Secrets of the Desert

Rice, CA shoe garden

You should know if you’re hiking to a ghost town that there’s bound to be something interesting going on.

Yesterday Jesse was on his way to Rice, California. In his words, “It’s been a long haul through this desert. I’ve often been hungry and worried about whether I’m going to run out of food and water.”

Road Construction

As he was trudging along Highway 62, Jesse came upon a road construction site being monitored by the police. The construction workers were very nice and shared some water with him. However, for some reason the police did not want Jesse walking down the highway alongside the construction site, so they made him take a three-mile detour around the site. Not bad if you’re in a car, but when you’re walking, pulling a cart and carrying a backpack, it feels like a major detour. So, he had to pull his cart through three miles of sand and rocks until he could get back on 62 again.

Desert Secrets

At some point during the day, he had a really interesting conversation with another police office. He stopped to talk to Jesse and told him that there are many secrets of the desert. And he proceeded to share some of them with Jesse. The police officer said that one of the secrets is that there are three old chapels out in the desert, but you have to know where they are, and you have to hike to them. Being that Jesse is short on food and water, it wasn’t such a good time for him to go exploring, so he had to pass on that expedition. But, it would have been really cool to find the chapels and learn about who built them and how long they’ve been there.

Finally. later in the day he made it to Rice, California! Just as he heard, it is a ghost town. The only thing that’s left partially standing is the remnants of an old gas station. But there’s an interesting “display” in Rice. Here’s the explanation from Wikipedia (,_California#Rice_Shoe_Tree):

The Shoe Garden

Rice gained some minor notoriety in recent years because of the Rice Shoe Tree, a lone tamarisk on a turnout just south of the highway. For reasons unknown, it became customary for travelers on Highway 62 (also known as Rice Road) to and from the Colorado River to hang an old shoe on the tree’s branches. The tree was even featured on California’s Gold, a PBS program hosted by Huell Howser. The Rice Shoe Tree burned to the ground in 2003 in a fire of suspicious origin. Though the tree is gone, a ‘shoe garden’ has replaced it; a fence on which people hang shoes instead. Travelers still stop to spell their names on the nearby Arizona and California Railroad right-of-way with the multi-colored volcanic rock used as ballast. Hand-assembled graffiti lines the railroad for the entire distance that it parallels Highway 62.

Currently (July 2010) at the site of the old service station and shoe fence, there is a movie being filmed. There are rumors going around that they have cleaned up the shoe fence and painted over the “Freedom Warriors” sign on the water tower near the railroad tracks.

The picture above is one Jesse took of the shoe garden. And he took a short video of it too. On a final note, Jesse said he’s finding that the walk is a lot of mental toughness too. “You’ve got to find motivation in small things,” he said. “It’s a mental game. I can walk 20 miles in a day if my mind decides that I can.”

Step it Up!


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2 responses to “Secrets of the Desert”

  1. Catherine Herrmann says :

    Jesse, I hope you didn’t leave your shoes at the shoe burial grounds. Are the shoes from other hikers? You are seeing things that other people will never see in their lifetime. grandpa and I will light another large candle in church for your safety in your journey across AMERICA. We love you and we say prayers for you. LOVE GRANDMA AND GRANDPA

    • jessedvan says :

      Lol no I’m sort of dependent on my shoes. The shoes are just like a trend.. Or a thing that people do at the abandon city of rice for no particular reason. So it’s beyond me, really cool sight though!

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