Diamonds in the Rough: Roll Call

Updated 1/11/2012
Chew on this.
Whilst polishing off some leftover takeout and spinning Sticky Fingers here in the dungeons of maptitude the other night, I began to (again) idly tick off the “lost” sites (campgrounds included this time around) in the southern Los Padres. Instead of stopping at a handful, I actually kept on. And holy cannoli, Batman, there are a lot of them: quite literally dozens of campsites (and campgrounds) that have been abandoned, removed, or forgotten. From Rowe’s Gulch to Halfway Spring and Divide to Ozena, a huge portion of forest history is slowly dissolving into nothing.
So below, I’ve listed many of the camps I know once existed but for one reason or another are either no longer recognized, no longer maintained, or no longer mapped in the southern districts (Ojai, Mt. Piños, and Santa Barbara) of the LPNF.
If you know of any others or have input on any of the sites detailed herein, please let me know and I’ll be happy to add it to this post (photos would be a plus) — it would be a fine post indeed that ultimately proved a clearinghouse of sorts for us wanderers of the Los Padres who enjoy this form of forest archaeology. I’ll make note of updates in the comments section as they occur.
(And yes, Miss Granger, we know numerous sites have been excluded from today’s text … those two to which you specifically refer are intentionally omitted. You’ll forgive us the discretion.)
Abandoned 1974

The Devils Gate crew spent a night here in 1986. Still a nice spot, but nothing more than a fire ring remained then. I can’t imagine it’s improved much since.
Beartrap No. 2
Washed out in the floods of 1974
Anybody who’s hiked the northern portion of the Gene Marshall-Piedra Blanca NRT has passed the site, but there’s really nothing left. I suspect even the stoves migrated to the main site further downstream.
Closed 1999
Now the Middle Sespe trailhead, this site used to have 11 or so sites and was a fun place for kids to spend the weekend. Now it’s littered with debris, and trip before last I pulled a CRT monitor out of the Sespe — ironic, given it was closed to protect the watershed and the toads, etc., therein. The drainage that meets the Sespe here was explored by the VC Canyoneering Club in January 2011.
Blue Jay
Not commonly mapped
While not technically abandoned, neither does this site appear on current maps (with the exception of Conant’s Dick Smith & Matilija Wilderness map). I spent a night here in February 2011 while hiking the length of Indian Creek from Bluff Station to the Mono confluence.
Blue Point
Closed 2009

Image courtesy Jason @
This really nice car campground was closed (among other reasons) to protect the habitat of the arroyo toad. The site was toasted in the 2003 Piru Fire. Our most recent visit was in late April 2011; see the write-up here.

Image courtesy Jason @

Double Duty

[flickr 5651681667 400 300]

Blue Rock Spring
Closed >1967
Borracho Spring
Abandoned 1974
One of the many sites abandoned during the fiscal crunch of the 1970s.
Branch Canyon
Closed >1967

Cherry Creek (Ojai RD)
Closed 1990s
We spent a lot of time here when I was little, and this is where Billy Monster and I perfected the (in)famous kidney bean & tuna soup. It’s a mess these days, with debris left all over the place by lax target-shooters. What a bunch of clowns; this place is even worse than Beaver.
Cienega (Piños RD)
Closed >1972
ZK, JP-san, and I hiked through this site in May 2001; in March 2011 ZK and I returned for a little recon. Very little evidence of the old site remains.
Cobblestone Spring
Abandoned 1974
One of my more reliable “old man of the mountain” resources indicates that while nearly untouched over the years, this site remains. Why yes, Virginia, it is on the short list.
Abandoned >1989

map courtesy OA Canalino Lodge No. 90
Closed <1960
... and Conquer
Recent attempts to locate this site have yielded no success. It’s possible any (relatively) recent remains were destroyed in the Day Fire.
Closed >1972
Dry Lakes East
Abandoned 1974
Dry Lakes West
Abandoned 1974
Situated on the western edge of what David L. Magney’s flora names Basin 3A. DAW-G, ZK, and I camped here Memorial Weekend 2010. There’s no water here, but it’s a beautiful sport. Debris from fire-fighting efforts (1948 Wheeler Springs Fire and 1984 Wheeler Fire) still litter the periphery.
Big Basin
Old School
Basin 3
Converted from camp to day use in 1974, closed in 1980s
DAW-G and I scouted this spot out in January 2011; it’s basically being used by Santa Barbara City as a staging site for materials (posts, rebar, etc.) relevant to minor work around the dam facilities.
Grade Valley
Converted to Trailhead mid-1990s
This is now a really nice trailhead for the Fishbowls route.
Halfway Spring
Abandoned 1974

An adventurous soul and friend of the Condor Trail followed the long-abandoned Cobblestone route in December 2010 and saw no evidence of the old Halfway Spring camp.
Closed 2009
Another site that required crossing Piru Creek to access, Hardluck was closed permanently in the summer of 2009. ZK, DMuse, and I spent a blistering hot weekend exploring Buck Creek and Hardluck.
Abandoned 1978

When the Sespe Road closed in 1978, many of the car camps along the route were effectively shuttered. Hartman — still with remnants of the old concrete tables and typical car camp accoutrements — is typically only shown on the Harrison map these days.
078 -- Hartman Camp
Photo courtesy duaneinla
Hog Pen Spring
Abandoned mid-1980s

While still very much a viable hike-in site, Hog Pen was a car campground from the 1940s that fell off the maps in the mid-1980s. We last visited this site this past March en route to McPherson Peak.

Hog Pen Spring

Abandoned 1974
ZK and I spent a lunch here in Spring 2009. Earlier this year, the CCCs went in and rerouted a stretch of the Red Reef Trail and did massive trailwork, using Horsethief as one of their camps. Get out there!
Horsethief Camp
Howard Creek
Closed >1972
JD camped here as a young man, and I know my folks visited more than once in the 1970s. DAW-G and I last visited during a hike along the Middle Sespe Trail in Fall 2010.
View West Toward Howard Creek
La Carpa Spring
Abandoned >1960

map courtesy OA Canalino Lodge No. 90
Burtness’s first edition relates how this site once held a cabin built by the Hartmans, and later a tin shack constructed in 1938 by Fish & Game.
Closed 1999
Once the site of a CCC camp and the Piedra Blanca Guard Station, this large site — possibly the most heavily-frequented car camp in the forest in its time — was closed and converted into the Piedra Blanca Trailhead. The Sespe Road (closed in 1978 and now the Sespe River Trail) once started here as well.
Maple Creek
Closed >1967
Abandoned >1989
This old car camp — located on a flat on the southeast flank of McPherson Peak — fell into disuse with the closure of an older spur along the Sierra Madre Road. Still with two stoves akin to those found at Cow Spring or Mine camps, the site was scouted by ZK, Nico, ADiG and myself in March 2011.

McPherson Camp No. 2

McPherson Camp No. 1

Abandoned late 1980s
Lil G and I last explored this site in March 2009, coming in from the Deal Connector. Still with a picnic table, two fire rings (including an old cast-iron stove with the “USFS” stamp), and even a long-forgotten latrine further up-canyon along the old route leading to Pine Mountain saddle. This site appeared on the 1995 Rancho Nuevo Creek quad, but very much in the wrong location.
Mine Camp
Mine Camp Stove
Abandoned 1974
This site has been supplanted by the “new” Ortega site (intended for OHV recreants) miles north of the original. In my most recent visit, I spent a lunch here in October 2010. Not much room to actually camp, but the site itself looks to be in fine shape.
Original Ortega Site No. 2
Closed 2009
I caught my first freshwater fish here when I was six years old. Mr B spent the morning teaching me the basic knots and how to hook the salmon eggs and then his dog Rex made every effort to pilfer my trophy trout, bless that dog’s heart. Good times.
Abandoned 1978

map courtesy OA Canalino Lodge No. 90
I hiked to Peg Leg as part of a longer trek in February 2011. Some remains of a fire ring and an old post, but nothing else of real interest. The flat is still a  nice spot — and a welcome respite from that canyon’s poison oak.
Pine Canyon
Jack Elliott shared his adventure up to Pine with his readers back in January 2011; not much left in terms of a camp.
Closed >1950
Rowe’s Gulch
Abandoned early 1960s

map courtesy OA Canalino Lodge No. 90
The Yankee Barbareño made a recon trip along Rose Canyon in December 2011; you can read his report and view photos here. The following month, ZK, Eric from VC Canyoneering and I headed up the canyon and chronicled the remaining camp features. See the story here.

B-14 02

Santa Ynez
Closed 1990s
Closed >1967
Sespe Gorge
Wiped out >1972 (1974?)
Closed >1972
Abandoned 1974
Billy Monster, Quiche, Rohair, and I took a break here during our 1986 Devil’s Gate trip.
Three Pines
Washed out in the floods of 1974
Some maps show this as Chorro, and Chorro Spring as … “Phelps.” Hmmm. That’s another mystery for another post. This site was — according to Gagnon — flooded out most years, and so when the USFS put it on the chopping block rangers were saved the work of removing it when it was flooded out “on schedule.” A brief check in 2009 yielded no sign of the camp, but I’m not certain I scouted quite enough to make that a conclusive statement. There are other, more impressive “lost” camps in Chorro Canyon — ones not recognized by the Forest Service, and ones not discussed herein.
Timber Canyon
Abandoned 1974

The uber-hund and I made this a target and spent a lunch here in November 2010.  Our quest was the subject of an earlier post.
Timber Canyon campsite
Timber/Kimball/Sespe Confluence
Tin Can Cabin
Abandoned 1974
The VC Canyoneering crew did an exploratory toward the Big Narrows in November 2010, but had no luck in finding remains of this site.
Topatopa Lodge
Abandoned 1974

(Love the misspelling on the map; add that to the list of Topatopa missteps)
The uber-hund and I spent a lunch here in October 2010; like the original Ortega there’s not much here, but the site features some ice can stoves in amazing condition.
Topatopa Lodge CG
Twin Oaks
Abandoned mid-1960s
I’d seen this in some USFS data and older text, but it wasn’t until perusing a copy of the 1964 Angeles National Forest (which shows the very eastern-most edge of the LPNF) that I actually saw this old trail camp mapped, comfortably nestled between Kester’s and Whitaker Ranch. Anybody?
UPDATE: Correspondence received in October 2011 indicates the camp was actually a bit further north than shown on the ANF map, and that the site was there in the inholding shown upstream from Kester’s Camp. This jives with an area Nico and I explored briefly en route to Ellis Apiary earlier this year. A conversation with a certain legendary Ojai RD ranger confirms it was closed in part due to private land v public land issues.
Upper Camuesa
Abandoned <1989

Upper Matilija
Abandoned 1974
Perhaps the least-abandoned abandoned camp in the system; fire ring, ice can stoves and plenty of traffic keep this site in constant use. DAW-G, ZK, and I spent a lunch here in the Spring of 2009.
Upper Matilija Camp
Wagon Road No. 1 & Wagon Road No. 2
Closed >1967
These sites are now typically only visited by folks riding pieces of OHV Trail 110 along Lockwood Valley Road, and even then there’s not much left of either site.
West Fork
Abandoned 1974
My last visit to this site was during the 1986 Devils Gate trek.
Yellow Jacket
Abandoned >1968

A trail camp in the Cuyama badlands; not to be confused with the Yellowjacket camp east of Grade Valley. 


15 responses to “Diamonds in the Rough: Roll Call”

  1. bardley Avatar

    as one of my favorite hikes is to reyes peak via the chorro grande trail i find your comments about three pines and other camps in that area somewhat cryptic. care to hold forth a bit?

  2. bardley Avatar

    especially the “lost” camps and others.

  3. Jack Elliott Avatar
    Jack Elliott

    Nice post Craig! That’s good stuff. Indeed, your entry here is a valuable contribution to posterity. I’d been a ponderin’ these lost camps after reading your dispatch on Apache Cyn and thinking the subject would make a good magazine article. At least, I think it would be interesting to read about the rise and fall of all these camps and why and how it happened.

  4. Update: McPherson Camp
    Updated the McPherson entry after our 3/27/2011 exploratory.

  5. This represents critical research to preserve what seems to me to be a neglected component of the historical legacy of the LPNF. I remember a hike on the Upper North Fork Matilija Creek in January, 1974 (I still have some pictures). The word was out that some LPNF camps would be ‘abandoned’ including Upper Matilija, which I visited. The entire process, in terms of the decisions that were made and how they were to be implemented seemed to be a black box. I have gained no particular clarity on this in the ensuing years (was it planned that some sites were abandoned evidently untouched and others dismantled?). I think this work (and its future revisions and editions) is an important rallying point in the process of addressing how to preserve and enhance / expand appropriately what still exists.

  6. Cheers gents. You’re nearly trumping an upcoming post, Jack … but you’re right, it’s an almost addictive pursuit, looking for little corners of the Forest that at one time or another were plotted on a map and had crews pouring forms, building tables, and the like. It would be harder with trails, as they are far more elusive if in terrain that grows over quickly, are far less static, and of course cannot be defined by one set of coordinates. I guess I chose the easier feature over which to obsess. 😉

  7. Update: Branch Canyon (Mt Piños RD)
    Listed the Branch Canyon campground; image from the 1967 recreation map.

    1. Updated today to include video and image of Blue Point Campground from our recent re-exploratory, as well as general descriptions of Hartman, Hog Pen Spring, and Twin Oak camps.
      Additional map images for Branch Canyon, Halfway Spring, and Three Pines.
      More (incl. Hollister, Lower Grapevine, Santa Barbara Potrero, Sycamore [Flats], Upper Grapevine, and Willow) to come …

  8. Is that camp in the Sespe Hot Springs a DITR? I’m talking about the one in the lower part of the canyon, with the horse hitches, and the toilet.

    1. @ EP, I think technically the old Sespe car camp is a DITR, yes. Will include in the next update. It’d curious to see the trailhead maps, now that they’re based on the Harrison maps, which show several sites the USFS doesn’t account for and in some cases — e.g., Ozena and Hardluck — has closed altogether.

  9. just a fyi the c.r.e.w in ojai just redid the red reef trail from the top of Nordhoff ridge to the sespe, its amazing now.

    1. Thanks for the heads up, Marsha … hoping to visit it again and see the nice shiny tread! 🙂 It was a wreck last time we did it.

  10. Benjamin Weir Avatar
    Benjamin Weir

    Wow I love your pictures! Sad how it was abandoned

  11. While working on the Ojai District for a few months in 1969 three of us, including a foreman working for Carl Rust, installed a picnic table at Sandstone, and posted a sign. The car camp at Sandstone, which was just up the road from Pine Mountain Inn, was intact at least through the second printing of The Camping Booklet by the local scout council. Hope to learn of your plans to visit Cobblestone Spring.

  12. John Cooper Avatar
    John Cooper

    Thanks for your article on lost sites. In late May, 1970, a friend and I stayed at Hallelujah camp. Hallelujah is along the Sisquoc River between Abel Canyon and Mormon camps. This area is in the Bald Mountain Quadrangle. I believe Hallelujah was closer to Mormon camp. It may have been in the area now described as Wellman. Wellman is listed as having a grave site and a dry well. But I don’t remember those features when I stayed at Hallelujah. I’m in the process of writing a story for my grandson from notes I took during that hike, and while looking at a current map, saw that Hallelujah is no longer listed.

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