When Southern Californians travel to Las Vegas they take I-15 most take the straight shot into Vegas but there is a hidden route. To get on to the lonely road you have to take one of the two exist to Baker, Calif. You know the place that is well known for their giant thermometer but even lesser known for their gyros and extra terrestrial jerky.
Enter Highway 127, as my family called it, “The lonely road.” The seemingly endless stretch of road in the desert was a beautiful as it was dangerous. My family suffered a single car roll over on that vary partly due to intrigue and mystery the desert seems to hold.
The highway connects to The Old Spanish Trail, in the middle of the desert you can find old landmarks and wagon tracks.
Passing through vast desert the mountains tear low across the horizon.
Dumont Dunes a popular motor sport destination emerges out of the expanse becoming a giant in its own right. The sands soon yield to ancient lake beds and mud mounds.
A hidden oasis can be found if you turn on to Old Spanish Trail highway.
When you take the turn onto China Ranch road the topography changes into an alien landscape as your car is slowly encased by a canyon. The canyon a testament to time had land brides, monolithic fingers and dangerous mines scattered throughout.
Seemingly out of nowhere a lush oasis appears and a China Ranch sign greets you at the entrance. The sign reads.
“In the 1890’s a chinese man named Ah Foo came to this canyon from the Borax Works in Death Vally. He developed a successful ranch, raising livestock, hay, fruits and vegetables to help feed the local silver miners and their draft animals. The ‘China Man’s Ranch’ became a favorite resting spot, with it’s cool running stream and beautiful trees. In 1900 Ah Foo disappears somewhat mysteriously thought the name has stuck.”
In the 90’s investors began planting young date palms.
Passing by small shack and an old car you reach the main building. In the building is a small cafe. I’m not sure how extensive the menu is but there is only item you need to know, China Ranch’s own specialty a date Shake.
The little souvenir shop is pretty nice as well. With very awesome shirts, desert nicknacks and an antique store feel.
Walking around China Ranch it is hard not to notice the trees are wearing clothes.
My sister exclaimed they were dressed better than her in colorful sarongs.
The ranch has seen better days. What was once an open trail along the creek is now closed and overgrown. When I went there the bugs were relentless.
Most notably large horse flies. Shashone Bombers as locals call them are huge black flies with what seems to be a white head. These flies are relentless in their attack. Dive bombing like a fighter plane the grotesque buzz freaks you out into spasm. What was even worse, I was taking photos and had to stand still to compose a shot, a sitting duck. A bomber landed on my Grandpa’s back as the clerk came out.
She yelled, “They bite you know!”
He replied with a smile, “I know.”
Dates swung ghostly in the breeze draped in white sheets. Mountains rose above the greenery yielding a blue sky.
I learned there is more to the desert then Joshua trees and cactus. Fruit trees dating back to antiquity thrived in the Oasis.