We have begun the process of taking our new water tank parts from Adams’ Pack Station at Chantry Flat to the upper reaches of Big Santa Anita Canyon. When coming to Sturtevant Camp for a stay or a visit the trip is a pleasant, four-mile hike. But when carrying large, curved pieces of corrugated steel it becomes a long haul.
The First Trip
On Saturday, November 6th, 2021, eight volunteers carried one of 6 pieces of a water tank cylinder. Each piece is a 4′ x 9′ of deeply curved, corrugated & galvanized steel.
Initially we had tested a wooden rig for carrying the pieces; something akin to a stretcher used for carrying wounded people. But this rig proved to be more trouble than help so we abandoned it in favor of good old-fashioned elbow grease… and pool noodles.
Not So Fast
Before we could attempt to carry such large and awkward items through the third steepest mountain range in North America, we had to do some trail repair.
If you don’t know, the reason for installing these new tanks is that in September 2020 the Bobcat Fire, one of two widespread fires in the recorded history of Big Santa Anita Canyon, destroyed our water system, along with one of our cabins.
The intensity of this fire denuded the canyon slopes of vegetation. And without the chaparral to hold the soil in place there was much dirt, rocks, and fire debris washed down across the trails by recent rains.
So instead of hauling the first tank piece on the first scheduled volunteer day, several volunteers, including new friends, went to work on clearing washouts with McLeods and shovels over the course of the two-day weekend, making the trail safe for our hauling efforts. In some places, loose rocks from above the trail were removed and placed in gullies as crib walls to restore the trail surface.
Let the Fun Begin
The trails now in relatively safe and passable condition, we used the next scheduled volunteer day to begin hauling our tank pieces. And because we knew that we would encounter new debris on the trail we again brought in the trail-building tools.
Our new hauling system was simple and effective: two heavy-duty carrying straps rented from a moving company and cheap foam pool noodles to cap the sharp edges of the steel. This is much lighter and more maneuverable than the wooden rig, although the size and shape of the steel is nevertheless awkward to carry.
See the gallery below for photos from the first delivery day and days prior.
More Help is Needed
This trip was just the beginning of delivering all the water tank pieces to Sturtevant Camp. And once everything is delivered we need to assemble it all and get the plumbing connected to the existing, undamaged infrastructure. If you can help in any of these capacities please use the following form to send us your information.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Stay tuned for the end-of-the-year-holiday edition of the Big Cone Blog!
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
Hurrah for Valves
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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!
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!