Station to Station: Pine Mountain Lodge (Part 1 of 2)

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 a camp with its fine accoutrements and surrounding cave formations; a handful have brushed the dust from disparate sources to cobble together a mental picture of the old hunters’ lodge that once stood at the trail junction and lent its name to the Forest Service campsite.

Pine Mountain Lodge, 1913. Image courtesy Donald Ryder Dickey Photographic Collection, UCLA
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.

Pine Mountain Lodge [1926]
Pine Mountain Lodge, 1926

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.

Pine Mountain Lodge [1938]
Pine Mountain Lodge, 1938

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.

Duly Noted

PML 1944
Excerpt from the 1944 Los Padres (excl. Monterey District) Visitor’s Map.

Wire along the Reyes Peak trail; presumably once connecting the Reyes Peak Lookout and Pine Mountain Lodge. Spring 2011.

The Last Remaining Telegraph Pole Up On Pine Mountain Ridgeline, Trail 22W03
Last Pole (not) Standing, just NW of the GM/PB NRT/Cedar Creek Junction. Image courtesy and © Pete Davis.

A Remnant from around 1910 - Telegraph Wire Closeup On The Gene Marshall National Recreation Trail, Sespe Wilderness in Los Padres National Forest

Reyes Peak Lookout, 1927
Reyes Peak Lookout, 1927. Image courtesy LPNF Archives.

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
“The Pine Mountain Lodge Forest Service Sign,” courtesy and © The Los Padres Expat

By 1985 the (or a) sign looked over an expanded camp, 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 more remote 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 the actual lodge proper.

Pine Mountain Lodge Prime Ice Can Stove, September 18, 2012
Waiting. Image courtesy and © The Los Padres Expat


5 responses to “Station to Station: Pine Mountain Lodge (Part 1 of 2)”

  1. Sweet post. Always love the old photos. Thanks for the plug!

  2. Frank Jones Avatar
    Frank Jones

    Outstanding old pictures of the Pine Mountain cabin. I have always wanted to know what it looked like back in the old days. Thanks for sharing.

  3. A signature hiking moment for me is topping the climb up the North Fork Piedra Blanca Creek and dropping to Pine Mountain Lodge. I would echo the other commenters’ appreciation of the old photos of the Lodge. I very much enjoyed the recent Yankee Barbareno PML blog post and photo set and I am very much looking forward to part 2 of this treatment of the story of Pine Mountain Lodge.

  4. Craig,
    Great story! Well-researched, too. All the photos give a good interpretation of the history.
    I still think the wiring on the post shown in my images looks like telegraph wire rather than telephone wire. But we both know there was a telephone line down to the Piedra Blanca Guard Station back in the day.
    Perhaps the wire line from Pine Mountain Lodge to Reyes Peak Lookout Tower was a telegraph line and the one down the mountain to Piedra Blanca was a telephone?
    I bought your book in early December. Super-accurate! Love the back stories on the history of the locations.


    Great history. I took a group of junior high kids backpacking through there 42 years ago. I haven’t been back since but I remember it like it was yesterday. I was 18 years old working a camp councilor for a camp on Mount Pinos. What a beautiful area. A surpriseon around every corner. Spent the night on the summit on the Cedar Creek trail under those giant Sugar Pines and boulders. that night there was a meteor shower that was like fireworks from heaven. I’ll never forget it. also, the bear trap was still sitting at Bear trap camp. I don’t know if it’s still there now?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *