The Hanging Tree 4×4 Ride

Russ from got me out on the trail testing my Version 2.0 of my Willys V8 project. Prior to this meeting the last time I saw Russ was in 2011 while hiking the Pacific Crest Trail through the Big Bear area. And the last time we did any Jeep related expedition was also in 2011 when I believe it was ten jeeps that signed up to travel through Canada, Alaska and the Yukon Territory and on to our goal the arctic. The story is still out there if you google Jfreeks and Alaska Arctic jeep expedition.

Yesterday as we drove our 4×4 rigs through trails in the Holcomb valley Russ shared Big Bear old time lore. His voice came across well over my recently installed GMRS radio.

See that lone juniper over there, that was formerly a hanging tree during the old miner and prospector days of Holcomb Valley.

As miners and prospectors came to seek their fortune, outlaws, claim jumpers, gamblers, and general troublemakers followed close behind.

In late August, 1861, the notorious little valley was taken over by an organized gang of horse thieves from Salt Lake City known as Button’s Gang. This gang ruled so fiercely that its members could take over almost any cabin, or force storekeepers to give them any equipment or supplies they wanted.

When the victim of a hanging was finally cut down, the branch from which the rope hung was chopped off. So you can tell how many “met their Maker here. “

Two incidents are illustrative of the 40 or 50 murders committed the first two years after the discovery of Holcomb Valley: When “Greek George” jumped the claim of “Charlie the Chink”, a duel to the finish ensued. “Hell Roaring Johnson” was shot when he tried to fix the first election held in the valley.

Not all of the fugitives evaded justice. There is recorded evidence of as many as four convictions and subsequent hangings at one time on this tree.

When the victim of a hanging was finally cut down, the branch from which the rope hung was chopped off. So you can tell how many “met their Maker here. ”

Today cruising up to Big Bear Lake to meet up with Russ and a new member William and his wife I felt like I was part of the crew from “Roadkill ” where gear heads take trashed out cars and put them through their paces. Like I said earlier my jeep is a work in progress.

By the time I arrived home and assessed my loses I lost two bolts from my left side header, the old Willy’s rattling like an expired paint can, one headlight fell off on the trail and dust and dirt everywhere.

My body felt extremely dehydrated from the 100+ heat coming down the hill but, I was still smiling.

Unfortunately for me I only got the jeeps bumper welded on Friday so did not think or have time for any overhead cover till I was on the road.

Sometimes I feel that an off the “rack” (lot) jeep may have been the wiser way to go instead of this current project.

But, I’ll bet there is more satisfaction over the years to be had from this 1959 than any dozen new mall crawlers you tend to see all around. Like a guy once told me, ” they ain’t building anymore 1959’s.

And even when she is sitting she is putting a smile on kids.

Believe me when I say this four wheeling is hard work. I would’ve easily walked a twenty mile day on the camino in lieu of this hanging tree driving loop and felt way more rested and allot cleaner at the end.