Deep in Santa Anita Canyon, Sturtevant Camp stands as a reminder of the so-called Golden Age of Los Angeles. From the 1890s through the Great Depression, thousands of Southern Californians rode the Red Cars into Sierra Madre and Altadena, then hiked or rode horses (or funicular railways) further into the mountains to the old great hiking resorts.
Hiking in the San Gabriels, you can still see many remnants of these grand wilderness hotels. Many foundations and artifacts of the White City atop Echo Mountain remain, and you can still hike the old rail grade deeper into the mountains to Observation Point or the site of the Alpine Tavern (and the planned additional buildings on nearby Mount Lowe). Hikers in Bear Canyon walk past the stone walls and old iron ovens of Switzer-land, and rows of stacked stones are all that remain of the beautiful chapel that once stood perched atop a beautiful canyon cliff. A few stone walls are all that remain of a gorgeous dancehall pavilion at Icehouse Canyon. Still in other places, only the names remain.
Of the old Golden Age resorts, only Sturtevant Camp still stands. Established in 1893 by Wilber Sturtevant, a Civil War veteran from Ohio, the camp began as a series of tents but permanent structures followed shortly thereafter. The still-standing Swiss Dining Room (now Sturtevant Lodge) went up in 1897, and back when the Angeles National Forest was still called the San Gabriel Timberland Reserve, Sturtevant’s business partner Louis Newcomb became one of the forest’s first rangers and built the Ranger Cabin in 1903. The cabin is the oldest surviving Forest Service ranger station in the country and is now one of the guest lodges in the Camp.
The Camp has been privately owned and operated by the United Methodist Church since 1945 but has never been a money-maker for the church, and now that the Church is looking to unload the property, the good folks at Adams’ Pack Station and the Friends of the San Gabriels are trying to step in to save the property. They’re aiming to open up the property during the week to campers, have staff members living full-time at the camp, and planning themed events in the camp to draw more visitors in – including board game weekends, live music, Thanksgiving celebrations, and more.
They could use some help in raising the $75,000 they’ll need by March 2, 2015 and they’re offering several incentives to donors, ranging from free lunch at the Pack Station on live music Sundays to naming a cabin after you (and giving you several free stays for the next few years!). Head to the Adams’ Pack Station site for more info and to find out how to donate or volunteer, and stay tuned here – if there’s enough interest we might organize a group hike to the Camp after the holidays to show off the area – and take a few rides on the Big Swing, of course!