The Lost Gold Train of the Anza Borrego Desert.
My dad and his brothers would sometimes take off and go up to the Anza area and go hunting. Hunting for Gold that is. It seems that back in the 1880's when Palm Springs was still a small little pit stop in the desert and Indio was the City of the furture. Gold was discovered in the La Quinta Ridge area in 1879. This area is now part of Arnold Palmer's Golf Empire. It is also known as Palm Canyon and is a part of the Anza Borrego Desert.
It was decided that since the area ws so close to the bottom of the Oak Hills area which just North of the Anza Borrego dessert, the gold would be shipped up over the mountain to Anza, then down what is present day highway 74 to Hemet. From there it would be shipped on in to LA on the Santa Fe Railroad.
If you have ever been down the back side of San Jacinto, you know that the road is steep, with lot of curves and a drop off of over 3,000 feet in several areas. Imagine what the road was like in the 1890's, unpaved, muddy & snowy in the winter time and bone dry in the summer time. Because of the terrain several drafts of horses, or mules would be employed just to bring one wagon up the steep road.
During one such trip, the gold shipment was attacked by Indians at the top of the grade which is marked by a sudden end of the Anza Borrego Desert and the start of the National Forest. This area is known as the top of the Anza Borrego Desert and it is 4800 feet above the valley floor.
Anyway, as my dad told the story, the Indians killed the Wagon Master and the guards, scattered the gold and took the Mules and Horses. So as far as any one knew the gold was still up there, buried in the sand or under the scrub and trees. So my dad and his brothers were going to look for it.
All they found after a week of 100 degree temperatures, snakes and thunderstorms were several burnt out wagon shells, some horse bones and little else. Needless to say they came back dejected and sullen, but promising to try again next year.
But ya know. They never tried again. I think my mom and a few other wives told them in no uncertain terms were they never going to traipsing around in the desert again, looking for gold which never existed in the first place.
In 1989 several years after my dad had passed away, there was a news article in the Hemet papers about some hikers finding some gold dust in a bag up along the trail that leads into Anza from the desert side. My dads bother Jack just shrugged his shoulders, and didn't say anything when he read the news.
Kind of makes you wonder just how close they came to finding the lost gold train of the Anza Borrego Desert.
Gary Hall; the ghostpainter