Sunday, April 26, 2009

Afield in San Diego: Vallecito Stagecoach Station, Mud in Our Eyes

In a few days I'm heading for Morocco for some deserts and history, so I thought I'd write about some prequel history and desert action right here in San Diego from a couple weekends ago.

My 14 yr old granddaughter, Hayley - Jennifer's sister - and I headed out to the old Vallecito stagecoach station to throw some mud - that is, repair the adobe structure by smearing on a layer of mud. Great fun if you're six years old and you're not in the sun-beating-down desert.

To set the "stage" so to speak, we drove the 80 miles east from the coast so we could approach the work site from the Great Southern Overland Stagecoach route, the same route the stagecoach travelers would have traveled from Missouri. The only other option for them was the northern route over what became known as Donner Pass. Either way had to have been a grueling trip. We drove through the Coyote and Jacumba Mountains, past the Well of Eight Echos and Corrizo Badlands and some of the most spectacular scenery in San Diego - that most tourists don't see. We were in a bit of a hurry to start working before the temperatures rose, but I had to take at least one cactus shot, and made a note to come back this way more leisurely.

The station was run by the Lassater family who settled here in the 1850's; they provided respite and meals to the passengers of the Butterfield Overland Stage coaches, which passed through twice weekly. By the late 1880s, the train route had come through from the east and stagecoaches were lost to history. Even before the stagecoach, though, the route was used by Mexicans running cattle to the north.

Our project was organized by Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO). We got a short lesson on how to apply adobe mud and then we were on our own.

We began by making our mud. Let me say here, this endeavor is not as easy as it sounds. The mud has to be the right consistency...

the wall needs to be prepped by removing loose dirt and wetting the wall just the right amount for the new mud to adhere.

Then on with the mud, any way you can get it to go. We tried throwing, smearing, patting, talking to it...

and somehow we got a pretty nice wall done.

One 14 year old, pretty proud of herself after a hard day's work.

I took the requisite door photo,

and we were both happy campers heading home, with thoughts of how isolated life was for this family and how welcome must have been those stagecoach travelers.

Click here for a photo of the stagecoach station in 1904, likely much the same as it looked in the 1850's.


Pat said...

One question - how did Hayley stay so clean? I wouldn't have mud all over me!

And can you imagine what that trip must have been like? Talk about an adventure...

Katharine said...

My very thought when I looked at the photos later. That white shirt was spotless, and my shirt, pants, and shoes were totally covered with mud.

Those immigrants were some tough cookies. Gave us good California genetics.

Anonymous said...

Hi! I’m the Community Manager of We’re building a website to highlight some of the most interesting places travelers around the world have discovered. We’ve read hundreds of blogs about San Diego and we think that this post is awesome! We’d love to highlight excerpts from your blog (assuming it’s OK with you of course) and to discuss other ways of tapping into your expertise if you are interested. I’m at erin[at]
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Pat said...

Hi Erin! Kathie asked me to respond to your comment because the keyboard she has access to in Morocco is hard to use! Such a problem to have...

I'll have her get back to you when she returns, ok? But thanks for visiting!!!

Kappa no He said...

What an amazing idea. And yes, the first thing I thought was what a WHITE shirt. Have a great time in Morocco!