Would you like to visit Rancho Lucerne? It’s located roughly at this mile marker, North of highway 18 in Lucerne Valley. Bring a lunch and a lot of water.
The entire development is an interesting place. There are curbs but no sidewalks or roads, obvious evidence of landscaping for the planned golf course, a lot of dead imported palm trees, and fire hydrants. That’s how far the developers got before everything hit the fan. It’s strange to see man’s malfeasance manifested in the landscape.
So how did Rancho Lucerne end up this way? It turns out that the area was part of a massive real estate scam. Basically some shady guys said they were going to turn the desert into a lush, green golf course and housing development. In 2003, most of the people involved were sued by the SEC for fraud. Believe it or not, their website from the turn of the century is still up for all to see. The abandoned houses on the site that I had been shooting are most likely homesteaded properties that were left by their owners. I started this project by researching the BLM PLSS, looking at old deeds, and topographic maps. Lets just say my head exploded. At this point, I’m satisfied with anecdotes and photos like this. There is quite a bit left to do to uncover the complete story of this place, which is exciting, and will keep my busy for some time.
A model shoot of some kind. I wasn’t allowed to photograph them.
On my most recent trip to Rancho Lucerne I was greeted by some fellow photographers. I was excited to see them because it pretty much confirmed my research and theories about how these houses are used. I talked to one 5D-with-L-Series-lens wielding photog and he told me “In L.A. you ask to shoot someone’s abandoned barn and they hand you their agent’s card. A site like this would have a $1000 a day location fee.” At the time there were actually two separate shoots going on.
I was shooting quite a bit in these old houses until one of my friends kindly reminded me about asbestos. Bad vibes. That’s when I decided to step outside.
You can’t tell, but when I was taking this picture it was so windy and cold I could barely hold my camera. The building was shaking and I thought it would collapse at any moment. One thing I love about the desert is how bad ass it can be. Even on the best days it constantly reminds you that Mother Nature is in charge, and she’s one tough mother.