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
Reports Camp News Volunteer

Storm Report, Thanks to Deb, and Sturde’s Ask

Rain and Relandscaping

What 5″ of rain in 12 hours looks like going over the check dam behind the Main Lodge.

“Be careful of what you wish for.” True that! Water in the Canyon and at Camp has been in long-term short supply. But recent winter storms have deluged our wishes for rain, relandscaping the streambed (again), and creating new projects throughout the Camp. Most importantly, the rain is forcing not only more shoveling, but new strategies for capturing and delivering water into the Camp’s system. Stay tuned for news through the winter season and check the Camp’s and Wilbur’s Facebook pages for work-weekend updates.

Deb’s Long Run

Snapshot of Deb on video giving a tour of the Camp.

The winter of 2011 was grey with uncertainty; after nearly 70 years of owning the Camp, the regional United Methodist Church moved to shutter and sell the historic buildings and operations. Volunteers struggled to keep the Camp open, and after four years, the best option became real: Deb Burgess, a cabin owner and trail runner who had already stepped up to successfully build up the Pack Station, organized the Friends of the San Gabriels to fundraise and purchase the Camp. After lengthy – emphasize lengthy! – negotiations with the Forest Service and denomination, the keys were transferred in 2015.

Along with her mother Sue Burgess, Deb moved quickly to put the Camp on its own feet operationally and legally, filing to create the Sturtevant Conservancy. As President of the tiny board and ‘chief operating officer / packer / repair technician / etc.’, she almost single-handedly worked to bring the Camp into a new era of outreach and hospitality. Using her business savvy and a wide range of skills, from plumbing to crafts to advertising to decorating, all fueled by an endless dynamism that left others sucking wind to keep up, she upgraded and stabilized the Camp to serve its original purpose; welcoming people to a boot-based experience of the wilderness.

In time, running both the Pack Station and Camp, along with life’s many changes, began to wear heavy even on this mountain trail runner. As the Conservancy’s volunteer support base grew, Deb sold the Pack Station and moved up north to the Sierra foothills. After the Bobcat Fire destroyed her cabin in 2020, she stepped down as President/CEO of the Conservancy to focus on her own rebuilding efforts while continuing as an officer on the Board.

Deb on the old zip-line, as usual moving faster than anyone can keep up!

Earlier this year, Deb tried to resign to make room for new members, but that was immediately tabled! Many operational threads remained to be unwound and rewoven with new hands. With most of that work done, the Board has now acted to formally name Deb Burgess as “Founding President and Member Emeritus of the Board of the Sturtevant Conservancy”. This keeps her in an ex-officio/non-voting relationship to the Board, with the freedom to give the benefit of her experience and opinion any time she darn well pleases.

The Camp – and the public it serves – are indebted to Deb for taking on the huge task of transitioning the Camp at a darkly crucial time and putting it on a good path to the future. The Board, on behalf of the Canyon community and the hiking public, offers their gratitude, best wishes, and yes – happy trails. Thanks Deb!

Sturde’s Holiday Ask

Sturtevant Camp runs on two things: Desire and Dollars. Desire is what draws both hiker-guests and hiker-volunteers up the Canyon for the unique experience of ‘camping indoors’ at Sturtevant. Without desire, no boot hits the trail, no hot chocolate awaits in the Lodge, and no doors or pipes or anything gets fixed at Camp.

If desire is the Top Line of the Camp’s purpose, there is also a Bottom Line— the Dollars. The Camp doesn’t run on the free firewood laying around: there’s propane for stoves and fridges, filters and pipes for water and waste systems, and shingles on roofs keeping beds with pillows dry inside and so much more—SO much! All of it demands constant maintenance, repairs, and ideally, improvement.

This has been true since Wilbur “Sturde” Sturtevant built the Camp, but it is urgent this season. The Canyon has been closed for two years now with no revenue, and it’s unknown when the USFS will allow us to re-open for business. In the meantime, volunteers have been hustling to make critical repairs to the Camp following the Bobcat fire, but these are repairs, not the regular maintenance the Camp needs.

Fundraising for the big repairs has covered most of those costs, and now we need to make up for the absence of guest income to tackle the basic maintenance needed to re-open the Camp. We still have extensive bear damage to repair, deferred maintenance on the Lodge floor and ceiling, etc. The irony is that the closure gives our volunteers a window of opportunity to get that done – IF we have the dollars for materials and supplies, including lumber, paint, and more.

So, this is Sturde’s two-point holiday “ask”: first, your DESIRE to see the Camp sustained, improved, and readied for re-opening, and secondly DOLLARS to help make that happen. You can do the dollars at sturtevantcamp.com/support

And if some of your desire includes hiking to Camp and joining in the work got to sturtevantcamp.com/volunteer.

Thanks in advance for your generosity!

Road Open, Gate Closed

The first week of December, Chantry residents got word that the road construction crew would finish their work the following Tuesday. Residents and cabin owners hustled to deliver a tasty taco lunch and offer thanks to the remaining workers on their last day. Everyone enjoyed that gratifying sense of a (big) job finally done.

Which does not mean the road is open: the Canyon remains closed under the USFS order. But it will mean that Camp volunteers can come all the way up to Chantry Flats and start hiking (and hauling supplies) from there. For some residents, it will mean a return to full-time living at home, and for Maggie Moran and the Pack Station, a very big step toward re-opening for business. Stay tuned for breaking news!

Safety Stocking Stuffers for You & Yours

Check out this list from REI sporting goods…

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/ten-essentials.html

Looking Ahead to 2023

Our Annual Report, fresh faces on the Conservancy Board and at the USFS, and – you know – the latest on winter conditions in the Canyon and at Camp. Until then, Happy Holidays!

The Sturtevant Conservancy – Gary, Sarah, Paul, and Teah.

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

 

Categories
Fire Reports Camp News

Public Fire Update, October 1st, 2020

Greetings to all friends of Sturtevant Camp.

As previously announced, Deputy U.S. Forest Supervisor Rachel Smith recently hosted a closed Zoom call to share a first-round report from the disaster assessment Team. The criteria for the report was that only those structures that could be clearly identified and were intact would be reported at this time. Buildings lacking a clear name or number, or that were destroyed and thus unidentifiable, would not be reported at this time.

  • On the first reporting call, she was able to confirm about forty cabins intact in the main Canyon; there are other cabins intact, and other cabins damaged or destroyed—but those are not yet reported.
  • Smith did say that the Team could not access Sturtevant from the south because of severe rock slides on the trail. Instead, they would make another attempt, coming down from Mt. Wilson.

Now this Wednesday evening, we’ve received the report of that hike, and: Sturtevant Camp is largely intact, including the historic main Lodge, Honeymoon Cottage, Manager’s/Host Cabin, and Cabin #s 2-3-4.

With you, we are tremendously relieved by this news; we are a bit amazed that the fire did not totally overrun the Camp, but most of all we are grateful.

We are also tremendously grateful to all those who put their lives on the line and in the air to manage a voracious fire that continues to burn.

Now about “Largely intact”: because the report was by photo verification, we note that we don’t have photos of Cabin #1, which was clearly marked. We also do not have photos of the Retreat Cabin, Bathhouse, and Ranger Cabin, but all these lacked signage and may be in the Team’s “unidentified file” yet to be disclosed (the Team was not from the USFS which knows the Canyon, but from L.A. County.)

If we lost some structures to the fire, we’ll add our grief to those permittees who lost their cabins. With them, we will have all lost irreplaceable examples of history in the San Gabriel mountains. And with them, we will assess how to renew our Camp’s capacity to welcome people to the Canyon. With this good news comes a new set of challenges, and the reality that it will be a while before we can resume hosting guests at Camp.

Along with not knowing which if any buildings we may have lost, we also don’t know what “intact” really means: there could still be some partial damage to roofs, for example. Similarly, we do not know the condition of our water supply: it would not be a surprise to find that our intake system (which is at a distance from the Camp) has been disrupted.

Given what we know about fire in the San Gabriels (based on the 2009 Station Fire,) the next hazard is likely to be winter rains and accompanying mud/rock/debris falls. These will threaten or impact trail access, which relates directly to the following:

  • We do not know how close or to what degree the fire came to the Camp perimeter: if the forest uphill/above the upper bunkhouses has been burned off, that exposes our notoriously loose geology to rain. That could mean debris flows down the hillside to the bunkhouses that will need to be mitigated.
  • We do not know the location or nature or extent of the trail blockage that prevented the assessment Team from coming up the Canyon—but it must be serious! Rachel Smith reported that she had planned to enter the Canyon herself to get a first-hand take on the situation, but the crew informed her that it was not safe for her—and she’s a former hot-shot fire-fighter and smoke jumper. “They’ve never told me that before!” she said.
  • So, when pressed for a timeline of when the trail would be cleared of major hazards and permittees allowed to enter (all before the general public can enter,) she was honest in saying that all work crews on are the fire lines, and it would certainly be weeks if not months before we might have access.

In light of these unique circumstances, when we have any answers ,we’ll share those and invite your help in being part of opening the Canyon once again to everyone who loves the mountains. When we have any more detailed news on the Camp itself, we’ll post it here. Until then,

Happy trails,.

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

 

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!


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
Camp News

Calling All Boots!

Here’s the latest news about Sturtevant Camp from the Sturtevant Conservancy, five hikers infatuated with sharing the beauty and history of the camp with everyone. Stay on the trail and in the know as we continue to recover from the 2020 Bobcat Fire, looming drought, and hungry bears, and prep to receive guests when Big Santa Anita Canyon reopens to the public.

New Tanks Have Been Delivered

After last-minute snafus, including a truck tire flattened by sharp rocks on the road to Chantry Flat, the new water tanks finally came to rest by the loading dock at Adams’ Pack Station. Hurray! Thanks to crew chief Paul Witman, Sarah Barron, and Dave Baumgartner for managing this long awaited day. But there are 4.2 miles still to go.

We Need Volunteers

It takes two people to carry each 72 lb steel panel, using a custom-made truss for handling each one; the goal is to have four persons in rotation, carrying, spotting, and clearing the trail as needed.

Who Is Needed

We need hikers who are good at working together as a team, sure-footed on the trail, with good leg strength, stamina and some upper body strength. Hikers need to be familiar with hydration, nourishment and pacing their effort over time,.

When Help Is Needed

Just like filling a water tank, we’re aiming to fill up with enough people to get the job done over a few Saturdays: depending on sign-ups, we could be done quick, or it may take a few (we’d like to be done by Thanksgiving.) Here are the scheduled tote & carry Saturdays:

  • October 30
    Deadline for reply Sunday October 24
  • November 6
    Deadline for reply by Sunday October 31
  • November 13
    Deadline for reply by Sunday November 7
  • November 20
    Deadline for reply by Sunday November 14

If you are interested in being hands-on/boots-on for a delivery, please submit the form below no later than the Sunday before the Saturday you can hike. As soon as we have a full team for a date we will confirm that date with those signed up.

Thank you for stepping in & up to make this happen!

Signup Form


    Bobcat Anniversary Dinner

    Ben Fitzsimmons receiving recognition

    The Big Santa Anita Canyon Permitees Association (cabin owners) gathered for a potluck picnic dinner at Adams’ Pack Station on October 10th, 2021. The occasion was to mark the anniversary of mostly surviving the 2020 Bobcat Fire. Originally scheduled for the actual anniversary date on the weekend of September 6th, it was deferred because the Angeles National Forest and Big Santa Anita Canyon had been shut down more tightly. Nearly all U.S. Forest Service personnel have been moved to Northern California to fight persistent wildfires.

    Cabin owners shared good food, stories about finding their cabins (or not) after the fire, and swapped tips on how to maybe keep bears from tearing into their cabins. Association president Ben Fitzsimmons was videoed accepting the Outstanding Leadership Award from the National Forest Homeowners, with all present signing off with a hearty “Canyon Strong!”

    Binocular Report

    Looking ahead, Los Angeles County is now planning to shut down and reconstruct the Chantry Flat road starting early December, with completion expected by June 2022, if weather does not add delays. How this impacts Sturtevant Camp will depend upon several factors, starting with when the U.S. Forest Service decides to open Big Santa Anita Canyon, perhaps regardless of the road’s status. Opening the canyon prior to completion of the road would allow people to hike into the canyon from the top — Mount Wilson, Newcomb’s Pass, etc.

    Stay tuned as we juggle the complexities of access to Sturtevant Camp and preparing for the day we can open again for all to enjoy.

    Closed But Busy

    Sturtevant Camp remains closed for business, but we’re still busy with repair and improvement projects. Funding these projects is entirely dependent on charitable donations of time, talent, and dollars.

    You can help with any or all of these by visiting the following link:
    sturtevantcamp.com/get-involved

    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
    Quench Campaign Camp News

    Quench Campaign is a Gusher!

    The numbers are in and the tanks are full! Thanks to sixty-five distinct new donors, the Quench campaign has succeeded in collecting funds and pledges enough to pay the invoices for our new water tanks plus parts, shipping, and packing. We offer an overflowing thanks to each and every one of you!

    The goal was to fund the restoration of the Sturtevant Camp’s water system after two of three tanks were destroyed last year in the Bobcat Fire. The main investment is two new fireproof tanks, which are due to arrive at Chantry Flat in just a few days.

    A quick look at the public donations shows that about two-thirds were $100 or less, so many hands made light work. Most of the remaining donations were in the $200 – $300 range with two major gifts from family foundations to top it all off. Now the Board will plan the special events and souvenirs offered in recognition of everyone’s generosity.

    A waterfall of thanks to everyone for all the support!

    Next Steps, Literally

    The new water tanks are due for delivery at Chantry Flat, the trailhead for access to camp, in just a few days. When all the parts are on hand we’ll sort through what can be loaded on the burros, and what and how to hand-deliver the rest. Then we’ll put out the call for some sturde* volunteers, with a goal of delivery in cooler weather late this fall. Stay tuned!

    Mud, Pipes, and Success

    Fire damage to the water system was an opportunity to not only repair the system but also improve it. A key piece was completed just this past weekend, which is rebuilding and updating the primary water collection pool. This small pond was originally constructed to serve the micro-hydro generating system but since the onset of the drought it has been pressed into service as the source of water into Sturtevant Camp.

    Over time the pond has suffered a lot of abuse. In the past, a dose of hard rain would create a surge that knocked the shallow rock walls apart, which had to be hastily reassembled to keep water flowing into the system. Both deer and bears often pawed up the fragile liner as they drank, or apparently played in it like a kiddie pool! Dirt avalanches from the adjacent canyon slope also clogged with the pond, reducing its capacity.

    With the planned extension and improvement of the collection/filtration system, new pipes would also need to be laid into the bottom of the pond. So this past weekend the old containment walls were disassembled and two pipes laid into the bottom. A replacement pond liner was put into place and the walls were more securely rebuilt with the help of a few sand bags filled with gravel. Finally, the intake zone was re-shaped and widened to capture all of the small but steady flow of natural water, and soon the flow into the water system was re-established.

    Big thanks to board members Paul Witman (lead plumber), Teah Vaughn Piscopo, Sarah Barron, and volunteer-at-large Patrick Gorman, plus prior work by Dave Baumgartner and others.

    Snapshot in History

    Earlier this month was the 111th anniversary of Wilbur Sturtevant’s passing. Thanks to the Streetview function on Google Maps, we were able to “visit” the Soldier and Sailors’ monument in Cleveland, Ohio. On August 19th 1864, Wilbur was promoted to 1st Lieutenant in Company D of the 103rd Ohio Voluntary Infantry Regiment, and his name is engraved inside the monument among his Company. Unfortunately, the “S”s were just out of focus on the lower part of the wall.

    * “Sturde” was Wilbur Sturtevant’s nick-name.

    Categories
    Reports Camp News Volunteer

    More Hiking & More Digging

    Not Quite a Valentine

    February 14 was the first official day of the planned eight-month closure of Chantry Road for the construction of an all-new bridge. By June, it will be physically impossible for any vehicle to cross the gap where the bridge is being built. But the project will maintain a pedestrian walkway, so that people can cross from both directions: this will allow Adam’s Pack Station owner Maggie Moran and her family, plus the USFS residents of Chantry Flat, to get in and out—and for our volunteers to stay on the job of prepping the camp for eventual re-opening. The walk-around will add about a half-mile to the work-day distance total, guaranteeing that everyone gets their “steps” in, with or without carrying pipes and parts!

    Unfinished Business

    Weekend work-team lunch break; standing L-R are Scott Wilson, Brent Pepper, Maureen Nally; seated are Kelly Davidson, Board members Teah Vaughn-Piscopo and Sarah Barron.

    Most fundraisers offer thank-you incentives and souvenirs to donors — T-shirts, tote bags, etc. There are a few of those for last season’s Quench campaign to fund the new water tanks, but we also promised something special to many donors: thank-you luncheons and experiences at Chantry Flat and at Sturtevant Camp.

    However, the closure of the Chantry Flat road has put a very real roadblock on those plans, compounded by continuing concerns over Covid exposure. Therefore, the board has chosen to put a hold on everything until we can do those events right — on site, safely and fully inclusive. Before then, we’ll ask for your feedback on the best, most accessible versions of the events, so please watch your email in-box for customized messages, and reply with your preferences.

    The Recovery Business

    The two storms at the end of 2021 were a real set-back on the water system project, but thanks to the skill and tenacity of our board members, and the many new and returning volunteers, we are back on track. Volunteers have done so much shoveling — so much — and Site & Operations Manager Paul Witman has been hands-on/in the dirt and mud to guide the recovery and rebuilding of the essential plumbing. Soon the focus will shift to installing the new water tanks after we solve the cement delivery dilemma.

    Our volunteers have proven themselves to be reliably sturdy, but we won’t ask them to haul 60lb bags of concrete up the trail— that’s what burros are for! Cement is needed for the base of the water tanks, but the main trail is not yet passable to the pack train; there is serious technical work to be done in several key spots, as well as miles worth of basic shoveling. As a temporary alternative, pack train owner Maggie Moran has explored the original Sturtevant Trail down from Mount Wilson to camp as an alternative. That would also require some work, plus complicated logistics, including staging the pack train at the observatory for a week or so. We’ll have an update in the next Bigcone blog on how the dilemma is resolved.

    Big improvement added to the ropes — a crevasse ladder! Board member Gary Keene tests a donated and carried in 15ft extension ladder.

    The Nut$ & Bolt$ of Business Closure

    The guest welcome board in the dining hall, unchanged since the group evacuated from the Bobcat fire in September 2020.

    Not being open for business is obviously bad for business, but the Board is working hard to not go out of business and get ready to do business—when the time comes! We are fortunate that we do not have the daily-demand costs of Adams’ Pack Station, whose burros don’t care about road and Forest closures—just bring on the feed!  That’s why we encourage everyone to support Maggie’s on-line fundraisers at adamspackstation.com.

    But we do have on-going expenses: more than just insurance and fees, the demand for basic repair and preventive maintenance is constant. As much as we enjoy the forest wilderness, it is a hostile environment to the camp’s buildings and infrastructure, requiring steady attention and investment.

    With the road’s construction closure through October, combined with the USFS closure of the canyon until further notice, we do not anticipate guest revenue until maybe the 4th quarter of 2022, and that is very hopeful. It does give us time to tackle both major repair projects from the fire, as well as long-sought improvement projects. For example, the 1897 dining hall has serious termite damage to repair, and the roof is due for replacement; the shut-down is an ideal time to get these kinds of projects done.

    Thanks to the Quench campaign and the cash balance of business income before the fire, the camp has its fiscal head above the financial waters—make that its nose! Project-focused fundraisers are on the horizon, and in next month’s blog, we’ll outline the historic and projected fiscal ecosystem of the camp as we plan to go forward.

    Until then, your financial support strengthens our ability to use this closure to improve the future of the camp’s service to the public: sturtevantcamp.com/support Thanks in advance for doing so!

    Green & Black, Flowers & Scat

    Coming into February, our volunteers are seeing plenty of green sprouting in the canyon; while the Bobcat fire likely burned out some of the familiar invasive species, it has also given opportunity to many of the indigenous plants of the San Gabriel Mountains to take their rightful place in the sun. Right now, white blossoms of the climbing wild cucumber are all over, lightly scenting the air.

    There’s also good news for some of the fauna: horticulturist and board member (and bear-whisperer!) Teah Vaughn-Piscopo identified several recent doses of scat on the trail as bear-poop which were very black and dense. This indicates a diet unusually heavy in meat; whatever the unfortunate source, at least the bears have not been back into our kitchen and buildings (knock on wood).

    Next Month’s Bigcone Blog

    News from the U.S.F.S. for the canyon, a snapshot of the camp’s fiscal ecosystem, updates from the cabin owner’s association annual meeting, and whatever else happens between now and then.