Ghost Mountain

Ghost Mountain (peak #51 on the Sierra Club San Diego’s 100 Peaks list – here’s my personal progress sheet) is a hill with granitic boulders, in the Blair Valley/Whale Peak area of Anza Borrego Desert State Park. In other words, not exactly an impressive peak. 😉

Following a tip from Sarah Marino, I combined the hike with a visit to nearby Rainbow Canyon, which is a nice rock-hopping and dry fall scrambling excursion – the rocks are nice in many of these canyons, and I was looking for additions to my “Rock” photo portfolio.

The hike to Ghost Mountain starts at the southern end of Blair Valley. The first part is on a well-maintained trail that leads to the ruins and remnants of author Marshal South’s attempt to live in the desert on the ridge of this mountain during the depression era. He named the mountain “Ghost” and the site “Yaquitepec”.

You can learn more about the man and his desert story in the video Marshal South: An Experiment Of Primitive Life In The San Diego Desert. There’s also original footage from 1947 available, in this short video about Marshal South on YouTube (narrated by his son Rider South), and a good article in the San Diego Union Tribune: 70 years later, a final hike up Ghost Mountain.

Here are three photos of what remains of the site today. To view these photos (and the ones from the summit, further down) on small-screen devices like phones or tablets, you can just scroll down. On larger screens, you may also click on any image to open it in the slideshow gallery view. For the best effect, I suggest switching your browser to fullscreen mode then. This is usually done by pressing the F11 key (and again, or ESC, to switch back).

Past the Yaquitepec ruins, there’s a little bit of a use-trail in the direction of the proper Ghost Mountain summit but it quickly peters out among the sheer amount of rocks, yucca and cacti. Albeit it doesn’t take long to reach the summit, it is not a pleasant hike from here – the desert plant life is interesting and beautiful, of course, but also pointy and spiky and sharp!

The summit itself is a big granitic boulder (easy to scale) and the register sits in a crevasse at the side of it. The views to the east and south are nice, to the north Whale Peak dominates the landscape and blocks the views, to the west the Laguna Crest is a dark silhouette.

Would I do this hike again? Most likely not. On my way back from the summit however, I met a couple who did the entire list together already – and returned! In fact, the guy had done the entire list twice and was on his third turn while his wife cherry-picked the hikes that she wanted to do again. 🙂

You probably noticed the look of these photos – the result of applying one of Lightroom’s “Vintage” profiles (with a little bit of additional processing, of course).


This is my personal blog, and I am a professional photographer. Please respect my copyright. If you would like to use any of these photos, for whatever purpose (commercial or personal), you MUST obtain a license and/or written permission from me. More information on my page about image usage. Thanks.

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