Part of the Footprints Project
PML Prime Pano. Image courtesy and © The Los Padres Expat
Ah, Pine Mountain Lodge. The very name invokes different feelings for different LPNF wanderers: most know it as the dusty and somewhat disappointing trail camp at the junction of the Piedra Blanca and Fishbowls/Cedar Creek trails; some know of the original camp location with its fine camp accoutrements and surrounding cave formations; and a handful have brushed the dust from disparate sources to cobble together a mental picture of the old hunters’ lodge that once stood on the site and lent its name to the Forest Service campsite.
Pine Mountain Lodge, 1913. Image courtesy Donald Ryder Dickey Photographic Collection, UCLA.
And as those who prowl the backwoods of the web for backcountry intel know, I’m not the first of the current Forest scribes to ponder its place in or impact upon the greater Los Padres story. I’ve little to offer beyond what the Expat, Yankee Barbareño, and others have shared in posts these past few seasons. I further direct the reader to the detailed and insightful report chronicling the lodge’s history written by David L. Magney available here.
The lodge was built by a group of Ventura-based hunters known as the Sisquoc Rangers about the same time the original Madulce Cabin was raised along Pine Creek. Magney’s research provides the best uber-brief summation: “Pine Mountain Lodge was built in the mid 1890s by a group of merchants and hunters from Ojai and San Buenaventura, who called themselves the Sisquoc Rangers. Pine Mountain Lodge is said to have contained twelve bunks, and make in the style of a typical log cabin from pine trees onsite. It had a stone fireplace at the north end and a gabled roof with wood-shake shingles.” Unlike Madulce Cabin or even federal but non-Forest buildings (e.g., Alamar Tin Shack) over which the USFS later took ownership, PML never functioned as an official station or administrative site.
Yet despite its exclusion from being counted amongst the official guard stations, it still found its way into the rangers’ regular rounds, even appearing on the cover of the 1938 visitor’s maps. The 1944 edition of said USFS map marked the site with a “TLP,” which a quick glance at 1936’s Forest Service Map Standards plainly indicates the cabin was equipped with a telephone. (Anyone who’s hiked any length of the trails from Reyes Peak to Pine Mountain Lodge and/or Pine Mountain Lodge to Thorn Meadows has likely witnessed the wires and — if they’re lucky — the insulators along the way.) As the map excludes special mention of pole lines, I believe these were predominantly tree lines.
Wire along the Reyes Peak trail; presumably once connecting the Reyes Peak Lookout and Pine Mountain Lodge. Spring 2011.
Records indicate the phone was installed sometime before 1910, once rangers began using it as an occasional field station. Burtness recounts the destruction of the lodge in the late 1930s: while originally the USFS wished to raze the old building believing it to be a fire hazard, “private interests desired to preserve it.” The cabin was ultimately doomed during efforts to remove a nearby dead tree — the block and tackle involved broke and the worrisome tree glanced off another and effectively “cut the cabin in half.”
As late as 1963, USFS inventories recorded 15 ice can stoves (this seems highly unlikely), 3 tables, 2 double pit toilets, and 1 sign. (Said sign, it should be noted, was originally installed by legendary USFS Ranger John Boggs.)
“The Pine Mountain Lodge Forest Service Sign,” courtesy and © The Los Padres Expat
By 1985 the (or a) sign, the camp, and even the trail had been moved to its current location, as later inventory describing four “circular fire rings with grates” attests. It’s an over-used and sparse site by compare, but still enjoys a fantastic locale and several Incense-cedars, a hallmark of many superior southern LP trail camps. The last remaining table and ice can stove however remain at the original site.
PML 2E Pano. Image courtesy and © The Los Padres Expat
Part 2 will detail some local and heavily-bearded efforts to better map and document the original PML site.
Waiting. Image courtesy and © The Los Padres Expat