When the obituaries of Delta, Utah recounted the life of Bob Stinson, it told a tale of a man who lived up to his namesake — the “Hermit of Marjum Pass”:
“His home was made in Marjum Pass alongside the highway 60 miles west of Delta. He was the only resident of the area … During the years, many wayfarers and friends enjoyed Bob’s hospitality in the snug quarters he had made by adding an outside wall to a roomy cave.”
Now, like the dwellings of the natives constructed long before the pioneers arrived, Stinson’s home sits in the lonely West Desert of Utah. His story is not one of chance, but a consequence of heartbreak and a desire for solitude, and the community that came around him after.
Not much is known about Stinson except for his obituary and an occasional mention online or in travel guides. Born on April 21, 1880, in Marion, Iowa, Stinson later served in World War I. Upon his return, he was heartbroken to discover his fiancée had married another. Devastated, he ventured west to Utah in 1929 to visit his brother, Roy. It was during this journey that Bob’s “mobile home” gave out, leaving him stranded in Marjum Pass, forcing him to make an unexpected choice: he stayed put.
He transformed a natural cave, cleverly using rocks to make a front wall and shielding the interior from the elements. Over time, he did extensive work on the cave, pouring a concrete floor, carefully carving windows and rock shelves and adding a bedframe and mattress. These features can still be seen today.
Located deep within Marjum Canyon, 45 miles from Delta, Hermit’s Cabin sits alongside dirt roads, snaking through sagebrush that stretches for miles. The air around the cabin is quiet, and at night the stars punctuate an endless sky — a glimmering ceiling atop the canyon. When the wind stops, the silence is profound and seems to spread out along the sagefields, leaving little question as to why someone would want to homestead there.
During Stinson’s time, this area served as an east/west connection, linking Delta to Nevada and all the way to California. Today, it’s the definition of a road less traveled, with only a handful of cars passing through each hour. Most are local residents or visitors looking for solitude, like Stinson was (as well as rocks to hound and mines to explore).
J.B. Cram, with the Bureau of Land Management, reflects on the type of life Stinson likely found in this part of Utah: “A thought that comes out is that of the solitude that can be found on public lands. Public lands are all unique, and everyone can find the kind of solitude they are seeking on them. That is the purpose of these unique areas; for each person to find their place.”
Though he lived in solitude up Marjum Pass, Stinson’s connection to the Delta community was evident and grew year after year. Residents say he trapped and tended to a flock of sheep, and for years was entrusted by the Bureau of Land Management to clear the pass of debris and do other odd jobs. His innate hospitality always shone through, as every visitor was greeted with his legendary home-brewed beer.
Few photos of Stinson exist or remain today. Stinson’s main legacy is in the rock wall and homestead he built while isolated in the desert. For the most part, it has remained intact and endured the test of time.
“Over the years, some pieces have been placed and removed from the cabin from its original state,” says Cram. He reminds visitors to “Leave no trace, and pack out what you pack in.”
Kevin Morris, with Millard County Tourism, says the area is a fun place for visitors to explore, but a good quality vehicle and a little prep are needed due to rough road conditions.
“Some of the roads can be rocky out there,” Morris says. “We encourage people to bring an extra spare and lots of water when they go out there.”
How to get to Hermit’s Cabin (From the BLM):
DIRECTIONS: From Delta, travel west on highways 6 & 50 for 33 miles, then turn right at the U-Dig Fossil sign. Travel north on the gravel road for 10.4 miles to a 4-way intersection. At this intersection, turn left to the Marjum Pass, then drive west for 12.8 miles. The rock house is located in a narrow canyon, which is the last small side canyon on the north side of the Marjum Pass.
Have fun exploring!
Location: LATITUDE/LONGITUDE: 39.247166, -113.402867
Feature Photo: Home constructed by Bob Stinson from a small natural cave that he enclosed by using local rock. Photo courtesy of Millard County.