Sometime in 1935, a 21 year-old Arthur Lloyd Cary arrived in the Coachella Valley along with his wife Elaine and their child. Settling in Holtville, Cary worked at first as a vegetable truck driver. In the late ’30’s, likely about 1938, the 20-something Cary started working a mine on a claim he owned in what is now the eastern edge of Joshua Tree National Park. About a half mile from the mine site he built himself a home-away-from-home – a place where he could crash while working his claim.
This was our destination on a recent hike with the Coachella Valley Hiking Club. Over the passage of time, someone mistakenly added an “e” to Cary’s name so that his home is now known as Carey’s Castle.
Our hike started by skirting around a patch of cholla cactus to avoid any risk of their pesky spines being embedded in our skin. After a short hike along a wash we started scrambling over boulders in the first of a series of dry waterfalls. Over the next hour and a half or so we continued working our way upward through picturesque canyons, boulder-strewn dry waterfalls, and washes. Several overturned empty, rusted, fuel drums indicated that we had arrived at the site.
Cary’s abode was actually built in a space under two huge boulders. Open spaces had been bricked in. The wooden door was no longer attached but inside there was still a little wooden shutter covering one of two screened in windows. The windows and door would have provided some degree of cross-ventilation if any wind was blowing. The interior of the home was reasonably spacious, containing a rusted old bed frame, shelving, and various rusting knick knacks. A chimney pipe through the side wall provided evidence that there must have been a stove at one time.
The mine site itself, a short walk further uphill, is now covered with a metal grate through which you can see a ladder descending into the shaft. The view from the mine site is breathtaking.
According to Death Valley Jim’s blog, DeathvalleyJim.com, Cary and his wife continued to live and work in Holtville until the late 1960’s. At that time they moved to Henderson, NV where Arthur Cary passed away in 1976 at the age of 61.
Today one can only imagine the hardships and back-breaking labor that must have gone into working the mine in this environment. However, I suspect that Cary did view his humble “second home” as his castle!