Friday, March 20, 2009

Carey's Castle

My friend Larry invited me to go with his ward's varsity scouts to Carey's Castle. Carey's Castle is a home built by a miner, apparently in the 1930s, underneath a large boulder, near Eagle Mountain in the eastern portion of Joshua Tree National Park. The location of the Castle is kept secret in order to try and preserve what remains of it. This sounded like a fun future activity for our ward varsity scouts, so I decided to go along. I met them about 7:00 a.m. on Saturday morning off the Haystack Road exit off the I-10 Freeway, about four miles east of Chiriaco Summit. The picture below shows the initial terrain we hiked through, looking back south toward the freeway with the Orocopia Mountains in the background.
Larry's son, Garrett, next to a large ocotillo and the rugged mountains we were going to hike into in the background.
The brittlebush was in bloom and there were areas where they were clumped together to provide a beautiful yellow landscape.
We also ran into an area that could best be described as an ocotillo garden. The red leaves on the tips of the ocotillo branches were just starting to come out.
There were a number of areas dominated by teddy bear cholla with barrel cactus interspersed between them.
One of my favorite spring sights is the early morning sun illuminating the spines of the teddy bear cholla.
About one and a half miles into our hike we came across a fork in the canyon. We went right, instead of left. This turned out to be wrong, but provided us with the most fun of the hike as we had to negotiate some pretty steep rock as we followed the canyon.
This route took us into some impressively rugged country. Eventually Larry did not recognize where we were, so we crossed a ridge and got back into what turned out to be the right canyon. On our way back, we determined that the detour added about a mile to our route, but I think if I do it with our boys, we'll take this detour as it was so much fun!
The Castle is located beneath and to the side of several large boulders. The gaps have been filled in by bricks and mortar. Larry and his son, Jeffrey, sit outside the front door below.
The front door is made of wood and still has working hinges. To the left of the door is a window, covered by a screen and a metal grate. When ventilation or light is needed, the grate can be lifted from the inside. There are several steps down to the front door.
Below is a view from inside, looking at the front door, the window to the right side, and a shelf on the left hand side. When Larry was here last, there was an old key hanging from the door. It is no longer there.
There is an egg-beater on the shelf, but other things are now missing, such as a late 1930's California license plate. There also used to be some early 1940s magazines with the name Carey on them. That is how the name of Carey Castle came about and why it is believed Carey was here in the late 1930s and early 1940s.
The window below is on the same wall as the shelf. To it's side is the metal frame of a bed. This window was open letting in a nice breeze. It was substantially cooler inside than outside, and with windows in each of the four walls, a wonderful cross-ventilation is possible. The Castle is large enough to stand straight up in.
The view below is of the back wall and another window. However, the grate is shut. At the back, the ceiling is closer to the ground and one most bend over to move around.
Outside, perhaps 100 yards away, to the east, I found what I believe to be pottery shards.
In the opposite direction from the Castle, 100 yards west, is the remnant of Carey's mine. It is covered over with a metal grate. It goes straight down as far as we could see, with several levels of wood ladders still contained inside.
Updated: May 2014

It has been five years since I first visited Carey's Castle. I have been back again quite a few times, sometimes all the way to the Castle, and sometimes just to the desert area off Hayfield Road. Last month, in April 2014, I went back with Larry and his son, William, Larry's first time back since our trip five years ago. Five years ago we searched unsuccessfully for a cave, known as Carey's Cave Cache, a small cave in a rock that contained some of Carey's papers. This time, Larry got a gps point for it from a person that had just published a hiking book giving out the location. That was both exciting and sad. Exciting to try and find it and sad that it will soon be overrun with visitors and the items soon stolen and destroyed. Since our first visit to the Castle it has gradually deteriorated. The front door started to sag, more items were missing each time I visited, and this last time the front door was completely removed and stowed at the back of the dwelling. The gps points for the Cave Cache were about a quarter mile south of the Castle, much further than Larry had initially thought. We found it in a large, hollowed out, boulder nestled among a group of boulders, quite open to the air and elements.
Larry and William face the cache in the large boulder in front of them. The pile of small rocks in front of the boulder is where the entrance is located. 
This is the view from another direction. Larry, center, stands just to the left of the boulder with the cache.
Another view, further to the west. The cache is in the rectangularish boulder in the center. 
And yet another view, from the east. The cache is in the boulder to the farthest right. 
The opening to the cave is in the shadows of the boulder to the back center/right. 
Larry and William in front of the cave cache. There are lots of boulders with indentations in them. My guess is that Carey found a boulder with a similar indentation and then used his free time to chip away at the boulder and hollow it out. Maybe he came here to get away and read, or when his mother-in-law visited. 
It is evident on both sides of the opening that some sort of masonry was once there. Perhaps it was once covered with a door? There are pieces of wood inside and I believe also a chair frame. It is not like Carey had to hide to get away from civilization. He'd already done that with the Castle. This opening faces south, while the Castle opening is to the north. Maybe he did get visitors and this was a way to avoid them?
Larry investigates. Some of the extent masonry is visible to Larry's left on the edge of the opening.
The cave is large enough to climb in, but not large enough to stand in and be comfortable.
A sense for the size of it. Termite ridden two by fours on the ground with lots of rat-chewed paper, rat droppings and some cardboard. 
As with the Castle, the cave does provide a much cooler environment. The box to the right of Larry housed some old newspaper clippings and at least one magazine. 
I must admit I thought of hantavirus as I looked through the papers with rat droppings mixed among them. 
Most of the newspapers were in pieces and it was hard to find dates for them. I found one dated in 1940.
This Literary Digest is dated in 1932.
From inside the cave, I look out at Larry at the opening.
I decided that rather than backtrack to the Castle, we should go cross country out. I found a nice opening through the rocks further southeast. It is visible in the center/left portion of the picture. 
Then we made our own discovery, Carey's Dam. This nice shaded, deep ravine, was perfect for catching water. I'm sure it must have been Carey who built this cement base and masonry dam. It is now silted up all the way to the top, but I'm sure Carey had a nice supply of water that would last for great lengths of time in the cool air shielded from the direct sun.
In front of the dam, and to the right of it, was a rock with some hollows in it. Cached in the hollows were old cans and an old Heinz bottle, perhaps catsup? I can envision Carey there on a hot afternoon, out of the sun, enjoying lunch and accessing some water for his Castle. 
Bottom of Heinz bottle.
William holds the glass Heinz bottle. 
Looking down on the dam from the rocks above. 
A wider view of the area of the dam. Larry and William are toward the bottom. The dam is left/center.
Looking back at the jumble of boulders that houses the cave cache and dam.
According to Death Valley Jim, Carey wasn't really Carey, but Cary, Arthur Loyd Cary, born on July 18, 1914 in Kansas. He lived in the Coachella Valley from the mid-1930s until the 1960s when he moved to Henderson, Nevada, where he died on April 8, 1976.  Carey (I'm sorry, I'm stuck with the extra "e") was involved in a number of mining claims including the one known as Carey's mine identified above. He was married and had a child. It would be fun to talk to his child and find out more about his or her father. 


  1. I just now realized I have been drooling on myself.

  2. What a cool hike! I want to be one of your varsity scouts!