long walk to the homesite will give you a breathtaking view of the land the South family called home. Look for signs of the ingenious water system with its cisterns and troughs. The adobe structure is quickly becoming a victim of the elements.

Living off the land proved difficult. Supplies had to be brought by model t from Julian and carried up on foot. Tanya South tired of her eccentric mate's lifestyle and the family split up leaving Yaquitepec to the sun and the wind.

The stories of the South family fade with time in the pages of Desert Magazine, but the melting adobe and the garden terraces will remain atop Ghost Mountain for years to come.

RANDY PHILOSOPHIZES: I stand in Awe at the courage of this couple--to dare--to deviate---and I say with Cassanova: "When I consider life's opportunities, I am astounded at my own timidity." Click here and see the family in action:



We first came across the Marshall South story 3 years ago while in Borrego Springs & I have trekked up to the homestead each year since & will probably do so again shortly. We bought the book & DVD & I was very taken by the calming serenity of the homestead. The Marshal South story & location has had a lasting impression on me. Sought out his grave in Julian & met director John McDonald (director of the Ghost Mountain Experiment DVD)at the base of the mountain 2 years ago. If you go to our blogsite & type in Marshal South you will find my blogs & photos atop Ghost Mountain & the Julian Cemetery. And you will find my thoughts & feelings about this very special place.

Vincent said...

Keep up the good stories! Debbie & Vincent. Currently in cold New Mexico!

John said...

Awesome! Thanks for sharing the experience!

Steve said...

If you like that and haven't heard about this yet. Visit, tour, and learn about the Keys ranch inside of what's now known as the Joshua Tree National Park. Bill Keys successfully homesteaded about 160 acres of land and raised a family there.

heyduke50 said...

really cool story... will add this spot to the list pf places I must visit... thanks for the discovery

farmlady said...

Great story. So many folks tried to do this again in the 60's here in Calif. I think it takes a very unique individual to stay in a place where the weather dictates your level of dedication and tests your vision. Homesteading here, in the desert must have been very hard and it seems that it took it's toll on their marriage but what a life it must have been.
I admire that kind of commitment.

Rick said...

Interesting story Randy. Here's a Link to the Bill Keys Ranch Tour at Joshua Tree.

Andy said...

If you're interested in another family's adventures outside the "System" more recently, Google "Doc Paskowitz" or see the video Surfwise.

Tesaje said...

A very interesting story there. It makes me wonder about the psychology of him with the family running from his father and change in identity to hide from his father. With a modern viewpoint, one has to wonder if the father was very abusive and controlling to make the mother run so desperately and with such fear in a time when it was very difficult for women to make a living.

Being a woman, I am interested in Tanya's views on this eccentric lifestyle. It would seem that she found the adventure fun and interesting for a while but once she had children to raise, her core values asserted and she had a lot of problems with the idea of raising her children so far removed from the basics - school, interactions with other children, and being freaks compared to all others. I found it telling that the picture of her in town had her wearing a very conventional blouse and skirt while her husband and children stood out as very oddly dressed. Another pic showed the kids dressed in more conventional attire. Kind of the opposite of the stealth camping principle of blending in so as not to alarm the residents.

One has to wonder about the pathology of the marriage in the end for Tanya to divorce when she could just as well have simply left him like the first wife did and not have to make the break so public and possibly lie about why. Maybe he wasn't physically abusive but there are many ways to abuse a spouse without leaving any marks.

People who succeeded (lifelong) in living like this lived in tribes where the work was shared and there were other people outside the nuclear family to provide friendship and support. As in your posts about your own nomadic tribe. The stresses on being isolated, a "freak" and dragging along a wife with children have to be intense after a while.

My grandmother and grandfather were Rosicrucians during the early 20th century. I've always meant to read her old books on the subject to learn how it shaped their world views.

Once again a very interesting subject you have raised in your travels.

Sam said...

Great find and story. I enjoyed reading it and viewing your pictures. I've only recently discovered your blog and I find your experiences interesting to read and quite educational. I also appreciate the way you tell the story with photos. Thank you for sharing and I will continue to follow your adventures.
Best regards,