Great Western Loop - Prison, Paradise & a Trembler

 Only one man was ever hung in Yuma Territorial Prison.... the penalty for killing another inmate.

Only one man was ever hung in Yuma Territorial Prison.... the penalty for killing another inmate.

 Yuma Territorial Prison

Yuma Territorial Prison

 The guard tower provided a great view of the prison yard below ... also a welcome breeze.

The guard tower provided a great view of the prison yard below ... also a welcome breeze.

Day 10 – 1138 miles

We were up early enough, but as usual we didn’t manage to get as early a start as planned. The temperature was sweltering even at 0930, but we didn’t want to leave Yuma without visiting the notorious Yuma Territorial Prison. You know, ‘3:10 to Yuma’ and ‘Riot’ two among many movies about Yuma and its infamous prison ... known to many as ‘The Hell of the West’. We haven’t seen either of these movies, but they’re now on the ‘watch’ list … right along with ‘Night of the Lepus’. 

The museum was interesting and well- presented (and air-conditioned). We learned about the prisoners, the prison and the times. 

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Visiting the cell block outside the air-conditioned museum in the 100+F temp was just a slight indication of what life must have been like for the inmates here. Many times as we looked into the cells, an audio would be triggered and an ‘inmate’ would tell us about himself. It startled me at first … yikes, who’s in there? … but the audio vignettes were amusing and interesting. We’ve visited lots of prisons in the past especially in Australia (e. g., Port Arthur, Sarah Island and Fremantle) and the conditions in all seemed insufferable. And who can forget French Guiana's Devil's Island?

 I'm innocent!!! Just another hardened criminal. Wonder what she's in for?

I'm innocent!!! Just another hardened criminal. Wonder what she's in for?

At Yuma, some of the prisoners were incarcerated justly for serious crimes like rape, bank robbing and murder. Others, however, were there for what we’d consider non-crimes today … adultery (women only, of course … no crime in male philandering), prize fighting (?), and several Mormon men were guilty for practicing polygamy. Prisoner ages ranged from 14 to 88 and both men and women served time here.

 Border checkpoint at Arizona-Cali stateline

Border checkpoint at Arizona-Cali stateline

Then we were off along I-8 heading west to the Cleveland National Forest. As we crossed into California, we passed through another Border Control checkpoint without incident. Blue must appear upstanding and lawful (though we think he looks stealthy) because he’s never questioned when passing through these checkpoints and in this part of the country, we’ve passed through several.

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Along our route, the wind blew strong and steady. Huge sand dunes lined the highway and the air was brown and thick. Dust devils whirled across our path. The desert-scape here was different. Sagebrush and mesquite seemed to reign ... no cacti, no color for miles. Finally, rolling hills appeared, the desert was left behind us, the temperature dropped and the landscape was green.

 Coast live oak at Cibbet Flats Campground estimated to be ~350 years old.

Coast live oak at Cibbet Flats Campground estimated to be ~350 years old.

 A welcome respite from the desert heat in Cleveland National Forest.

A welcome respite from the desert heat in Cleveland National Forest.

We drove up, up, up into the Cleveland National Forest and chose Cibbet Flats Campground for the evening. Blue relaxed under a sprawling coast live oak that Tim, the camp host, estimated to be ~350 years old. The temperature decreased from 109F in Yuma to 85F in the campground when we arrived to the high 50s during the night ... a welcome respite.

Day 11

In sharp contrast to the last few nights in the desert, we needed extra blankets at the Cibbet Flats Campground. It was great snuggling weather. Here, we waited till it was warm to get up and take our morning walk instead of walking early to avoid the heat of the day.

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The Pacific Crest Trail passes through this area and lies just above the campground. Several overnighters in the campground had already hit the trail by the time we dragged ourselves out of our warm bed. We walked a short distance on the 2,650 mile (4,265 km) long trail which spans from Mexico to Canada, taking in the vistas, sounds and smells of the early morning.

 Yucca was in bloom.

Yucca was in bloom.

 Close-up of yucca flowers ... gorgeous.

Close-up of yucca flowers ... gorgeous.

Yucca was in bloom along the path. Indian paintbrush, false bindweed and soon-to-blossom lupine lined the trail. Scrub jays and ravens checked out the campground area while vultures flew overhead. David thinks he’d like to walk this trail. I think we should tackle the 180 mile long Thames Path in September and see how we fare. I'm not sure we'll find all that many pubs along the Pacific Crest Trail.

 Yikes!

Yikes!

Reluctantly, we headed back down the mountain. We read that during the night, a 3.5 trembler had rumbled through, but we were totally oblivious. Ignorance is bliss.

We were expected in San Pedro tomorrow afternoon for Nine of Cups’ renaming/Christening ceremony and we felt showers and a basic clean-up were probably in order. After fighting Cali traffic for a couple hours, we booked a hotel room, which by the way, costs about the same as a night in an RV park in this high rent district. We raided Blue’s fridge and wine locker and dined in our room. On to San Pedro and the Cabrillo Way Marina tomorrow.