Forest Errata: Signage

There is a section of forest-goers who take special interest in the varied signage in yonder wood — the wooden routered signs, the old porcelain (enamel) signs, the arc-welded and flame-cut metal signs.

Indian Camp

Once and Future Signage


I tend to favor signs with blatant errors on them — ones that misspell proper nouns, common nouns, or even the word “Forest” (no, seriously, they’re out there).

The first time I noticed an error on a Los Padres sign I was 14, reading my brother’s worn copy of McTigue’s Santa Barbara mountain biking guide. The cover of that photo showed a group of 80s-era mountain bikers pedaling the Matias Potrero trail. The old wooden trail sign in the photo’s foreground read “Mattais Potrero.” Fun stuff! So in the years since, I’ve been keeping mental track of “typos” on Forest signage.

A very small sampling of my favorites:

Lily v Lilly & Cottriel v Coltrell

Main Camp

One of the most innocuous errors is the misspelling of “Lily” … it and “Coltrell” Flat (below) are examples of gaffes being reinforced by generations of maps reproducing the error. Lily Meadows was named for the flowers there (which are actually irises, but we digress). Cottriel Flat was — according to Durham — named for George W. Cottriel, who patented land there in 1891.

Also Burned

Gibraltar v Gibralter

Matias Junction

A common misspelling, and one repeated in many maps. ZK, in his inimitable style, commented that it would prove difficult to apply Wite-Out with a torch.

Mutau v Mutua

Johnston Ridge Trail (20W12)

… though the “correct” spelling itself appears to be a misspelling of “Mutah.” Photo courtesy Roy Ubu (Randall).

Pratt v Pratte

Ojai - Pratte Trail

I think the Ojai RD has removed this sign, given it wasn’t an “official” sign. Photo courtesy Dynamo Arcweld.

And then there’s the trailhead signs. At the Piedra Blanca and Reyes Creek trailheads and elsewhere, those beautiful multi-panel signs show Red Reef Canyon as “Red Rock Canyon” — a surprising error, given that they’re based on Tom Harrison’s map and that it’s spelled correctly on the paper editions.

Photo courtesy the Wicked Finn

One of the most guilty of signs is the old panel at the Temescal Station at Lake Piru. Riddled with misspellings, we’ve spotted at least seven “invividual” errors on that one.

(Further, the symbol set on the legend is wrong, confusing Developed and Undeveloped campgrounds.)

Those who revel in nitpicking such trivial things may also enjoy Deck and Herson’s adventures in the name of correcting typos across the Union. Funny stuff.

We’ll pick on cartographic typos down the line.


13 responses to “Forest Errata: Signage”

  1. Re: “We’ll pick on cartographic typos down the line.”
    Just as long as you don’t pick on the cartographers!

  2. Bryan Avatar

    Wait until your explorations include Puerto Suello. I’ve seen it Puerta Suella, Puerto Suello, Puerta Suello and Puerto Suella all on FS signs. Then there are the inaccuracies of trail mileages on trail signs. Save that for another discussion.

  3. I’ll admit I’m easier on the mileage differences. Routes change, methods of measurement improve (e.g., trundle wheel to GPS receiver), and even then don’t always synch with somebody else using the same method. Spelling though, that’s where I allow myself the luxury of being a petty nitpicker. 😉

  4. Jack Elliott Avatar
    Jack Elliott

    If the USFS is going to put up sign posts, then the very least they could do is ensure that the information on the signs is actually correct. Mileage is one thing, as noted, it can vary for numerous reasons. But spell the names properly if for no other reason than out of respect for the people these places were named after. Imagine road signs all over the county being misspelled or spelled in several different ways. A section of Highway 1 is named “CHP Officer John Pedro Memorial Highway.” Imagine the sign reading “CHP Oficer Jon Pedro Memoriel Highway.”

    We can add “Wellman” Canyon to the list of corrupted names in the backcountry. The canyon off the Sisquoc River above the Manzana confluence that was named after homesteader Adolph Willman.

  5. It seems that the sign for Indian Creek Camp very well may be an original and might actually be from the era of the Santa Barbara National Forest prior to when it was renamed Los Padres National Forest in 1936. Indian Creek Camp was officially established as a public camp in 1933. Check out the remarkable similarity to the following vintage original from up in Monterey:

    1. I agree with you Jack; I’m fairly certain it’s an old SBNF sign there at Indian Canyon. There’s another porcelain sign at the Pelch junction on the Grapevine Trail that reinforces this theory.

      A while back Nico shared a photo with me of a sign listing Santa Cruz Creek, Little Pine Mt., Grapevine, Santa Ynez River, *and* Santa Barbara as destinations … all under the SBNF heading. And it looks like the exact same style as the image you linked to. Great stuff; I think I’ll have to post Nico’s image here some time soon.

      Anybody know of any other porcelain signs in the southern LPNF?

      1. Anthony Avatar

        I have a handful of porcelain SB forest signs.

  6. I have a SBNF sign that I took off the post as a first year fire fighter on the LPNF in 1970. I worked 25 years in the USFS and even with awards, etc., this is my greatest trophy. It is in excellent condition and gives directions to Smith Canyon, La Brea Canyon, Horseshoe Springs, Pine Canyon and Cuyama River, all spelled correctly I believe. But I tell you what, the most magnificent SBNF sign I ever saw was on the very largest oak tree I have ever seen at Happy Hunting Ground Campground (I think). This sign had been overgrown by the massive tree’s bark by at least 50%. I lived in this camp for two winters in the early ’70’s as a trail crew worker. I spent my first three winter in the USFS on ten day hitches working trails in the San Rafael repairing damage from the 1968 floods, wonderful memories. We pack trained our supplies in.

    1. Wow — thanks for sharing, Steve. Would love to see a photo of your trophy (and any other photos!) and post one here if you wouldn’t mind.

  7. I love the wide range of signage you showcase here. So what’s the story with the sign that’s all burned up on the left side?

    1. I’m also curious as to what happened to some of the signage. Looks like it was damaged by fire or overheating.

  8. The “Pratte Trail” sign is still up, just passed it yesterday on our way down from Nordhoff Peak. Googled around this morning to find whether it was a typo… and landed here!

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