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Naming Names & Shoveling Gravel Soup

Thanks by the Names & Numbers

The Sturtevant Conservancy is an all-volunteer operation, and we now have the numbers to show just how grateful we can be—and are indeed! Although we’re not hard-core bean-counters, there is some real data to analyze, estimate and extrapolate*. Here’s the picture based on what we have so far this year:

55 volunteers have signed waivers to work in the Canyon/at Camp; 32 have showed up for one or more workdays. Using static data (distance to Camp, elevation gain, etc.) and average data (time hiking in/out and hours in Camp), as of Nov.17th, we get 495 total volunteer hours of hiking and working combined. That’s 62 days at 8 hours a day – even though most days were 6:30am at the gate, back out at 4:30pm = ten hours.

In terms of hiking, we also calculate 495 total miles, not including all the schlepping back and forth in Camp while working which can add up to way more than a mile. The total elevation gain is nearly 582,000 feet, equal to climbing the height of Mt. Wilson 102 times, or Mt. Everest 20 times.

But that’s the numbers; here are the names of all those who put boots to dirt to move Sturtevant into the future:

Volunteered at least one full workday in 2022: Susan Stahl, Taylor Crisp, Aaron Blanco, Peter Vance, Charie Contreras, Sandra Sanchez, Todd Williamson, Fred Tanis, Sharon Miller, Ted Baumgartner, Avery Arauz, James Krist, Alex Barron, Elizabeth Sturdevant, John Butta, John Binninger, Reg Willson, Ty Oehrtman, and Jim Oberman = Thank You!

Volunteered more than once: Dave Baumgartener, Andrew Bousfield, Anna Binney, Maureen Nally, Kelly Davidson, John Peel, Emily Sawicki, Peter Witman, Patrick Gorman, and Patrick Kelly. (Special call out that several of these folks were even more active in 2021, back when we weren’t trying to track the particulars.) Double-Thank-You!!

Scott Wilson, Brent Pepper, and Nate Bousfield volunteered five times or more for a collective total of at least 135 miles hiked and 158,625 ft of upward trail. No counting of all the parts carried, shovels-flung and dirt inhaled; a mountain-sized THANKS to each of you!!!

There simply would be no real progress on recovery from the Bobcat Fire, much less conserving the Camp’s long-term condition for future use without all these boots, miles, hands and hearts: thank you all so very much! We’ll have year-end totals after the holidays, a snapshot of the Board member data, and next year we should ‘count calories consumed’—that should be an outstanding number. If you want to get in on the action, sign up to volunteer sturtevantcamp.com/volunteer.

*Board members are not included so as to not skew the data.

Raindrops Keep Fallin’ — and Moving Stuff

The early November storm that smacked southern California did a real number on the San Gabriels. Despite the dramatic changes of the 2020 Bobcat Fire and the subsequent storms at the start of 2021, this one seemed to do even worse. Winter Creek* was especially hard hit, with the familiar green bridge at Roberts Camp ripped from its foundations, along with all the forest cover at the junction with the Big Santa Anita stream. The view is simply devastating.

Up-canyon, the water did some more re-landscaping, and more trees were down, thankfully none in Camp. The heliport rain gauge measured 6.9 inches from the storm, and that plus the volume of surface gravel yet again wiped out the Camp’s rebuilt collection pond, along with much of the hardware. Volunteers have already shoveled a LOT of soupy gravel to locate what was left, and rebuilding is underway. As posted on Wilbur’s Facebook page, certainly Mother Nature bats last, but thanks to our volunteers, we’re still in the game!

*Winter Creek is so named because that’s when and where Wilbur paused building a new trail (the one we know as the Zion Trail) from Sierra Madre up to the Camp. It was his second trail into the Big Santa Anita, after guests complained about the difficulty of his first one. Speaking of which…

Happy 130th Birthday Sturtevant Trail!

1899 ad for camp from a Los Angeles magazine called “The Land of Sunshine”

Wilbur Sturtevant opened his trail resort in 1893, the first in the Big Santa Anita Canyon, and now the last in the San Gabriels. The country was in the midst of a severe economic depression, and his chief financial asset was the string of 23 pack animals he had built up and brought west from Colorado. While there was money in packing for local projects such as the Mt. Wilson toll road and construction of the Observatory, he was a bit of a loner and likely preferred to work for himself.

Wilbur observed the success of Martin’s and then Strain’s camps on Mt. Wilson and figured he could do even better; a camp would create guest revenue and a steady demand for packing (just like the money in selling printers is really in replacement toner cartridges!) Scouting the front range, “he first laid eyes on the gently sloping wide spot by the upper Big Santa Anita creek…”* With its steady water supply, majestic trees and a good dose of sunlight, it proved to be an ideal setting for a trail camp. But how to get there?

Anyone who has hiked the San Gabriels, and especially those who have done trail work, know how difficult the conditions are. Yet Sturtevant set to carving a steep trail down from the summit of Mt. Wilson to his new camp. It would prove to be 2.8 miles over 2800 feet of elevation – drop and the gain on the return, the same rate as the infamous Chilkoot Pass on Alaska’s Klondike Trail. Everyone who has hiked Wilbur’s trail knows it is a ‘butt-kicker’, ideal for training AND great views across to Mt. Baldy.

The Sturtevant story is the trail resort opened in 1893, likely summertime; that would put starting the construction of the trail into at least 1892. So, as we wrap up 2022, here’s Happy Birthday to the Sturtevant Trail, now 130 years old!

*G. Owens, “The Heritage of the Big Santa Anita”, pg. 4

Coming in December

The road re-opens (probably?), the Becky Page story, looking into the new year, Board changes and more. Until then, have a gravylicious Thanksgiving!

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Reports Camp Operations Camp News

Burros, Valves, Mariachis & More

Burros and Their (Extra) Baggage

Trusty and curious burros from Adams’ Pack Station. Photo by David Nickeloff.

Since the Bobcat Fire two years ago, the two big projects for Camp have been repairing the water system and getting the trail “pack-train worthy”. This is so the burros can bring in the rest of the materials for the water project, and everything else needed at Camp, especially once the Canyon opens to the public.

“Pack-worthy” means a clear trail, a stable tread, AND side to side clearance for the loaded panniers or saddlebags. Given the damage to the trail after the Bobcat fire, there are several places where the tread needs fortification, and for sure where passage is ‘skinny’ at best.

Which is a problem: it seems the burros have put on their own “pandemic-20” and then some. With no long hauls up to Camp (4.2 miles one way), but plenty of yummy feed at the Pack Station, the burros have bulked up like a bunch of football players after a two-year party cruise to Ensenada!

“Adjustments” will be made along the trail, and Maggie promises to start working the beasties back into shape; if you’d like to help coax/coach the burros on one of their training/delivery runs, give us a call.

Mariachi on the Mountain – Fundraiser October 30th

Maggie Moran with Moonshine.

Come up to the Mt. Wilson Observatory for a fundraising concert for Adams’ Pack Station, featuring our own mariachi/packer Maggie Moran! The talented Mariachi Lindas Mexicanas perform inside of the historic 100 inch telescope dome Sunday, October 30th at 3 & 5pm. Guests are invited to observe Dia de Los Muertos for the concert of traditional Mexican music echoing beautifully inside the Observatory dome. Space is limited, so please get your tickets quickly: go to https://adamspackstation.com/fundraising

Click for details

Hurrah for Valves

Paul testing a new water valve.

Sometimes something simple can cause a shout of joy: first-time hikers arriving in Camp often give a holler and a yell—finally there! So much effort, so many steps, it’s great to see the Lodge and just sit down!

It was the same for a simple gush of water from a half-inch pipe: so much digging through rocks, so many pipes carried so many miles, such intricate valves and connections, and finally Paul the Plumber turned a valve handle, and fresh wild water spurted out the side of the new valve box – Hurrah! Success!

While the new water tank panels have been in the spotlight for over a year, those wouldn’t have any work to do without a LOT of fresh plumbing. Conservancy Board member and Site/Operations Manager Paul Witman led the effort and engineered the plumbing, especially the new control-valve set-up.

Sturtevant’s water begins in a surface collection pond, moves through pipes and several basic filters to take out the sand and gravel, and then accumulates in the storage tanks; old metal #1 survived the fire, and the new #2 and #3 (metal) tanks are poised to be built. Once the water is stored, it is treated then filtered one more time on its way into Camp.

Paul, Scott, Emily, and Elizabeth

Because the water system is typically used by different volunteers every week, designing the control-valve system was the perfect chance to improve and especially simplify the system: where different valves used to be spread between the 3 different tanks in 3 different locations, now they are all together in one control box that it is easier to hike to, and sits at waist level so the sequence of flush and control valves are easy to see and use.

Next up: assembling the new tanks, connecting the plumbing, and finally turning those valves on – expect to hear some serious Yahoo-ing once we hear the sound of water running into the tanks!

Trees Been Coming Down For-Evah

Photo of the bathhouse after a tree bisected the roof in 1964. Image courtesy of the family of Rev. John Knox.

Much as we love the Canyon and its forest, it is an active environment, often hostile to our “improvements”. Indeed, every time we hike into Camp, the first thing is to scan the buildings for tree-fall. Back in 1964, Camp volunteers found this new and unwelcome project. Today, the stump of the tree that fell is still visible next to the lower water filter box by the bathhouse.

About the photo: Camp Board member Paul Witman reached out to fellow preacher’s kid Karen Garrett, daughter of Rev. John Knox who recently passed away; she’s going through her dad’s photo archives and found the image. Rev. Knox was a key early volunteer and leader for the Camp, and likely had a hand in building the bathhouse, which would have been relatively new at the time. Thanks Paul & Karen!

4x Better Than a Crank

Remains of a crank phone burned by wildfire.

Sounds small, but recently the Camp was gifted with two new hand radios, with a third on the way = four total. The Canyon radio system was developed several years ago by the cabin owners’ association and Friends of the San Gabriels for fire safety; it provides a live connection between Chantry Flats, cabins up Winter Creek and the Big Santa Anita, all the way to Sturtevant.

Back in the day – WAAAY back– the crank phone system was the only way to communicate up and down the canyons (it even ran all the way to Mt. Wilson.) Voices were often distant and scratchy, and the copper lines required constant maintenance – and now the Bobcat Fire has wiped out most of it.

In contrast, the radios are pretty reliable. They help Canyon regulars keep up with what’s going on in the Canyon and are especially useful when there’s trouble: when the Bobcat fire started, the host in Camp was able to give and receive real-time information with the Pack Station, and get the guests on the trail ahead of the fire.

Canyon patrol radios.

For Camp volunteers, multiple radios will make for quick communication on the way to and from Camp, and especially between work projects spread in and around the Canyon. This is no small thing: many volunteers have burned many calories and much time hiking back and forth between the projects for tools, help, and guidance. It also – frankly – provides quick consensus on lunch time!

In the future, if you’re in Camp or on the trail or at Chantry and hear “Patrol 15”, that’s Sturtevant talking.

Coming in November

The Becky Page story, the road opens (maybe?), year-end wrap-up and prep for 2023.

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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/

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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

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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!

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Trees Down, Flowers Up, Gate Closed

Forest More Open – Canyon Still Closed

Extended closure map

The Angeles National Forest is slowly opening after the Bobcat Fire, but the Big Santa Anita Canyon remains closed. The original order closed the Forest through this April, and there was hope that when it expired, the Canyon would re-open. And the U.S. Forest Service did open nearly 60% of the closed area, but extended the closure for the remaining 40% of the Forest through Spring 2023. You guessed it: the Camp and Canyon remain in the closed area.

It’s hard to make a positive case for public access to the Canyon at this time*. Spring weather continues to move the streambed around and knock trees down across the trails. Volunteers are engaged in a Sisyphean effort to clear deadfall and quickly scrape the trail on their way in, but the tread remains sharply rocky and unstable. Basically, the trail is still hazardous and just plain unwelcoming.

*And that’s ignoring the Chantry Road project; if the Canyon was opened before the Road is completed, hiking access would have to be from the Mt. Wilson side or Newcomb’s Pass).

Closed, Except to Flowers!

Bushwhacking through Canterbury Bells

Given all the above conditions, the old days of a relatively smooth walk/hike in the mountains looking up into the trees is gone, at least for now. But it’s also true that the trail and hillsides are overwhelmed by tall bright green grasses and wildflowers concealing the trail, most of them between knee and hip-high; it’s like pushing through powder snow! Especially abundant are the blue Canterbury Bells—what used to be a nice annual scattering along south-facing hillsides is now a dense blanket of purple-blue.

So, hiking into Camp isn’t without its rewards! Work is currently focused on clearing a few pinch points in the trail so a fully loaded Pack Train can come all the way through to Camp. The load going up will be cement-mix and parts for the water tanks; coming out will be the charred remains of Cabin-1 and the old tanks, plus accumulated broken junk that needs to go out.

To get in on the action while the flowers are still bright, go to sturtevantcamp.com/support

Back in the Cabin Again

Sarah & Teah at dinner

Given the USFS guidelines for safety in the post-burn Canyon, no one has stayed in Camp since guests were evacuated for the Bobcat fire 20 months ago. But earlier this month, we ‘broke the fast’ and for a very timely reason: board member and Manager for Guests & Hospitality Teah Vaughn-Piscopo was the host who evacuated that group, and her first baby is due this July. She quite rightly wanted to spend a first and last “normal” night in Camp “Before I shift from carrying the baby inside to outside.”

Following the hiker’s safety rule of 3 minimum, fellow Board members Sarah Barron and Gary Keene hiked in with Teah for a very mixed 24 hours: originally scheduled for a Friday-Saturday that suddenly became insanely hot, they shifted forward just one day—and instead hiked in a cool drippy drizzle. A lovely dinner of Italian cuisine followed, then Teah slept in the Manager’s Cabin with a can of bear spray just in case Peggy the Bear decided to try her old trick of coming through the closet wall!

Instead, the wind howled all night, and the morning brought a clear and beautiful day for the hike out. But not before Teah finished her job of refitting the bear-damaged refrigerator doors in the Lodge kitchen! Thanks and congrats to Teah, we’ll keep everyone posted here about her birth-day.

Peggy On the Move Again

Cabin-owners at Fern Lodge and up Winter Creek are reporting a new round of bear break-ins, which is frustrating: nobody is keeping any food that would attract attention, but Peggy clearly learned to check back just in case, pulling boards off cabin walls like the lever on a slot machine—might get lucky!

Fortunately, she hasn’t been back to Camp (yet.) What few dry staples were salvaged from the original break-ins after the fire are stashed – where else? – in the Bear Bin, a solid sheet metal container designed to hold garbage until the Pack Train can pick it up.

No ‘permanent’ repairs have been made to the prior damage either: the plan is to develop a food/bear security protocol for when we re-open, and make the real repairs then. With any luck, having people more consistently on site will help keep Peggy (the peg-legged bea) away.

Moving Mountains: a Hydrologist’s Prediction

Standard orientation for guests at Camp includes pointing out that the San Gabriels are one of the most unstable mountain ranges anywhere. The combination of decomposed granite sitting on the uplift of the San Andreas Fault means we’re always falling / sliding / eroding down. Now the Bobcat fire has exposed all that, and with any hit of rain, more is carried down the canyon, filling in the streambed like a beach.

Now, according to an L.A. County hydrologist, we can expect more. Detailed post-fire surveys measured the loss of vegetation and the amount of remaining exposed soils, their depth and composition; next came rainfall calculations, with the estimate what we saw around Christmas 2021 will repeat for the next 3-5 years. Put those together, and there is a high probability we will continue to see the Big Santa Anita Canyon seriously re-shaped in the years to come. Grab your shovels and wax those boots!

Really BIG Holes

Drilling really big holes

Camp volunteers are getting a close-up look at the Chantry Road bridge project; vehicles have to be left behind about the 3 miles up the road, and then everyone hikes through the churned-up dirt, rocks and huge drilling equipment. Almost two dozen bore holes are going in through soil and solid rock, some 55 ft and other 75 ft down. Pretty nifty what you can do with gigantic heavy metal bits and engines, but we’ll stick with our shovels and McLeods!

Binocular Report

“Opening Next Spring” is the refrain for predictions about when the USFS will open the Big Santa Anita Canyon to the public; the ideal would be to coincide with the re-opening of the Chantry Road scheduled before Thanksgiving. But HOW that re-opening happens is purest speculation.

During the early phases of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Canyon was overwhelmed with people desperately seeking to get outdoors together. So, it’s a good bet that once the gate formally opens, thousands will want to see the effects of the Bobcat Fire up close—as well as to again, get outdoors. How will the canyon be made ready—safe for the public, managed in terms of parking, trail directions, trash collection? All eyes are on the USFS.

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! Click into the Volunteer and Donate links, and keep in touch here as we find our way forward on the trail in 2022.

April Photo Gallery

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Camp News

The Ladder Is Gone, Burros Are Coming

Indian Paintbrush wildflower
Indian Paintbrush wildflower

Just in time for the Spring Equinox, the ‘Slide-Rock Gap’ in the main trail has finally been solved. After months of grabbing ropes and dancing across the infamous ‘Khumbu Ladder’ bridge near Hoegee’s Drop-off, a safe tread has been reestablished on solid rock; more importantly, it’s safe even for the Adams pack train.

It was no small accomplishment: the gap in the trail meant the Camp was cut off from the Pack Station, preventing critical repair supplies from being delivered, stalling recovery and reopening work. The gap also meant Adams Pack Station was cut off from vital revenue from the Camp; with Chantry Flats closed, owner Maggie Moran’s business is entirely dependent on packing in the Canyon. So fixing the gap was THE high priority.

The challenge of the gap was three interlocking adjacent facets, all exposed over a sharp drop-off: first a steeply sloped rock ledge capped by an insidiously-well-rooted tree, then a slick-rock slope finally morphing into a deep chute.

Into the gap stepped (and crawled and scrambled) three trail-building pros: Nathan Bousfield, Fred Tanis, and Jim Richter. Over three days, the team effectively re-sculpted those facets down-and-over into a stable path. The amount of gritty, artful pounding with various sledgehammers and chisels plus levering with titanium prybars was staggering (and exhausting). And the tree presented an unexpected challenge—kind of like “Do we cut the red wire or the green wire?” to get the roots woven into the rock to release.

Our deepest thanks to these never-say-quit rockhounds, and to Maggie for housing them at Chantry: they camped out in her new storage shed and she kept them fueled for the job, as well as packing in tools and water on the burros. Thanks also to the Friends of the San Gabriels, who brokered the authorization to do the work with the USFS. With this key link in the trail restored, most of the remaining trail work will be more like annual spring cleaning—a lot of shoveling, raking and brush clearance. Check the volunteer link to participate.

And, anybody need a lightly used 15ft extension ladder?

New BSACPA President Elected

The Big Santa Anita Canyon Permitees Association is composed of dues-paying cabin owners, and at their recent annual meeting, they elected former Treasurer Jane Bice to the office of President. Closely involved with all the post-Bobcat fire work on behalf of the cabin owners, Jane takes up the mantle from Ben Fitzsimmons, who steps down with thanks from everyone for his service.

Jane promises an aggressive approach to post-fire issues and concerns with the USFS, as well as the on-going well-being of the canyon community. The work is sure to ramp up in anticipation of the canyon re-opening to the public (date unknown), so the Camp (technically Cabin #105) offers our support and best wishes to Jane in her new role.

Closed For Real

Heavy excavator working on the road to Chantry Flat
Heavy excavator working on the road to Chantry Flat

The Chantry Road is now fully closed to vehicle traffic for work on the bridge construction project. Chantry residents, cabin owners and Camp volunteers have parking space allocated below the work zone (about 3 miles up / ¼ mile short of Chantry Flats), and need to coordinate with the contractor’s work schedule for walking access through the project. Chantry resident Dave Nickloff is posting photos of the project almost daily to his Facebook page, which show up on Wilbur Sturtevant’s page—check it out for the latest.

A Financial Ecosystem Too

Sturtevant Camp lives in a wilderness ecosystem of water, trees, moving rocks and soils, plus bears, termites, newts and mousies, It also functions in a constructed ecosystem of heated buildings, pipes, propane and electricity. (Note that “eco-” means “home”, both the where and the way living is carried out). The Board is always working for the Camp to operate in balance with its ecosystems, a home away from home in the forest.

The other key ecosystem is financial: how are we keeping the balance there? Looking back over the history of the Camp, the income/expense reports and balance sheets are quite stable. This is a reflection of the basically finite fiscal ecosystem of the Camp: with just 40 beds, rustic accommodations, operating only weekends, an average of 50 weeks a year, the possible range of guest income has always been narrow.

Basic expenses are very predictableit’s all about the utilities (water system, propane, gas, trash) and packing packing packing. Like most camps nationally, tight budgets have always meant patchwork repairs and deferred maintenance, and we have plenty of both! But this is exacerbated by being isolated in the wilderness, where the trail is a serious bottleneck not only to repair materials but to the volunteers doing the work: often volunteers spend as much time on the road and trail getting to/from Camp as they do on site fixing/maintaining stuff. 

The big fiscal inflection points in the recent past have been the ca.2005 Chantry Road closure, and now of course the Bobcat fire—compounded by the current road closure for most of 2022. But the deepest impact over the last 30 years has been the decline in summer residential youth camping, which was the previous mainstay of annual income. Now the business has shifted to families and small groups of friends. The future is wide open, but we still have to address the loss of Cabin-1 which provided 20% of our bed capacity. 

Reclaiming that capacity will require the kind of capital expense that used to be covered by the Camp’s institutional ownership. But since 2014 the Camp has been a stand-alone and distinctly non-profit business! Except we’re not financially alone: especially following the Bobcat Fire, we’ve experienced broad support through direct gifts of all kinds and sizes. In fact, most non-profit businesses now practice a multi-revenue stream approach to budgeting, so that the mission of the Camp is not dependent on any one source of revenue.

Preparing to re-open to the public means conserving our place in the wilderness ecosystem, repairing and improving our functional ecosystem of buildings and utilities, and strengthening our financial ecosystem. That will include an updated reservations and accounting system, and developing a coordinated approach to fund-raising, grant applications, and contributions of goods and skills in kind. With your involvement, we look forward to healthy future in each of our ecosystems. Thank you for all you have done and will do!

http://www.sturtevantcamp.com/support/

Binocular Report

Woman looking through binocularsThe timing of this month’s trail fix for packing plus the road project moving forward rapidly means now the clock is ticking for delivery of cement for the water tank project. Although the Camp remains closed for business, we’re still busy with this and other repair and improvement projects: funding these projects is entirely dependent on charitable donations of time, talents and dollars. You can help with any or all of these! Click into the Volunteer and Donate links, and keep in touch here as we move toward summer.

Next Month’s Blog:

Moving Mountains — a Hydrologist’s Prediction


Photo Gallery

Photos of the washed out stock trail and recent repair work.

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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.


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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.
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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.


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. Those trees drop huge seed-cones, and 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!