Thanksgiving is usually our first big weekend of the off-road season, and as many members of our group had never been to Calico Ghost Town, that is where we decided to go. It’s always a huge plus to find a place where not only is there a major tourist attraction, but also full hook-up camping and hundreds of miles of trails to enjoy.
We made reservations many months in advance so we would all be camped together. There are two loops of RV sites at Calico. One loop allows OHVs and one does not. We made sure that we secured reservations in the correct one.
The next step was to find places to ride. During my research, I reached out to Barry Friedman of Barry’s UTV Adventures https://www.barrysutvadventures.com/. He mentioned that we could reach Tonka Town and the Goldfish Pond from Calico. I asked him for the GPS coordinates because there was absolutely no way I was going to visit the area and miss them. After all, what would a trip be without visiting Tonka Town? Barry was kind enough to send me the coordinates, and I got busy planning our rides.
As Thanksgiving weekend approached, I watched the weather forecast for the Yermo/Calico area. The forecast called for rain and snow during the first two days but we decided to go anyway—knowing that no matter what we were going to have a good time.
We arrived and checked in at the front gate… It was cloudy skies, but perfectly clear that bad weather was coming. During the night the sound of raindrops on our RV roof started, and by sunrise, it was raining steadily.
Knowing that we couldn’t hit the trails that day, my husband and I just stayed in our RV. But then there was a knock on our door. My friend Kyla was there with a grin on her face and phone in hand. She had researched to see what other cool things we could visit in the area by truck. One website she used was https://www.roadsideamerica.com/. She and her husband offered to drive us in their truck to see some quirky destinations in the Yermo/Newberry Springs area. We quickly accepted her offer.
It was lunch time, so we started off at the famous Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner to see all of the memorabilia on display, and to eat hamburgers. Peggy Sue’s also has a dinosaur park that we drove through. We then went on to nearby Eddie World to shop, buy snacks, and ice cream cones. I have never seen a gas station with so many snack aisles and stuffed animals. It was hard to pick just a few!
We took a few selfies at the giant Eddie World milkshake, and jumped back into the truck so Kyla could navigate us to the original Del Taco building. (Yes. The original Del Taco is located in Yermo!). I am constantly amazed by what secrets the desert holds. You just have to do some internet research to find them!
Continuing on, we visited the Liberty Sculpture Park, a park that commemorates people who died in suffering under communist regimes. It is reflected in the statues that are displayed in the park, including a large statue dedicated to the remembrance of the Tiananmen Square China massacre.
We then drove to see a giant stainless steel statue of Vladimir Lenin’s head in nearby Newberry Springs. It was originally placed in front of an art gallery in La Brea, California, but the gallery lost its lease. The statue was moved and wound up at the home of the artist who owns the Liberty Sculpture Park. Who knew? Sometimes the best days are completely spontaneous.
The rain subsided, so we returned to camp and walked to Calico Ghost Town. Calico was named for the colorful hills surrounding it. It was a silver mining town that went bust in the 1890’s when the price of silver plummeted. Revived by Walter Knott (of Knott’s Berry Farm) and donated to San Bernardino in 1966, today it is a tourist destination that is typically visited by more people each day than ever populated it in its heyday.
Because of the rain, there were almost no visitors that day. Even better, the town was already decorated for Christmas, and we practically had Calico to ourselves. We enjoyed shopping, eating, and learning its history. We were even treated to a brilliant sunset.
The following morning we woke up to partly cloudy skies. After checking the weather forecast and doppler, we decided to ride. We knew it would be wet and cold, so we dressed accordingly. Boy did our seat warmers pay off that day!
Surprisingly it had snowed in the area that we rode to. We found ourselves traveling through a winter wonderland. The Joshua trees and creosote were flocked with snow. It was a beautifully amazing way to see the desert at the beginning of the holidays.
Our first stops were to visit the XB-70 Valkyrie and F-104N Starfighter memorials. The memorials were made to celebrate the achievements of two pilots who in 1966, crashed into each other and lost their lives. We got out of our cars to play in the snow and took rare pictures of the snow-covered desert.
From there we went on to see Inscription Canyon and Scott’s Cove. Located in the Black Mountains, Inscription Canyon is one of the largest collections of Native American petroglyphs in the world. Some of them date back 8,000 years. We spent our lunch time there looking at the different images of people and animals. It truly is a special place.
For the next two days the weather just got better, and we rode over 100 miles during the first day. I’m also here to report that there really is a goldfish pond in the desert, in the middle of nowhere. It is a concrete basin fed by a natural spring, and there really are fish in it, as well as a few lily pads. We were all amazed. Continuing on, we found a super fun rock crawling trail near Fremont Peak, and then led everyone to the ever-growing Husky Memorial.
The last ride of the weekend was through the Calico Hills, Kramer Arch and to the Bismark Mine. Then we headed to Tonka Town, and it did not disappoint. Though it looked a bit like a graveyard for unwanted toys, there was definitely some semblance to the madness. If you are riding in the Calico area, you really have to see it. Recently the Quest SXS & Offroad group https://www.questsxsoffroad.com/ placed a flag there, making it easier to find.
Calico Ghost town has it all. You can bring the family to explore the ghost town, and entry into the ghost town is included in your camping fees. Full hook-up RV sites are available to provide all the comforts of home, and the ghost town is walking distance. Also, there are hundreds of miles of trails that suit any riding level, and provide many different things to see. Make your reservations at https://sbcountyparks.com/reservation/camping/index.asp to explore Calico and its surrounding attractions. There is family fun for everyone.