September 6 marked the third anniversary of the start of the Bobcat Fire in 2020. On that Sunday, volunteer host and now Board member/manager Teah Vaughn-Piscopo smelled the smoke, then got the word by hand radio: take the guests and evacuate.
It has been a long, busy three years since then, with many volunteers working hard to recover basic access to the Camp, begin major repairs, and struggle to cope with the continuing aftereffects of record rains and wind damage.
While the U.S. Forest Service has re-opened most of the burned areas of the Angeles National Forest, the Big Santa Anita Canyon remains closed (see below). The Sturtevant Conservancy remains hard at work on repairs in Camp and on the trail, with the help of many generous volunteers— see following stories for new good news.
What He Said
The Daily News of Los Angeles published an extensive story on the post-Bobcat Fire closures in the Angeles National Forest (ANF). The detailed article by Steve Scauzillo draws on a wide variety of sources in and outside various government agencies and the public, including the Canyon’s own Glenn Owens, author of The History of the Big Santa Anita Canyon.
It notes that Chantry Flat is the “second most visited area” of the ANF, and “For decades, critics have blamed Congress for short-funding the management of the ANF, which in 2021 had more visitors than the Grand Canyon or Yosemite National Park. Damage from drought, fires and torrential rains may have exposed the lack of funding.”
Altogether it gives a good understanding of why re-opening the Canyon continues to be pushed off into the future, deepening the dilemma for Sturtevant Camp.
See the full article below:
Surprise Summer Storms
You think you’ve seen everything – fires, mudslides, ‘atmospheric rivers’ – and then here comes the tail of a hurricane into the San Gabriels. The result? Winter-quantity rain in late summer! Suddenly grass is popping up on the trail like it’s May, and so are the ruby newts.
The August 20th tropical storm dumped 8.2 inches at the heliport, and Labor Day weekend dosed another .56 inches. Fortunately, the rain was steady, so no significant erosion or “relandscaping”. A few more trees down across the trail, but that’s the new normal. Good news is the quality trail work RLC (see below) and others have done is holding, a positive indicator for this coming winter’s real storms. Stay tuned!
USFS Back in the House (Cabin)
In late June, the U.S. Forest Service sent two staff persons to hike the Big Santa Anita and document needed trail work with photos and GPS locations. This was the key step in getting approval for a formal work agreement for wider volunteer participation in putting the trails in shape for the pack train and the public.
We were privileged to guide the hike and welcome USFS personnel Estephany Campos and Rosa Sanchez into Camp, who made the first official USFS visit in many years to “their” cabin—the Ranger Cabin. Often assumed to be part of the Camp, in fact the Cabin belongs to the federal government (although Camp volunteers keep it cleaned and open for the public). Built in 1903, the Cabin is the oldest federal ranger cabin on its original foundation in the nation.
Thanks to Estephany and Rosa’s enthusiastic and persistent work, volunteer work on the trail has jumped forward. With many more boots on the trail and hands on shovels, the trail should be up to spec soon (see “The Acronyms We Need” below).
Camp-Family news: there a several “kids” who have grown up at Sturtevant, and none more active as a youth and young adult volunteer than Peter Witman, son of Board member/manager Paul Witman and Barb Witman. After a long and arduous process (that included getting tasered), Peter was recently sworn in as a California State Game Warden – hurrah!
The Board, volunteers, and Canyon community all join in celebrating Peter’s achievement, and following an internship period, look forward to his posting back to Southern California, where we trust he’ll re-join the work crews on the trail and at Camp!
The Acronyms We Need
For everyone who loves the BSAC (Big Santa Anita Canyon) and is eager to see it re-opened, here’s an important new acronym: SGTWPG. That’s the San Gabriel Trails and Wilderness Preservation Group, a new non-profit established by Maggie Moran (owner/operator of Adams Pack Station).
Its purpose is “to restore and maintain the trails within the Chantry Flat trail system,” so everyone – and every critter, starting with burros! – can safely use the trails into the backcountry of the ANF (you know, Angeles National Forest). Check it out here.
Even more importantly, the Group now has its VSA from the USFS: that’s a Volunteer Service Agreement from the United States Forest Service. That agreement opens up supervised trail work to a much wider variety of volunteers. First up has been the RLC (Restoration Legacy Crew), who have committed to hiking in to work every Sunday and Tuesday: thanks to them there is already significant progress on the pack trail coming up out of Fern Lodge (see photo essay below of RLC crew members Lauren Ballas, Scoops Adamczyk, Marilyn Chang, supervisor Brenda Beck plus Guy Webster at work.) Click here to sign-up for news and work sponsored by SGTWPG.
See you on the trails!
Behind The Scenes of Trail Restoration with the RLC:
L: The trail crossing before the RLC crew started work.
C: Teamwork + tools + sweat + persistence.
R: Marilyn & Lauren wrap up a big job done well.
Keeping the Community Strong (and Well-Fed)
The Conservancy is a volunteer member of the Big Santa Anita Canyon Permitee’s Association (BSACPA). Traditionally, the Association was a friendly collection of folks with a shared interest in their cabins in the Canyon.
But following the Bobcat Fire, the Association quickly came together in a much more urgent and active role to advocate for cabin owners, many of whom lost their cabins to the fire or experienced damages.
To nurture that community and keep the connections strong, the Association recently renewed its annual progressive dinner; the Sturtevant Conservancy partnered to provide the main course at Ruth and John Woods’ cabin, hiking in potato and fruit salads, and grilling up burgers and brats.
It was a warm time together with folks who share a deep love and intimate knowledge of the Canyon. In an era of limited funding for the Forest Service and its responsibility for the Canyon, the Association and Camp share in the much needed hands-on stewardship of the Canyon to the public’s benefit. A la’famiglia!
A Notable Passing – Again
One hundred thirteen years ago this week, our founder Wilbur Sturtevant passed away at the Veteran’s Home in Sawtelle/Los Angeles (September 10, 1910). Check this link for an interesting snapshot of his life and work, especially the establishment of “Sturtevant’s Camp”.