Along this trail, amidst vast expanses of desert soil and creosote bush peppered with Seussian joshua trees, lichens grow on the rusted fenders of trucks left out in the Southern California sun, and birds alight on an old windmill. At the trail’s climax, the mill itself appears, looking over a dirt trail that meanders amongst boulders and another relic pickup.
The mill, built during the Great Depression to extract gold from the ore that was mined in abundance across the valley, was retired in 1966 and still stands as a relic of 20th century mineral exploitation. Today, it conjures the sentiments of Robinson Jeffers from my home on the Central Coast, who in 1928 wrote of the disused limekilns of “Bixby’s Landing” and the multitude of life that has taken over its place:
“The kilns are cold on the hill but here in the rust of the broken boiler
Quick lizards lighten, and a rattle-snake flows
Down the cracked masonry, over the crumbled fire-brick. . . .
Wine-hearted solitude, our mother the wilderness,
Men’s failures are often as beautiful as men’s triumphs, but your returnings
Are even more precious than your first presence.”