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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

    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
    Support Quench Campaign Fire Reports Camp News Volunteer

    Welcome To The New Bigcone Blog

    Thanks to the team we are up & running with this blog to post the latest news from Sturtevant Camp. You can sign-up for our newsletter to receive email updates and bookmark sturtevantcamp.com/news for quick reference.

    During last fall’s Bobcat Fire, staying connected on-line was the best way to find, give, and receive crucial up the minute information. Coming up on one year after the fire, even though Big Santa Anita Canyon and Sturtevant Camp remain closed to the public, between the heat, the bears, and our damaged water tanks there is a lot going on up here. Stay tuned here for the latest, including the earliest news on when everyone can get back to camp.

    Why The Bigcone Blog?

    There are a lot of blogs out there but only Sturtevant Camp is shaded by the largest untouched stand of Bigcone Spruce in the San Gabriel Mountains. And those trees drop huge seed cones. If you’ve ever had one conk you on the head, you’ll agree! So, we’ll claim that distinction for this blog: dropping big fresh news all the time!

    Our Quench Campaign Is a Waterfall

    Sturtevant Falls
    Sturtevant Falls in Big Santa Anita Canyon

    Thanks to more than thirty new donors plus two generous foundations, our Quench Campaign for potable water at camp has already filled two of three water tanks, and we gave less than 350 gallons to go to top off all three.

    The campaign set out to fund the restoration and improvement of the camp’s water system after two of three tanks were destroyed in the Bobcat Fire last year. The big investment is two new fireproof tanks; the third “tank” represents all the replacement pipes and re-plumbing needed for a better collection and distribution system to guests and hikers in camp. We have set up an FAQ page to read details about the project.

    Thank You To Our Donors

    A big, wet, splashy thank you to everyone who has given so far!

    Looking at donations for the new tanks, 20% of new donors gave on average 110 gallons each, or about $670 each. Gifts to the next tank averaged about 11 gallons each, or $65 each, but then two gifts from family foundations jumped the overall total to 3,947 gallons — just $2,112 short of full to the brim.

    To fully Quench the campaign, visit sturtevantcamp.com/quench to donate as many gallons as you wish.

    Breaking News

    Last week we got word that the two new tanks are being readied for shipping all the way from Texas. Those will come to Chantry Flat in early September (after we’ve paid the second invoice with your support) where the materials will be staged for packing and delivery into camp.

    Current plans are for the smaller parts to go up on the Adams’ Pack Station pack train but the main panels of the tanks will likely be moved to the top of Mount Wilson then hand-carried down the original Sturtevant Trail into camp for assembly.

    Can You Help?

    Are you interested in stretching your arms or otherwise helping out? Visit sturtevantcamp.com/volunteer to sign-up for a variety of tasks and projects to ready the camp for our re-opening. When will that be? Stay tuned here for early notifications!

    Bears In the House

    The latest volunteer work crew arrived in camp recently and started to unlock the manager’s cabin only to hear banging around inside, followed by a bear poking his head out of a hole she had ripped into the side wall of the cabin! She scooted out and up the hillside, followed by her cub tumbling out of the laundry room.

    Bear damage in the Ranger Cabin
    A bear got into the Ranger Cabin and left it looking like the morning after a frat party

    The hot summer on top of the burned terrain is forcing many animals to forage for food. Many cabin owners are reporting repeated break-ins, with this mamma bear plus cub becoming increasingly bold and often destructive in their pursuit of food. We know it’s the same bear because she has a bum leg and we have named her Peggy (as in peg-legged).

    Sturtevant Camp has been hit by the bears a few times, the hardest being right after the Bobcat Fire when the evacuation left lots of food in the kitchen. We still have refrigerator doors to replace, lots of window screens and door trim, and now a hole in the cabin, with siding ripped off and other buildings’ doors pulled off as well. Thankfully it’s “just” more carpentry repairs.

    History Snapshot

    William "Wilbur" Sturtevant's grave at Sawtelle federal cemetery.
    William “Wilbur” Sturtevant’s grave at Los Angeles National Veteran’s Cemetery.

    Wednesday, September 8th 2021 will mark the 111th anniversary of the passing of our founder, Wilbur M. Sturtevant. He was an infantry Lieutenant in the Union Army, serving in the Civil War, and is buried at the Los Angeles National Veteran’s Cemetery in Sawtelle, section 18, row E, site 8. There’s loose talk about pouring a dose of Big Santa Anita Canyon stream water on his grave on that Wednesday. Are you interested in joining in? Send us an email or message him on his Facebook page.


    News In Pictures

    Categories
    Reports Camp News

    2021 Year-End Thanks

    Sing along now: “How many boots must a hiker lace up, before you can call it a day?” —or a season, or a year? OK, not quite rhyming enough, but you get the idea. 2021 has been a ‘second verse, same as the first’ with the effects of 2020’s Bobcat fire continuing to ripple through this year—oh, and that pandemic thing too!

    So congratulations to everyone who has come thus far, and condolences for those lost along the journey’s way. Up at Camp, the seasons persisted with a lovely showing of golden maple leaves this fall. Now we hope for rain while looking back on a busy year of many volunteers putting boots on the trail and sweat on their brows.

    • The major effort to reclaim and improve the water system is 95% done after lots of hard-rock digging and new pipes; now all we need is lots of water running through them.
    • The Quench campaign to fund two new water tanks was an overflowing success: a waterfall of thanks again to all who contributed—see below about ‘unfinished business’.
    • The new water tanks are finally on-site/in-Camp with more bits and pieces coming up on the burros around Christmas. The new year will see them assembled and hooked into the plumbing system.
    • The frequent destructive incursions of bears into Camp buildings has slowed down, and we look forward to making more permanent repairs that restore the “rustoric” look of the Camp (that’s Rustic + Historic, right?)
    • All of this has been accomplished safely with no injuries, despite the continuing instability of the trails, and many volunteers serving as pack animals carrying awkward repair materials.
    • AND in compliance with post-fire USFS safety guidelines, all of the work has been done in one-shot day trips: many legs – hearts – lungs + spirits are the stronger for it!

    Unfinished Business

    Most fundraisers offer thank-you incentives and souvenirs to donors—T-shirts, tote bags, etc. There are a few of those for the Quench campaign, but we also promised something special to many donors: luncheons at Chantry and at Camp. We are cooking on those plans!

    But the upcoming extended Chantry Road closure (see below) has put a troublesome roadblock in front of the immediate future. It means we’ll have to work with L.A. County to figure out how and when we can deliver on those promised events. And we’ll need your feedback to figure out the best, most inclusive solutions, so please watch your email in-box for customized messages and reply with your preferences.

    The Road to Somewhere

    The Chantry Road has experienced a lot of drama over the years, but the upcoming closure* for repair/reconstruction will introduce something new. Previous repairs have been one of two types: bulldozing debris avalanches off the road, or when the road washes out, rebuilding the base and pouring new pavement.

    The section due for repair now is of the second kind, but the county will do a much more radical fix: rather than try to build a new base, the whole section will be removed, and a bridge will be constructed in its place—perhaps similar to the Bridge to Nowhere, but it will actually get you somewhere—Chantry Flats!

    Breaking News: Sometime/Later

    Latest word is that the County has run into the same supply and contractor problems challenging many industries following the pandemic. The result is the Chantry Road work is now re-scheduled to start in February next year; with a six-month work plan, that pushes the re-opening of the road into August 2022. But the County has also acknowledged that possible winter weather plus supply delays could stretch completion into spring 2023.

    The Board of the Sturtevant Conservancy is in contact with both L.A. County and the USFS with serious concern for the closure’s impact on the Camp (and to join in support for the Adams Pack Station.)

    Whenever the USFS opens the Big Santa Anita Canyon to the public— which is accessible by trails from Mt. Wilson and Newcomb’s Pass—the Camp might be able to develop some work-arounds to the road closure: literally, walking around the project or walking/hiking down from Mt. Wilson (and back up!) But there’s no underestimating the negative impact on the Camp’s basic business. Stay tuned for more news as it becomes available.

    Interview: the Generous Hiker’s Guide to DAFs & EFTs

    Coming to the close of the tax year for charitable donations, one regular Camp supporter emailed to deliver a gift in an alternative mode. The Camp’s General Manager Gary Keene interviewed Jon Neustadter to better understand and share both how he gives and why.

    GK: Jon, what’s your connection to the Camp?

    JN: Since at least 2010 – and likely well before – I’ve been hiking the 9-mile loop from Chantry to Spruce to Sturtevant, then over that downed tree with my dog (and the help of a makeshift metallic step) up to Mount Zion, and back via Lower Winter Creek Trail, and the Camp has always been a joyous highlight of the hike.

    GK: A lot of people come through Camp on that hike, but for you there was something more; what was it?

    JN: Several times we were greeted warmly by the Camp Manager, and often we would play some ping pong in the Lodge and look at the historical photos. I also loved the swing. It’s just a fun and special place to stop at on a gorgeous hike. All my visits just seemed special – a place that was well kept, friendly, and inviting even to a hiker who wasn’t staying at Camp.

    GK: It led to you being generous to the Camp—thank you!— but in a different way technically: you asked us to set up an electronic fund transfer (EFT) from your ‘donor advised fund’. There are two things there—the fund and the transfer—that others might not be familiar with. Help us understand all that, and how it works for making charitable donations.

    JN: Yes, a donor advised fund (or ‘donor managed investment account’) is easy, and it helps me manage and track all my donations in one place. Basically, it’s a charitable giving mechanism where you get a full tax deduction at the time you fund the account, but you retain investment management rights over the account; then you request (really, direct) donations from the account to charities you select whenever you choose.

    GK: Sounds straight forward; are there other advantages for giving in this way?

    JN: There are several other advantages: the fund can grow (or lose) with the market without any tax consequences, so it’s possible to request a larger donation than what you made originally. Another tax advantage is that you can contribute many kinds of assets, such as securities at their current market value, without any tax consequences. Also, there is no need to get a letter from non-profits for tax deduction purposes, which saves time and resources both for me and for the receiving non-profits.

    As for the EFT, it’s simply how the donation gets delivered, but it also saves time and resources and is more secure; there’s no paper check, envelope, or risk of slow or lost mail.

    GK: Your support will contribute to our reopening when the Canyon is opened to the public; what would you like to see on your first return hike into Camp?

    JN: I would love to see a Camp Manager with a dog and chat with them about how Camp life has been wonderful lately.

    GK: We have both—managers and their dogs! Just as soon as we can welcome the public, we’ll invite you up. Thanks again for giving us the means to move forward.

    For an example of a donor advised fund, see www.fidelitycharitable.org/guidance/philanthropy/what-is-a-donor-advised-fund.html

    Binocular Report

    See all the above! The future is pretty darn cloudy, given the forest closure, road closure, and the projected dry winter. But we have a great network of volunteers, donors, supporters, and ready-to-be-guests. Although the Camp remains closed for business, we’re still busy with repair and improvement projects: funding these projects is now entirely dependent on charitable donations of time, talents and dollars. You can help with any or all of these!

    Visit the Volunteer and Donate pages and keep in touch here as we find our way forward on the trail into 2022.

    Categories
    Camp Operations Camp News Volunteer

    Board Introductions & Water Tank Update

    Who We Are

    Sturtevant Conservancy board members on a video conference call.
    Video conference with the board members.

    The Sturtevant Conservancy is a non-profit registered in California; its purpose is to sustain historic Sturtevant Camp for the public benefit, operating on land leased from the U.S. Forest Service.

    The governing Board members are volunteers who supervise and manage the mission of the Conservancy, and the camp itself. Board members are recruited based on their “boots on the ground” commitment to the camp, as well as the diverse skills needed to operate the camp. These include guest hospitality, site operations and maintenance, marketing, financial management, lumberjacking and trail-building. All have the passion to share the Sturtevant experience with the public for the future.

    Check out their bios and profile photos on the Who We Are page.

    Four Hauled, Two Qued

    We had the parts, the people and a plan—then if finally rained for real in the San Gabriels! The first run to deliver a water tank panel up to camp was delayed so that the trail could get worked back into shape (mostly). Plenty of shovels and shoulders were duly exercised!

    Over the next few weekends, a variety of regular and newbie volunteers came together to manually haul the roughly 4x8ft curved steel panels up the main trail. Each time was an experiment with improvements the final delivery will be simple and almost easy. The chief factor was not weight but the wiggliness of the panel, and the persistently unstable trail.

    The success was mostly because people were good at working together and sure-footed on the trail. A lot of new friendships were made, and future volunteers inspired. A good thing, because there is always more to do at Camp!

    Binocular Report

    Stay tuned for the end-of-the-year-holiday edition of the Big Cone Blog!