Rialto Historical Society Reveres Mountains

April 13, 2009

img_3072_edited-11If mountains are our most “historic” resource, perhaps that’s why historic societies understand the intent of our book, Call of the Mountains. Yet before each presentation, I never know what to expect, for each setting is different. Last weekend, we gave our program to the Rialto Historical Society, which meets in the basement of the 1907 Christian Church building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Only after setting up our slide-show equipment, did I notice my surroundings – tables set for our elegant lunch in a museum-like ambiance. Before eating, however, society president Jean Randall showed us their real museum, transformed from the former Sunday-school building into an artistic, turn-of-the-century home.

Historic Mountain Photo

Historic Mountain Photo

I could have spent hours looking at the tasteful displays including an early 20th century doctor’s office, a citrus exhibit, framed maps tracing Rialto’s growth, and my favorite room with clothes from past eras. (The bathing suits looked heavy enough to drown in.) Farley liked the photo displays. One picture showed the old road to Lytle Creek, source of water for Rialto’s orange groves situated below the mountains. Indeed, many of the day’s guests recalled mountain stories from their heritages.¬† Hanging in the curved staircase, a Charles McLaughlin photo shows the Mill Creek cabin of Rev. Harold Bell Wright, who wrote novels with mountain settings and who dedicated the church. Beforehand, I’d read some of historian John Anthony Adams’ books, including one about the church’s ghosts. On this occasion, however, they avoided the scene – ¬†perhaps climbing their own mountains.

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Stepping Back in Time at Sturtevant’s Camp

April 2, 2009
Sturtevant's Camp, Angeles Nat. Forest

Sturtevant's Camp, Angeles Nat. Forest

A surprising glimpse of yesteryear is usually welcome, at least when you’ve been hiking for several hours. That’s how we came upon Sturtevant’s Camp last weekend. We’d seen pictures of this Great Hiking Era resort camp, and people had sometimes mentioned it after our Call of the Mountains presentations showing Sturtevant Falls. But we hadn’t seen the camp until our friends Judy and Art asked us to join them on a 10-mile circle hike, climbing from Chantry Flat over Mt. Zion saddle into the upper Big Santa Anita Canyon. Wanting to stop there and snack before hiking on down, we turned off the trail – serendipitously into Sturtevant’s Camp, where we sat down by a croquet court. Above us, a group of children frolicked near a volleyball court. That’s when Forest Service Volunteer/Camp Manager Chris Kasten approached us, pointing out the 1903 hand-hewn log cabin that once housed patrolling rangers. He also showed us the 1898 dining pavilion built of native materials, still used today. In their kitchen, propane gas fuels two refrigerators and a big range stove. The camp’s electricity comes from a micro-hydro generator using water flow from the nearby stream. Without any roads, a mule-pack team hauls up supplies once a week, and a hand-crank telephone system connects the camp to the pack station below. We couldn’t stay, of course, in this oasis under big cone spruce, maples and canyon live oaks. But amenities like showers and flush toilets convinced us to note the Website: Sturtevant@calpaccamps.org for making group and individual reservations

1903 Ranger's Cabin

1903 Ranger's Cabin


Wilderness Bill Passes

March 26, 2009
Looking from Cahuilla Mountain

Looking from Cahuilla Mountain

Yesterday was a landmark day, especially poignant for Farley and me. Congress approved adding more than 2 million acres to federally protected wilderness, about 700,000 acres in California. It’s been a long haul of letters, meetings and lobbying since the May 2000 statewide wilderness conference, which inspired our photo-essay book, Call of the Mountains, and which sparked a widespread campaign for wilderness preservation in California. Subsequently, Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced the California Wild Heritage Act of 2002, to protect more than 2.5 million acres of public lands and portions of 22 rivers. We celebrated, but the bill didn’t pass. Yet it paved the way for a bill passed in 2006, adding acreage to the Hoover and Emigrant Wilderness Areas and for passage of the Northern California Coastal Wild Heritage Wilderness Act, which gave wilderness designation to more than 265,000 acres.Yesterday’s bill includes wilderness designations in the range of our book – about 40,000 acres in the San Gabriel Mountains and about 8,400 acres in the Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains Nat. Monument. It also creates the South Fork San Jacinto Wilderness and the Cahuilla Mountain Wilderness. (Pages 45, 58-59, Call of the Mountains.) Another 1.4 million wild acres awaits protection, such as additions to the Cucamonga and Sheep Mountain Wilderness Areas. Yet I believe their turn will come, fueled by yesterday’s momentum and more public awareness.


Snowshoeing on Dry Lake

March 19, 2009
Playing on Dry Lake

Playing on Dry Lake

Two weeks ago Farley and I, along with our friend Keith, slogged six miles up to Dry Lake. We found it still covered with snow, just like the surrounding mountains looming above. Another March day, but in 2003, Farley photographed Dry Lake for Call of the Mountains, page 80. But that day, ducks bobbed around in the lake’s water. Keith hadn’t seen Dry Lake in more than 20 years when he camped there with his small son. After a food break, we put on our snowshoes and ran around on the frozen lake like children. This sparkling 9,000 foot stage must have triggered our spontaneous play. It reminded me – not of other snowshoeing occasions – but of snow games I played as a child growing up in the Midwest.

San Gorgonio Mtn. above Dry Lake

San Gorgonio Mtn. above Dry Lake

Around the lake and as far down to South Fork Meadow, we noticed ski tracks made when the snow was fresher. Keith had hoped to ski instead of snowshoe, but the snow was too icy and patchy in places. I came back with more respect for the hardy folks who lug their skis or traverse up toward the higher reaches of 11,500-foot San Gorgonio Mountain. Now I understand better why skiers in the 1930s and 1940s wanted mechanical lifts developed. Yet I’m glad that wilderness designation persevered, protecting the scene we experienced. Of course Dry Lake is not a natural lake, created by Vincent Taylor, who in 1883 dammed the stream outlet with rocks and timber. He talked about building a cabin resort along the lake, but thankfully he didn’t get it accomplished.


March 6, 2009

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