Nestled on a bench above a side wash in a wilderness area in Joshua Tree National Park are the remains of a small stone cabin from the 1930's. There really isn't much left of the cabin, the scenery is only mediocre at best, and the hike is around nine miles round trip. So who would bother going there? Oh, I know the answer to this one! We would! Right about now you're probably shaking your head and wondering why. Have those Dzrtgrls been out in the sun too long?
The simple answer is that we wanted to meet Anthony William Simmons, also known as Chuckawalla Bill. We don't mean "meet" in the literal sense because he's long since moved on to the big campfire in the sky. Rather, we were hoping that this cabin, which Bill renovated in 1932 and lived in until around 1936, would help us get a better understanding of him. Sort of act as a portal to the past, as it were. He seems like the prototypical vagabond prospector. His sly humor can be seen in his nickname, Chuckawalla, which he supposedly got after he passed off a chuckwalla lizard as fish and served it to a visiting priest. But there's more to him than just that, a lot more. Colin Fletcher's book, The Man From the Cave, digs deep into the essence of Bill. It starts in 1968 with Fletcher's discovery of a cave in the Nevada desert while backpacking cross country. He becomes fascinated with this cave dweller and decides to try to find out who he was. Fletcher then goes on to document the findings of ten years of detective work which lays bare the entire life of the man who Fletcher is able to identify from scraps of information found in an old foot locker and from other items scattered around the long abandoned hideout. That man, of course, is Chuckawalla Bill. Aspects of the life that Bill led resonated with us and made us realize that we had a lot in common with him. We knew immediately that some day we'd have to hike there and soak up the history of his old cabin...and today is the day!
If you've read the book, then you probably feel the same way and will want to join us on the cyber version of our hike. If not, then you might want to pass...but be warned that you'll miss the huge bighorn sheep skull complete with full curl horns and also the headless coyote. Gotcha, eh? We knew you couldn't pass up those hooks! Just click on the photo link below and we'll get started!