High Desert Memories - A Hometown Journal Commemorating Ridgecrest California
Picture by Ben Yeakey
The road up to Walker's Pass
When I lived on the desert we lived at the mouth of the canyon which descended from the base of Laurel mountain to Rinaldi's Well and Cattle corral. We could look out across the valley and see the cars on Friday nights streaming from LA north to Bishop along Highway 6 and also there was a stream heading up Walkers Pass to Lake Isabella and Kernville. I used to sit and watch those lights for hours longing for the day when I could make that trip myself. There used to be a lodge up there called Walker's Pass Lodge that my parents and I stopped at almost every time we went that way. We'd just stop for a cold drink and a little talk. My Dad liked to talk to everyone. I guess he felt that being sociable with folks was the best way to learn things.
Picture by Ben Yeakey
Historic marker at the crest of Walker's Pass
Robber's Roost can be seen as you go by
The Walker Pass Lodge burnt out some years ago. But when I lived in the desert it was a nice place to stop and get a cold drink and eat if you were of a mind to. As I recall they also sold gas here. It was made of rock and logs and had a very large and wonderful fire place, a nice bar and some tables for dining. It was sad for me to see the picture on the left because my last memory was of it standing there in all its splendor . . . that was 1956.
The Old Yellow School Bus fact or fiction???
Yes, I was always scared to look for it when I was young, but couldn't help it. It was too fascinating. Anyway I love ghost stories and when I was a kid, there was always ghost stories. Like the Little Lake Hotel being haunted and my uncles use to tell me every time we would see one of those broken down stone buildings on the side of the highway, that that was where Roy Rogers was born! By the time I was 6 or 7, I had to ask how could he be born in all of them? So then it was that was where Gene Autry was born, that was where Shirley Temple was born, etc etc. Great memories!
I was just wondering if anyone remembers the old empty school bus that is till in the ravine on the way to Lake Isabella? It has been there since I was a small child and my uncle use to frighten me with a story of how it was haunted. The shell still sticks up in the dirt and trees. Does anyone know the story of what REALLY happened and how it got there? I don't think I have ever been told the truth!
I remember that bus. I think I saw it when I went up to the lake in June. I think it was just abandoned by the bus driver who lived around there somewhere. I know someone who lives up there, I'll ask if they can find out the story and let you all know..
Well, here's one story behind it . . . . .
My dad always told me it belonged to Col. Walker. He said Walker used it to transport troops over the pass. His troops enjoyed the trip so much, they named the pass after him. It got stuck in the mud one day and he and his troops decided it was less work to walk, then it would be to dig it out. Since they were all Cavalry, they figured it was time to learn how to ride a horse anyway. After they leared how to ride horses, they enjoyed it so much, the bus was long forgotten.
I almost forgot the rest of the story. The troups would stop a few miles up the road for lunch. They always B-B-Q'ed and the cook would cook the steaks well done. That name stuck and the place is now called Weldon.
Now I know the pass is called Walker Pass, and there is a place on the way to the lake called Weldon, but somehow I think, my dad was pulling my leg. :-)
And finally an explanation that has the ring of truth to it. Of course if you have another tale in your cheek. . . .
While there are many interesting conjectures concerning the school bus that is off road in the thicket of brush just past Canebrake and right before you get to the turn off to what used to be Bloomfield Ranch, the actual answer is somewhat less spectacular than the many stories I have heard over the years. In 1966, both forks of the Kern River produced an terrible flood in the Kern River Valley and the bus was deposited there as a result of flood waters. That is also the same year that the Kernville bridge was washed out and destroyed as a result of the flood waters. That flood in 1966 caused an enormous amount of devastation in the Kern River Valley. Many of the local taverns, historical sites and the local museum there still display pictures of the flood's aftermath. My grandfather took me for a drive up there about a week after the flood and I remember seeing the bus out there and how awful it looked in downtown Kernville with the bridge washed out.
Historic Marker at Freeman Junction
I live in Kernville, and I too have fond memories of the lodge. I understand that the owner burned it down for insurance purposes, then got caught, but rumours fly where I live, and you cant really believe them. He would be crazy to burn such a nice cabin.
It realy upset me when that place burned. I cant even remember when it did burn, but think it was in the early 90s. Like you said, there wouldnt have been much money involved in the place for insurance purposes, so maybe (hopefully) that rumour wasnt true. I wish he would have rebuilt the thing. I can try and find some history about the lodge. There is a museum in Kernville, so I will ask around, and will give me a good project to do since I love stuff like this. I think Walkerpass is one of the most gorgeous places around the Kern Valley area, and is my favorite. You remember the old Onyx store? That place is closed now, but it is still standing (knock on wood). Seems like when something closes up or burns down around here, it stays that way.
I remember in around 1964-65 there was this old rugged cowboy sitting in there having a drink. This man was 87 and still riding horses, and had his horse tied to the front of the cabin. I was around 5 years old, and he bought me a bottle of root beer and some jerky. My dad (who also loves to talk to everyone) talked to him for about an hour. He had some stories to tell about indians, banditos, and all sorts of things in the area. I could have stayed and listend to him forever. We stopped in there every trip to the lake, but never seen him again. Everytime I go by there on the way to Ridgecrest, I think about that old cowboy and that lodge.
Hmmm I do recall seeing a schoolbus out in a field near a little south of Kernville at one time, but havent boticed it lately. Could this be the one you are talking about?
There was also a cabin right where the creek is which is Canebrake Creek just a little west of the lodge right off the hiway. You remember that one? The cabin got washed out years ago. And there was also an old house trailer there, which is all torn up also. Who ever put that cabin in a creek bed sure did goof. There is a ton of wild mint growing there, and I picked and transplanted some to my garden which is still growing.
But about five miles or so west of that, there is an old stone chimney and fireplace in the middle of a field of josua trees to the right of the hiway. I know that used to be the old James Store back in the 1800s. I am sure you seen that at one time or another. There are always beehives right near there, if those are the ones you are talking about? I'll do some checking around in my spare time. Where abouts in the country are you if I may ask? And was curious when was the last time you been up this way? Not much has changed, but in the town of Isabella, it is realy grown in the last 20 years.
This picture is a scan of a post card that a gentleman was selling on eBay. It is what the place looked like when I first came to the desert in 1943 and nearly what it looked like when I last saw it.. My Dad really liked to stop in here and talk to the folks who ran it. As I recall we ate here a couple of times.