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Camp News

2024 Annual Meeting & Crystal Balling

Even hikers have meetings, so here’s the news from the Conservancy’s annual meeting, including the “Six Eras of Sturtevant” and speculations about re-opening in 2024.

The Quick-Hike Version

The Conservancy’s seven directors met Jan.28th at the Adams Pack Station to elect officers, look into the future, and figure out what to do next. Easily the biggest item on the agenda was “if the Forest Service opens the Canyon in 2024, how do we open for guests?”

Since the 2020 fire, the main job has been on-site repair and recovery. But being shut down also paused online functions like reservations and accounting systems. That created an opportunity to re-think and rebuild those services. With opening on the horizon, that work has moved up on the To-Do list.

Still, the trail is at the top of the list: thanks to the superheroes of Restoration Legacy Crew, the path is almost clear for the burros to get to Camp.  When they do, the final parts and materials will start arriving for rebuilding the water system, and water will be the top priority for opening to the public.

So pretty much everything both in-Camp and on-line has jumped to the top of the Must-Do-Right-Away-Now list: time to lace up all boots!

The Six Eras of Sturtevant   

There’s so much to be done almost immediately that the Board’s “get’er done” Directors were tempted to jump in boots first. Instead, the annual meeting started with a bigger picture of where are we, and where are we going? Taking a cue from Taylor Swift’s “Eras Tour”, here are the Six Eras of Sturtevant.

  1. 1893 – 1910 The Founding Era: Wilbur establishes the Camp and builds it to national renown; after a stroke levels him, he later passes at LA’s Veteran’s Home in 1910. 
  2. 1911-1946 Transition Era-I: The Camp passes through several hands and often stands empty and for sale for many years. After the last private owner is arrested for misconduct, the Forest Service seizes the property and puts it up for sale under a public permit.
  3. 1947-2015 The Methodist Era: Riding the wave of post-WWII growth, the regional Methodist Church buys the Camp. They build up the Camp with a commercial kitchen, bathhouse and bunkhouses, and for nearly seventy years sustain year-round operations for private and public use.
  4. 2011-2020 Transition Era-II: With the mutual decline in youth camping and mainline denominations, the Church moves to close and sell the Camp. A volunteer Boot Squad steps up to sustain the Camp until the Friends of the San Gabriels purchases the Camp in 2015; in 2016 the Sturtevant Conservancy is formed to take on stewardship of the Camp as a public non-profit.  
  5. Fall 2020 – Spring 2024 Fire & Rain & Recovery Era: a time marked decisively by the Bobcat Fire and subsequent weather impacts that equaled if not exceeded the damages and complications of the Fire.

The Sixth Era – Renaissance: 2025 – 2043

Once Sturtevant re-opens, the Conservancy is aiming for a renaissance of the Founding Era, renewing the Camp to be the uniquely historic center of wilderness appreciation, education and inspiration in the San Gabriels for greater Los Angeles.

The Renaissance Era will culminate in 2043, when everyone joins in celebrating the 150th anniversary of Wilbur setting up tents near the running waters of the upper Big Santa Anita, and welcoming sturdy hikers for many more generations to come.

Officers Elected, Classes Filled

Board members around the table at the Pack Station.

In 2023, the Board adopted an amplified set of Bylaws; these are the map and compass for the Board’s navigation of its duties. During the 2024 Annual Meeting, the Board started to enact the details of those Bylaws.

This included electing the following officers: Gary Keene, President/CEO and Chair of the Board; Sarah Barron, Vice-President and CFO; and Kelly Davidson, Recording Secretary. The Board also assigned the titles and work of Treasurer to Jennifer Berry, and of Bookkeeper to Kelly Davidson. In addition, members were distributed into classes with successive 3-year terms of service.

The Board members are also organized internally around the key managerial functions: site/operations, administration/finance, guests/hospitality and general supervision. This spreads the work equitably among the Directors as a team. For a closer look, go to https://www.sturtevantcamp.com/who-we-are/

Stuff to Figure Out & Look Forward To   

Volunteers ready to hike after a day’s work in Camp.

The Camp is a registered non-profit, and a business that needs to generate income. What business is that? Sturtevant is basically a “hostelry”, a ‘place of lodging in the country’. But what a place! There’s really no equivalent for comparison, especially when you consider the Camp’s wilderness proximity to people—downtown Los Angeles is 23 miles from the Chantry Flats trailhead.

That means it is available to millions close by, except for that 4.2 mile hike in and out! Which is also how everything comes and goes: via the trail, carried on the backs of a people and burros.

So what should be the price for maintaining a hot shower at the end of such a trail? And a flush toilet? And built roof and walls above and around, plus wall heaters, mattresses, pillows, and OBTW a full kitchen, refrigerators, potable water and more (how about that Big Swing?)

Sleeping in the wilderness looks comfy in the Retreat Cabin.

All that said, staying at Sturtevant is not glamping: no hot tub or chocolates on those pillows (the mice would get them first anyway.) Camp is historic, which is to say rustic, and even with all the planned improvements, it will stay rustic; not only because of its location, but because that is essential to its authenticity and charm.

Bottom line, the Board has set aside a smaller group to analyze what would be reasonable rates to cover costs and plan for the future, and then how to market all of it effectively. Public feedback is totally welcome here in the comments, so speak up and help the Camp find and serve the next generation of guests.

NEXT BIGCONESPRUCE BLOG

Maybe? Scenes of the Adams Pack Train burros hauling into Camp!

Sturtevant Camp is owned and operated as a non-profit for the benefit of the public by the Sturtevant Conservancy Board (https://www.sturtevantcamp.com/who-we-are/).

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Camp News

So Many Boots & Wishes

Board members Paul and Teah (L+R) welcome new member Jennifer (center) at Camp.

2023 In the Rearview Mirror

With this year wrapping up, we’re looking backward and forward: backward to check our progress and say thanks to everyone who got us to where we are; and forward to strategize progress in 2024. From the perspective of the Sturtevant Conservancy, here’s what we see:  

Another volunteer crew prepares to head home after working in Camp. Volunteers were at Sturtevant 63% of weekends in 2023.

This year’s holiday gifts won’t need to be wrapped, because most have already been received, with gratitude: THANK YOU to all the Camp’s volunteers and supporters who have worked hard and given generously this year. Like Santa, we’ve checked who’s been naughty and nice—ok, just nice, and can report the following as of early December:

107 people volunteered over 32 weekends in 2023, for a total of 164 per-person/workdays (one person volunteering one day.) Twelve of those work weekends were overnights, expanding the work accomplished and netting more work per round-trip hike—which, at about 9 miles per person/per work event equals just short of 1000 miles. How much total elevation gain was in that? Almost 60 miles, or 11 trips up Mt. Everest, or 55 times up Mt. Wilson!

Triple-threat of volunteer sawyers working the storm-blocked trail.

That’s a lot of miles on knees and boots, but that’s just to get to where the work starts. Then there’s shoveling, painting, hauling, plumbing, cleaning, re-wiring and repairing – all kinds of muscles and skills donated. Given a typical workday (not including the commute to Chantry) is about 9 hours or the same number as the hiking miles, the total volunteer hours also equals nearly one thousand.

What generosity! Thank you to everyone who got up early, shouldered a pack, made the hike, shared the food and fellowship, and moved Sturtevant another step toward welcoming guests back to Camp.

VOTY’23

After going through the work records to get the above report, it became obvious that one volunteer had a big impact on those numbers: Scott Wilson made the hike on average once every month all year. That’s head and trademark Stetson hat above everyone else. Site/Ops Manager Paul Witman also confirmed that Scott is a jack-knife of many trades, shoveling, plumbing, bear patrolling, way-finding, and hustling some very tricky sawyer work, all with a smile and his inevitable thumbs-up.

Although Scott is a regular at Camp, when not working for the City of LA, he’s also laying down the miles hiking all over the San Gabriels and Sierra Nevada ranges, and not necessarily on established trails: he recently located the remote location of Wilbur Sturtevant’s ‘hide-away.’

So there are stories to tell, but for now it’s a privilege and pleasure to announce Scott is the Conservancy’s Volunteer of the Year 2023. Thank you Scott!

Progress Report – Sort Of 

Volunteers scramble up the scratch trail along the White Cliffs on the way to work at Camp.

While the Camp remains closed under of the USFS post-fire order, we can’t welcome guests and serve the public, so we don’t have people stories to tell. Instead, the story is mostly about the place: the Camp in the Wilderness.

On the grand arc of Camp history, the Bobcat Fire is the apex of environmental and physical impact. But after the winter of late ’22 – early ’23, the record-breaking “atmospheric rivers” are first runner-up. Consider: the green bridge at Robert’s didn’t wash out right after the Fire in 2020, or in ‘21 or ‘22, but this year.

Volunteers trekking across a post-storm stream to get to Camp.

The loss of the bridge indicated what happened up and down the Canyon: prior recovery work washed away, new washouts and rockfall and nearly continuous tree-fall, plus a new version of the infamous Ladder Gap keeping the pack train blocked from getting up to Camp.

View of the center of Camp in mid-March after another storm, buried in tree-fall blown out of the upper forest canopy.

But not the burros only: volunteers hiking into Camp had to factor in extra risk and time and trail work just to get there. Once in Camp, broken roofs, washed out plumbing and heavy treefall have diverted volunteer hours from post-Fire recovery work to post-rain clean-up and fix-it jobs. Instead of making progress, we had to scramble just to get back to the starting line.

No complaints, just the reality of working in the temperamental wilderness. The abundant rains did gift the Camp with water flowing in the ‘old/main’ line for the first time after many years of drought. And other than the cracked roofs and accompanying water damage, there were no structural losses. Plus now there’s enough firewood to last a very long time! 

Trenching shown here in December finally undergrounded the last of the old overhead power lines.

2024 Crystal Ball

Looking into the new year, there are two scenarios on a single coin: that coin is the weather, with  another El Niño rainy season predicted. The two scenarios are whether the U.S. Forest Service opens the Canyon to the public—or keeps it closed. For now, what will happen is a toss of the coin.

That makes planning difficult, but the Conservancy remains fortunate because, as long as the Camp is closed, there are no significant fixed operating costs (no staff, etc.) Financially, we can ‘afford’ to sit and wait.

But the physical Camp cannot wait; the wilderness steadily degrades paint and wood and plumbing and shingles. The Camp has had only minimal maintenance for going on four years now, as volunteers have instead hustled to open the trail, recover the water system, and repair the post-Fire bear damage plus this past season’s weather effects.

Even the innocent Nature Trail sign got smacked by storm-fall.

For example, Site/Operations Manager Paul Witman notes that several roofs (including the main Lodge) are overdue for replacement; but for that you need shingles – lots of ‘em!—and until the pack train can get through to deliver those supplies, we’re stalled.

So the focus of physical work is, like the flipping coin, on two sides: one is in/at Camp, the other on trail access for crucial materials a.s.a.p. Thanks to the hard work of allied volunteer groups like Restoration Legacy Crew, there’s real hope for getting the burros through after the start of the new year.

Restoration Legacy Crew pauses on the new tread they carved out of solid rock at the infamous Ladder Gap.

The silver lining in the closure is it gives time for work on reimagining and updating many of the supporting systems for welcoming and managing guests. These include the on-line reservations system, payment and fiscal/accounting systems, guest orientation, safety and related policies, and time for a more thorough recruitment and training program for hosts.

Wishing for the Big Day

When the USFS opens the Canyon, we aim to hit the trail running, to stay ahead of the crowds of people who are already clamoring to get into the Big Santa Anita. Before that, when the pack train finally gets through, the work will double-up as supplies are received and the post-fire burn debris is packed out. We’ll be able to both purchase and deliver shingles, lumber, paint and more.

All depending on the balance in the checkbook.

Yes, your financial gift now will prime the pump for 2024. We’re looking forward to the first wave of guests, seeing their smiles, and especially the delighted surprise of returning hikers seeing the Camp in good condition after the fire and storms of these past years.     

Get in on making those smiles with your timely gift this season: http://www.sturtevantcamp.com/support/

And thanks for being part of the future.

The Board of the Sturtevant Conservancy: Jennifer, Brent, Kelly, Teah, Paul, Sarah and Gary.

The Sturtevant Conservancy is a 501(3)c non-profit eligible for charitable donations.

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Camp News

New Faces, Lost Hikers and Rockwork

Welcome New Board Member

Jennifer Berry

The Sturtevant Conservancy is pleased to welcome its newest member to the Board, Jennifer Berry. With her election, the Board now has its full complement of seven Directors; this will enable the Board to share the offices and work of the Conservancy more evenly and be more effective collectively.  Jennifer comes from a solid background in environmental advocacy work and residential camping:  she previously served as site Director for Sturtevant’s historic sister-camp in the San Gabriels, Colby Ranch. She currently works for the National Outdoor Leadership School. Watch for her profile to be added soon to the Who We Are page on the Camp’s website.

All the Leaves Are Down / And the Sky is Grey

All the Leaves

‘Tis the season – for raking! Along with all the trail-work getting done (see below), one task dominates this time every year: raking big yellow maple leaves. At approx. 3150ft elevation, Camp is in the eco-zone of the upper Big Santa Anita Canyon where most of the trees are coniferous or evergreen, like oaks and Bay trees. But the maples make up for it! Lovely as they are, it’s a fire hazard, so: we rake.

Added to the job are the oak trees’ acorns—big, fat rollie ones after this year’s abundant rainfall. They carpet the trails, making it hard to get traction going up, and too easy to slide/fall down, often right where you don’t want to lose your step! Second verse same as the first: we rake.

Volunteers Mike, Grace, Danny and Robert pause at the Big Swing after a long day of work
Volunteers break for lunch on a perfect autumn day-surrounded by raking yet to be done
Jose, Scott, and Rick shovel out Cabin 3
Robert works down a bypass trail ahead of winter waters yet to come

The EOY Season

The smell of roasting turkey is coming fast, followed quickly by the fresh smell of snowflakes – at least higher up. In other words, the End of the Year. We’ll be back here in early December to report on this year, look ahead to 2024 (re-opening?!)

And yes, of course, to invite your tax-deductible financial support before 2023 disappears like Thanksgiving’s gravy and mashed potatoes. Stay tuned!

Lost & Not So Lost Hikers

The Big Santa Anita Canyon

The Camp is very lucky to have hard-working volunteers helping to reclaim the Camp from the Bobcat fire. And sometimes they go way beyond the planned work. Several times over recent months, hikers have come down into Camp from Mt. Wilson—singles and couples who “somehow” didn’t know or ignored not only the trail-head closure signs, but also websites (USFS, ours), social media and trails-app info.

Typically, they’re pretty trashed. There’s a reason the Canyon remains closed: the trails are in nasty shape, often impassable. Yet somehow they pushed through, hoping not to have to turn around and go back UP. Or, they ‘had a plan’ for how they would shuttle back to the top.

Recently, two incidents in the same weekend occurred: a solo hiker one day and then a pair the next day found themselves down the Canyon near Camp and the sun disappearing. A Camp volunteer took pity on the first and hiked the person safely out in the dark AND drove them home (their car was stuck behind the now-closed gate on Wilson.) The next day, the Sierra Madre Search & Rescue Team located the duo and got them out in the dark, putting themselves at risk to do so.

Hikers and trail-runners spread the word: the Big Santa Anita Canyon is STILL CLOSED. Save yourself AND those who would have to bail you out at risk to themselves, and enjoy the mountains elsewhere—there’s plenty to go around!

Or, Don’t Go There Either

https://laist.com/news/climate-environment/travel-site-puts-san-gabriel-mountains-on-its-annual-no-list

Rock On – Rock Off: Progress @ the Ladder Gap

There’s a Trail In There
Scoops, Brenda, Kevin and Michael on the rocks
RLC’s Diana and Kevin chip the hard rock while Guy pulls down the looser stuff

All hail the stubborn Restoration Legacy Crew! Brenda Beck and Dave Baumgartner have led this quiet group of talented volunteers for years in restoring trails throughout the San Gabriels. Now they’re literally hammering one spot several times a week, for multiple weeks in a row: it’s the infamous rock-bound Ladder Gap on the main trail up to Camp. Until the rock is chiseled back and the tread seriously firmed up, the Adams Pack train can’t get through, and much repair work at Camp remains stalled waiting for materials and supplies. The RLC folks aren’t fancy, but they’re sure tough and relentless—that should be their new name: the Relentless Legacy Crew! When the Pack Train finally gets through, and the Camp can be fully restored, it will be because of the RLC: thank you in advance very much! Check them out on-line, and plan on sampling their work once the Canyon opens.

Annual Meeting & Beyond

Board members Kelly Davidson and Paul Witman

The Conservancy has set their Annual meeting for 2024 in January (California non-profits are required to hold at least one annual meeting.) The Board has met regularly during the year for administrative house-keeping that will set-up the annual meeting to focus on the future: what are the goals prior to re-opening the Camp? And what are the goals beyond that?

The vision beyond re-opening could stretch 20 years to 2043, which will be the 150th anniversary of Wilbur’s opening Sturtevant’s Camp to the public. It’s a ripe opportunity to imagine—and strategize for—a vital future. Come along for the hike by signing up for this newsletter here.

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Camp News

3 Years & Counting

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.

Volunteers Gary Keene, Ted Baumgartner, Sharon Miller, Paul Witman, and Maggie Moran (Adams Pack Station).

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)

USFS personnel Estephany Campos & Rosa Sanchez in the historic Ranger 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).

Peter’s Game

“Old” Camp volunteer and New Game Warden Peter Witman

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

RLC volunteers Marilyn Chang and Scoops Adamczyk pause their trail work – briefly.

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)

Campers chowing down at the summer Canyon potluck.

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!

Scott Wilson, Danny Armanino, Paul Witman, Teah Vaughn-Piscopo, and Brent Pepper.

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”.

Categories
Camp News Reports Volunteer

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

Rain and Relandscaping

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

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

Deb’s Long Run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sturde’s Holiday Ask

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for your generosity!

Road Open, Gate Closed

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

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

Safety Stocking Stuffers for You & Yours

Check out this list from REI sporting goods…

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

Looking Ahead to 2023

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

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

Categories
Camp News Quench Campaign

Quench Campaign is a Gusher!

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

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

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

A waterfall of thanks to everyone for all the support!

Next Steps, Literally

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

Mud, Pipes, and Success

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

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

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

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

Snapshot in History

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

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

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Camp News Fire Reports Quench Campaign Support Volunteer

Welcome To The New Bigcone Blog

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

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

Why The Bigcone Blog?

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

Our Quench Campaign Is a Waterfall

Sturtevant Falls
Sturtevant Falls in Big Santa Anita Canyon

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

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

Thank You To Our Donors

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

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

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

Breaking News

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

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

Can You Help?

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

Bears In the House

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

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

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

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

History Snapshot

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

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


News In Pictures