The Smuggler's Cave
by John Church
The story begins down in San Diego County, California. The cave at that time could be reached by a trail that was at the end of a small dirt road, as I remember, by taking Highway 80 approximately one mile south of Boulder Park, or coming from the other direction, five miles east of Jacumba and at a point just due east the mica mines, which are plaining visible against the foot of the mountains on the west side of the road. From this turnoff point it is about a quarter of a mile to a small rocky knoll where the car can be parked.
The faint trail to Smuggler's Cave is a southeastern direction from this point. The cave is in a large rounded clump of large granite boulders. The back end of the cave, which is about 30 feet from the entrance is blocked with smaller boulders, broken pottery and grinding holes as evidence of early Native Americans.
The first recorded incident calling attention to this interesting cave was when the Gaskill brothers at the old Campo store that is referred to in all your ghost town books, were held up by bandits. The hold up resulted in a gunfight, and one of the bandits escaped with a slug in his shoulder. A posse tracked the bandit to Smuggler's cave and then they waited till he came out and the posse shot the bandit. The news spread quickly. A local artist went up to the cave and sketched a picture of the scene with the outlaw lying in front of the cave.
About the year 1900 and later, the Chinese were being smuggled across the Mexican border to the cave. The international border is just a short distance away. The smugglers and the Chinese would camp here until the trail was clear. The government finally learned about this smuggling and the border patrol was sent to Jacumba. They were rounded up and the smuggling stopped.
By 1911, Turso de la Toba, a border raider, with a following of outlaws, was causing a lot of trouble in the area long the border. Both the American army and the Mexican federals were after the outlaw "Turso Toba". Finally American soldiers caught up with the gang near Jacumba. After the smoke cleared from the gun battle, the soldiers found tracks leading to his hideout at Smuggler's Cave. Toba and his gang had left, but considerable loot was hid in the cave in the rocks. Saddles, bridles, sacks of beans and a few horses were found. After that there was no more trouble along the border.
As the old saying goes, if this cave could talk, what intriguing stories it could tell - in at least four languages - Native American, Spanish, Chinese and English. Should you decide to head out to the Smuggler's Cave yourself, do some research on your own, as this story comes out of my old archives and I haven't been out there myself in years.