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Quench Campaign Camp News Volunteer

Beginning the Long Haul of Long Hauls

We have begun the process of taking our new water tank parts from Adams’ Pack Station at Chantry Flat to the upper reaches of Big Santa Anita Canyon. When coming to Sturtevant Camp for a stay or a visit the trip is a pleasant, four-mile hike. But when carrying large, curved pieces of corrugated steel it becomes a long haul.

The First Trip

On Saturday, November 6th, 2021, eight volunteers carried one of 6 pieces of a water tank cylinder. Each piece is a 4′ x 9′ of deeply curved, corrugated & galvanized steel.

Initially we had tested a wooden rig for carrying the pieces; something akin to a stretcher used for carrying wounded people. But this rig proved to be more trouble than help so we abandoned it in favor of good old-fashioned elbow grease… and pool noodles.

Not So Fast

Volunteers building a crib wall out of rock on the trail to Sturtevant Camp
Building a crib wall.

Before we could attempt to carry such large and awkward items through the third steepest mountain range in North America, we had to do some trail repair.

If you don’t know, the reason for installing these new tanks is that in September 2020 the Bobcat Fire, one of two widespread fires in the recorded history of Big Santa Anita Canyon, destroyed our water system, along with one of our cabins.

The intensity of this fire denuded the canyon slopes of vegetation. And without the chaparral to hold the soil in place there was much dirt, rocks, and fire debris washed down across the trails by recent rains.

So instead of hauling the first tank piece on the first scheduled volunteer day, several volunteers, including new friends, went to work on clearing washouts with McLeods and shovels over the course of the two-day weekend, making the trail safe for our hauling efforts. In some places, loose rocks from above the trail were removed and placed in gullies as crib walls to restore the trail surface.

Let the Fun Begin

This should be a breeze!

The trails now in relatively safe and passable condition, we used the next scheduled volunteer day to begin hauling our tank pieces. And because we knew that we would encounter new debris on the trail we again brought in the trail-building tools.

Our new hauling system was simple and effective: two heavy-duty carrying straps rented from a moving company and cheap foam pool noodles to cap the sharp edges of the steel. This is much lighter and more maneuverable than the wooden rig, although the size and shape of the steel is nevertheless awkward to carry.

See the gallery below for photos from the first delivery day and days prior.


More Help is Needed

The end of a long day

This trip was just the beginning of delivering all the water tank pieces to Sturtevant Camp. And once everything is delivered we need to assemble it all and get the plumbing connected to the existing, undamaged infrastructure. If you can help in any of these capacities please use the following form to send us your information.

So far the scheduled dates are as follows…

Volunteer to Help with Our Water Tanks


    Categories
    Reports Camp Operations Camp News

    Building Large & Small

    There are two “big” projects underway that, when completed, will give the public safe and reliable access into the Big Santa Anita Canyon. The objectively larger one is the L.A. County project to build a vehicle bridge on the Chantry Road, using heavy—really, really heavy! – equipment. It is currently on track for completion in early October.

    The smaller but no less crucial one is helping the Adams Pack Station to reclaim the ‘horse’ or pack trail from Chantry Flats up to Camp; the tools and equipment are shovels, pick-axes, McLeods, and strong backs! The packtrain burros will be the first regular users, with hikers coming later when the Canyon opens to the public (hopefully next spring).

    The trail is rough but navigable by foot now, but there is one rocky pinch point the burros cannot pass with their bags loaded; plus a few other points are tricky and need work. As soon as these can be fixed, Maggie Moran can start packing, which serves the Pack Station and the Camp—both of which remain endangered by the closure of the Canyon nearly two years after the Bobcat Fire. To join this project, visit sturtevantcamp.com/volunteer. We’ll provide the shovel!

    Spring = New Births

    Flowers aren’t the only things blooming in the Canyon: bear cubs have been sighted near Chantry, and on the trail to Camp, Manager Paul Witman came upon three still wet, just-born fawns (see photo). Then in Camp, a Dusky Flycatcher has made a nest in its usual place on the kitchen windowsill of the Manager’s Cabin – but this time had the advantage of a cup previously filled with ammonia to stave off the bears. A week after the first photos of her sitting on 3 eggs, the work team returned to find them hatched and hungry; the photo here shows them napping while mom is out hunting for breakfast.

    How to Sell “Camp”

    With Camp closed for repairs and preparing for re-opening ‘later’, the Board is catching its breath and thinking about how to advertise for that re-opening. Sturtevant is so wholly unique, it’s hard to accurately “sell”: hikers come into true wilderness, but stay in cabins, with kitchens and restrooms. Sturtevant is just 25 miles from downtown LA. so it’s ‘accessible’—but that 4.15 mile hike makes it genuinely remote. In Camp guests are “wi-fi free”, yet most awareness of Camp is built on-line, especially now while the Canyon is closed. It feels luxurious to have bed and pillows in the wilderness, but for sure it’s not glamping, it’s rustic—historically, intentionally, inevitably rustic!

    We’re confident that the Canyon’s magic will continue to pull in all kinds of people, just as it has since Wilbur set up the first tents in 1893. With that in mind, one option to both sell that Canyon magic and recover the guest capacity of Cabin-1 could be to put up an old-school canvass sidewall tent. These have become popular and are readily available—just as they were way back when: the accompanying photo is from the 1897 Sears & Roebuck catalogue, showing many kinds of tents for recreation and work.

    Note that 1897 is the same year that Wilbur built the “Swiss Dining Lodge” to accommodate his booming tent-based resort business. We still enjoy it today, and are working so that many more can continue to come to Camp in the years ahead. To be part of helping that history thrive in the future visit sturtevantcamp.com/support.

    Calling All Hosts, Old & New

    Speaking of which (the Future): Sturtevant’s microscopic non-profit public service Conservancy depends entirely on volunteer hosts to welcome and manage guests on weekends. Looking ahead to re-opening (sometime after Christmas?) we are ramping up to recruit old and new hosts for that exciting day.

    This includes an updated job description, orientation and training for hosts, and a smoother booking system for hosts, with accompanying “bennies” on the far end. If you have been a host before or want to be considered, visit sturtevantcamp.com/volunteer and/or send an email stating your interest—we’re interested in you!

    And the Water-Works Goes On

    These snapshots from progress on the water system include Site & Operations Manager Paul Witman piecing together the filter system for the replacement tanks at the entry to Cabin-2, which has become the storage and assembly site for all the valves, tools, etc. Action figure-photo-volunteer Scott Wilson pumps the come-along to drag one of the old concrete tank support ledgers out of its place, making room for the replacement tank/s. And Scott at rest, surveying the reworked pad for the new water tanks: the new ones are shorter but wider than the ones lost to the fire, so the pad had to be slightly expanded.

    Binocular Report

    Going into summer, the Conservancy’s “backpack” is full of work: getting the pack train through to Camp a.s.a.p., installing and testing the water tank (as the water level drops for the season and the continuing drought), finalizing host recruitment and training, housekeeping and repairs in Camp, upgrading our accounting and reservations systems, and developing both marketing and publicity before the Forest opens, etc.! In other words, we’re keeping our boots laced up and ask you to do the same with a visit to sturtevantcamp.com/support

    Bonus Shot / Up Next

    Here is a fuzzy spy photo of – what? One of our volunteers with – what? See next month’s newsletter for the big reveal!

    Categories
    Camp News

    2016 New Year Report

    Summary of 2015

    2015 was a busy time for Sturtevant Camp and the Friends of the San Gabriels. It was a year of restoration, improvements, new procedures, marketing, and meeting a lot of new people. Here are some of the accomplishments:

    • The Friends of the San Gabriels purchased Sturtevant Camp in April, 2015. 95 donors made this purchase possible. Donations continue to be received periodically.
    • The US Forest Service approved the organizational permit in July 2015.
    • Over 200 volunteers worked diligently during the summer and fall to conduct fuel reduction (fire clearance), improvement of the heliport trail, cabin painting, re-routing the trail into Camp, posting of an introduction and welcome sign, creation of retaining walls, and miscellaneous repairs and maintenance. Termites are under control.
    • Water tank #2 (the redwood tank) was re-commissioned and Water tank #3 (poly tank) was converted to a potable tank. All three water tanks are now plumbed into a single system providing over 5000 gallons of storage water. New water treatment procedures and tank rotation insures good quality water with better chlorine retention time.
    • Eighteen new hosts have been trained, with several that have spent time in Camp.
    • New sheet sets were purchased and now the guest cabins have matched sheets. A new procedure to always provide sheets, pillow cases, and blankets has been put in place.
    • The guests cabins have begun their transformation to theme cabins. Cabin 1 = Pack Train Rest Stop; Cabin 2 = Forest Friends Hangout; Cabin 3 = Bob Cat Lair (new wall hanging in progress); Cabin 4 = The Bear Den (new wall hangings and decorations are in place.
    • Coffee is set out on weekend days, the main lodge is propped open to welcome hikers inside, a set of nine chairs are always out for hikers to rest, cabin brochures are posted, and a host is in Camp to greet hikers, as well as provide information for the Camp. This has resulted in numerous reservations during 2015 and into 2016.
    • The number of likes on Facebook and followers on Instagram has increased significantly. Newsletter signups are now over 1000.
    • A new reservation system is in place to ease the front end and back end operations. The website has its own theme, but is still linked to Adams’ Pack Station, Friends of the San Gabriels, and Big Santa Anita Canyon websites. The url for sturtevantcamp.com and sturtevantcamp.org was secured.
    • Reservations for both the main area and retreat cabin were some of the highest in years. This trend is continuing for 2016.
    • The Camp has been signed up with Groupon and HipCamp. Ads on Facebook will begin showing on Facebook in January 2016. This will be targeted to people who have searched online for camps to stay in.
    • A Grant proposal was submitted to LA County Parks and Recreation for $170,000 repairs, maintenance, and restoration. The California Conservation Corps will provide the labor. The approval is on schedule for early 2016 with work to begin late spring.
    Cabin improvements in the newly named Bear Den

    And for the New Year – 2016:

    The focus for 2016 will be to continue with infrastructure improvements, marketing, and guest satisfaction. Here are some of the plans.

    • Complete the transformation of the guest cabins to theme cabins (add decorations and interpretive signs).
    • Get the microhydro (water-based electricity) back online. There has not been enough water for several years. We will have sufficient water at least through early summer and then may have to revert back to the generator.
    • Paint the inside of the bathhouse, retreat cabin, and manager’s cabin. Replace carpet in the retreat cabin and manager’s cabin with wood flooring to provide for more durability, easy cleaning, and prevent the need to vacuum. Refinish the floor of the honeymoon cottage and put sealer on the walls.
    • Continue to expand marketing sources.
    • Introduce Theme Weekends. See the weekends we have scheduled so far HERE
    Categories
    Camp Operations Camp News Volunteer

    Hot Summer News

    What’s Boring?

    Paul with plumbing parts

    Frankly, the news from Camp is boring, for now. A lot of detail work on valves and pipes, and a lot of grunt-work doing fire clearance in & around Camp, plus brushwork on the trail. That’s cutting back all that tall green grass from this winter that’s gone brown. Also, many of the toasted and burned chaparral and smaller trees are finally sagging into and over the trail, and have to be clipped/cut back so the pack train can get through. That will be exciting news (the pack train delivering) but, later! Check back here in August for the latest.

    Arbutus Comes Home

    Meet Arbutus

    After many years in hibernation elsewhere, ‘Arbutus, the electric green mule’ has finally come back home to Sturtevant. Designed to hand-truck propane tanks to and from the Camp using an electric bicycle wheel, its conception and journey parallels the recent history of the Canyon and the Camp.

    Back in 2005, the Chantry Road was closed, similar to now, but because of a complete wash-out of one section, and an avalanche of rocky dirt on another. Although guests could (and did) hike down from Mt. Wilson, getting propane into Camp was “a problem”. With the road impassable, there was no way to get tanks filled and to the Pack Station for the burros to carry in. And without propane, there’d be no cooking, no heat in the cabins – and no happy campers!

    How to bring tanks in and out from another trailhead? Doodling on a napkin, manager Chris Kasten and previous manager Gary Keene spit-balled a design for a tank carrier running on a car-battery powered electric bicycle wheel. Working with gravity, the carrier would roll a full tank down the Mt. Wilson trail, then turn around and boost an empty tank back to the top. They took the design to a bike shop that did the custom welding, and Chris named the contraption Arbutus (look it up!) Story continues below.

    People, Who Need People

    The crunch in summer air travel is mostly pegged to a shortage of staff—cabin stewards, gate personnel, etc. Those ‘front facing staff’ are the key to making the travel experience a positive one, while the mechanics and pilots work behind the scenes to actually deliver.

    That’s similar to Camp: while the Conservancy works to get the water system working and the Camp ready for re-opening, it will be the Hosts who actually greet guests and help make their time at Camp a positive one. Those people (guests) need those people (hosts)!

    The best hosts are ‘people people’ who know that “a pleasure shared is a pleasure doubled”. It’s true that Hosts also manage a lot of the house-keeping, and Camp being the nearly 130 years old, they often have to step in to make repairs and keep things safe over the weekend. So hosting isn’t coasting through a weekend at Camp.

    But in return, Hosts become part of a special team with customized access to the Camp and Canyon. The job criteria are simple: are you a people person who appreciates the Camp and wants to share that? Are you available to commit to a few weekends in Camp (on your own schedule) over the course of a year? Oh, and do you love to hike?! An updated job description and orientation program will be available this fall to get ready for the Camp’s re-opening. If you have been a host before or want to be considered, visit sturtevantcamp.com/volunteer and/or send an email stating your interest — we’re interested in you!

    Bun Definitely in the Oven

    Teah and Gary

    If ever there was a “bun in the oven”, Ripley Vaughn-Piscopo was it! With her birthday coming VERY soon, a baby shower for her mom (and Conservancy Board member) Teah was in order. Maggie Moran offered her home and its expanded porch at Adams Pack Station as the location, so in the scorching heat of an early summer Sunday, immediate family and friends gathered on the deck with the burros braying in the background. Teah was (as always) the life of the party, accompanied by husband and future dad Graham (sweating not the delivery but the heat, along with everyone else!)

    Maggie and guests

    Maggie was Hostess with the mostest and emceed the party, which included cold beverages, tasty snacks, and some fun games (including real horseshoes). NO tails were pinned on any actual donkeys, but most guests did visit the pack train in the corral to meet Teah’s “extended family.”

    Thanks to Maggie for providing a great place to celebrate (plus her custom cupcakes!), and to board members Sarah Barron and Gary Keene for organizing and refreshments. Thanks also to Patrick Kelly and Dave Nickoloff of the Canyon Patrol for staffing the gate to get all the guests in on time. News of Ripley’s arrival will be posted on Wilbur’s Facebook page. Stay tuned!

    Arbutus Continued

    Arbutus headed back home

    The shop finished Arbutus right when Chris was scheduled to be away for a rare vacation, so Gary picked it up for the test run. Rolling the loaded rig down from the summit of Mt. Wilson while feathering the brake was a breeze. The next morning, he turned around with an empty tank loaded and headed up: a small lever actuated the battery supply, and the ‘mule’ pulled the tank up the trail about 20 yards— and died.

    Whaaaat?! After a few moments, the green light came back on: power on, roll forward and up – and dead. In between pushing and dragging, this on/off pattern repeated for another 3/4s of a mile or so, then stayed dead. Gary reported, “What was usually an hour hike to the summit took over 3 hours and was the toughest I’ve ever done—Mt. Rainier included!”

    Turns out back then there were two kinds of electric wheel: one to help you get going, and a different model that you pedaled first, then it would assist. Arbutus had the first one, although it is doubtful any version could conquer Mt. Wilson. As usual, Chris figured it out, swapped out the wheel, and switched the delivery route over to Newcomb’s Pass (driving the tanks on the F.S. road to the drop-off/pick-up point for a most downhill run in.)

    Arbutus fulfilled its purpose, carrying propane and groceries and repair supplies into Camp until the Chantry Road was repaired and re-opened. Then it got moved over to another Methodist camp in Wrightwood, where it languished for many years. With the closure of the Chantry road for a new bridge this season, Gary (as current General Manager) got to wondering where the it had gone to hibernate.

    The green mule was recovered and turned over to John “JT” Thompson, the Camp’s ex-officio electrical wizard (who also happens to be a cyclist.) He renovated Arbutus, giving it two ‘tiny but mighty’ nicad batteries in place of the old car battery. Fourth of July weekend, a work team delivered Arbutus up the trail—or rather, chased it up the Canyon: with no load (this time!), the tire was skipping and pulling fast over rocks and roots, tossing dust and mud in the face of the drivers.

    Next it will be tested for carrying various supplies in and out of Camp; eventually it will stay in Camp and help volunteers move propane tanks around the cabins, bathhouse and dining hall. No carrots, but regular re-charging should keep it in service for many years to come – check it out when you finally get back to Camp!

    Binocular Report

    While the Canyon is closed this summer, the Conservancy’s “backpack” is full of work: installing the filter and valve system for the water tanks, getting the pack train up to Camp, recruiting a new cadre of hosts, developing marketing before the Forest opens, plenty of repairs and maintenance on site – in other words, we’re keeping our boots laced up and ask you to do the same with a visit to sturtevantcamp.com/support

    Categories
    Camp News

    Sturtevant Camp Pricing Notice

    New Pricing Structure in 2017

    The pricing structure for Sturtevant Camp is going to change in 2017. Rather than a per person price for the cabins, we are moving to a flat rate per cabin or the main area. This means that there will no longer be a minimum number required to reserve. We are hoping that this will simplify the pricing. There is a price increase for the smaller numbers in each cabin, but a big price break for the full capacity of one or more cabins.

    The price increase was built in to support the changes we have incorporated in camp:

    • Improved Cabin Feel (more homey)
    • Sheets, pillow cases, and blankets now provided for all cabins
    • Coffee, Tea, and Oatmeal now provided
    • Condiments and charcoal now provided
    • We are adding solar for a quieter and cleaner electricity experience. Note that the micro-hydro system will continue to be an option when there is sufficient water

    Prices through 2016

    Retreat Cabin and Honeymoon Cottage: $45 and $40, respectively, per person per night with a 2 person minimum. The reservation is pre-paid with no refund. If people are added, then you need to remit the balance.

    Guest Cabins, Main Area, Entire Camp: $40 per person per night with a 5 person minimum for each cabin, 20 for the main area and 30 for the entire camp. The reservation requires a 50% deposit with final payment including additional guests due the Thursday before their stay.

    New Pricing Starting 2017

    Retreat Cabin: $125 per night for 2-3 people and then $250 for 4-6 people. This will continue to be pre-paid with no refund.

    Honeymoon Cottage: $90 per night, sleeps up to 2. This will continue to be pre-paid with no refund.

    Guest Cabin: $275 per night regardless of the number of guests (up to 8). Pre-paid with 50% refund if cancelled with 3 week notice.

    Main Area: $1150 per night, regardless of the number of guests (up to 34) which provides for exclusive use of the kitchen and reservation of the 4 guest cabins plus the honeymoon cottage. Pre-paid with 50% refund if cancelled with 3 week notice.

    Entire Camp: We will eliminate this option. If you want the full camp then you need to book both the main area and the retreat cabin.

    Reserve a Cabin Now »

    Categories
    Camp News

    Autumn Preview 2022

    There She Is!

    With an extra week of incubation capped by 23 hours of labor, Ripley Arliss Piscopo finally joined the sunshine world at 8:28am Thursday, August 4, 2022. Mom and Conservancy Board member Teah Vaughn-Piscopo and Dad Graham welcomed Ripley, along with a whole canyon-full of folks looking forward to Ripley’s arrival. Now the game is on to predict how soon Mom will have her cub in a sling and up the trail to Camp – stay tuned!


    The Pour is On

    Chantry Road – bird’s eye view (photo by David Nickeloff)

    Even with the heat drying out the canyon hillsides, sending constant showers of gravel down on the project, the Chantry Road bridge is moving toward completion this fall. Two of four concrete pours are done, so the sections connecting the bridge to the original roadbed are scheduled. Next up will be negotiations with the County and the USFS to allow controlled access to Adams Pack Station.


    Cooking Volunteers

    Brent Pepper, Scott Wilson, and Emily Sawicki hike the trail to Camp for a day’s work on plumbing, carpentry and fire clearance.

    The summer heat has made volunteer work at Camp even more of an exercise in commitment. Work has continued on the water system, fire clearance, building repair and maintenance— but just hiking in and out takes extra effort in the heat. Paying attention to staying hydrated has made the water system an even higher value asset, so that volunteers can resupply in Camp.

    In the Canyon, the stream has gone underground in many places, typical for August. But we’re still getting a decent little flow into old tank #1, while the new valve and control system for the new tanks is being completed.


    Looking Ahead

    Volunteers at Camp: enchanted Emily Sawicki, observant Paul Witman, Brent “Side-Eye” Pepper, and Scott “Sweaty” Wilson.

    Volunteer work on multiple projects will resume in earnest Labor Day weekend. The goal is to double-down on projects by scheduling a few overnight work teams this Fall. To get in on the action (ideally in cooler temps), visit sturtevantcamp.com/volunteer and/or send an email stating your interest—you can make the difference!


    Looking Back, Musically & Generously

    Back in the day, Mr. Glenn Robison was operations Director for the multiple camps in United Methodist system, including Sturtevant. Now in retirement, he’s expressing his eclectic talents and tastes with a radio show focusing on vintage pop and jazz music of the 1920s-30s. Remembering the Camp and Adams Pack Station, he put together a segment on music about mules, burros and pack trains, with a link to donate to the Pack Station! Shout out and thanks to Glenn, with plug for the Pack Station to boot (or hoof.) Check out his intro and the music here: https://www.glennrobison.com/rapidly-rotating-records-78-rpm-show-august-7-2022/

    Categories
    Fire Reports Camp News

    Public Fire Update, September 16th, 2020

    Thank you for your interest in and concern for Sturtevant Camp, especially now in light of the Bobcat fire. Here is what we can say today with some certainty:

    There is every indication that the fire has moved directly through the upper Big Santa Anita Canyon and therefore the camp. However, we do not know the impact on the buildings and infrastructure, and we won’t know until we can put boots on the ground.

    That is a very long way off. Even when the fire is confirmed to be done in the canyon, it will be a very hazardous environment. This starts with air quality: until winter rains thoroughly soak the ash and soot on and into the ground, hiking much less working in the canyon will be extremely unhealthy. The other immediate hazard will be standing burned trees and the threat of deadfall. Simply getting into the camp will likely be very difficult because of downed trees, etc. Based on previous fires in the San Gabriels, such as the Station Fire, we know that once the rains come, it will get worse.

    The Forest Service will decide when the National Forest can be opened to the general public. Because we are permit holders, we expect and will request to have early access prior to that opening. At that time, we’ll make a detailed assessment of the camp and begin to take every action to conserve what is there and to preserve general safety.

    Once we have a clear picture of the status and condition of the infrastructure the questions will turn to the future, starting with:

    • What the Forest Service will allow
    • What is physically possible and financially feasible
    • How can we best serve the public good

    Since Wilbur Sturtevant recognized the special qualities of this little place in the canyon, put up a few tents and invited people to come into the canyon almost 130 years ago, Sturtevant Camp has been a touchstone of the San Gabriels and a portal into the wilderness experience. We know that whatever the fire has done, the forest will renew itself, as it has before, and people will seek to come for the unique gift of the wilderness. We hope you will join with us in continuing to make that possible in the seasons ahead.

    For more information as it becomes available, check-in here and/or friend “Wilbur Sturtevant” on Facebook.

    The Board of the Sturtevant Conservancy,
    Deb, Paul, Sue, Danny, and Gary. and the Friends of the San Gabriels

     

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    Reports Camp Operations Camp News

    Good News & Other News for 2022

    Last Year’s News for 2022

    The work crew putting the safety line to good use across the Slide Rock Gap: L-R board members Paul Witman and Sarah Barron (rock climber and rope-slinger), with Brent Pepper and Scott Wilson. All made it safely across.

    It never rains in California, until it does. Then it really does! The end of year holiday rain and snowfall made the national news and has been the intense focus of everyone in Big Santa Anita Canyon.

    Since the Bobcat fire, Sturtevant Camp volunteers have been double-tasking: working on recovery in camp and shoveling a lot of rock and gravel just to get into camp.

    Now the rains have done real damage and reshaped most of the canyon stream bed. The damage includes complete loss of sections of the trail to sharp, often steep washouts. Side canyons became roaring torrents filled with gravel that quickly carved through anything not solid rock. Some of the cuts are deep or wide or both, making for difficult crossings. But some are also “exposed” with a steep drop-off threatening a misstep.

    Those are points of individual danger but the more serious threat is that until these cut-outs/drop-offs are repaired the pack train can’t get through. This is bad for business on both ends, the pack station and the camp.

    The Sturtevant Conservancy board is working with Maggie Moran, owner of Adams’ Pack Station, to solve the problem and get on with the continuing work of preparing for when the canyon re-opens. Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a full-body workout, otherwise known as trail work, click here to volunteer!

    New Year’s Tough News

    L.A. County technical drawing of the section of Chantry Flat road to be removed and replaced with a bridge. First the entire side of the canyon above this will be ‘rock-scaled’, which means scraping off/bringing down as much of the loose surface rock and dirt as possible.

    We previously reported on the 2022 Chantry Flat road project to construct a new bridge, spanning 240 feet at mile marker 2.95, near the top of the road. Chantry Flat will be cut off with no vehicles allowed or even able to pass through for the duration of the work (proof of which is that Los Angeles County is paying for rental cars for those living at Chantry Flat.)

    That’s the project, but not the news, which is the schedule. Work is to begin mid-February (weather permitting) with official completion targeted for mid-October of this year. But with an allowance for weather and supply delays plus corrections the road may not reopen until February, 2023.

    Together with the Bobcat fire closure plus damaged trails, this means no public access to the Big Santa Anita Canyon via Chantry Flat from September, 2020 to around Christmas, 2022. That would be nearly two and a half years of shut down.

    The impact on the camp and pack station are of course significant. Any creative work-arounds will be complicated. Hypothetically, the canyon could be opened to the public before the road project is finished; this would allow hikers to enter from Mt. Wilson and the back country, which could also be an opportunity for the camp to open to guests, and to engage the pack station for packing. Of course, that would still be complicated.

    Stay tuned for head-scratching, brainstorming, and hopefully a few miracles.

    One Way to Add Campers

    The brightest smile in the canyon just got brighter: Board member Teah Vaugh-Piscopo looks forward to becoming a first-time mom in July. Congratualtions!

    The Sturtevant Conservancy is expanding unexpectedly and joyfully. At our recent meeting, board member Teah Vaughn-Piscopo shared her good news that she and her husband Graham Piscopo will welcome their first child in July. Teah was quick to say that won’t keep her from the trail, and not even the typical dose of shoveling along the way, but lifting heavy stuff will be out since she’ll already be doing increasingly heavy lifting 24/7!

    Along with everyone who has enjoyed her enthusiastic welcome into camp (and her yummy cookies), the board joins in wishing Teah and her family good health and progress; we’ve already signed up to take turns carrying the kid up to camp until Teah can lace-up some tiny hiking boots on the new munchkin!

    New Year’s Goals FYI*

    During the early phase of the pandemic shutdown, many people took the opportunity to clean out closets, organize photo files, and otherwise catch-up on deferred maintenance. With 2022 shaping up to be closed for the canyon and the camp, the board is likewise aiming to catch-up on a long list of to-do items, and to make some improvements. But not all of those are building fix-its and upgrades.

    For example, once camp re-opens, the volunteer hosts will need a new operating manual based on changes caused from the Bobcat fire, including changes in the water system (draft title: “How to Make Happy Campers”). There are new insurance requirements for the guests’ safety orientation and there will be new kitchen and housekeeping protocols to prevent further bear damage. And, of course, there are many new stories to show-and-tell about the camp after the fire.

    *For Your Invitation: the pool of camp hosts will need to be re-recruited, expanded and trained! If you’re interested, visit the Volunteer page.


    Shoes Found

    The flooded stream unearthed some antiques: this jumble of horse, mule and burro shoes was found at the high-water mark behind the generator shed. Likely they had been salvaged for use in craft projects back when children’s camps made souvenir plaques of their week at camp, and mounted them the dining hall rafters.


    Ever-Changing Stream Beds

    Looking at the trail crossing between the Honeymoon Cottage and the Mt. Zion & Mt. Wilson trails junction. The first storm filled in the stream bed with sand and gravel, and second storm carved it all out.


    Crossing The Gap

    Upper right, Paul Witman adjusts the safety rope for crossing above a missing and very exposed gap in the trail while Gary Keene ponders the drop-off from the edge of the exposure.

    Upper right, Paul Witman adjusts the safety rope for crossing above a missing and very exposed gap in the trail, while Gary Keene ponders the drop-off from the edge of the exposure.

    Categories
    Fire Reports Camp News

    Public Fire Update, July, 2021

    Thank you for staying on the trail with us after the Bobcat Fire. Here’s the news as of July 2021, and our hopes and plans going forward into 2022.

    Big Santa Anita Canyon remains closed to the general public. Most of the surrounding Angeles National Forest has reopened, but for now, hiking into the canyon could still earn you a nasty fine.

    In Camp, the immediate fire (and bear) damage has been cleaned up:

    1. Reclaiming the bed capacity lost to the fire’s destruction of cabin #1 is on hold.

    2. The primary focus of work has been on reclaiming and improving the intake system for water into camp and the public fountain. This has involved digging out a lot of melted, bent and broken pipes; hand-carrying a lot of replacement pipe up the (sketchy) trail, and hard-rock-mining-digging to get replacement pipe in place for the enhanced system. Special thanks to Peter, Mark and Dave!

    Because of the projections of drought as the ‘new normal’, the system has been re-designed to capture and hold as much water as is available, and to meet the need for both potable (drinking) water and the micro-hydro system (generating electrical power from the natural flow of water). Special thanks to Paul and JT!

    And: replacement tanks for the #2 & #3 tanks lost in the fire are now on the horizon (see below).

    3. With the canyon closed and no guests in camp, normal maintenance is still required to hold the line against the general degradation of weather and the aging of historic buildings. We are also aiming to make improvements and repairs that would otherwise be difficult to accomplish around guests.

    The U.S. Forest Service has not yet changed its estimate of keeping the forest closed until spring 2022. This is based on conditions in the canyon, including the network of trails, uncertain / unstable surface rock and soil conditions, remaining deadfall in the forest canopy, and the potential for sudden changes in conditions brought on by weather.

    A renewed season of drought has left most of the hillsides intact but exposed and capable of ‘avalanching’ dirt and rocks. The little rain we did have has brought out a welcome display of greenery eager to make a place for itself in the new environment.

    The Big News: Los Angeles County has announced that the road from the Santa Anita Avenue gate to Chantry Flat will be closed for six months starting October 2021. The purpose will be to do a major repair of the road where it has been down to one lane, not far from the pack station.

    No vehicle will be able to physically cross the reconstruction zone; Los Angeles County said they will construct a temporary pedestrian pathway for the few U.S.F.S. residents of Chantry Flats, and Maggie Moran and her family at Adams’ Pack Station. They will have to stage shuttle vehicles on each side of the zone and walk between.

    This situation is not new: around 2004, significant autumn rainstorms caused the road to collapse about a mile above the gate, and everything was shut down for almost a year. At camp, there were several work-arounds, but of course it was logistically very difficult (this is back when long-time manager Chris Kasten was hand-trucking propane tanks in and out of camp from Newcomb’s Pass).

    What the road closure means & what happens next:

    A. The main trail has been improved enough for Maggie and her donkeys to get through to camp; so we will complete as much packing as possible prior to the road closure (for example, cement mix for the water tank pads, replacement doors for the bear-ravaged refrigerators, etc.).

    B. Regardless of the road closure, if the canyon remains closed to the public through spring 2022, we will use the time to make as much progress as possible on maintaining/repairing/improving the camp itself. The two biggest projects are the water tanks, and renovation of the Fireplace Room around the oak tree that continues to grow and lift up one whole side of the building.

    C. If the U.S.F.S. opens the canyon to the public from the top (Mt. Wilson) before the Chantry Flat road is re-opened, we will explore creative ways to welcome guests into camp.

    The October road closure and need to pack as much as possible before that date jumps forward our schedule to purchase the water tanks and other supplies, which puts fundraising front and center.

    Sturtevant Camp is a genuinely non-profit organization and operation!

    There are no paid employees, all work is done by volunteers, and guest revenue is turned around quickly to pay for a very short, basic list of expenses: propane, packing, other utilities, repair, maintenance, and improvements, plus annual permit fees to the U.S.F.S., county taxes, and insurance.

    We are currently paying fees, taxes and insurance out of the cash in the checking account; there is no reserve fund or endowment but we can dream. Volunteers have funded many of the repair materials, and many small donations are helping along the way.

    So we expect to present a simple fund-raising campaign soon, focused on the big ticket item of the water tanks, along with a few special projects to make the camp an even more compelling experience once guests can get their boots dusty coming up canyon. Until then, stay tuned, and thanks for your interest and support.

    — The Sturtevant Conservancy, Deb, Paul, Teah, Danny and Gary

    Categories
    Fire Reports Camp News

    Public Fire Update, September 29th, 2020

     

    Thanks again for your interest and patience. Yesterday, Deputy U.S. Forest Supervisor Rachel Smith hosted a closed Zoom call with all the cabin owners, including Sturtevant Camp. It was very well done, and sensitive to the concerns of the ‘permittees’, especially given that there’s really no new information yet. Here’s a synopsis of key points that were presented and emerged in the following Q&A.

    1. The fire is well-contained on the Canyon side of Mt. Wilson, but remains active to the north, and the Observatory continues to see nearby flare-ups. The persistence of the fires (here and elsewhere) is also the cause of the main constraint on everything else: everyone is fighting the fires, so there’s “nothing left on the shelf” for some of the other things we might wish for (like an early assessment of the Canyon, clearing trails, etc.)
    2. Next week a county damage assessment team is scheduled to enter the Canyon, with an update to cabin owners shortly after that. Until then, nobody knows the status of anything in the Canyon. It’s also unclear if they intend or will be able to get to the upper Canyon, including Camp.
    3. The Chantry road is passable, but the gate is closed and the National Forest remains under an indefinite ‘hard’ closure. There was extended discussion of how to protect the Canyon from ‘disaster tourists,’ vandals, robbers and arsonists who will ignore the closure (all very real threats based on experience.) There was heavy emphasis on getting Maggie and the few other Chantry residents back on site, both for their own sake, and to have eyes on the ground there.
    4. There was discussion about future debris removal, rebuilding cabins, county codes, etc. Nothing decisive, more later.
    5. The cabin owners invited the USFS to “exploit us!” in the sense that everyone sees themselves individually and collectively as stewards of the canyon environment and history. Most everyone is skilled at trail work, and the owner’s association will be setting up a way to fast-track people signing up as official Angeles Forest Volunteers. (Camp hosts will be recruited directly.) An added goal is to have more people go through formal sawyer training.

    The Board of the Sturtevant Conservancy has been in constant connection from Day 1 of the fire, including a recent formal meeting. We’re taking a triage approach to scenario planning, and developing a punch-list for our own assessment team to get into Camp as soon as we’re permitted to do so. Based on both the USFS projections and our own experience working in the Canyon, we do not expect to see public hiking, much less campers or guests anytime in the near future.

    There will however be work to do, not just trail-building & repair, but also building awareness and resources for whatever the task/s ahead may be. Rachel reported the USFS is experiencing “tremendous community interest” in the status and well-being of the Canyon, and we know by your many posts, messages, texts and emails that our Sturtevant community extends across all of southern California and far beyond. We hope you will stay close as we both wait and prepare for the next chapter.

    We’ll keep you posted here.

    For the Board, Deb, Paul, Suzanne, Danny and Gary