I spent Saturday night with the Trail Tramps hiking group inside this stone tower overlooking the desert about 80 miles east of San Diego off Interstate 8 (point B on the map below.) The tower was built in the 1920s as a roadside attraction. Fellow Trail Tramper Ben bought the place several years ago and continues to operate it as a quirky tourist attraction filled with kitchy knick knacks, hiking guides, dusty stuffed animal heads and pet snakes.
Tom, right, and Jim, the Trail Tramps' fearless leader, worked on the huge pot-luck spread that we grazed on all night.
The circular ground floor of the tower features a spectacular panoramic view of the desert 3,000 feet below. About 12 of us spent the night on cots and pads, and in sleeping bags. The temperature dropped to the upper 40s inside, and a fierce 40-mph wind howled all night outside.
One of the tower's permanent residents. The structure also is home to five dogs and at least one cat.
We were joined for a few hours by members of ECPI (El Centro Paranormal Investigators), a non-profit ghost hunter group based in the main city in the desert east of the tower. They set up a ton of audio and video equipment in the upper levels of the tower but didn't seem to detect anything beyond "hot spots" that appeared around the same time we lit a fire in the first floor fireplace.
The ECPI'ers seemed harmless, albeit a bit naive and delusional - sort of like these evangelicals.
A sleepy and cold Tim takes in the morning view.
This motorcyclist arrived outside the tower just in time to watch the sun break over the rocky hills.