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Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The true story of Marshal and Tanya South

You’ve heard the stories. Loners that head off into the most remote and isolated areas to live—and survive. In the desert they are referred to as “desert rats,” a not necessarily disparaging term.

Meet Marshall and Tanya South, a couple whose tenacity and will more than meet the best examples of the term. Yaquitepec, perched on top of Ghost Mountain in Blair Valley in western San Diego County, is where Marshal and Tanya built their homestead in 1932. They moved there after the Great depression brought a halt to Marshal’s writing and publishing of western novels.

A mile-long steep trail leads to the remains of an adobe cabin where the Souths lived for fourteen years without electricity, no artificial lighting, no neighbors, with only the sparse desert to supply fuel for cooking and heating, living off the land, raising vegetables, collecting and hoarding what little rain fell.

They raised three children on the mountain, the products of well educated parents, who surrounded them with books, a typewriter, even a printing press, and taught them the ways of desert self-sufficiency. They wrote and illustrated a monthly column for Desert Magazine, chronicling their primitive living experiment, their synergy with the desert environment.

Today the South Homestead is part of the remote Blair Valley section of California's huge Anza Borrego Desert State Park in western San Diego County. Boondock camping is permitted in the valley, with large dispersed campsites, some scattered privately among the desert scrub and trees, others on open land, all with views of the surrounding mountains.

You can visit the South Homestead where you will see the remains of their adobe house, an ingenious cistern and trough water system, the terraces formerly filled with whatever they could grow, an old rusty bed, and the scattered remains that illustrate the hardships and tenacity that defined the lives of the South family.

To find the Blair Valley boondocking area (GPS: 33 degrees, 01 minute, 39.31 seconds north, 116 degrees, 23 feet, 44.40" west, elev. 2548 feet.), drive south on S-2 from its intersection with US-78 east of Julian in Anza Borrego Desert State Park. Trail signs will lead you to the South Homestead.

Learn more about boondocking with my new eBook, BOONDOCKING: Finding the Perfect Campsite on America’s Public Lands.

1 comment:

  1. Don't you mean North Eastern San Diego County?