Making the Journey


The map below shows the Mojave Desert area in 1941. Things look quite different now and it is important to understand the way things looked during the time the Japanese American families would have been at the camp. In the map below, the camp is located in the highlighted area, halfway between Lone Star and Old Woman Springs. So remote, the last 12 miles of road to the camp was not even on a map.

Just to give some idea of how remote the camp would have been in the 1940s I wrote a travelogue of what I imagine it would have been like traveling there. I am not entirely certain that the following description would have been the actual route to reach the Japanese Camp in 1941 but as this research continues I may be able to pinpoint the exact route. It certainly will be a close description, if not somewhat tame, of just about any route necessary to get there at the time.

Traveling from Banning to Whitewater and then on to Morongo Valley would have been quite a journey by itself. A graded dirt road all the way but who is to say how well it was maintained. Maybe by the time you got to Morongo Valley it would have been good to stop and visit at Shady Shelter for a little bit of rest from the summer heat? Journey further on up a steep grade into an area known as Lone Star, which is now the Town of Yucca Valley. Head through the valley and make a left turn near the windmill at Warren’s well. Any sense of establishment will disappear as you leave Lone Star on a rugged path known as the Victor Road. The road was a rough and sandy route that would immediately climb out of the valley in a rather unforgiving fashion, landing you on a large mesa. If you made it, without harm, to the top of this steep and boulder strewn portion of the road then you were certainly believing in the idea that there may be no going back. Four miles and several washed out gullies later you would come upon the refreshing look of another windmill and water tank at Pipes Wash. Then begins an abruptly steep ride nearly a hundred feet down to the bottom of the canyon. If the wash wasn’t too sandy you would make the 1/4 mile across without much trouble and begin the hundred foot climb up the other bank. The photograph to the right was taken just north of Pipes wash on the actual route. It is still just as sandy and unpredictable as it was then.

Maybe the dirt road would be fine for a few miles until you reached one more wash, steep and wide but not near as harrowing as the Pipes. It could be sandy or even washed out with steep embankments that would require several hours of digging and maneuvering to make your way across. Then just a couple of miles more and you would be at the turn to head west up a mountainous canyon.

This mountain canyon is a winding, narrow and sandy path for 7 or 8 miles where it finally opens up onto a high valley at nearly 4500 foot elevation. It would be pretty quiet up here, this road is not on any map. You would be on your own here and I imagine it would have been days or weeks before anyone would pass through to offer any help. On any given day the trip would have been fine, or maybe not. There are just too many possible things that could happen all along the way. Vehicles being what they are, mechanical things break down, the weather changes from one extreme to the other, and sometimes our health is just not up to the rigors of pioneering. It was a long way to travel into the desert, a long way back too, and there is no doubt in my mind it was the heartiest of souls who ventured to make this journey, especially those who decided to stay and make it home for awhile.

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Automobile Club of Southern California, 1941

Desert roads are notoriously unpredictable.

Hard packed and comparatively smooth until a rainstorm will somehow turn it into an impossible loose churn of soft sand.

The old Victor Road: Old Woman Springs Road

original route north of Pipes Wash

©Automobile Club of Southern California, 1941