During my trip to Joshua Tree National Park I decided to try the short hike to Ryan Ranch, a homestead established in 1896 made of adobe brick walls to secure a natural spring once located there, and explore it’s surroundings which according to the sign consists of a windmill, a stone covered well, several graves, and machinery.
This ranch, also known as “the gold brick house” supported the Lost Horse Mine. It pumped water 3.5 miles to process the ore and acted as a mining office and home. Raising cattle helped feed the 60 family members and works that lived at the ranch and mine during the gold boom. In 1908 operation of the mine ceased and the Ryan’s turned their attention fully to their cattle until the establishment of Joshua Tree National Monument halted grazing.
There are two entrances to the ranch. One off the main east-west road which makes the hike out and back about 1 mile long and another from inside the Ryan campground which is only about .5 miles long. I pulled up to the longer of the two hikes and parked my car in the spots along the road near the restrooms. I got out to inspect, but I couldn’t see Ryan Ranch due to the Joshua Trees blocking my view. I knew it was in the distance behind there somewhere, but my friend had left late the night before and I was by myself. With no cell service, the threat of rattle snakes, and hot desert temperatures, hiking in Joshua Tree alone made me super nervous. I decided to stay safe and check out the shorter route instead.
From the entrance of the shorter route inside Ryan campground, I could just make out the homestead. I was delighted to be able to see where I was going and that there were other people on the trail with me as well. I headed out quickly pasting the others and making little notes of the trail along the way. I stopped to take pictures of the interesting sights, taking my time getting there.
As I came up near the ranch I accidentally verde off the trail taking a less used, but more direct route over some rocks. The ranch looks completely different today than the picture from 1935 at the trailheads. In it’s current condition it’s hard to imagine that people lived there less than 100 years ago. I imagined that the ranch would have been much bigger than what I found, but the original structure is pretty small with about three main rooms.
You can easily see the adobe clay and brick in the wall as some of the adobe has weathered away. There is no floor just dirt and sand, no doors just doorways, no windows just openings where windows once were, and no roof. After exploring the building and trying to picture what it would have been like to wake up in the morning here, glancing out the window at the magnificent rock behind it I finally moved on to explore some more.
I found a watering trough which must have been used to water the cattle and the remains of the bunkhouse which was much smaller than the ranch. I can’t quite think of anything that they would have been able to use this space for it was so small. Maybe they used it to store food or as an extra room for guests to sleep. The space is so small even an old car would not fit inside it.
I walked back to the main entrance of the ranch and the old wire fencing was still there which was really interesting to see how the wire was wrapped so tightly around the pole. I continued out to the Lost Horse Well on the other side of the rocks behind the ranch. A big black tank sat there with some more recent small buildings nearby it. I wondered why they were there and if someone had been using them recently.
I little freaked out I headed back to my car near the beginning of the trail. The other people hiking were still exploring the ranch and slowly making their way to the bunkhouse as departed. I planned on coming back to explore a little more at another time. Maybe even taking the longer route as long as I have a friend to join me. Ryan Ranch is a great place to explore and experience desert life in an earlier era without all the crowds.