|Surrounded by cottonwoods and watered by three natural springs the Gilman Historic Ranch and Wagon Museum in Banning is certainly an oasis in the desert. An adobe ranch house was constructed in 1854 when the family first arrived to settle in the fertile valleys fed by the springs. The ranch lay along the Bradshaw Trail which in the 1860's and 70's and was the only way in and out of southern California to Arizona and remained a freight route through the 1880's. It became a natural stage stop along the trail because of the water and plentiful grass for the stagecoach horses. In 1879 the family built a stick built 2 story house to hold the 10 children they had. The house burned in the 1970's and was reconstructed as close to the original as codes would allow. THe family was very entrepreneurial and raised cattle, horses, raisin grapes, figs, plums, apricots, peaches,almonds and olives. In the 1890's finding the olives grew so well in the area, Mr. Gilman planted huge olive groves and began to process their own olives and sell them throughout California. One of the most interesting things we learned about the ranch was that black walnuts grew well in the area but they couldn't get the popular English walnuts to grow so Mr. Gilman grafted a black walnut tree with English walnuts and the tree is still producing today. He also did the same with persimmons. The wagon museum is filled with many different kinds of wagons used at the ranch during that time period. A stage coach which in the desert is called a mug wagon took 5 days to get from the ranch to Yuma, AZ. There were 4 seats on the wagon about four feet long and the coach held 16 passengers. I can't imagine only having 12 inches of space per person, spending 5 days riding through the wind and sand in the desert at over 100 degree temperatures...boy are we spoiled or what! Our guide Herb was very knowledgeable about the history of the ranch, area and stage line so we learned much more than our minds could absorb! It was certainly a look back in time and a lesson on the many hardships families endured during those early years of settling the west. Saturday was spent going to a Farmers Market in Temecula which is about 15 miles south of where we are staying. We were amazed at the amount of fresh produce being grown and for sale this time of year. Of course we not only sampled but brought home a bunch of goodies that are picked fresh and ripe at the farm that morning and sold throughout the day. Disappointed was an understatement when it came time to buy some Haas avocados that are grown just 20 miles down the road and are in season now so off we went to Fallbrook, the avocado capital of the world and purchased some freshly picked, ripe ones. You have never tasted anything so good in your life and before we leave here, I sure want to pick up some more for our travels. There is nothing in the store that even comes close to the creaminess and taste and as you would guess they are dirt cheap. THe ones I bought were three for $1.00. Try finding that in any supermarket in America. THe weather has been gorgeous for the most part with temps in the high 60's to mid to upper 70's. While we are getting ready to move on, we will be sad to leave wonderful friends we have met here and spent time with but that is one of the nice things about what we do...we know we will be meeting them again sometime down the road for another glass of wine and great visiting.