HIKING THROUGH HISTORY
Historic Place Names along the PACIFIC CREST TRAIL in Southern California
Among the many things too often lost in today’s fast-paced world is the time to think. It seems we are always on the go, always on the lookout for our next turn, or the next dangerous driver to avoid.
Time to think is one of the many gifts that hiking and backpacking have to offer. But what do we think about?
Hopefully we take at least a little time for the world around us – the lay of the land, the subtle transitions in plant life, the changing geology underfoot, the gathering weather above – things we know, and things we want to know more about.
The history of an area may be harder to see, but the names on the land can give us a clue. Place names preserve a glimpse of the people, activities, and events from our past – as the place names scattered along the southern stretches of the Pacific Crest Trail will show. Along the way we will meet Indians, missionaries, prospectors, cattlemen, lumberjacks, surveyors, ranchers, vacationers, and even our fellow hikers.
The names listed here begin at the Mexican border and continue north to the Tehachapi Mountains, the traditional boundary of Southern California – or in PCT terms, from the start of Section A to the end of Section E (see below for a summary of the five sections included here). Almost all of the names are found in Southern California Pacific Crest Trail, the standard Wilderness Press guidebook to the trail, but there are a few local additions as well.
The names are arranged alphabetically, followed by their PCT section. References give either a title and date for publications, or an author’s name, year of publication, and page number – for example: (Smith, 1900:7). Full citations can be found in the Bibliography.
Until some other historian-hiker decides to take on further sections of the PCT, there are several general place names books that include its more northerly stretches. For the Sierra Nevada, there’s the pioneer work of Francis Farquhar, Place Names of the High Sierra, published in 1926 and now available online, and the detailed books by Peter Browning: Place Names of the Sierra Nevada (Berkeley: Wilderness Press, 1986) and Yosemite Place Names; (Lafayette: Great West Books, 2005). Statewide, there’s Erwin Gudde’s classic California Place Names (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998) now in its fourth edition, revised by linguist William Bright.
For Oregon, see James W. Phillips’ Washington State Place Names (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1971), and Doug Brokenshire’s Washington State Place Names (Caldwell: The Caxton Printers, 1993). And in Washington, the old reliable is Lewis A. and Lewis L. McArthur’s Oregon Geographic Names (Portland: Oregon Historical Society Press, 2003), first published in 1928 and now in its seventh edition.
My debt to the books of my friend John Robinson will immediately become apparent. Many will only know him for his pioneering trail guides, but his histories of Southern California’s mountain ranges are equally interesting and informative.
I hope this listing will provide an introduction to the rich history of the Southern California backcountry and add more perspective to the many stories found along the Pacific Crest Trail.
FROM HORIZON TO HORIZON
The Story of the Pacific Crest Trail
The trail climbs slowly but steadily, clinging to the contours of the hillside. The chaparral is low, still recovering from a fire a dozen years back, offering sweeping views of the surrounding country. Off on the horizon stands the dark gray bulk of Mt. San Jacinto and the Desert Divide. The trail leads towards it, up it, and down the other side, where another mountain awaits.
I have been hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in bits and pieces for more than 35 years now, and since 2008 have been slowly working away at hiking all of it through San Diego and Riverside counties – section hiking, as the PCT’ers call it, as opposed to through hikers, who cover the whole trail in a single trip. I have now walked every foot of the trail from the Mexican border to the San Gorgonio Pass, nearly 220 miles.
If that figure seems impressive, consider this – that’s only about 8% of the total trail. From Campo, on the Mexican Border, to Manning Provincial Park in Canada, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail stretches some 2,650 miles of rock and ridge and mountain. Sticking doggedly to the high country whenever possible, the PCT crosses 33 Wilderness Areas, 23 National Forests, seven National Parks, five State Parks, and three states. The highest point on the trail is Forester Pass, 13,180 feet above sea level.
The idea of long-distance, recreational hiking and backpacking was born in the early 1900s. Before then, it was simply how some people got around. The “Great Hiking Era” in Southern California saw thousands of visitors trekking into the San Gabriel, San Bernardino, and San Jacinto mountains. The first major long-distance trail in the United States was the Appalachian Trail – 2,100 miles between Maine and Georgia.
"To me, this is just beautiful country. I know in some trail guides and journals the southern end of the trail gets sort of a bad rap. My guess is these are all people aching for the Sierra Nevada. But there’s really no point in comparing the brush country and the high country. The chaparral and the Sierra both deserve to be enjoyed on their own terms. C.S. Lewis says somewhere that we have to learn to see everything in its own kind; that the finest glass of wine or a perfect slice of bread can both be enjoyed for what they are.
“If what you love is the outdoors, you should be able to love all of it. Or at least appreciate it for what it is. And when you look at all of the outdoors – even the wilderness – you discover very quickly that some of it is breathtaking and some of it is plain. Or that some of it is more easily enjoyed when the weather is nice, or you got the perfect campsite, or you’re with good companions. The brush country may be an acquired taste, but you can’t demand that it be something it is not.”
– from my PCT journal
In 1932, about the time the first stage of the AT was being completed (trail acronyms seem endemic among hikers), Clinton C. Clarke, a Pasadena oilman and civic leader, first proposed a trail from Mexico to Canada. Unlike the Appalachian Trail – which passes many communities and even offers overnight huts in many places – the Pacific Crest Trail would seek out the wildest areas, and choose dramatic scenery over short-cuts.
“In our hurry-scurry world of machines, noise and distractions, the mind becomes confused and our sense of values is lost,” Clarke wrote in 1935. “Throw down your sleeping-bag beneath a pine high on a mountain side, and get acquainted with that vast world of God’s creatures that are more and more being banished from our consciousness. Peace and contentment come, events that yesterday seemed so vital shrink to their true worth, and we return to the slavery of our inhuman world with enlightened mind and revivified soul.”
Clarke (1873-1957) founded the Pacific Crest Trail System Conference to promote his idea, and he soon found an important ally in Warren Rogers, a YMCA secretary from Santa Ana, who served as Executive Secretary of the Conference until 1957, and remained active in promoting the trail until his death in 1992. Rogers was an avid hiker and backpacker, and loved exploring the potential routes.
During the summers of 1935 to 1938, more than three dozen groups of YMCA boys backpacked tag team style from Mexico to Canada, using existing trails, back roads, and cross-country clambering, and making notes all along the way. The Muir Trail, the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail, and the Cascade Crest Trail already covered much of the Sierra Nevada and the Cascades, but in places, the PCT would eventually seek out an even wilder route through the mountains.
Clarke compiled the first guidebook to the PCT in 1935, followed a decade later by The Pacific Crest Trailway. It offered only scant descriptions of the route, and was arranged from north to south. (Most through hikers today go south to north, beginning in mid-April in an attempt to cross the southern, more desert sections early, cross the Sierra after the snow melt, and cross Washington before the first snows of fall.) Clarke’s 1945 guidebook is available online at www.pcttrailway.pctplanner.com. His introduction reflects some of the ideals of the “Great Hiking Era”:
“The Pacific Crest Trailway is not a recreational project for the casual camper or hiker; it is a serious educational program for building sturdy bodies, sound minds, and active patriotic citizenship…. Already the wilderness everywhere is under savage attack by commercialization programs and mechanization projects. May this little book, which is simply a guide or catalogue to some of the treasures of Mother Earth, be helpful in preserving their protection and eternalness.”
Not surprisingly, Clarke was also involved with another organization that professed similar ideals – the Boy Scouts of America. He even provided a chapter on “Backpacking on the Pacific Crest Trail” for the 1942 older Scout handbook, Adventuring for Senior Scouts (where it is followed by a chapter on the Appalachian Trail).
He measured the route as 2,265 miles (about 400 less than today), bragging that “so well planned is it that only 125 miles are over roads and only 225 miles are through developed areas.” He offers a number of hints for prospective backpackers – some of which are still common today, such as what he called “food depots” every 75 miles to resupply. With 18 pounds of food a week and plenty of gear (including aluminum cookware, sunglasses, a canvas water bucket, mosquito netting, and a camera) he estimates a 55-pound pack after each pick up. He encouraged Scouts to camp on durable surfaces (bare ground, not grass), to build fires in holes lined with rocks that can be refilled later, and to beware of glare in the snow.
Some modern necessities are conspicuously absent, however. Water purification (in those days usually by boiling or iodine drops) is never mentioned, nor any restrictions on fishing for more food along the way.
Just who was the first through hiker to complete the PCT is still a debated point. In 1971, National Geographic magazine credited Eric Ryback as first through hiker the year before. His account of his journey – The High Adventure of Eric Ryback (Chronicle Books, 1971) – had just been published, and became a national bestseller. But in 1973, the first Wilderness Press PCT guidebook questioned Ryback’s claim. He threatened to sue, but when the guidebook authors showed they had letters from people who had given him rides, and other information, the suit was dropped.
You don’t have to be much of a backpacker to see why some people questioned Ryback – an 18-year-old alone with an 80-pound pack on a poorly defined trail, who on his very first day watched a pack of coyotes devour a deer and then careened 300 feet backwards down a frozen snowbank. And by the end of his book his account skips along so fast that his route and chronology begin to blur.
If nothing else though, Ryback’s book helped prompt a number of other through hikers to finish the trail. The current Wilderness Press guidebook credits Richard Watson as the first of several hikers to complete the trail in 1972 (just a few months after the first official route was released), but notes that Martin Papendick had completed the entire route in sections as early as 1952. The authors are kinder to Ryback now, admitting “he hiked most of the route” going north to south.
"From the top, we turned right (south) and went over Apache Peak to the turn for Apache Spring, where we followed another steep and at times dim trail half a mile down the desert side of the divide. There was good water in the box at the spring, and also a big ol’ rattlesnake guarding it! I stepped over him without even seeing him, and John was so flustered he couldn’t even think of the word “snake.” He just said, “come back, come back,” so I did. The snake never coiled, and never really rattled; he just turned and slid away, leaving us to dip out some water.”
In 1968, a National Trails System was authorized by Congress. It included both historic and scenic trails – and the Pacific Crest Trail was one of them.
The official, federally approved route was adopted in 1972, and work on land acquisition and construction began. Private property along the proposed route presented a problem in several areas. In some places the trail had to be extended to wind around private property, or other inaccessible areas, such as Indian Reservations. The biggest stumbling block was the 270,000-acre Tejon Ranch, which controls most of the Tehachapi Range. A long detour had to the built along the east side of the ranch, dipping deep into the Mojave Desert. (Only recently, an agreement has been announced which will allow the PCT to cross the Tejon, but it will be years before it is opened up.)
Much of the new construction in the 1970s and ‘80s was done by volunteers, or contractors hired by the government. Small crews worked on short sections using hand tools, dynamite, and small earth-moving equipment. Where there was no existing trail to be followed and improved, the end of the contract meant the end of the trail, and hikers were left to push on as best they could.
The government insisted on strict construction standards for width (generally 18-24 inches), trail tread (a fairly smooth surface), and grade (hopefully no more than 15%). In some places, the grade requirement forces the “perpetually curving trail” to wrap in and out of every side canyon, rather than dropping down and climbing back up from ridge to ridge. It can be frustrating, but it makes the trail accessible to even more hikers and backpackers (and horseback riders, who are also welcome on the PCT).
By 1978, nearly $10 million had already been spent on trail construction and improvement in California alone – and there was still plenty left to do. Some rocky stretches cost as much as $40,000 a mile to build, but the average was more like $8,000 a mile.
Much of the early work was done on the northern stretches of the trail, where a number of existing trails were incorporated into the PCT. It is interesting to note that the Pacific Crest Trail is not even listed in the index to the first edition (1971) of John W. Robinson’s San Gabriel Mountains guidebook, Trails of the Angeles. He touts the California Riding and Hiking Trail instead as a route along the range.
(The CRHT – to give it its acronym – was first authorized by the State Legislature in 1945 and was designed to cross the state from north to south. Existing roads and trails and new construction eventually opened a route, but with the rise of the PCT, the CRHT has been largely forgotten, and current maps and guidebooks are unavailable. Some hikers still cling to the old trail, though, and continue to push for its restoration.)
As construction on the PCT dragged on in the 1980s, interest in the trail seemed to fade. By the late 1980s, only a handful of through hikers were finishing the trail each year. Today hundreds (sometimes 1,500 or more) set off on their own PCT adventure – though not all of them finish it in one trip (or even plan to). Some high-speed hikers finish the trail in less than four months; most take more like four or five months to make the journey.
More than six decades after Clinton Clarke’s first proposal, on June 5, 1993, a formal dedication ceremony for the Pacific Crest Trail was held in Soledad Canyon near Acton, California, marking the completion of a continuous route from border to border. But the trail continues to be reworked and sometimes relocated all along the way. That means hikers must always keep up to date.
“The weather was starting to turn on us, and we had our first smattering of hail just as we were starting to set up our tents. Luckily it stopped long enough for us to cook dinner in a little niche up in the rocks, but the temperature (and the hail) both keep dropping, and by 5:30 we had crawled into our tents and didn’t come out until the next morning when we found the hail had turned to snow overnight, and there was a light dusting on everything, and tiny drifts around our tents. But we’d both slept well and warm. It does give you a satisfying feeling to be so self-contained out on the trail.”
The U.S. Forest Service put out a series of maps of the route as it then existed in 1972. Warren Rogers also published a series of strip maps in the early 1970s. A variety of guidebooks to all or part of the trail have since appeared, but the gold standard remains the Wildness Press series, The Pacific Crest Trail.
Volume 1, covering all of California, was first released in 1973. It was the work of five authors/outdoorsmen – Thomas Winnett, Jeffery Schaffer, John W. Robinson, J.C. Jenkins, and Andrew Husari (after Jim Jenkins was killed in a highway accident in 1979 his parents, Ruby and Bill, continued to update his portions of the guidebook). Their ten ounce guidebook, they bragged, took the place of seven pounds of topographical maps.
Volume 2, covering Oregon and Washington, made its appearance in 1974, written by Schaffer and Bev and Fred Hartline. Both volumes have gone through multiple editions and many printings. Along the way, California has been divided into two separate volumes, from the Mexican border to Tuolumne Meadows, and then north to Oregon.
Beginning with Ryback, there have been a number of descriptive books and personal accounts published. Another early example is William R. Gray, The Pacific Crest Trail (National Geographical Society, 1975). Rees Hughes and Corey Lee Lewis have compiled a variety of modern and historic trail accounts in their Pacific Crest Trailside Reader (Mountaineers Books, 2011) – again, with separate volumes for California and Oregon/Washington.
As for me, I have no plans to ever get that far north. But when I began my effort to hike even a portion of the PCT, John Robinson warned me that once I got started, I’d want to do even more. My original goal was the San Gorgonio Pass, but once I reached it, I started working around Big Bear Lake as far as Little Bear Trail Camp. I’ve been picking away at the high country of the San Gabriels. Now I tell myself that once I get up Mission Creek (or rather, down, since one of the advantages of section hiking is that you can choose your ups and downs a little more strategically) and make my way from Cooper Canyon to Mill Creek Summit I’ll call that good. And I’d sure love to hike across the Tejon.
Who knows? I might have a few more PCT miles left in me yet.
(Originally published in The Branding Iron, the journal of the
Los Angeles Corral of The Westerners, Fall 2014, and revised, 2017)
Pacific Crest Trail Sections in Southern California
A Mexican border (Campo) to Warner Hot Springs
B Warner Hot Springs to Whitewater (West Palm Springs)
C Whitewater to Cajon Pass (Interstate 15)
D Cajon Pass to Agua Dulce
E Agua Dulce to Tehachapi Pass
Acorn Canyon (d). The acorn was a staple crop for Southern California’s Indians, and the harvest each fall was a major event as it provided a food supply for the long winter months ahead. Anywhere you find oak trees you can sure they were harvested by the local Indians. The acorns here come largely from black oaks, and are said to be sweeter than acorns from live oaks (though “sweeter” is a rather relative term when discussing acorns). The trail up the canyon from Wrightwood was part of the temporary PCT route in the early 1970s. The name has been in used since the mid-1920s.
Acton (d). Named as a station of the Southern Pacific railroad in the 1870s, Gudde suggests the name was borrowed from one of several other communities of that name scattered across the United States. The community got their own post office in 1887.
Agua Caliente Creek (b). Today’s Warner Hot Springs was known in the 19th century as simply the Agua Caliente (hot water). The older name survives in the name of this creek, which along the flanks of Hot Springs Mountain, above Warner Hot Springs. Agua Caliente Creek is named on government survey maps as far back as the 1850s, but was also sometimes called Lost Valley Creek in the early 1900s because it rises there.
Agua Dulce (d). Sweet Water in Spanish (a name also found on some local businesses), the name was in use by 1915. The community finally got postal service in 1955, when Agua Dulce became a rural station of the Saugus Post Office. Today it is a popular rural residential area.
Aliso Spring (d). In proper Spanish an aliso is an alder tree, but in early California the name was generally applied to sycamore trees, which only grow where there is sufficient water.
Andreas Canyon (b). Captain Andreas, a Cahuilla (kah-we-ah) village leader, lived near the mouth of this canyon in the late 19th century, growing grapes and figs. The title Captain (Capitán) was used by the Mexican Californians for Indian tribal leaders and carried over by early American settlers. The Cahuilla village here was known as Pamyik. Andreas is a common American misspelling for the Spanish name Andrés.
Angeles Crest Highway (d). The idea of a scenic highway across the San Gabriel Mountains was first suggested in the 1910s, but while the Forest Service previously built a few access roads into the high country, work did not begin on a modern highway until 1929. J.B. Lippincott first suggested the name in 1919, and Angeles National Forest Supervisor William Mendenhall made it official in 1931. The highway was built bit by bit over the coming years. In some places it barely clings to steep hillsides; another stretch was tunneled right through Mt. Williamson. By 1940 the highway had climbed over Cloudburst Summit to Buckhorn, but then all work stopped during World War II. Construction was resumed in 1946 using prison camp labor. The 65-mile highway was finally completed 1956. The Angeles Crest Highway opened large areas of backcountry to tourists, but the Forest Service resisted repeated requests for commercial development on public lands along the new highway.
Angeles Forest Highway (d). Also known as the Palmdale Cut-off, the Angeles Forest Highway was actually planned before the Angeles Crest Highway. In 1927 the Angeles Forest Highway Association was created to lobby for its construction. Los Angeles County began work in 1932, using prison camp labor, and the road was dedicated in 1941.
Angeles National Forest (d-e). California’s first national forest was established in 1892. It was originally known as the San Gabriel Timberland Reserve, but was quickly renamed a forest reserve. The forest reserves were meant not just to preserve timberlands, but also the watersheds necessary to the communities below; the idea of recreational use came later. The San Gabriel reserve got its first rangers in 1898, charged with protecting both the natural area and its visitors. In 1907 all the forest reserves were renamed national forests; “reserve,” it was felt, sounded too restrictive; a national forest was meant to emphasize these were public lands. But the San Gabriel National Forest had a short life. In 1908 it was combined with the San Bernardino National Forest (see) to become the Angeles National Forest. It kept that name when the two areas were divided again in 1925.
Antelope Valley (d). Though surprising to some, antelope were once common in Southern California, and roamed the plains of inland valleys such as this. But by 1883 the early sales promotions for the area note that the local antelope were nearly all gone.
Antsell Rock (b). In 1897-98, when Edmund Perkins was surveying the San Jacinto Mountains region to create the first topographical map of the area, he met an artist named Antsell who was painting a picture of the Desert Divide, so he gave his name to a prominent rock outcrop below Red Tahquitz. It is the only named point on the divide on the 1901 map based on his survey. Some folks who only get the name by ear hear it as Ansel Rock, and assume it was named for famed photographer Ansel Adams (who did some work in the San Jacinto/Santa Rosa mountains area, but not on the Desert Divide).
Anza (b). The modern community of Anza has gone under many names in the past. In the 1870s the area was called Bautista Valley, after Juan Bautista, a local Cahuilla Indian leader. Later it was called Cahuilla Valley, and the Cahuilla Indian Reservation is still located here. The little ranching community that grew up nearby got a post office in 1913 known as Bautista. The community adopted the Anza name in 1926, soon after it became generally known that the Anza Expeditions of the 1770s had passed the area between the Borrego and San Jacinto valleys. The name Anza Valley was made official in 1963.
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park (a). Established in 1932 as the Borego [sic] Desert State Park, it was renamed the Anza Desert State Park when it was expanded south in 1938. From 1951-57 the Anza and Borrego sections were separate parks, then they were combined, creating the largest state park in the continental U.S., boasting more than 650,000 acres. The name is a hybrid. Col. Juan Bautista de Anza led two historic expeditions across the desert in the 1770s, opening the first trail across the desert between the Spanish settlements in Arizona and California, while the name Borrego was first bestowed on a spring on the desert in the 1870s or ‘80s. In Spanish, borrego is the name for a yearling lamb (and colloquially, a simpleton or a fool), but as with some other words that made the trip to the New World, in the American Southwest it has also come to mean bighorn sheep. The question is, which meaning was originally attached to Borrego Spring? There is a case to be made (I have sometimes made it) that domestic sheep, not their wild cousins, gave the spring its name, but the state park prefers the bighorn sheep, which are still found in the surrounding hills. The name was often mis-spelled “Borego” in the early days.
Apache Peak, Spring (b). How the name of this Arizona Indian tribe made it to the San Jacinto Mountains isn’t exactly clear. It does not seem to be a particularly old name (though it was in use by the 1950s), nor does it seem to have come from the old time cattlemen, who named a number of other features along the Desert Divide. If the name wasn’t simply meant to be romantic, perhaps it was the nickname of a hiker, or the name of someone’s favorite horse or dog.
Arrastre Trail Camp (c). A common name in early mining areas, it is used several times in the San Bernardino Mountains, including a creek, a flat, a mining district, and this trail camp at Deer Springs. An arrastre (ah-rahs-trey) is a simple drag mill, usually turned by mules or burros. Ore-bearing rock was placed in a rock-lined basin and heavier rocks were slowly dragged over them in a continuous circle. It was crude, but effective. The name comes from the Spanish word arrastrar – to drag – but they were used by both Mexican and American miners in the 19th century.
Atmore Meadows (e). Gudde says this spot was named by the Forest Service for Robert “Ted” Atmore (1873-1945), a well-known local cattleman who later had a store near Three Points. The name was in use by 1937.
Bacon Flats (c). The name appears by the mid-1960s; and yes, it was named for the tasty breakfast treat. Garrett (1998:6) quotes a note in the Forest Service files that it was “Named by a cook in a fire camp located at these flats.”
Baldwin Lake (c). Elias J. “Lucky” Baldwin (1829-1909) was a famous figure in early Southern California. He made his fortune in Nevada’s Comstock silver boom in the 1870s and used his new-found wealth to invest in Los Angeles County real estate where he founded the City of Arcadia. He was widely known for his horse raising and racing, as well as his farming, his mining investments, and his womanizing. Baldwin Hills and the City of Baldwin Park (the birthplace of In-N-Out Burger) are both named in his honor.
There is some dispute if Baldwin Lake was actually named for Lucky Baldwin, but it seems most likely. The lake itself (often dry) was originally known as Bear Lake, but Baldwin’s name had been attached to it by 1875. Around that same time, Baldwin invested some $300,000 in the Gold Mountain mines (see). But he wasn’t lucky this time, and lost it all. The community on the north shore of the lake had its own post office in 1916-17 and again from 1924-31.
Balky Horse Canyon (c). San Bernardino Mountains place names scholar Lewis Garrett could not find a source for this colorful name, which appears on maps as early as 1949. It is part of a series of local equestrian names in the area including Wildhorse Spring and Wildhorse Meadows.
Bandido Campground (d). Perhaps a nod to Tiburcio Vasquez, Southern California’s most famous Mexican bandito in the1870s (see Vasquez Rocks). The Forest Service campground, near Horse Flat, has been in use for more than fifty years.
Banner (a). A former mining town, established during the early days of the Julian gold rush. In 1870 Louis Redman found gold here, and raised a flag to mark the spot. That banner gave the town its name. For a few brief years Banner was a busy place, connected to Julian by a toll road. Today, a few residents and a handful of businesses are scattered along the narrow canyon leading down to the desert.
Barrel Spring (a). Perhaps a descriptive name, dating back at least to the 1950s. Barrels with the ends knocked out were sometimes inserted around natural springs to hold in the sides and collected the water.
Barrett Lake (a). George W. Barrett homesteaded here along Cottonwood Creek in the 1870s. The dam and lake were first proposed in the 1890s by the Southern California Mountain Water Company, the same company that built Lake Morena (see). Some work on the dam was apparently done in the 1890s, but it was not completed until 1923, a decade after the City of Dan Diego had bought out the company.
Barton Flats (c). Dr. Benjamin Barton, a Redlands area pioneer, used the flats for summertime sheep grazing from the 1860s to the 1880s. At one time, there were more than 30 youth and church camps in the area; many still remain, along with half a dozen forest service campgrounds.
Bear Gulch (d). Gudde reports there are about 500 “bear” place names scattered throughout California. In the San Gabriel Mountains alone there are three Bear Canyons, plus a Bear Flats and Bear Gulch, which appears on maps as early as 1941. Grizzly bears were once common in Southern California, but had all been hunted out by the early 1900s. The bears in the San Gabriels today are black bears, originally imported from Yosemite in 1933 by the California Department of Fish and Game.
Bertha Ridge (c). Quirarte reports that there was a Bertha Gold Mine on the ridge around 1890 and found the peak name in use as early as 1915. Garrett (1998:10) adds that this was formerly known as Radspeck Peak, and says that some folks believe the name comes from a “popular” young lady who worked as a dance hall girl (and perhaps a little bit more) in Belleville during the Holcomb Valley boom (but this seems chronologically unlikely).
Big Bear Lake, City (c). In 1845 Benjamin Wilson, an early American settler in Southern California, led a party of men into the San Bernardino Mountains chasing a group of Indian horse thieves. In a broad mountain valley they found a shallow lake and dozens of bears. “[T]he whole lake and swamp seemed alive with bear,” he later recalled (Robinson, 1989:12). His men killed twenty-two of them and the place became known as Bear Valley. In 1883-84 the Bear Valley Land & Water Co. built a cut-granite dam at the west end of the valley to provide irrigation water for the Redlands area. In 1910-12 todays taller, concrete dam was built just below the old dam (which still sometimes appears in dry years); though only 20 feet taller it nearly tripled the capacity of lake. The lake was originally known as the Bear Valley Reservoir, and was not renamed Big Bear Lake until the adjoining Little Bear Lake project began in the early 1900s. The size of the lake has varied over the years, but since the 1960s the emphasis has been on preserving a consistent level to promote recreational use.
Recreational use in the Big Bear area really began in 1888 when the first rustic hotel was built on the south side of the lake. The first post office there (1891) was named Pinelake, since there was already a Bear Valley Post Office in Mariposa County. The name was changed to Pine Knot in 1906, and did not officially become Big Bear Lake until 1938. Big Bear City, at the east end of the lake got its own post office in 1928. With better automobile access beginning in 1915 a tourist boom began. John Robinsons reports the valley grew from just two resorts in 1913 to 52 in 1921, along with many private cabins scattered around lake. The summer population of Pine Knot was about 8,000 by then.
Big Tree Trail (e). The big tree was an immense Canyon Oak, some 45-feet in diameter, which Will Thrall described in 1941 as “probably the largest and oldest in Southern California. Any one of its five great branches would make a big tree and from the mountainside above its great crown looks like a grove of trees instead of only one.” (Los Angeles Times, May 4, 1941). Unfortunately the grand old oak burned in 1965.
Big Tujunga Wash (d). A Spanish spelling of the name of a Gabrielino village near the mouth of Little Tujunga canyon, mentioned as early as the 1790s. The –nga suffix indicates a place name in the Southern California Shoshonean Indian languages (other examples include Cucamonga, Aguanga, and Topanga). The root word here is apparently tuxuu’ (old woman), which seems to stem from a rock formation in the Little Tujunga said to look like a woman, “crouching on her knees in a sitting position.” (McCawley: 39-40). The Tujunga name had been attached to the arroyo (wash) by the 1830s, and was used in the name of an 1840 land grant. Some local residents lovingly call the canyon “Big T.”
Big Horn Mine (d). Charles Vincent found gold here on the eastern slopes of Mt. Baden-Powell while out hunting bighorn sheep in 1896, which gave his mining claim its name. The mine was developed by other investors. Its peak years were around 1902-10 when a ten-stamp mill was built – but the darn thing just wouldn’t pay. Still, the Big Horn Mine was revived several times on into the 1930s.
Bitter Creek (a). Alkaline desert water may have given the name to this seasonal creek in San Felipe Hills.
Blue Ridge (d). On maps by 1920, this has been a popular skiing area since the 1930s. The first chair lift in the local mountains was installed here, built in preparation for the 1932 Olympics (though poor snow conditions that winter moved the games to Lake Placid, New York). Since 1975 the main ski resort here has been known as Mountain High, which now includes the old Blue Ridge Ski Area (Mountain high West) and Holiday Hill (Mountain High East).
Bobcat Canyon (d). This does not seem to be a particularly old name, perhaps dating back only to the 1950s, but anyone who has spent much time in the Southern California backcountry has certainly spotted a bobcat or two, with their stubby tails and snooty attitude.
Boulder Oaks (a). A descriptive name drawn from the granite- and oak-strewn Cottonwood Valley. The Boulder Oaks store along old Highway 80 was a well-known spot from the 1930s until it was torn down in 2000.
Bouquet Canyon, reservoir (e). Mexican ranchero Chico Lopez grazed horses here in the early days, which gave the area the name El Potrero de Chico Lopez (potrero meaning pasture in Spanish). Later, according to the old story told by the vaqueros of the Rancho Tejon, Lopez encouraged Francisco Chari to settle here before the Americans took everything. “He was a Frenchman, a sailor who had settled in California and turned vaquero. In the evenings around the campfire he was forever harking back to his sailor days, telling endless yarns of adventures on the seas, and tales of his buque, or ship, how he managed this buque, where he sailed in that one, until the Californios nicknamed him … ‘El Buque.’ So everyone knew the cañon where he settled under the patronage of Don Chico … as ‘El Rancho del Buque.’” (Parks, 1929:196-97). In the 1850s, surveyors gave the name a more Frenchified spelling – Bouquet. The reservoir was completed in 1934 to store water from the Los Angeles Aqueduct.
Broom Flat (c). Garrett reports it was named for the wild broom plants growing here. It was on maps by 1902.
Buckhorn Flat, Peak (d). As far back as the 1890s, “Buckhorn … was a favorite hunters’ camp, located about as deep in the wilderness as one could go, right in the middle of bear country,” John Robinson reports. Before long, someone nailed a pair of “king-sized” deer antlers to a tree, giving the area its name (Robinson, 1991:211-13). In the 1930s Trails Magazine judged Buckhorn Flat “the most beautiful camping ground by far on the Angeles Forest.” (Spring 1936). The name had also been attached to a nearby peak by 1960 if not before.
On the Trail to Buckhorn, circa 1920
“The trail for miles was now a way of pure sylvan beauty, threading an innocent unspoiled wilderness. Coulter and yellow pines and incense cedars, set about at liberal distances from one another, stood in benevolent dignity, suppling bed and board to happy crews of squirrels and birds. The forest floor, too dry to support underbrush, was so open to the sun that wild grasses were abundant, and down the unobstructed aisles of the wood ahead we sometimes caught sight of dee feeding, to start and bound away as we drew nearer. The trail side, now and then, flamed with the massed scarlet trumpets of zauschneria, the California wild fuchsia, and beside the occasional rivulets wild roses and columbine, evening primroses and goldenrod were flowering while the pungent fragrance of monardella, oft recurring, rose from the earth as out feet trampled it. People whose interest in plants is confined to their blossoms are apt to think of plant perfumes as altogether of flowers, overlooking the scores of herbs and shrubs whose leaves and wood are no less delightfully odorous, and more enduringly so….
“Climbing a divide to the desertward side of the range, we looked by and by into the basin of Little Rock Creek, and skirting the dry, north slope of Mount Waterman, we got through a screen of pines far-off views of the Mojave Desert were a yellow smudge betokened a sand-storm blowing. And so, sauntering in leisurely fashion and chatting as we fared, we came, as the evening shadows were settling in the cañon depth and woodland hollow, to a thicket from whose heart the music of running water rose, and this was Buckhorn Flat…. Pushing our way through a fringe of fern to the limpid, boulder brook, we stooped to bathe our warm faces in the water where lupines and flowering thimbleberry, nodding columbine and lilies made a poetic screen…. A famous camping place is Buckhorn for the few travelers who pass through that out-of-the-way part of the sierra.”
– Charles Francis Saunders, The Southern Sierras of California
(Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1923)
Buckman Springs (a). Named for Amos Buckman (1820-1898) who settled here with his family in the early 1870s. The spring itself was something of a novelty. According to a plaque placed by the E Clampus Vitus in 2008:
“Analysis of the water showed it was naturally carbonated with lithia, potassium, sodium, calcium sulfates and carbonates, magnesium and iron. News of the find soon spread and people came. A campground and cabins were built; later a small hotel and country store were added to accommodate the visitors. Amos Buckman found both a process and investor to bottle the fizzy health drink he called ‘Buckman Springs Lithia Water.’”
Bucksnort Mountain (b). “[A]n inspired local name that belongs in a Western novel,” Lee Fetzer notes (2005:15). It was perhaps named by deer hunters from nearby Combs Camp; the high point is in fact known as Combs Peak. It is not named on the 1939 topographical map of the area, but the local sheet for 1960 is named the Bucksnort Mountain Quad.
Bull Canyon (b) José Antonio Estudillo and Manuel Arnaiz, two local ranchers turned prospectors, filed a gold claim here in 1893 and dubbed it the El Toro Mine. The Spanish “toro” quickly became the English “bull,” and the canyon is named on the 1901 topographical map of the area. The mine was worked off and on for several years without ever producing much.
Burkhart Trail (d). As happens sometimes it’s hard to figure out the source of this name without being sure about the spelling. The name is in use by 1941; John Robinson (1971:177) says only that it was “built years ago by a rancher of that name.” This may refer to then the Irwin C. Burkhart (1915-1991), who was living in the area by 1940. In 1957 he moved to the Owens Valley where he ran two pack stations in the southern Sierra Nevada along with the Jordan Hot Springs Guest Ranch. But a 1949 map shows “Burkhardt’s” just west of Devil’s Punch Bowl. And there was a Burkhardt Ranch near Littlerock as early as 1932, where G.H. Burkhardt grew apples.
As of now, it’s all still a mystery to me.
Burnt Peak (e). Once known as Sawmill Mountain, the peak received its present name after a ten-day fire swept over the area in August 1927, leaving it barren for a number of years. In time the peak recovered – in 1947 the Southern Sierran described it as “a mass of manzanita and tangled thorny underbrush” – but the name survived.
Burnt Rancheria (a). Many modern accounts claim the Kumeyaay (coo-meh-eye) Indian village (rancheria in Spanish) was destroyed by white settlers, but Lee Fetzer suggests (and I agree) that it may have actually been burned by the Indians themselves to cleanse the site, as was common in the early days. Chris Way reports the name has moved south to campground from a small valley just south of Laguna Mountain Lodge.
Butterfly Peak (b). Not an especially old name or well-known peak, its major claim to fame is that it was selected as the name of the 7.5-minute topographical sheet for the lower end of the Desert Divide – which is odd, as it is neither central, nor particularly prominent on the sheet.
Cabazon (c). A misspelling of the Spanish cabezón, or big head. Chief Cabezón (d. 1884) was a prominent Cahuilla leader in the Coachella Valley in the mid-19th century (in fact the valley was sometimes called Cabezón Valley in the early days). His home village was actually in Painted Canyon, near Mecca, in the lower end of the valley, but when the Southern Pacific built the first railroad through the San Gorgonio Pass in the 1870s they moved (and mis-spelled) the name, but made up for it a bit by presenting Cabezón with a free pass for the rest of his life. The little farming community that grew up got its own post office in 1886 and incorporated as a city in 1955. But things didn’t work out, and the city dis-incorporated in 1971.
Cajon Pass (c-d). Cajon is Spanish for box, and is sometimes used in a geographical sense to describe a box canyon. The name here dates back to mission times (shortly after 1810) and was first applied to one of the canyons leading up from the west side. There is not a single, well-defined pass here, but a variety of crossings over the ridge between the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. The pass has been a natural route of travel since Indian times; the Old Spanish Trail crossed here, as did the Los Angeles and Salt Lake route blazed by the Mormons in the 1840s. The Santa Fe railroad made its way over the mountains into Southern California in 1885, and the pass was made part of famed Route 66 in 1926. The present Interstate 15 freeway was completed in 1972.
(In the famous phrase, the Old Spanish Trail was neither old nor Spanish. It had been used only a few years by Mexican traders when it was named by Americans in the 1840s. It followed a roundabout route from New Mexico through Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, and even brushed the southern edge of Death Valley before dropping south through Cajon Pass to the California coast.)
California Aqueduct (e). A part of the State Water Project that brings water from Northern California to Southern California through a series of dams, reservoirs, tunnels, pumps, and aqueducts. Construction began in 1963 and the first water reached Southern California in 1973. The East Branch runs along the east side of the San Gabriel Mountains and continues to Lake Silverwood (see).
California Riding & Hiking Trail (a-e). Pre-dating the Pacific Crest Trail, the California Riding & Hiking Trail was authorized by the State Legislature in 1945. It was planned as a giant, 3,000-mile loop through the entire state, which several local detours. The full loop was never completed, but sections of the trail, marked by brown and yellow-topped posts, can still be found scattered throughout Southern California. In some places, the CRHT and the PCT follow very similar routes – in fact portions of the CRHT were used as a temporary route for the PCT before the final trail was completed.
The route was similar through the Cuyamaca Mountains, but dropped down to the desert via the Mason Valley Truck Trail, then ran through Chariot Canyon and the San Felipe Valley to reach Warner Hot Springs. From there, the CRHT used the Lost Valley Truck Trail to climb back into the hills, but then swung west into Chihuahua Valley and north to Anza. The CRHT also followed a similar path to the PCT through the San Gabriels, dividing near Elizabeth Lake, with the main route going north to Tehachapi and a branch heading west for Ventura County.
Cameron Valley (a). Scottish immigrant Thomas Cameron (d. 1900) was a prominent local pioneer, who came to the area in 1868 and ran a stage station on the line from San Diego to Yuma. Later he ran cattle and sheep. Some of the land for Lake Morena (see) was acquired from Cameron.
Camp Glenwood (d). The Glenwood Dad’s Club established this campground in 1956 to support youth groups and provide an outdoor experience for urban youth.
Camp Pajarito (d). In Spanish, pajaro is a bird, so pajarito means little bird. It was a Girl Scout camp, paid for (at least in party) by cookie sales. It opened in 1949 and was active in the 1950s and ‘60s.
Campo (a). The Kumeyaay Indians called this spot Meloch qua li, or big valley. Spanish speakers late gave it a similar name – Campo, meaning an open field. The Campo Post Office was established in 1868, when a stage line connected the valley to San Diego. Later it was a station on the San Diego & Arizona Railroad. The 1880s Gaskill Bros. stone store building here is one of the landmarks of the San Diego backcountry.
Cañada Buena Vista (a). This ‘valley of the good view’ was named by the Spanish padres. It is mentioned as early as 1821 in an account of the area as a good spring, “near which are two small marshes” (Hill, 1927:41), and was apparently named during that visit. In 1849 J.J. Warner (see Warners Ranch) built an adobe near the lower end of the valley which became an important stopping point on the Southern Emigrant Trail, which comes up off the desert here. The best view from here is towards Mount Palomar.
Cañada Verde (a). Green Valley, or glen, in Spanish, this oak-studded valley was a shortcut to Warner Hot Springs rather than going by way of the Warners Ranch adobe. The name was in use by the 1870s, though sometimes misspelled “Canyada.”
Cañada Verruga (a). The old timers claimed that back in the 1860s an Indian lived here who suffered from a large wart (in Spanish, a verruga) on the side of his neck, and his nickname gave the area its name (Gudde, 63-64). The name was certainly in use by the 1870s. By the 1910s about 25 families had homesteaded in the broad valley east of here. In 1917 they were granted a post office known as Verruga, which operated until 1926 (see Montezuma Valley and Ranchita).
Caribou Creek (c). Since caribou never roamed Southern California’s mountains, Gudde suggests this name may have been brought south by miners from British Columbia, where the Caribou mines enjoyed a brief boom around 1900, or perhaps it was the nickname of one of the returned miners. It was not uncommon for promoters of new mining areas to borrow the names of previous, successful strikes to suggest that their claims were the next big thing. The name was in use here by 1938.
Castle Rock Ranch (a). Named for a notable rock outcrop, the cattle and horse ranch here seems to date back to the 1870s. During World War II a portion of the old ranch became part of Camp Lockett, an Army cavalry camp.
Catclaw Flat (c). Acacia greggii goes by many other names – catclaw, tear-blanket, wait-a-minute bush – all based on its tiny, annoying, curving thorns and their seemingly unerring ability to snag skin and clothes as you walk by. These shrubs also produce a bean pod in the late spring which was a common, if somewhat bitter food source for the local Indians.
Cedar Glen Post Office (c). Established in 1939, this post office served the little resort community previously known as Camp Comfort. In the 1940s the Cedar Glen Resort here consisted of a cluster of rental cabins, a store, and a few residences. Many of the local cabins were lost in the Old Fire in 2003.
Cedar Spring (b). Named for the trees surrounding the spring sometime before 1910 by local cattleman Jim Wellman, who named several other features along the Desert Divide. His old ranch home is now Camp Joe Scherman, a Girl Scout camp at the foot of the trail to Cedar Spring.
Cedar Springs (c). A small mountain community, popular from the 1910s to the 1960s when the residents were moved out to make way for Lake Silverwood (see). The dam that forms Lake Silverwood is still properly known as the Cedar Springs Dam.
Chariot Canyon (a). The Golden Chariot Mine was discovered in 1871 by George King and became the second richest producer in Julian area. In Greek mythology, the sun god Helios drove a golden chariot across the sky each day. Other mines were soon established along the canyon and it became one of the most profitable areas in the district. After being abandoned for a number of years, the old workings were reactivated in the 1920s, with three shafts working and a new five-stamp mill. The area continues to be worked off and on. As late as the 1980s, men could still be seen here (wearing side arms, no less!) working their claims.
Chihuahua Valley (b). In the 1880s a Mexican herdsman from the State of Chihuahua brought his sheep and goats to graze in his broad valley. His name was Luis (or perhaps José) Melendrez, but most people simply called him “Chihuahua,” and his nickname was soon attached to the valley. He secured a homestead there in 1891.
“Chihuahua” had a reputation as a rough character. In 1887 he was implicated in the murder of David Blair, a prospector who gave his name to Blair Valley on the Anza-Borrego Desert. Later that year, Chihuahua’s step-daughter, Belita, was found dead, shot in the chest and hidden in the brush. At the time, the local justice of the peace refused to pursue the matter, since “it was only an Indian woman.” Suspicions continued to rise, though, and in 1889 Chihuahua was brought before a judge in Julian and questioned about Belita’s murder. But the charges were soon dropped for lack of evidence and “Chihuahua” faded from history.
Chilao Flat (d). There are a number of suggested origins (and spellings) for this beautiful, forested glen in the San Gabriel Mountains. “One of the great mysteries of the San Gabriel Mountains is just how Chilao came to be named,” John Robinson admits, citing several competing versions. In one, it was the nickname of Mexican cowboy who ran cattle there (and supposedly killed a bear with a knife after burning him out of tree), which was later embellished with name (José Gonzales) and the additional distinction of having been a guard for noted 1870s bandito Tiburcio Vasquez. Another version makes him an honest man and a native of Chile – hence, a Chileno. Another gives him the name Chileo (or Chilao) Silvas, who spent 40 years in the area and only lassoed bears. “So … take your choice,” Robinson concludes (1991:209-10). The Chileno connection (through Silvas) seems to have the best pedigree. He is reported to have built the first cabin in the area.
Cibbets Flat (a). Located on Kitchen Creek at the mouth of Long Canyon, Cibbets Flats is shown on maps by 1960. Chris Way reports the name pre-dates the Cleveland National Forest campground here but does not give its origin.
Cienega Canyon (e). For early Spanish-speaking Californians a cienega (see-n-aga) was a marsh, or any swampy area, and the term often appears in early place names.
Cienega Redonda (c). Translates as Round Marsh; the name appears on maps as early as 1902, when it is shown adjoining the Cienega Larga (largo), or Large Marsh.
Cienega Seca Creek (c). An odd combination, translating as dry marsh creek. It also appears on maps as early as 1902 (along with Cienega Seca itself).
Cleghorn Ridge Picnic Area (c). Mathew Cleghorn and his son, John, had a lumbering operation in the area in the 1870s. “They must have been thorough,” John Robinson notes, “there is little timber left here today.” (1972:41) The name appears on maps as Cleghorn Mountain by 1901, and a 1902 map also shows a Cleghorn Pass along west fork of Mojave River.
Cleveland National Forest (a-b). The Trabuco Canyon Forest Reserve in the Santa Ana Mountains (established in 1893) and the San Jacinto Forest Reserve (established in 1907) were combined and enlarged in 1908 to form the Cleveland National Forest, named in honor of former President Grove Cleveland, who had died that same year. The Cleveland National Forest now consists of three disconnected districts – Descanso, Palomar, and Trabuco – covering some 460,000 acres.
Cloudburst Summit, Canyon (d). The canyon name is older, dating back to at least 1913. The summit name was in use by 1935. The area was popular with hunters in the early days who may have named it for the quickly-changing mountain weather.
Coachella Valley (b). Previously known as the Cahuilla Valley or the Cabezon Valley, for the local Indians or their most prominent leader (see Cabazon), the current name was introduced in 1901. It is perhaps a corruption of Conchilla Valley, a name in use by 1888. In Spanish, a conchilla is a little shell, and the lower end of the valley (especially around the Salton Sea) is littered with little shells. At different times in the past, the area has been inundated by both salt water (from the Gulf of California) and fresh water (from the Colorado River). Today’s Salton Sea was formed in 1905-07 by flooding from a break in an irrigation canal that brought Colorado River water to the Imperial Valley.
Colorado Desert (a). Named by geologist William P. Blake in 1853 during a government survey to locate a railroad route to the Pacific Coast. There was no State of Colorado then; Blade named it for the river, “inasmuch as the desert owes its origin to the river,” he later explained (Gunther, 1984:126). Much of the desert is made up of ancient river deposits. Before repeatedly dammed, the river ran thick and red with silt. Spanish explorers named it the Rio Colorado (the Red River) in 1604.
Combs Peak (b). In 1897-98, Chihuahua Valley enjoyed a small gold mining boom. Henry Combs (often spelled Coombs, which probably reflects the proper pronunciation) was one of the first miners to arrive, and stuck with it about as long as anybody, still working his claims as late as 1900. But in 1901 his health broke and he was committed to the state asylum at Highland, where he died not long after. But his name survived, first as Combs Camp, a popular spot for hunters at the upper end of the valley, and finally migrating to the peak by the 1950s.
At 6,193 feet, this is the highest point in the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Combs was added to the Hundred Peaks list of the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter in 1959, though it remained tough to reach until the Pacific Crest Trail was built along the flanks of Bucksnort Mountain 20 years later.
Coon Creek (c). Named for the raccoons that still run wild on the mountain (Garrett, 1998:24), the name appears on maps as early as 1902, and the Coon Creek Jumpoff is shown on maps by 1954. From here the terrain drops steeply towards the desert below.
Just off the trail, the old cabins here are well worth a visit. This was once “Tayles Hidden Acres,” a mountain retreat built by Big Bear businessman Charles Tayles, who ran the boat landing at Boulder Bay from the 1920s to the 1960s. The area was acquired by State of California in the 1960s and later passed to the Forest Service.
Cooper Canyon (d). Named for brothers Ike and Tom Cooper, hunters and trappers who worked the area every summer from the 1880s to the early 1900s when the San Gabriels were set aside as a game refuge. Ike Cooper, in particular, was considered “one of the best hunters of the San Gabriel Valley” (Los Angeles Times, October 24, 1905).
Cougar Crest Trail (c). Few animals are known by as many different names as the mountain lion – or cougar, or puma, or panther, or catamount, depending on when and where you grew up. This popular trail was not mentioned in the 1982 PCT guidebook but was in place by 1985.
Cottonwood Canyon, Creek (e). Gudde notes that there is hardly a county in California that doesn’t have a Cottonwood Creek. The trees are a sure sign of water, making them an important landmark to early travelers. This Cottonwood Canyon leads up from the Antelope Valley to the original Tejon Pass, 20 miles east of the modern pass on Interstate 5.
Cottonwood Creek (a). Flows out of the Laguna mountains through Cottonwood Valley, becoming the Tia Juana River as it crosses the Mexican border. Both Lake Morena and Barrett Lake are located on Cottonwood Creek.
Cow Spring Canyon (e). A translation of the earlier Spanish name, Ojo de la Vaca, it was no doubt a watering place for wandering cattle. The spring was later a stop on the famous Butterfield overland stage route.
It seems that almost every stage line that ever ran in Southern California has at one time been called the Butterfield stage. In fact, John Butterfield’s Overland Mail Company ran for less than three years (1858-61), carrying mail and passengers from St. Louis to San Francisco. With its largely southern route, the outbreak of the Civil War spelled the end of the Butterfield.
Coyote Canyon (b). This long, well-watered canyon connecting the Borrego Valley with the San Jacinto Mountains has been known as Coyote Canyon since at least 1851. The name may have first been applied to the Cahuilla Indian village in Collins Valley, the winter home of the villagers who lived in the San Ysidro Mountains on what is now known as the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. The Anza Trail left the desert by way of Coyote Canyon.
Crab Flats, Creek (c). The name is an early one – perhaps as early as the 1890s – but Garrett could find no source for it. My experience suggests that speculation on the source of unusual place names is often pointless.
Crestline (c). A place with several names. In the 1850s this was Mormon Springs, after Mormon settlers from San Bernardino built a lumber road up the mountain. An incline railway was built here in 1906 in an unsuccessful effort to haul supplies for the construction of the Lake Arrowhead Dam and an Incline Post Office opened a year later. In 1910, as a mountain resort community began to develop, the post office was renamed Skyland Heights. The community had already been named Crestline by popular vote, but it was not until 1919 that the Post Office finally caught up with the community and was renamed Crestline.
Crowder Canyon (c). Originally known as Coyote Canyon, a toll road was built through here in the 1860s to reach the top of Cajon Pass. This was the first good wagon road over the pass. Around 1880 Thomas Crowder settled in the canyon and farmed here for many years.
Crystal Lake (d). This is the only natural lake in the San Gabriels. It was previously known as Sycamore Lake, but acquired its current name in the 1890s. In 1928 Los Angeles County leased 1,360 acres here in the upper North Fork of San Gabriel Canyon, built roads and a campground, and in 1932 opened the area year-round to tourists. The park closed during World War II and the land reverted to the Forest Service, who in 1946 established the Crystal Lake Recreation Area here.
Cuyamaca (a). A Spanish spelling of the Kumeyaay name ’ekwiiyemak, meaning ‘behind the clouds.’ The Indian village of Cullamac is mentioned in mission records as early as 1776. According to Fetzer it was located just north of Stonewall Peak. A Mexican rancho grant of 1845 uses the current spelling, properly pronounced kwee-a-mah-kah. Lake Cuyamaca is a man-made lake, dammed 1887 to help provide water for the City of San Diego. In 1932 much of the area was purchased by the state to become the Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.
Dawson Peak (d). Some older sources assume this peak was named for R.W. Dawson, an 1870s miner who had the first summer resort in what is now the Angeles National Forest in the 1890s. But it now seems it was actually named for Ernest Dawson (1882-1947), the famed Los Angeles rare book dealer and longtime Sierra Club supporter, who served as its president in 1935-37. According to Dawson’s son, Glen (also a famed book dealer and mountaineer in his own right), it was named by surveyor Don McLain around 1920 (Quirarte, 1990-91).
Deep Creek (c). The east fork of the upper Mojave River has been known locally as Deep Creek since at least the 1920s. Two-thirds of the river’s drainage out of the San Bernardino Mountains flows through Deep Creek. It has long been a popular recreation spot.
Deer Springs Trail (b). Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s, the trail connects Idyllwild with the high country of Mt. San Jacinto by way of the former Forest Service trail camp at Deer Springs. John Robinson speaks of the trail as “little used nowadays” in 1961, but in more recent years it has again become popular.
Delamar Mountain, Spring (c). Both named for Captain J.R. De La Mar, a one-time Nevada miner, who took over Lucky Baldwin’s Gold Mountain mines (see) in 1899. He built a new 40-stamp processing mill and employed scores of miners before giving up in 1903.
Desert Divide (b). The southern ridge of the San Jacintos marks the divide between the high country and desert below. The trail along the southern end of the divide originally began at Bull Canyon and only went as far north as Apache Peak. As long as 1949 it was already spoken of as an old Forest Service trail which had not been maintained for years. In the late 1960s legendary trailman Sam Fink cut and tagged a route south from Red Tahquitz to meet it. A few of his old metal trail tags are still scattered along the ridge. It took three years to build the current Pacific Crest Trail along the divide – one of the most difficult stretches in Southern California.
Devil’s Punchbowl (d). Travel writer Russ Leadabrand considered this “the most fantastic geological formation in the San Gabriel Mountains” (1967:65). The Devil’s name has been attached to many rugged or desolate places in the American West; this one is on maps by 1902. Since 1963 the 1,300-acre Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area has been a Los Angeles County park.
Devil’s Slide Trail (b) Begun as a cattle trail in the 1870s, the original Devil’s Slide went straight up the mountain with no switchbacks, reaching the lip about a quarter of a mile south of today’s Saddle Junction. “Many a cow and even a few cowboys took a bone-breaking spill on this treacherous slope,” John Robinson reports. But as early as 1899 Forest Rangers began re-routing the trail and building switchbacks. “The Devil’s Slide trail today is a gradual uphill stroll, certainly underserving of its notorious name,” Robinson adds. (Robinson and Risher, 1993:71)
Doble Trail Camp (c) During Gold Mountain boom (1874-75) a mining camp known as Bairdstown was established near here. Later, Budd Doble, a well-known jockey and horse trainer (and one time son-in-law of “Lucky” Baldwin), tried twice in the 1880s and ‘90s to revive the Gold Mountain mines (see). But Doble “hardly did enough work there in two years to merit a place name,” John Robinson complains (1989:69). Still, the name stuck, and the camp even had a Doble Post Office from 1900 to 1906.
Dowd Canyon (e) – Leadabrand says this was old name for Green Valley (see).
Eagle Rock (a). From the right angle (and with enough imagination) this unusual granite outcrop does look something like an eagle with its wings outstretched. It does not seem to have been named until after this stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail opened in the 1980s. Today it is a popular destination for PCT day hikers and picnickers, and there are even Eagle Rock t-shirts for sale in the Warner Springs area.
Eagles Roost Picnic Area (d). This would seem to be what the State of California called Cedar Springs in the 1940s, a prison honor camp in use during the construction of the Angeles Crest Highway. A 1956 map shows the camp just west of the tunnels. The Eagles Roost name was in used by 1970.
Earthquake Valley (a). This name was in use by 1935, but just who named it and why remains unclear. The area was previously known as Johnson Valley after two 1880s settlers. It was also often simply known as the Lower San Felipe Valley. In the 1960s, when the area was subdivided, the developers decided to give the valley a “less ominous” name and dubbed it Shelter Valley. (Lindsay, 2001:151)
Elizabeth Lake (e). Previously known as La Laguna de Chico Lopez (after a local Mexican ranchero), or just Rabbit Lake, Frank Latta repeats a story from longtime Tejon majordomo José Jesus Lopez that in 1849 Charles Wingfield and his wife Elizabeth were camped near the lake, and while going to get water she slipped and fell in. Other travelers teased Mrs. Wingfield about it, and gave the lake her name (Latta, 1976:81). The name caught on, and was in common use by the 1850s. On the rare occasions when the basin is full, it would be a large sheet of water. The little community around it got its first post office in 1878.
Erwin Lake, Meadows (c) Jim Erwin (1851-1953) was one of the San Bernardino Mountain’s most interesting characters. He first came up the mountain in 1884, and later worked in the Lucky Baldwin Mine. He homesteaded near the little lake that now bears his name and continued mining on his own in a small way for decades. Longtime Los Angeles Times columnist Lee Shippey found him there in 1941:
“Jim Erwin, for whom Erwin Lake is named, has been getting some [gold] out for more than 40 years and at the age of 92 still is working a mine above Green Spot Tank. Forty-odd years of mining haven’t made Jim rich but he has made a good life of it. He lives in a shanty near his mine. Squirrels come and scratch at his door every morning and all the birds are his friends. A fine stream flows out of his mine and around his cabin and he knows he can make a living every day he works there, so for him wilderness is paradise enough.” (Times, July 15, 1941). A decade later he was still at it, “spry and happy” as he turned 101, and still living alone 12 miles from his nearest neighbor. He finally died in 1953 (at 102), but only after being hit by a car. His obituary says he was believed to be one of last two Confederate veterans in California, but as he was at best 14 at the war’s end this seems unlikely.
Escondido Canyon (d). The Spanish word for “hidden” appears in a number of California place names. This one comes from the Escondido Mine, discovered around 1870 and operated for more than twenty years – with little success. The Antelope Valley Freeway (State Route 14) now travels through the canyon.
Fawnskin (c). Gudde reports that a group of hunters left several deer hides stretched out on the trees in a meadow near here where they remained for several years. The name was in use by 1891 and in 1918 a little vacation tract of the same name was laid out about a mile and a half away on the north side of Big Bear Lake.
Fish Creek Canyon (e). An Indian trail once led up this canyon to acorn and pinyon nut gathering sites “north of Sawmill Mountains and the Sierra Pelona.” (Robinson, 1991:5). The current Pacific Crest Trail guide notes that in 1984 a group of Boy Scouts built a trail camp here.
Fobes Ranch Saddle (b). Ray Fobes bought the old Spitler Ranch in 1918 and ran cattle there until 1940s. The saddle is on the way to Spitler Peak (see).
Fountainhead Spring (d). The name was in used by 1938 when the spring was being used by hikers in the Mt. Pacifico area. Will Thrall mentions a trail register here placed around 1940.
Fred Canyon (a). A fairly early name, Fred Canyon Spring and Creek are mentioned as early as 1895 when the creek was described as “a branch of the middle fork of [the] Tia Juana river.” But just who Fred was remains unclear.
Fuller Ridge (b). In the 1890s a Mr. Fuller “appropriated” an abandoned sawmill from Hall City, above the San Gorgonio Pass, and moved it to the next canyon east. As a punishment, no one seems to have recorded his first name. Several different companies ran the operation over the next few years. The Fuller Ridge name has been on maps since at least the mid-1960s.
Gamble Spring Canyon (e). A place name in used by the early 1960s, it could be a personal name or a misspelling of Gambel, as in the Gambel’s Quail so common in inland Southern California (it’s always dangerous to assume with place names).
Garces Overlook (c). Father Francisco Garcés (1738-1781), a Spanish Franciscan, made extensive explorations throughout inland Southern California in the 1770s and was the first European to visit many parts of our mountains and deserts, and crossed the nearby Cajon Pass via Sawpit Canyon in 1776. Half a century later famed American trapper and mountain man Jedediah Smith also passed this way.
Garner Valley (b). San Bernardino cattleman Robert Garner bought out pioneer ranchman Charlie Thomas’ holdings here in 1905. The area had previously been known as Hemet Valley, or Thomas Valley. Though extensive residential development was proposed in the 1970s, much of the valley remains open land to this day.
Garnet Peak (a). A reddish mineral common in Southern California, it occurs in crystals but has little value as a gemstone. This peak in the Lagunas has been known by this name since at least 1918.
Gobblers Knob (d). According to Fetzer (2005:53), knob is a “common western name for an isolated peak.” This was appears on maps by 1960; some say it was named for wild turkeys, but it is perhaps worth mentioning that the famous Groundhog’s Day ceremony in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania is held at their Gobblers Knob.
Gocke Valley (c). Garrett (1998:39) reports simply that a Mr. Gocke had a cabin here in the 1930s. The Gocke Ranch is shown on maps as early as 1949.
Gold Canyon (c). There’s no place in the western mountains and deserts that some prospector didn’t look for gold, but no one ever seems to have found much here, west of Whitewater.
Gold Mountain (c). “[O]ne of the most frenzied mining rushes in Southern California history” took place here in the 1870s (Robinson, 1989:65). Gold was discovered on the mountain in 1873, and E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin (see Baldwin Lake) soon bought up a number of claims and built a 40-stamp processing mill. There was plenty of low-value ore, but not enough to make it pay, and the mill was closed in 1875 and burned down three years later. The mining camp here was originally known as Bairdstown, and later Doble (see). In 1900, other investors tried to reopen the mines, and built a new 40-stamp mill, but their efforts soon faltered. Various other attempts were made to work the mines here, but they finally shut down for good in 1951.
Granite Mountain (a). A descriptive name for this rocky desert peak, the name may have first been applied to a mining claim on the southwestern slope of the mountain in 1898. It was worked as late as 1924 and shafts, tunnels, and the ruins of several buildings are still visible.
Grapevine Canyon, Mountain (a). Wild grapes were common in well-watered spots in the Southern California hills in the early days, giving rising to many place names. This Grapevine Canyon, leading from the desert up toward Warners Ranch, first gained local fame in the 1890s, when a brief gold mining boom took place here.
Grass Mountain (e). This descriptive name was already in use by the 1940s, when a Forest Service fire lookout was located on the peak. The tower was destroyed by fire in 1951.
Grassy Hollow (d). This name dates back at least to the 1930s. The Forest Service had a family campground here in the 1940s. The modern visitor’s center opened in 1996.
Grayback – see Mt. San Gorgonio.
Green Valley (e). Leadabrand (1963) says the little community of Green Valley was named for the many green-leafed live oaks in Dowd Canyon. The name dates back to at least the 1930s.
Grinnell Peak (c). What was originally known as Fish Creek Mountain was later renamed to honor zoologist Joseph Grinnell, a professor at the University of California Berkeley from 1908-39, who did important field work in the San Bernardino Mountains in 1905-06.
Guffy Campground (d). Everyone seems to agree that this is a personal name, but no one seems to be able to agree on just which person it was. Some sources cite a Samuel Guffy, or Samuel Scott Guffy, as either a miner, a homesteader, or an early Forest Service ranger. There was also a William Guffy living in Swarthout Canyon in the 1890s. Samuel Scott Guffy patented a homestead in 1895 which was apparently later acquired by Sumner Wright, “the Father of Wrightwood.”
In any case, Guffy has been a popular place to camp for generations. Will Thrall, who wrote extensively on the trails of the San Gabriels in the 1930s, once noted: “In a grassy hollow, forested with beautiful pines, is a place to camp, but absolutely unequipped. Your fireplace is a few loose rocks gleaned from near-by ledges, there are plenty of pine needles for beds, the water is at the spring, a quarter-mile down the north slope. The nights are cold at this altitude, so you will need plenty of blankets.” (Los Angeles Times, September 25, 1938)
Hatchery Canyon (c). A trout hatchery was established below here in lower Whitewater Canyon in 1939 by Vern Mills. Originally he sold fish to stock private fishing lakes and to restaurants where they went on the menu. In 1949 he and John Shearer opened their ponds to fishing and the Rainbow Rancho Trout Farm, with its picnic area and store, was a popular fishing spot for generations (Desert Sun, April 25, 1955). By the 1960s they were raising about 600,000 fish a year in a series of 20 ponds. The Wildlands Conservancy acquired the property in 2006 as part of their series of preserves (including the Mission Creek Preserve) and generously opened it to the public in 2008. Some of the old trout ponds and hatchery buildings have been preserved.
Hauser Canyon, Creek, Mountains (a). Jacob Hauser, a German immigrant, settled in this area in the 1870s. The Pacific Crest Trail passes through part of his former ranch. He died around 1890 but his name has been attached to this area in various forms ever since. The canyon seems to have been named first (by 1900, if not before); it is unfortunately best remembered for a 1943 brush fire which killed ten soldiers who had volunteered for the fire lines. The fire seems to have been started by a military training exercise and heavy winds drove the firefighters up into the canyon and overwhelmed them. It eventually burned some 16,000 acres.
Heart Bar Creek (c). Charles F. Martin and Willie Button – former cattle thieves according to John Robinson (1989:88-93) – settled here in the early 1880s and registered the Heart Bar brand in 1884. (To be fair, both later reformed and Martin eventually served as Chief of Police in San Bernardino.) The Heart Bar Ranch was most successful after 1907 when Al Swarthout became Martin’s partner. Even then, he was a third generation California cattleman; Swarthout Valley (see) is named for his grandfather. “Swarty” Swarthout ran the ranch with a series of partners for more than 40 years. In 1965, two years after his death, the ranch became a state park. In 1976 the land was taken over by the San Bernardino National Forest. The Big Meadows campground is on the site of the ranch headquarters, and the campsites to the east, along the road to Coon Creek Jumpoff, are popular with the horse crowd.
Hesperia (c). The Santa Fe railroad established a station here in 1885, the same year they completed their line over Cajon Pass. The community got a post office three years later. To the Greek poets, Hesperia was The Western Land, or the Land of the Setting Sun, so it moved easily to California.
Holcomb Valley, Creek (c). In 1860 Billy Holcomb made the first big gold strike in the area. The first miners worked the placer gold out of the creeks, using pans, rockers, and sluices. Then hardrock mining began, tunneling to the veins locked in quartz. By 1861 four stamp mills were in operation, crushing the quartz so the gold could be extracted. Several smaller mining camps came and went; the main settlement was known as Belleville – named for a daughter of local blacksmith Jed Van Dusen. Belleville was a tough town, even by the standards of its day. The initial boom went bust in 1862, but the mines were revived now and then over the years on into the 1950s. Holcomb Valley is now California State Historic Landmark #619.
Horse Canyon (b). Perhaps used to pasture horses in the 19th century, this beautiful canyon is shown on maps by 1901. There was once a Cahuilla Indian village here called Natcuta.
Horse Meadow (a). Shown on the 1960 topographical quad of the area. Gudde reports that there are some 500 “horse” place names in California.
Horse Flats (d). Ranchers pastured stock here as early as the 1860s, and in the 1870s bandits were rumored to have hidden stolen horses in the area. True or not, the romantic stories of their exploits probably gave the area its name. The Forest Service campground here dates back to at least the 1940s.
Horsethief Canyon (c). Sadly, a not uncommon name in the Southern California mountains. Horse thieves – Indian, Mexican, and American – were a continuing problem in the area, especially from the 1830s to the 1870s. Several of their favorite trails (or supposed trails) still mark their crimes, including this one near the top of Cajon Pass.
Hot Springs Mountain (b). Named for the Warner Hot Springs at its base, this 6,533-foot peak is the tallest in San Diego County. A Forest Service fire lookout was maintained here from around 1914 until 1977. The Cupeño people who lived at the hot springs called the mountain Su’ish Peki or Rabbit’s House.
Idyllwild (b). In the late 1880s vacationers began coming up to Strawberry Valley (see) to escape the summer heat below. In 1889 the first tourist hotel opened here and a year later George and Sarah Hannah opened “Idylwilde Camp” nearby. Yet they named the first post office here Rayneta in 1893, in honor of their son, Raymond. But the Idyllwild name caught on, and the current spelling became official when the post office was renamed in 1901. Idyllwild is now a year-round community (the only one of any size in the San Jacinto Mountains) and remains a popular summertime getaway.
Indian Flats (b). A Cleveland National Forest campground established in the 1930s and apparently named by the rangers. This oak-studded area would have certainly been an acorn-gathering site in the early days.
Islip Saddle, peak (d). Named for George Islip (1822-1897), who settled along the west side of San Gabriel Canyon around 1880; Mt. Islip appears on maps as early as 1901. Frank Schilling reported that Islip and Jim Akin “laid out the original trail to Charlton Flat from the West Fork of the San Gabriel. Islip died on a homestead which later became the mountain home of Mr. H.W. O’Melveny. The home is now covered by the waters backed up by the Morris dam.”
Islip (eye-slip) got a glowing obituary in the Los Angeles Herald (April 4, 1897), which claims he first came to California as a sailor in 1838, and ran a ferry near Sacramento during the Gold Rush. (That may be the sort of stories he liked to tell in later years, but if so, it is curious not to find him even mentioned in H.H. Bancroft’s classic seven-volume history of California.) After mining in Mexico and Arizona, he worked for E.J. “Lucky” Baldwin on his ranch at San Marino.
“Sixteen years ago,” the article continues, “he took up a claim in the San Gabriel canyon, which he converted into a perfect bower of beauty, and from which he obtained a competence through careful fruit culture to keep him comfortably in his declining years. Few people who have been into the San Gabriel canyon but what have enjoyed a visit to Islip's ranch and his Californian hospitality dispensed from the table and orchard of a bachelor’s home…. His kind spirit and endless hospitality were among the most noted of his characteristics, and his death is a sad stroke to numberless friends.”
Jackson Flat (d). The Forest Service campground here probably takes its name from Jackson Lake, a sag pond along the San Andreas Fault below. The lake has gone by that name since at least the 1930s, when it was a part of Los Angeles County’s recreation area at Big Pines. It was used for fishing in the summer and ice skating the in the winter.
Julian (a). The scene of San Diego County’s most famous gold rush. In the winter of 1869-70 the first strike in area soon attracted other prospectors. Drury Bailey made first strike in what is now Julian in February 1870, but named both the mining district and then the town for his cousin and fellow prospector, Mike Julian, because (as he often joked) he was better looking than him. It was “Dru” Bailey’s discovery that really touched off the boom. According to the San Diego Union (March 10, 1870), “A stampede immediately ensued, and the road has now for several days been lined with teams of every description, and men mounted and on foot, en route to the mines.” Some 800 miners and prospectors arrived within the first few weeks; some were old enough to have worked in the Mother Lodge country up north during the great California Gold Rush of 1849.
But not long after an attempt was made to “float” the boundaries of the Rancho Cuyamaca over mines. After a lengthy lawsuit the courts ruled the ranch owners had no rights to Julian’s gold, but those three years of uncertainty discouraged any big investors from putting money into the mines, and slowed the boom considerably. But the town of Julian survived, and after 1900 gained fame as an apple growing area. Today it is a popular tourist destination.
Kern County (e). Named after the river, which was named by American explorer John C. Frémont in 1845 in honor of Edward Kern, the artist and topographer on his expedition who nearly drowned trying to cross it. The county was formed in 1866 and Bakersfield has been the county seat since 1874. The Kern River rises on the Kern Plateau, below western slope of Mt. Whitney.
Kitchen Creek (a). Actually named for August Caesar Kitching, an English immigrant who ran sheep in the Lagunas in the 1870s. A Kitching Valley is mentioned as early as 1877. At that time Kitching was living in Valley Center, where he also served as postmaster. The “Kitchen” name appears on maps by the 1920s, and the Cleveland National Forest’s Kitchen Creek Campground was established sometime prior to 1940.
Kratka Ridge (d). “Named in 1925 by USFS surveyor Donald McLain, after … George H. and Walter E. Kratka of Pasadena. McLain said they ‘loved these mountains,’ and he once camped overnight with them on this ridge.” (Quirarte, 1990-91). There were several Kratka brothers and sisters in Pasadena in the early 1900s. George was a ticket agent for the Southern Pacific railroad. Walter worked for the Los Angeles Herald and served in World War I. The area later became a popular skiing area beginning in the 1940s.
Kwaaymii Point (a). The Kwaaymii (kwhy-me) people were a band of the Kumeyaay Indians who lived in the Laguna Mountains much of the year, spending their winters in Mason Valley on the desert below. Later the Laguna Indian Reservation was set aside for them. This point was named in their honor. Prior to 1975 the old highway wrapped around the outside of this point; today it serves as part of the Pacific Crest Trail.
La Posta Creek (a). La Posta takes its name from an early stage stop, though it was not a post office as its Spanish name implies. In 1891 the La Posta Indian Reservation was established for a group of Kumeyaay Indians who had been moved there years before. The location was not ideal, but it was the only land available around their village. They called the area Ma-too, meaning ‘to throw mud.’ A visitor in 1880 judged the one or two dozen residents there “some of the most civil and industrious Indians” in San Diego County (San Diego Union, June 29, 1880).
Laguna Mountains (a). Natural lakes are rare in Southern California, so both in Spanish and English, laguna and lake appear in many place names. The two lakes here were landmarks to early travelers and settlers and by the 1870s had given their name to the mountains. Long a popular recreation area, by 1930 enough residents and vacationers had arrived to support a Mount Laguna Post Office. What is now Stephenson Peak (see) was formerly known as Mount Laguna.
Camping in the Lagunas, 1920
“In 1920 Laguna Mountain was green, and the trees looked healthy. At that time there was no store on the mountain and no post office. There were no cabins for rent. Many residents of Imperial Valley, and of San Diego drove up to Laguna and all camped out.
“I camped under a tree with a few cans of beans and a limited supply of other groceries. In two weeks I walked 150 miles through the mountain country. That was not so much for two weeks; but I only walked part of the time. Twenty miles was an easy day’s walk.”
– Gordon Stuart, San Diego Back Country 1901
(n.p.: The Author, 1966)
Lake Arrowhead (c). This area was originally called Little Bear Valley. Efforts began here in the early 1890s to build a reservoir and bring irrigation water to San Bernardino Valley. Work on the dam began in 1904, but there were many legal setbacks along the way. Because Little Bear Lake (as it was originally known) dammed the headwaters of Mojave River, which drains to the opposite side of the mountain, in 1913 the courts ruled that the developers could not divert water to a different watershed on other side. The dam was already about 80% complete then, so rather than abandon the project it was decided to make the lake a recreational area. In 1921 the dam was topped off, and the lake renamed Lake Arrowhead after the popular Arrowhead Hot Springs resort below. Lake Arrowhead Village was founded in 1922. The lake is still privately owned by the Lake Arrowhead Association.
Lake Henshaw (b). This was one of a number of water projects promoted by William G. Henshaw (1860-1924) to serve San Diego County. The idea of a dam across the San Luis Rey River at the bottom of the Warner Ranch was first proposed in the 1880s, but was not built until 1922. Henshaw and his associates also formed the Vista Irrigation District, which still owns the bulk of the ranch.
Lake Hughes (e). The natural lake here was named in the 1890s, apparently for G.O. Hughes, a local landowner. It was more often called Hughes Lake in the early days, but when a community grew up nearby it flipped the name to Lake Hughes, earning a post office by that name in 1925.
Lake Morena (a). The Morena name (more properly, Moreno) seems to date back to the 1880s, if not before. It can be either a family name, or simply means brown in Spanish. In the 1890s the Southern California Mountain Water Company began acquiring land here for one of four proposed reservoirs to provide water to the City of San Diego. Work on the Morena Dam began in 1896 but stalled two years later amid a cascade of controversy, including accusations of shoddy workmanship. Worse, the city had trouble selling the bonds voted to pay for the water. It was not until 1909 that work resumed on the dam. Michael O’Shaughnessy, the San Francisco civil engineer who designed the Hetch Hetchy project, served as consulting engineer. Lake Morena was finally completed in 1912 (San Diego Union, July 21, 1912) and a year later the City of San Diego bought out the private water company for some $2,500,000. The dam has been raised since. By the 1950s, San Diego’s growing demand for water nearly sucked the lake dry many years.
Lake Morena County Park is sometimes called John Lyons Lake Morena County Park in honor of John S. Lyons, a longtime local union leader. Nearby is the community of Morena Village and overlooking them all is Morena Butte.
Lamel Spring (d). A name of uncertain origin, dating back to at least 1940. One possible suggestion: In 1930 Howard Lamel, an 18-year-old Los Angeles boy, lost his like while attempting to climb Mt. Whitney – could this local spring have been named in his honor?
Lancaster (e). Gudde says this town was named in late 1870s by settlers from around Lancaster, Pennsylvania. It was established soon after the Southern Pacific railroad came through in 1877, got its own post office in 1884, but did not incorporate as a city until 1977.
Las Flores Ranch (c). One of the most important San Bernardino Mountain cattle ranches, it was established in 1862 by H.E. Parrish and named the Las Flores Ranch (sometimes Los Flores in older sources) around 1900 by then owner Tom Cole. From 1920 to 1930 San Bernardino cattleman Robert F. Garner owned the ranch (see Garner Valley).
Leona Divide (e). The Leona Valley is located on the fault rift of the San Andreas Fault. The Pitts report it was named for Basque sheep rancher Miguel Leonis of Calabasas. The divide takes its name from the valley.
Liebre Mountain (e). Gudde says the Liebre name here (Spanish for jackrabbit) dates back as far as the 1820s. In 1846 the 48,000-acre Rancho La Liebre was granted to José Maria Flores. It was purchased by Edward F. Beale in 1855, the first of four ranchos he eventually combined as the Rancho Tejon (see). The mountain is on the south side of the rancho.
Lily Rock (b). A variant name for Tahquitz Rock (see), it was in common use as early as the 1890s. In 1900 a visitor reported, “The old story went that no one ever succeeded in scaling its great height until a woman, possessed of the name of Lily, performed the daring feat. Then the firm, unchangeable old rock received a feminine name.” (Riverside Enterprise, July 11, 1900). Gunther repeats a second-hand story that the original Lily was Lily Eastman, the daughter of a Riverside pioneer, but says nothing about her climbing her namesake rock (Gunther, 291).
Lion Peak (b) Local cattle rancher and noted mountain lion hunter Jim Wellman named Lion Rock, because he had bagged several mountain lions near there, but, he later complained, the mapmakers had misplaced it. His Lion Rock sits atop what is now marked Pine Mountain (where there are no pines). The mis-placed name appears on maps as early as 1952.
Some government maps in the 1950s and ‘60s also show a Hells Kitchen north of Pine Mountain and a Devils Rockpile to the south. Neither name is currently used.
Little Jimmy Spring (d). Los Angeles artist and newspaper cartoonist Jimmy Swinnerton enjoyed camping and painted near here in the early 1900s. In 1909 he hiked up to camp at what was then known as Gooseberry Spring for an extended stay. While there he painted a cartoon portrait of winsome little boy on a dead tree stump along with the name “Little Jimmy Camp.” The name was on maps by 1920 and the painting was still in good shape a few years later.
Little Rock Creek (d). A descriptive name that dates back to at least the 1870s; Big Rock Creek lies to the east. An ancient Indian trail crossed the San Gabriel Mountains and dropped down Little Rock Creek to the desert beyond. Near the mouth of the canyon a little agricultural community known as Littlerock (one word) grew up in the 1890s. The creek was dammed in 1924.
Lone Pine Canyon (d). In 1863 cattleman and farmer Almon Clyde was the first to file a claim here, building a cabin next to a lone pine tree that gave the canyon its name. The name was in use by 1900.
Long Canyon, Creek (a). A descriptive name that dates back at least to the 1890s when the Cuyapipe (or Long Canyon) Indian Reservation was established. The local Indian Agent noted in 1894:
“This reservation is located in a long narrow canyon, inaccessible by wagon, containing not 10 acres of arable land. There are 39 Indians living on this place, who subsist upon acorns and hunting. They are industrious, and would make good farmers if they had any land to farm. They have good houses, considering their poverty. I would recommend that steps be taken to secure them some farming land at the mouth of this canyon, that a school be established, and that a field matron be stationed with them. They have been totally neglected heretofore.” (Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, 1894).
Lookout Mountain (b). This name was in use too early (by 1901) to mark the site of a fire lookout, so it was presumably named for the view from the 5,590-foot peak, which was used as a control point by early surveyors.
Los Angeles Aqueduct (e). Built between 1908 and 1913, this monument to what historian Leonard Pitt has called “Los Angeles’s water imperialism” brought water 230 miles from the Owens Valley to the City of Los Angeles. It was a triumph of engineering, but controversial from the start – and even more so in the 1920s, when Los Angeles attempted to take control of almost all the water rights in what was then a rich agricultural area. Much of the Owens Valley is owned by the city to this day.
Los Angeles County (d-e). The valley and river were named by the first Spanish overland expedition to pass through the area in 1769 in honor of the feast of Nuestra Señora de los Angeles – Our Lady of the Angeles. In 1781 a Spanish pueblo (town) was founded beside the river. Even in Spanish times the name was often abbreviated to Los Angeles or simply Angeles. In 1850 Los Angeles became the county seat of Los Angeles County, one of California’s original 27 counties. The county was originally much larger, including what are now Orange and San Bernardino counties, and parts of Kern, Riverside, and Ventura counties.
Lost Valley Road, Spring (b). A late 1930s truck trail along Agua Caliente Canyon, probably built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) or some other Depression-era government agency; it’s unclear if the builders actually hoped to reach Lost Valley, on the north side of Hot Springs Mountain. In any case, they never made it, but the road (and later the spring) borrowed the name anyway. The actual Lost Valley at the top of Agua Caliente Canyon was named by a local cattleman around 1880 for its isolated location. The old 1890s cattle trail from Chihuahua Valley to Lost Valley (now largely obliterated) crossed the PCT about five miles north of the turn to Lost Valley Spring. The actual road to the Boy Scout camp in Lost Valley, built in 1964, is another 2.8 miles beyond.
Lytle Creek, Ridge (d). Named for Captain Andrew Lytle of Mormon Battalion, which came to California during the Mexican War in 1846-47. In 1851 Lytle helped lead a group of Mormon pioneers from Utah to California. They camped at mouth of canyon while looking for a place to settle, finally selecting San Bernardino. Capt. Lytle seems to have lived there until the colonists were recalled to Utah in 1857.
Lytle Creek experienced a brief gold mining boom beginning in 1864, with hundreds of miners flocking to the area that year to pan for gold from the creek bed. Before long, hydraulic mining began, with powerful nozzles used to shoot water at the adjoining hillsides to wash down the gold trapped in the rocks and sand. Mining continued here until around 1890.
Marion Mountain (b). Surveyor Edmund Perkins bestowed a number of names in the San Jacinto Mountains while working on the first topographical map of the area in 1897-98 (see Antsell Rock). Marion (Kelly) was reportedly a teacher at the government Indian school at Morongo at the time, who took a shine to Perkins; but he kept putting her off, saying he was ‘married to his work.’ She did get a little peak named for her, but Perkins also named the adjoining peak after Jean (Waters) – whom he married in 1903.
How do we know all this? Well Perkins later told the story to another surveyor, Donald McLain, and McLain repeated the story to mountain historian John W. Robinson. Oral tradition, to be sure, but a good straight line of it.
Mason Valley, Truck Trail (a) James E. Mason, Jr., and his wife, Jesusa, settled along the creek at the lower end of the valley around 1886. Mason ran cattle in the valley for several years but in the 1890s went to work in the gold mines at Banner. They left the valley around the time of Jesusa Mason’s death in 1911.
The truck trail (as many of these early mountain roads were called) was apparently built around 1935 by men from the “transient labor camp” in Oriflamme Canyon below. This was another government work program from the Depression era, similar to the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Mattox Canyon (d). Still a mystery to me. One possible source could be Judge William A. Mattox (1872-1952) came to the area in 1922 and worked for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power on the Los Angeles Aqueduct (see) from 1930-38. He also served as Justice of the Peace in Mojave, where he lived until his death.
Mint Canyon (d). The name goes back to at least the 1890s but its source is unclear, as mint is not one of Southern California’s native plants. The canyon is best known as one of the early auto routes in and out of Los Angeles. It was paved by the county in 1921 and then turned over to the state. It was also known as the Sierra Highway in the early days, since the road continued north through the Owens Valley and into the Sierra Nevada.
Mission Creek (c). No, there was never a Spanish mission here, but there was a Serrano Indian village near the mouth of the canyon, and Southern California’s native people were generally known as Mission Indians in the second half of the 19th century, whether they’d ever been connected with the missions or not, so perhaps that is the source of the name, which was already in use in 1850s. In 1876 an Indian reservation was set aside on the east side of the San Gorgonio Pass designated simply as “Mission” on government maps, but few Indians ever lived there, and by the 1890s it was abandoned.
Mojave Desert, River (c). For centuries, a tribe known as the Aha macave lived scattered along both sides of the Colorado River in what are now the states of California, Arizona, and Nevada. Their name in fact means ‘[people] along the water.’ To early Spanish explorers this became Jamajab (with a soft, h-like Spanish j). American pioneers later lost that initial “ha” to write it or Mohave or Mojave. In fact, the name has been probably been spelled as many different ways over the years as an Indian place name in the United States, and to this day it is spelled Mojave on the California side of the river, and Mohave on the Arizona side.
In 1844 American explorer John Charles Frémont gave the name to the river that flows out of the San Bernardino Mountains deep into the desert – not because it was part of the Mojave territory, but because those Indians followed the river across the desert to reach the Spanish and later Mexican settlements on the California coast. Not long after the Mojave River gave its name to the desert around it.
Montezuma Valley (a). In the early 1900s the Montezuma Gold Mining & Milling Co. had a gold mine on the edge of the valley, complete with its own processing mill – a major investment which suggests they enjoyed at least some success. The mine seems to have been in operation until around the start of World War I, and by 1917 the name had attached itself to the valley, though the post office here was originally known as Verruga and later Ranchita. In the 1920s the area was known for its marble quarry, which the owners of the Montezuma Mine had previously dismissed as just ordinary limestone.
Like Geronimo and Sequoia, the name of the famed Aztec leader Montezuma entered into popular culture, and appears as a place name throughout the American Southwest.
Monument Peak (a). The highest point (6,272 feet) in the Laguna Mountains, the name may reflect the work of early surveyors, who built stone monuments to mark various key points, or may simply be an attempt to give the peak an imposing name. Early boosters of the Sunrise Highway (see) claimed it was “considered by far the grandest view point in Southern California” (San Diego Union, May 3, 1918). Certainly one can see a wide sweep of country from the top on the clear day.
Moody Canyon (d). Trails magazine liked to spell this name Mody in the 1930s, but never explains just who Mody or Moody was. In the early 1970s the temporary route of the Pacific Crest Trail ran east of the current trail down Moody canyon past “Perspiration Point” a concrete marker honoring the Civilian Conservation Corps workers who built the road through the canyon in the 1930s.
Moonridge (c). Garrett reports the community was named in a contest when the resort was developed, but does not say why or by whom. In any case the name was in use by 1937, and a popular early ski area grew up here. Around 1970 it became known as Goldmine. Since 1988 it has been called Bear Mountain. There is also a Moonridge subdivision nearby, laid out in the 1950s.
Mormon Rocks (d). In 1851 a group of Mormon pioneers was sent out from Utah to found a colony in Southern California. They came over the Cajon Pass and founded the City of San Bernardino, and for a few years there was regular traffic over the pass between San Bernardino and Salt Lake. In 1857, Brigham Young, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints called the colonists back to Utah, but the city survived. This distinctive outcrop in the pass has also been called Mormon Camp Rocks. In the 1960s the Forest Serviced called them the Rock Candy Mountains.
Mount Baden-Powell (d). Lt. General Lord Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell of Gilwell (thankfully shortened to B-P by almost all who knew him) was a British Army officer who won fame in the Boer War in South Africa in 1899-1900 and later founded the worldwide Boy Scout movement in England in 1908. The peak was named in his honor at the urging of local Scout leaders in 1931. It was previously known as North Baldy Mountain (see Throop Peak). Baden-Powell (1857-1941) knew of the honor and was grateful, but one wonders if anyone took the time to point out the peak to him during his only visit to Los Angeles in 1935.
Mount Burnham (d). Major Frederick R. Burnham (1861-1947) served as a scout in the British Army in South Africa in the 1890s where he became friends with Robert Baden-Powell, sharing with him some of the outdoor skills he had learned in the American West. Burnham was something of a soldier of fortune, always out looking for adventure before he finally settled down in Southern California and made his fortune in the oil business. He was strong supporter of Baden-Powell’s Boy Scout movement and an active conservationist. First proposed during his lifetime, Mount Burnham was formally named in 1951.
Mount Gleason (d). Named by Army surveyors in 1875 (it appears as “Gleason’s Peak” on their 1878 map) for George Gleason, a mine superintendent and the first postmaster of Ravenna, an 1860s mining camp in Soledad Canyon. Mining required lumber (for buildings and timbering inside the mines), so in 1869 Gleason had rough, steep road cut up the slopes of the mountain that now bears his name and established a sawmill near the summit. Gold was found on Mount Gleason about that time, but according to John Robinson the mine was most active from 1888 to 1896. In later years there was a fire lookout on the peak, followed by a white-domed U.S. Air Force radar installation. Just below was a Cold War-era Nike missile base, with a full complement of buildings and bunkers. After it was closed in 1974 the facility was used as work crew camp for prison inmates.
Mount Hawkins (d). W.W. Robinson said this peak was named for Nellie Hawkins, a “pretty waitress” at the Squirrel Inn, one of the local resorts in the early 1900s (1946:29). John Robinson adds that “Miss Hawkins charmed and attracted miners, hunters, campers – just about every mountain man for miles around.” (1971:200). The name is on maps by 1920.
Mount Laguna – see Laguna Mountains.
Mount Pacifico (d). Also known as Pacifico Mountain, the name was in use by 1900. Louis Quirarte (1990-91) relates several theories on its naming, none of them too convincing. One story has it named by an early Forest Service ranger “because he felt that the summit was as pleasant as this name would imply.” But old time mountain historian Will Thrall believed it was named by Tiburcio Vasquez, “who used Sheep Springs, on the west side of the mountain, as one of his hideouts.” Others have suggested it was named because on a clear day you can see the Pacific Ocean from the summit. In Spanish pacifico can also mean peaceful, tranquil, or mild.
Mount San Antonio (d). A good example of how names migrate over time, the San Antonio name was first applied to a creek in the valley below by Spanish pioneers as early as 1774. From there it moved naturally to the canyon where the creek flowed, and by the 1840s had worked its way up to peak. The first recorded ascent of the mountain was in 1875. See Old Baldy.
Mount San Gorgonio (c). The tallest of the “Three Saints” – San Gorgonio, San Jacinto, and San Antonio, the only peaks in Southern California topping 10,000 feet. The name comes from the San Gorgonio Pass below (see), but apparently wasn’t applied to the peak until shortly before 1900. For the old timers it had long been known as Old Grayback (see).
Climbing San Gorgonio, circa 1905
“After a delightful ride up the canyons and over the ridges we camped on the shore of the Dollar Lake and early the next morning began the final ascent [of San Gorgonio]. We soon left all trees behind us and had the heavy boulders and split granite masses to climb over…. The altitude told somewhat on our breathing and the snowslides we had to climb added new difficulties. Step by step we forced our way along, now stopping to take breath, now lying down on the sloping snow or rugged rocks to rest. At last the flat summit was clearly outlined before us.
“A few more gasps, a few more struggles and we were on top. I had purposely kept my eyes from looking out before I was fairly on the summit. I wished to see nothing until I could see all. In a moment the great vast scene was given to me. It was mine to enjoy, to wonder over, to study, and to feel its gigantic power. The first impression was that it was not, could not be real. It was so wonderful, so vast, so extensive, so diverse, and everything was so magnified – space, distances, sandy wastes, flat plain, water…. It was monstrous, enlarged beyond conception, terrific in its power…. The billowy yellowish green of the trees, the mixed greens and grays of the foothills, with their verdure and granite boulders, the gray stretch of sand from the [San Gorgonio] pass to Indio, the oasis caused by the flowing wells reaching from Indio for twenty or more miles in the Coachella Valley, the sand-dunes to the left and right of Indio, the Salton Sea which lay like a turquoise mass of the sky prostrate upon the earth, the grays, chocolates, reds, and browns of the mountains on either side, gave a color picture as weird and startling as it was entrancing and bewildering.”
– George Wharton James, Wonders of the Colorado Desert
(Boston: Little, Brown & Co., 1906)
Mount San Jacinto – see San Jacinto Mountains.
Mount Waterman (d). Louis Quirarte (1990-91) reports that the Forest Service “tradition” is that this peak was named by Robert Waterman (later a Forest Service ranger) after he, his wife Elizabeth, and Perry Switzer crossed the San Gabriels in 1889. “Along the way, [Mrs. Waterman] placed a cairn on this summit and it was thus christened Lady Waterman’s Peak.” The Waterman name appears on maps as early as 1892, but without the “Lady” – despite Bob Waterman’s “numerous futile efforts to have the full original name restored.”
One of the first downhill skiing courses in the area opened on the side of (Lady) Waterman in 1939, with an early chairlift added two years later. The ski resort still operates today as the Mt. Waterman Ski Lift, but the peak is officially known as Waterman Mountain.
Mount Williamson (d). Lt. Robert S. Williamson of the U.S. Army led the Pacific Railroad Survey through area in 1853 searching for practical railroad routes to and through the new State of California. The peak overlooks some of the area he surveyed and was named in his honor by a later surveyor, Donald McLain, who compiled a new map of the San Gabriel Mountains in 1920.
Mountain High ski resort – see Blue Ridge.
Murray Canyon (b). Scottish-born “Dr.” Welwood Murray (d. 1914) opened first tourist hotel in what is now Palm Springs in 1886. His name was given to this palm-studded canyon in the 1890s.
Nance Canyon (b). Sometime before 1900 a man named Nance settled here. The canyon was later homesteaded by Eugene Binder. This is the center “talon” of Turkey Track, the three-way split at the top of Coyote Canyon formed by Tule, Nance, and Horse canyons. The Pacific Crest Trail encounters all three.
Neenach School Road (e). This is claimed as either a Kitanemuk Indian word of uncertain meaning, or a borrowed name from Neenah, Wisconsin (note the different spelling), former home of some of the local homesteaders in the 1880s. Neenach once had its own post office (1888-1929) and school district; the school closed in 1948 and was torn down in the 1980s but the little community survives.
Oak Creek Canyon (e). This was the original Tehachapi Pass – the usual route into the Tehachapi Mountains in the 1850s and ‘60s. The name dates back to at least 1878 when an Oak Creek Station is shown near the mouth of the canyon. The canyon was surveyed as a possible railroad route in 1853, but the railroad was eventually built six miles to the north over today’s Tehachapi Pass (see).
Oasis Spring (a). “A rather poetic name,” says Fetzer (2005:104). Chris Way notes that the spring was improved by the CCC in the 1930s and provided water for the tourist camps in the Lagunas.
Old Baldy (d). “American miners of the 19th century excelled in vulgarizing place names,” John Robinson complains (1991:267). In this case, 1860s miners nicknamed Mount San Antonio (see) as Old Baldy, for its barren, rocky summit. W.O Goodyear, who worked in the mountains for the State Geological Survey under Josiah Whitney in the 1870s, complained the nickname was “ridiculous and, if I may so express myself, it is hardly decent, however naked the towering peak may be.” (Los Angeles Times, June 5, 1887). Yet it persists to the present day.
Old Grayback (c). Again, a nickname – in this case, for Mount San Gorgonio with its largely treeless, gray-granite summit. The name was in use by the early 1870s, and while usually spelled g-r-a-y also sometimes appears as g-r-e-y. Gray is the more American spelling, with grey preferred in England.
One Horse Ridge (b). Named for One Horse Spring and One Horse Creek, which flows down toward Cabazon on the desert below. The spring was probably named first as the most important feature in this dry desert country.
As early as 1862 a travel guide speaks of “Indian Run” or “One-Horse Spring” in area. “The water of Indian Run, one mile south of the road, is always pure and cold, coming down from the snowy heights of San Jacinto mountain immediately over it.” (San Francisco Evening Bulletin, July 19, 1862). On or near the point was a place the Cahuilla Indians called E-va-we, meaning where the wind blows all the time (and it does). The ridge is a rather modern name; it appears in print by the late 1950s.
Onyx Summit (c). The old Onyx Mine (perhaps seeking onyx marble) gave its name to both Onyx Peak, on the desert-facing slopes of the San Bernardinos, and Onyx Summit, the high point on the road from Barton Flats around Sugarloaf Mountain to the Big Bear area. The road opened in 1961 and the summit was probably named about that time.
The current PCT guide lists the actual summit as 8,750 feet. AAA maps show the highway topping out at 8,451 feet, but the Caltrans sign along the road says 8,443 feet. In any case, it is the highest paved pass in Southern California.
Oriflamme Canyon (a). An important route of travel on and off the desert, the first rough road down the canyon was used to haul hay down from the Cuyamaca Mountains to Vallecito during the days of the Butterfield stage. In the 1870s gold was discovered here and the Oriflamme Mine was worked off and on until 1905. The Oriflamme was the name of one of the pioneer steamships that provided passenger and freight service up and down the Pacific coast in the late 19th century, and the mine probably took its name from the steamer.
Palm View Peak (b). A moderately old name, it was already in use by the mid-1930s. Several later writers have complained that there are no palm trees visible from the peak (which is rather brushy to see much of anything from), but in fact it was named because it overlooks Palm Canyon to the east, where the nation’s largest stand of native fan palms is located. The peak was added to the Sierra Club’s Hundred Peaks list in 1962.
Palms-to-Pines Highway – see Pines-to-Palms Highway.
Palomar Mountain (a). Spanish for pigeon roost, Palomar was named by Mexican settlers in the 1840s. But American pioneers later dubbed it Smith Mountain, after Joseph Smith, a prominent San Diego County resident who was murdered at his ranch on the mountain in 1868. In 1901 the U.S. Board of Geographic Names made Palomar official, but it took some years for the change to catch on.
Paradise Valley (b). This place name dates back to the early 1920s at least, while the little restaurant where Highway 371 meets the Pines-to-Palms Highway (known to the old timers as Anza Junction) dates from the 1930s. Over the years it has been known as the Wag-On-In, the Backwoods Inn, the Paradise Corner Cafe, and (today) the Paradise Valley Cafe.
Penrod Canyon (b). William A. Penrod located the Golden Belle gold mine here in 1896. He built a cabin and lived here with his wife, Rebecca, for more than 15 years, though the canyon did not acquire their name until around 1910. The 1901 topographical map of the area seems to show it as Pipe Creek. Gunther (1984:396) suggests that name may come from a pipeline that carried water from the creek down to Kenworthy, a failed 1890s mining camp below.
Pine Canyon (e). There is a mix of pine species here, with pinyon pine seeming to predominate. There was a Pine Canyon School District here in the 1940s; the schoolhouse was apparently located at Three Points (see). Older maps show the stretch of Pine Canyon Road where the PCT crosses as Oakdale Road.
Pines-to-Palms Highway (b). State Highway 74 crosses the San Jacinto Mountains between Hemet and Palm Desert. Talk of a road began before 1920, and several alternate routes were proposed – including one across the Desert Divide near Apache Peak and down into Palm Canyon. Construction began in 1929, using county prison camp labor. The Federal government completed the road, which opened in 1932 and was paved in 1937, when it became a state highway.
The Pines-to-Palms name actually pre-dates the highway, dating back to around 1905. It describes the climb from the mountains to the desert below (in fact, at at least one oasis, palm trees and pinyon pine trees grow side by side). The name is often reversed as Palms-to-Pines, but Pines-to-Palms is the official name. (It all does rather depend on where you stand.)
Pinyon Flats (d). These smallish pine trees are found throughout inland Southern California, giving us a variety of pinyon place names, including this one, which appears on maps as early as 1902. The pinyon pine is adaptable to rather rocky and dry areas, and pinyon nuts were an important food source for the local Indians, though the crop was not as dependable as acorns.
Pioneer Mail Picnic Area (a). When this recreational area was named in the 1930s it was thought that Cottonwood Canyon was route of James Birch’s “Jackass Mail” as it climbed up out of the desert, but later research shows the mail riders actually came up Oriflamme Canyon, crossing the ridge further north. Still, Cottonwood was certainly a route of travel for both Indians and cattlemen in the early days.
The “Jackass Mail” was the first transcontinental mail service, operating on a government contract from 1857 to 1861. It was officially known as the San Antonio and San Diego Mail Line, but some San Franciscans were insulted that the line did not end in their city, and one of the local newspapers insultingly dubbed it the “Jackass Mail,” and the name stuck. Besides mail, the line also carried freight and passengers. Stage coaches were used up to the crossing of the Colorado River at Yuma, then mail, freight, and passengers were transferred to the back of mules for the trip across the desert and on to San Diego – hence the name. In 1858 the famed Butterfield stages took over much of the service, but the mail contract official continued until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861.
Pleasant View Ridge Wilderness Area (d). Though a rather chamber-of-commerce-y sort of name, Pleasant View Ridge appears on maps in the early 1900s, long before there was much tourism in the high country of the San Gabriels. The 26,700-acre wilderness area here was set aside by an Act of Congress in 2009.
Poligue Canyon (c). Also appears on maps as Polique Canyon, which seems to be correct. The name was in use by the 1940s, but not much before. Garrett could not find a source for it.
Quail Springs Meadow (a). Several varieties of quail are common throughout California; in fact, the Valley Quail is our state bird.
Ranchita (a). The old name Verruga (see Cañada Verruga) was replaced by Ranchita when a new post office opened here under that name in 1935. Properly the word should have been Ranchito (little ranch), but early American settlers had a tendency to turn the terminal “o” of many Spanish names into an “a” instead.
Rancho del Campo (a). A San Diego County Probation Department youth camp, the Rancho del Campo was established in the 1950s on a portion of the old Camp Lockett, an Army cavalry base here along the border. Camp Lockett was active during World War I and World War II, when it served as the home base of the famed African-American “Buffalo Soldiers.” Near the end of World War II it was converted into a Prisoner of War camp for German and Italian POWs. Some of the buildings at the Rancho del Campo date back to the 1940s, and Camp Lockett is now a State Historic Landmark. The Probation Department announced plans to close Rancho del Campo in 2009, but it was still in operation in 2014.
Red Tahquitz (b). The reddish slopes of this peak gave it its name, which appears on maps by 1957. (See Tahquitz Rock.) The peak was added to the Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club’s Hundred Peaks list in 1959.
Riverside County (b, c). The City of Riverside was founded in 1870 beside the Santa Ana River. Like many Southern California communities it began as a “colony” of Midwestern settlers who pooled their resources to purchase the land. After several attempts the county was formed in 1893 out of portions of San Diego and San Bernardino counties.
Rodriguez Canyon (a). Mentioned as early as 1918, the canyon was perhaps named after cattleman José Rodriguez, who was living in the San Felipe area by 1904 and seems to have had a camp here. Chris Way reports Rodriguez Canyon was sometimes used to avoid the rocky Box Canyon pass in the early days.
Saddle Junction (b). This five-way junction has been well-known to hikers on Mount San Jacinto for decades, but the name does not seem to be particularly old. 1950s Sierra Club trip reports speak of climbing Devil’s Slide to “the saddle,” and the name seems to have grown naturally from there by the 1960s.
San Andreas Fault (d-e). The largest earthquake fault in California was named after a valley in San Mateo County but actually stretches some 650 miles from Point Arena on the Mendocino County coast, to the Salton Sea, in the deserts of Imperial County. It has been responsible for some of California’s most devastating earthquakes, including the Fort Tejon quake of 1857 and the San Francisco quake of 1906.
San Bernardino County (c). In 1819 Mission San Gabriel established an outpost along the Santa Ana River they named San Gabriel. From there the name spread to the valley and then to the mountains above. The City of San Bernardino began as a Mormon colony in 1851. The county was formed in 1853, and is the largest county (in area) in the United States, larger than nine states, including Maryland, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.
San Bernardino Mountains (c). By the 1830s the San Bernardino name had climbed from the San Bernardino Valley up into the mountains. See Mount San Gorgonio and Big Bear Lake.
San Bernardino National Forest (c). Established in 1893 as the San Bernardino Forest Reserve (renamed a National Forest in 1907), and combined the next year with the San Gabriel National Forest as part of the Angeles National Forest. The San Gabriels and the San Bernardinos were separated in 1925, but the San Jacinto Mountains are still a part of the San Bernardino National Forest.
San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railroad (a). The City of San Diego struggled for years to acquire a direct railroad connection to the east. The first line (north through Temecula) washed out in 1891. The coastal line, completed in 1888, ran deep into Orange County before turning east. Finally in 1907 construction began on the San Diego & Arizona Railroad, which would head over the mountains and across the Imperial Valley to meet up with the Southern Pacific’s transcontinental line. Dubbed “the impossible line,” it took more than a decade to build; a portion of it dips south into Mexico, and the stretch through the rugged Carrizo Gorge is an almost endless succession of trestles and tunnels. Train service to Campo began in 1916, and the SD & A’s gold spike was driven in 1919 (its detractors said the acronym stood for Slow, Dirty & Aggravating). In 1933 the Southern Pacific acquired the line and added “Eastern” to its name. Passenger service ended in the 1950s, but freight service continued for many years after. Plagued by flash floods, landslides, fires, and even hurricanes in its later years, the last full run of the SD & AE was in 1983, though portions of the old line are still in use.
San Diego County (a). San Diego Bay was named by a Spanish explorer in 1602 in honor of Saint Didacus of Alcalá. It became the name of the first Spanish mission in California, founded by Father Junípero Serra in 1769. A Spanish presidio (fort) was established here as well, and by the 1820s a little community had grown up below it (today’s Old Town San Diego). San Diego County was created in 1850 as one of California’s first 27 counties. It originally went all the way across the desert to the Colorado River, taking in what is now Imperial County and part of today’s Riverside County as well.
San Felipe Hills, Creek, Valley (a). The San Felipe (St. Philip) name was first given to this area by the Spanish padres in the early 1800s and appears in mission records as early as 1818. There were at least two major Kumeyaay villages at the upper and lower ends of the valley. In 1846 the Rancho Vallé de San José was granted by the Mexican government to Felipe Castillo, who had already been grazing cattle there. It was the easternmost rancho in California, and was intended in part as an outpost to keep an eye on travelers crossing the desert. The famed Butterfield overland stagecoaches passed through the valley on their way between Vallecito and Warners Ranch from 1858-61, and established a station near the lower end of the valley, not far from where the PCT now crosses State Highway 78.
San Francisquito Canyon (e). Mission San Fernando had an outpost along the Santa Clara River in the early 1800s by this name. In 1839 Antonio del Valle received a 48,000-acre Mexican land grant to the general area, known as Rancho San Francisco. In 1875 most of the rancho was purchased by Henry Newhall. San Francisquito Canyon gets its name from one or both of these ranchos. It was an important route of travel in the 19th century and was used by both the Butterfield stages in the 1850s and the stage line to the Panamint silver mines on the west side of Death Valley in the 1870s, as well as many other travelers.
San Gabriel Mountains (d). The mountains, and the valley below, take their name from the Mission San Gabriel, the fourth California mission, founded in 1771. The name had been attached to the mountains by 1806, but for many years Mexicans and Americans alike called them the Sierra Madre (the Mother Range). In Spanish and Mexican times, the term Sierra Madre was used more generally for all of Southern California’s mountain ranges. In later years, American settlers used the name just for the San Gabriels. But in 1927 the federal Board of Geographic Names ruled that San Gabriel Mountains was the proper name. Still, the Sierra Madre name persisted with the old timers for many years to come, and a city of that name can still be found at the foot of the mountains.
In 2014 the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument was established after more than decade of advocacy by community and wilderness organizations. At 346,000 acres, it takes in much of the Angeles National Forest.
San Gorgonio Pass (c). The Mission San Gabriel established an outpost in the pass called the Rancho San Gorgonio as early as 1823. The name had been extended to the pass by the 1840s. This is the easiest mountain pass leading in to coastal Southern California (at 1,188 feet, it is also the lowest point on Pacific Crest Trail in California), but a lack of water on the desert through the Salton Sea region and on down to Yuma meant it saw little use in the early days. It was not until the Southern Pacific railroad completed their line through the area in 1877 that it became a regular route of travel. Later a highway was added, and finally today’s I-15 freeway. (Despite endless traffic reports to the contrary, there has never been any place called the Banning Pass.)
San Jacinto Mountains (b). Mission San Luis Rey established an outpost in the broad valley at the western edge of the mountains as early as 1821. It was primarily a cattle ranch, which the padres named in honor of San Jacinto – St. Hyacinth in English, which gives a good clue for how the name should properly be pronounced. In 1842 the valley was granted by the Mexican government to José Antonio Estudillo as the Rancho San Jacinto Viejo (Old San Jacinto). By the 1850s (if not before) the name had been attached to the mountain as well, though it was also sometimes called San Gorgonio in the early days (as it, too, overlooks pass). According to John Robinson, the first recorded ascent of the peak was in 1874.
Somewhat confusingly, the San Jacinto Mountains are now a part of the San Bernardino National Forest. A separate San Jacinto Forest Reserve was established in 1897 and was enlarged with addition of Mount Palomar and the mountains to the south in 1907 and the Santa Ana Mountains (the former Trabuco Reserve) in 1908 to become the Cleveland National Forest. But in 1925 the Cleveland was divided and ever since then San Jacinto has been part of the San Bernardino National forest.
San Jacinto State Park (b). The San Jacintos had previously been proposed as both a national monument and a national park, but in the end only a portion of the high country became Mt. San Jacinto State Park. The park was established in 1933 and dedicated four years later. The National Forest gave the area additional protection by establishing a primitive area around the state park, but this still could not keep out the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which opened in 1963. Three months later, the park was renamed the Mt. San Jacinto Wilderness State Park and environmentalists were at least able to keep out a proposed ski resort at the top of the tram.
San Ysidro Creek (a). The Indian village along the creek was known as Wilakal (buckwheat) and was home to a mix of Cupeño and Cahuilla families. Its Spanish name (perhaps given by the missionaries) was well known by the 1860s.
In the 1870s and ‘80s, the San Ysidro was threatened by the arrival of several white homesteaders, who laid claim to the best of its land and water. Indian Rights advocate Helen Hunt Jackson visited the village in 1883 and found the people “gaunt with hunger and full of despair,” living in “continual terror.” Initially the homesteads were allowed. “[T]he location of an Indian family or families on land upon which a white man desires to settle is, in law, no more a bar to such settlement than would be presence of a stray sheep or cow,” one government land official had told an Indian Agent in 1873. But with Jackson’s help the homesteads were eventually overturned, and in 1889 San Ysidro became part of the new Los Coyotes Indian Reservation.
Sand to Snow National Monument (c). One of America’s newest national monuments, established in 2016, it rises from the sands of the San Gorgonio Pass to the snows of the San Bernardino Mountains. Some 30 miles of the PCT pass through the 154,000-acre monument which includes National Forest and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands.
Santa Clara River, Divide (d). The Santa Clara River, a major drainage from the San Gabriels to the sea, is one of a number of names that survive from the first Spanish overland expedition through California in 1769, led by Captain Gaspar de Portolá. The men camped along the river on their way north and the spot was named by one of the expedition’s priests, Father Juan Crespí, in honor of St. Clare of Assisi. The Divide, generally speaking, marks the boundary between the coastal- and desert-facing slopes of the north end of the San Gabriel Mountains; the name was in use by 1925.
Santa Rosa Mountains, Indian Reservation (b). Actually an extension of the San Jacinto Mountains, with no natural break between them; most people today would consider the Pines-to-Palms Highway (see) as the dividing line. There was a Cahuilla Indian village at the northern end of the range known as Sewiat. Perhaps as early as 1878 traveling Catholic priests established a chapel here they dedicated in honor of St. Rose, and the Santa Rosa name eventually became attached to the village and the mountains, first appearing on topographical maps in 1904. The high point is Toro Peak, named for the Toro (Torres) Indian village far below in the Coachella Valley, so the mountain range was also sometimes called the Toro or Bull Mountains in the late 19th century.
The Santa Rosa Indian Reservation was established in 1907. Like many of the nearby desert reservations, it is laid out in a checkerboard pattern of alternating sections of 640 acres each. This is because the government had previously granted the odd-numbered sections to the Southern Pacific railroad as part of a government subsidy when they built their line through the Coachella Valley in the 1870s, with the even-numbered sections left as public land. This checkerboard pattern kept the railroad from having a complete monopoly on local land sales. It has also created endless hassles for the reservations in trying to protect their many scattered parcels. In fact, as a look at a topo map will show, even the Pacific Crest Trail had to angle across, trying to hit the section corners and avoid reservation lands as much as possible.
Santa Rosa & San Jacinto Mountains National Monument (b). In 1990 the Secretary of the Interior designated the Santa Rosa Mountains a National Scenic Area. Then in 2000, Congress authorized a 272,000-acre National Monument here which not only covers the Santa Rosa Mountains, but overlays much of the San Jacinto portion of the San Bernardino National Forest. The Pacific Crest Trail runs along the western boundary of the monument along the Desert Divide, and cuts through the northern tip of it on its way down into the San Gorgonio Pass.
Saugus (d). A Southern Pacific railroad station, named in 1878 after Saugus, Massachusetts, the birthplace of Henry Newhall, the owner of the Rancho San Francisco (see San Francisquito Canyon). A Saugus Post Office was established in 1915 but was renamed Santa Clarita in 1989.
Sawmill Mountain (e). As the name suggests, loggers once worked the northern side of the mountain pretty thoroughly. In 1929 a Forest Service fire lookout was established on the peak.
Sawtooth Mountains Wilderness (a). A descriptive name for the ragged ridges that tumble down from the Lagunas to the desert, the Sawtooth Range is shown on topographical maps by 1942 and was later designated a wilderness area by the Bureau of Land Management.
Scissors Crossing (a). This name for the mis-matched junction of County Road S-2 and State Highway 78 seems to have originated with the Imperial Highway Association, which first proposed a modern highway along the old Butterfield stage route in 1929. A look at a map will show the jog in S-2 as it crosses highway 78 that suggested the name. In the same way, the PCT now crosses two different stretches of the county road without ever changing direction.
Sentenac Cienega (a). French-born brothers Paul and Pierre Sentenac settled at the head of the cienega (marsh) in the 1880s and filed adjoining homesteads. Paul was a prospector, while Pierre (also known as Pete) raised goats and later cattle. Both were rather reclusive. Pierre died in 1905, about the time the name Sentenac Cienega first appears. After a few more years, Paul moved up to the Julian area where he died in 1927. The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park acquired much of cienega area in 1998-99. The ruins of Pierre’s rock-walled cabin can still be seen on a little ridge above the cienega at the head of what is now known as Sentenac Canyon.
Serrano Campground (c). The Serrano Indians (as their Spanish name suggests) were mountain people, once occupants of the San Bernardino Mountains and some of the valley and desert lands below. Like other Southern California tribal groups, they relied on hunting and gathering, subsisting on rabbits, deer, berries, pinyon nuts, and especially acorns. They lived in autonomous villages, connected by language, ceremonial rituals, and inter-marriage.
Shake Canyon (e). Located on the north side of Sawmill Mountain, the name likely refers to wood shingles, or shakes. The name was in use by at least 1937 and the Forest Service maintained two campgrounds in the area for many years.
Sharpless Ranch (d). The Sharpless Ranch is mentioned as early as 1908 in the Cajon Pass area when it was being used as a “bee ranch.” Many of the early mountain settlers in Southern California raised bees for honey. It was generally a dependable cash crop.
Sheep Creek, Mountain (d). The Sheep Mountain Wilderness, in the headwaters of the San Gabriel River, was first proposed in the 1930s, but it took a push by the Sierra Club beginning in the 1970s to finally see it established in 1984. The area was named for the Bighorn sheep that once roamed these hills and the wilderness area includes the ruins of the historic Big Horn Mine.
Shelter Valley (a). This valley is actually known as Earthquake Valley, but the little community here was dubbed Shelter Valley when it was subdivided in 1962. Diana Lindsay credits one of the developers, Jack Napierskie, with the name because, he later recalled, it was sheltered by mountains all around. Presumably it was seen as a more attractive name when sales began.
Sierra Pelona (e). Meaning Bald Ridge or Mountain in Spanish, the name is a fair description of this largely treeless mountain, and was in use by the 1870s. At one time there was a fire lookout on ridge.
Silver Moccasin Trail (d). A hiking award, created in 1942 by the Los Angeles Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, gave its name to this trail. It is a 53-mile trek from Chantry Flat to Vincent Gap, crossing Mt. Baden-Powell (of course). The trail is now federally recognized as a national recreation trail.
Silverwood Lake (c). The community of Cedar Springs (see) formerly occupied this valley on west fork of the Mojave River. In the 1960s the area was acquired by state for a storage reservoir on the new California Aqueduct (see). Completed in 1971, the man-made lake was named in honor of W.E. “Ted” Silverwood of Redlands, “a water and soil conservation leader.” But the dam is still known as the Cedar Springs Dam. In 1973 the Silverwood State Recreation Area opened to provide public access to the lake. The PCT here winds around much of the lake.
Skunk Cabbage Meadow (b). This name appears in print as early as the 1930s. Idyllwild botanist Dorothy Bryant noted: “A high altitude plant growing in marshy ground is False Hellebore or Corn Lily. Beware! Early hikers found it in profusion at the saddle atop Devil’s Slide Trail. Mistaking it for eastern Skunk Cabbage, which is edible, they soon found that it was toxic. I believe there were some deaths.” (Becker and Birmingham, 20) The Cahuilla Indians apparently called this area Chis-hill-mo, meaning something like ‘Table Top of the Pine Trees’ (Bean, 44).
Snow Creek (b). The name dates back to the 1880s. This steep, rocky canyon is on the shady, north-facing slope of Mt. San Jacinto, so the snow pack here lingers long into the spring. The first recorded ascent was in 1931 (though a lost Boy Scout had found his way down the canyon a year before).
In 1958 John Robinson and six other Sierra Club members made the first traverse (so far as they knew) all the way up the canyon to San Jacinto peak and back down to Idyllwild in single day. “From about 3,500 to 6,000 feet the gorge is punctuated with numerous granite waterfalls,” Robinson later wrote, “ranging in height from ten to forty feet. On both sides of the narrow canyon are either abrupt granite walls or steep dirt and rocky slopes, thick with manzanita and buckthorn bush, discouraging circumvention…. No part of the climb is highly technical; it is the rugged terrain, distance and elevation gain that provide the challenge.” (Robinson,1961) Other hardy souls have also skied down the canyon in more recent years!
Snow Creek Village (b). Though a few folks had lived near the mouth of Snow Creek Canyon years before, the little community here only dates back to about 1953. By 1975 there were 36 homes here, both permanent residences and vacation homes.
Soledad Canyon (d). A nearby Indian village was known as La Soledad to the Spanish Padres – perhaps a shortening of Nuestra Señora de la Soledad (Our Lady of Solitude), as Catholics sometimes speak of the Virgin Mary (Gudde:368-69). The Pacific Railroad Survey called the canyon New Pass, or Williamson Pass, after the name of the head of the survey in the early 1850s (see Mount Williamson), but by 1859 it was on maps as La Soledad Pass. A mining boom in 1861-62 (copper, then gold) first drew attention to the area, and hardrock mining continued off and on along the canyon until the 1950s. In 1876 the Southern Pacific railroad built their new line to Los Angeles through the canyon. In 1938, a new road through canyon made it more popular for automobile travel.
Soledad Canyon was also the site of the “golden spike” ceremony held in June 1993 to mark the completion of Pacific Crest Trail. The last stretch is actually in the mountains above, winding its way along the east side of the Tejon Ranch, but the canyon site was more accessible to motorized guests at the ceremony.
South Peak (b). This should actually be Southwell Peak, but government regulations got in the way. For many years (1946-67) Jess Southwell served as fire lookout on Tahquitz Peak. John Robinson remembers him as “a personable man who took his job seriously.” One of his creations was the Squirrel Club, whose members pledged to “crack the nut” of fire prevention in the forest. In the 1950s some of his friends petitioned to name this peak along the Desert Divide in his honor, but soon learned that the U.S. Board of Geographic Names would not honor any living person. So the peak was named simply South Peak instead, with the understanding it could be expanded at a later date, but long after Southwell’s death, this has never been done.
Spitler Peak (b). George Spitler established a ranch at head of Fobes Creek in the 1880s, but local cattleman Charlie Thomas claimed the land and ran him off. Ray Fobes bought the place in 1918, but the Spitler name survived and by the 1950s had been attached to the peak.
Squaw Canyon (d). The Algonquin word for woman was once common in place Western place names, but is now considered offensive. This canyon – “as the story goes” – is where Indian women once camped while the men hunted at Buckhorn. (Robinson, 1991:213)
Stephenson Peak (a). J.B. “Burt” Stephenson was a longtime forest ranger in Southern California, and was in charge of the local Descanso District of the Cleveland National Forest from 1921-38. This peak (formerly known simply as Laguna Peak) was renamed in his honor at the request of the Forest Service soon after his death in 1944. He was “An almost legendary figure of Southern California’s back country, he fought fires, blazed trails, planted trees, directed and educated travelers in the tree and brush country, operated lookouts, directed searching parties for lost persons, sent rescue parties to snowbound mountaineers, and in numerous other ways performed the duties of a forest ranger.” His ashes where spread by airplane across the Cleveland National Forest (Orange Daily News, June 27, 1944).
The Air Force maintained a radar facility on this peak for many years. It was later taken over by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
Stonewall Peak (a). The Stonewall Mine (originally the Stonewall Jackson Mine, honoring the Confederate general) was discovered in 1870, during the early days of Julian gold rush. It became the biggest gold mine in San Diego County and is the deepest in Julian/Cuyamaca area. It was purchased by Robert Waterman (Governor of California, 1887-91) in 1886, who made a big investment in developing the mine and its 20-stamp processing mill. But he died in 1891 and the mine was sold. It closed 1893, never to reopen, though in 1898-99 the mill was started up to re-work the tailings.
Storm Canyon (a). This was a natural route of travel from the Laguna Mountains to the desert, used by both Indians and cattlemen in the 19th century. The current name was in use by 1929. It has been suggested that it was named because of the way storms blow down off the mountain in the valley. Certainly the change in weather in just those few miles can be dramatic.
Strawberry Cienega, Valley (b). Strawberries still grow wild in the Southern California mountains and are a sweet treat (if you can beat the critters to them). Strawberry Valley on Mount San Jacinto has been known by this name since the 1860s. The first settlers arrived here by the beginning of 1870s, and there was much logging in area during the last three decades of 19th century. Today Strawberry Valley is home to the community of Idyllwild.
The cienega above was named when the first trail was built through the area in the 1950s. The Idyllwild Town Crier for September 2, 1955 reported:
“State Park Ranger Frank Davies announced this week that work will begin soon on a piece of State Riding and Hiking Trail between Deer Springs and Wellman’s Cienega. The project is expected to cost about $10,000.
“Following a survey last week by State Park and U.S. Forest Service officials, an agreement was drawn up whereby nearly three miles of new trail will be built by Forest Service crews this fall and next spring.
“The new trail has been tentatively named ‘Strawberry Cienega’ since it cuts across a marshy spot at the upper end of Strawberry Valley at an elevation of about 8500 feet. It is probably that a small campsite for hikers and horsemen will be developed at the cienega....
“Construction of the new route is expected to be slow and expensive. Considerable blasting is needed to cut the trail through outcroppings of granite.
“The State Riding and Hiking Trail will offer recreationists some of the best scenery in the backcountry, and will provide another connection between the Devil[’s] Slide and Deer Springs trails.”
Construction took longer than planned, and the trail officially opened in 1958.
Stubbe Canyon, Creek (c). Not Stubbe, or Stubby, but Steubbe – Henry C. Steubbe, “the epitome of an ‘old desert rat’,” who came to the San Gorgonio Pass area as a child in the early 1870s and “ranged over the desert regions for many years.” (Gunther, 513-15). In 1886, he and his step-father, C.F. Jost, filed a water claim in the canyon here on what was then known as Lost Creek.
Sugarloaf (c). A common descriptive name in the old days when general stores sold compacted sugar in cone-shaped chunks. The name was then easily transferred to hills of a similar conical, symmetrical shape. At 9,952 feet, this Sugarloaf is the tallest peak in the Big Bear area. In appears on maps as early as 1901. A resort community of the same name was laid out nearby in the 1920s, and had its own post office from 1947-64.
Sulfur Spring, Campground (d). There are a number of different types of mineral springs in Southern California, some of which give off a rather noticeable odor. The name was in use here by the 1930s. It is now properly spelled sulphur, but the older spelling is preserved in a number of place names. There has been a campground here since at least the 1940s, once accessible by paved road (but now gated).
Summit Valley (c). Is located near the summit of Cajon Pass and was seemingly named when the railroad passed through the valley in the 1880s. They had a Summit station here and there was a Summit Post Office off and on from 1898 to 1973.
Sunrise Highway (a). The first automobile road along the crest of the Lagunas was roughed out in 1918, and improved in the 1930s. Today it is designated County Road S-1 or the Sunrise Highway, because it looks east across desert much of the way. Just north of the Pioneer Mail Picnic Area the Pacific Crest Trail jogs around the point on an early, abandoned stretch of the Sunrise Highway.
Swarthout Canyon, Valley (d). In the 1850s, brothers Nathan and Truman Swarthout moved up from San Bernardino and settled in Lone Pine Canyon. Before long, they moved over the divide to the canyon that now bears their name. The brothers were part of the early Mormon colony at San Bernardino, and left in 1857 when Brigham Young called the Saints back to Utah. But one Swarthout son remained running cattle here until his death in 1872. Even people lived in the valley by 1926 to get their own post office, but it was misspelled Swartout. The post office closed in 1942 and mail service shifted to Wrightwood.
Table Mountain (b). Presumably named for its flat-topped shape, the name appears on maps as early as 1901.
Tahquitz Peak, Rock, Valley (b). Tahquitz (Tau-quits) was a legendary Cahuilla/Luiseño demon, said to live in the San Jacinto Mountains from which he sometimes descended to carry away young maidens. Other times he could be seen as a meteor, streaking across the night sky. Strange rumblings on the mountain were also ascribed to Tahquitz. (As with many Indian names, the spelling has varied over the years.) The peak was perhaps named first, and the valley and the rock had already taken on the name by the 1890s. By 1870, if not before, Charlie Thomas was driving cattle up to Tahquitz Valley, and other stockmen followed, using the old Devil’s Slide Trail (see). The San Jacintos never enjoyed the “Great Hiking Era” that made the San Gabriels so popular, but in the summer of 1908 Joanna Walter had a tent camp resort on Tahquitz Meadow, offering accommodations and meals to adventurous tourists (Robinson and Risher, 1993:200).
Tahquitz Rock has had a little trouble holding on to its name over the years, with many still preferring Lily Rock (see). Gunther (1984:291) says the Lily name was first applied by government surveyors in 1897-98, “perhaps because of its lily-white appearance.” But Edmund Perkins, who headed the survey, did have a penchant for naming things after women (see Marion Mountain). In any case, the Tahquitz name is older. By any name, the rock has been popular with climbers since the 1930s.
Tehachapi Pass (e). A Kawaiisu Indian word said to mean something like “hard climbing” (Gudde, 2004:387), “oak covered valley with springs,” “place of many acorns and good water,” “windy place,” (certainly true), or “eagle’s nest.” (Robinson, 2005:393). The spelling has varied over the years. The Pacific Railroad survey used “Tah-ee-chay-pah” in 1853. The current spelling was in use by the 1860s, but the first post office in the area (1869) was Tehichipa. In the 1870s the Southern Pacific railroad adopted the name (and its current spelling) but moved it to the current Tehachapi Pass. The original Tehachapi Pass is what is now Oak Creek Pass. The City of Tehachapi was founded in 1876, but soon moved east to new railroad. It was incorporated 1910.
The steep grade over the mountains here was a challenge to early railroad engineers (who generally wanted no more than a 2% grade). They solved it designing a giant loop, about a mile across, where the tracks double back and cross over themselves in their slow climb up the mountain. The Tehachapi Loop is now a state historic landmark.
Crossing the Tehachapi, circa 1876
“The ride [by stagecoach] over these Tehachapi Pass Mountains is one of singular and imposing grandeur. A mile off, across the immense cañon, the Chinamen could be seen pouring in and out of the railroad tunnels, they looked microscopic and the openings of the tunnels like squirrel holes.
“Occasionally, a puff of white smoke would be seen on the sides of the mountain, and then another, and another, followed by the cannon-like report of these powder blasts, until fifty or perhaps a hundred of them were exploded, making quite a display of mimic war.
“Winding around gorges and cañons, every now and then we would cross the line of [the] railway, and here would be found a little city of Chinamen’s tents.
“These mountains are partially covered with live oak. Near the Tehachapi Pass summit, we reached a valley, some five miles long and perhaps a couple of miles wide, in the center of which is the village of Tehachapi, consisting of the stable of the Telegraph Line Stage Company, a board grocery, a sort of shanty hotel and a few other wooden houses without paint….
“A ride of about seven miles brought us up to the summit of the Pass and a scene never to be forgotten. To the north and west, in all their solemn and awful grandeur, lay the Sierra Nevada and Coast Range Mountains, each one in itself a high mountain; and over-all, the sun gleamed its beauty. The lights and shadows of that matchless spectacle will dwell in the halls of memory throughout life. Looking to the east, the eye swept the vast Mojave Desert, with its dismal, oppressive and perpetual sterility. To the south and directly in front of us lay the San Bernardino range, dominated by Mount San Bernardino, which is 11,600 feet high, covered on its grand, broad summit with perpetual snow and ice. This range lies south, 75 miles from the pass, across the arm of the desert which pushes itself westward towards the ocean. To the southwest – and over which our road lay to Los Angeles – the San Francisco and San Fernando Mountains are interposed.”
– D.L. Phillips, Letters from California
(Springfield: Illinois State Journal, 1877)
Tejon Ranch (e). Spanish explorers named a local canyon Tejon after finding a dead badger there in 1806. In 1843 a Mexican rancho by the same name was granted to José Antonio Aguirre and Ygnacio del Valle. With two owners, the pair were able to double the size of their rancho (normally limited to 11 square leagues) to over 97,000 acres. In 1865 the Rancho Tejon was acquired by General Edward F. Beale (1822-1893), a Mexican War veteran who as State Superintendent of Indian Affairs had established the first Indian reservations in California in 1853 – including a short-lived reservation on the Tejon. Beale combined the Tejon with the ranchos Los Alamos y Agua Caliente, Castaic, and Liebre (see Liebre Mountain) to form the Tejon Ranch, totaling over 300,000 acres spread out more than 40 miles north to south and 30 miles east to west. Beale and his descendants owned the ranch until 1912, running cattle and sheep, and it remains largely intact to this day.
Covering so much of the Tehachapi Mountains, the Tejon Ranch has always presented a challenge to the Pacific Crest Trail. The 1973 PCT guide notes more than once that armed guards (that is, ranch security men) were there to keep you off the Tejon, forcing the trail down onto the Mojave Desert, to the distress of thousands of hikers. But plans are still inching forward to eventually relocate the trail to a 38-mile stretch across the ranch, and negotiations are underway with the Tejon Ranch Conservancy to secure and easement. But even then it will be years before all the government permits can be secured and the trail constructed. Some of us hope to live that long (and hope not to be too old to still be backpacking then).
Terwilliger Valley (b). Jacob Terwilliger homesteaded here southeast of Anza in the 1890s and got his patent to 160 acres in 1900. He also served as local Justice of the Peace, and his descendants still live in the area to this day.
Thomas Mountain (b). Charlie Thomas began running cattle in the San Jacinto Mountains in the 1860s, giving the Indians some cattle now and then to help ‘keep the peace.’ Later he both homesteaded and bought land in a broad mountain valley that became known as Thomas Valley. There he raised cattle, and race horses, and a large family. In 1905 he sold 1,700 acres to Robert F. Garner, a San Bernardino cattleman, and the valley has been known as Garner Valley ever since. Thomas Mountain, above the valley, preserves the older name. Gunther says around 1900 the name was just used for Thomas Peak (now Little Thomas Mountain), but it gradually extended along Horse Creek Ridge.
Three Points (d). This name does not seem to pre-date the construction of the Angeles Crest Highway into the San Gabriels. It was in use by 1941.
Three Points (e). This three-way intersection is above the western Antelope Valley, where Pine Canyon meets Oakgrove Canyon. A small community grew up here that survives to this day. The name was is use by 1927.
Throop Peak (d). Named in honor of Amos G. Throop (1811-1894), a former mayor of Pasadena who founded the Throop Polytechnic Institute in 1891 – better known today as the California Institute of Technology. Louis Quirarte (1990-91) reports that the peak was named by an alumnus after summiting it in 1916. Like nearby Mt. Baden-Powell, it had previously been known as North Baldy Mountain, the two summits distinguished as the East Twin (Baden-Powell) and the West Twin (Throop). Throop Peak first appears on the Angeles National Forest map of 1925, but it was some years before it completely replaced the North Baldy name.
Tierra Blanca Mountains (a). The name (meaning white earth in Spanish) was in use by 1890. It may refer to the jumble of light-colored, broken granite boulders on the desert side, which have been exposed by “fault gouge” along the Elsinore Fault.
Tip Top Mountain (c). In 1874 a silver mine was opened up on the side of the mountain here, dubbed the Tiptop Mine. From there, the name naturally spread to the mountain itself. It has been written as both one word and two over the years.
Tule Canyon, Spring (b). Cattails or bulrushes (tules, in Spanish) are a sure sign of surface water, giving rise to a common place name. This was on the map by 1904 (as Tule Creek).
The Pacific Crest Trail also crosses a second Tule Canyon (e) near Lake Hughes.
Tylerhorse Canyon (e). Listed, but not explained, in the 1963 Kern County place names book.
Valle de San José (b). A name given by Spanish explorers in 1795 to the valley that is better known today as Warners Ranch (see). It was also the formal name of J.J. Warner’s 1844 land grant from the Mexican government.
Vallecito (a). This “little valley” in Spanish (thus, Vallecito Valley is redundant) was probably named by Mexican explorers in the 1820s. Despite appearances, it was considered an oasis by early travelers crossing the desert on the Southern Emigrant Trail into California. A military outpost was established here in the early 1850s and expanded to become a Butterfield stage station (1857-61). The old station building was rebuilt in the 1930s and is now a San Diego County Park.
Van Dusen Canyon (c). Named after Jed Van Dusen, a blacksmith in Holcomb Valley during gold rush of early 1860s. But as often happens, other stories have grown up around the name. John Robinson recounts one later version that a different Van Dusen found gold and settled in the upper end of the canyon with a partner. Later Van Dusen was found dead and his partner had vanished.
As sometimes happens, the name has been spelled a variety of different ways over the years. Garrett (1998:96) cites a variety of spellings including Van Duesen, Van Deusen, Van Dueson, and Van Duzen. Adding to the confusion, Van Duesen was the official spelling of the nearby post office (1927-28) which was soon changed to Big Bear City.
Vasquez Rocks (e). Tiburcio Vasquez (1835-1875) was one of the most notorious of the many Mexican bandits who roamed California in the early days of American statehood. According to John Robinson he had several hideouts in the San Gabriel Mountains, and at one point was almost captured in a shoot-out with the L.A. County Sheriff and his men on Little Rock Creek. Finally captured in the Cahuenga Pass in 1874, Vasquez was convicted of a murder in San Benito County and hanged in 1875. It was only in later years (around the 1910s) that his name became attached to this distinctive rock outcropping. The area was popular with both tourists and early western movie makers. Today it is a Los Angeles County park (a tiny piece of the PCT is actually used as part of the park’s geology trail). Park literature imagines a shootout “near the tallest rock formation” where Vasquez was wounded, while the striking new visitors center focuses on local Indians, homesteaders, and moviemakers, and (quite properly) downplays any historical connection with Vasquez.
Vincent Gap, Vincent Gulch Divide (d). Charles Vincent (real name: Charles Vincent Dougherty) was “Perhaps the greatest hunter to stalk game in the San Gabriels – and one of the most amazing characters ever to live in these mountains,” though he was “downright anti-social,” according to John Robinson (1991:26). He was a Civil War veteran who fled to mountains after killing a man in Arizona. He lived in the San Gabriels from the late 1870s until shortly before his death in 1926. He was a prospector as well, and in 1896 located the Big Horn Mine, one of the most successful mines in the high country. Vincent Gulch, below his cabin, is shown on maps as early as 1901; Vincent Divide and Vincent Gap followed in later years. Today a sign on the highway uses Vincent Gulch Divide, but signs on the PCT use Vincent Gap.
Volcan Mountain (a). Spanish for Volcano (though there are none to be found here) this mountain has been known by that name since at least 1850. Cattle grazed on Volcan for many years, and there was some commercial logging here as late as the 1950s. But this is not big timber country, and some of the cutting was for Christmas trees. Since 1988, the Volcan Mountain Foundation has worked with the San Diego County Department of Parks & Recreation, the California Department of Fish & Game, and other organizations and agencies to set aside some 31,000 acres as open space, including the Volcan Mountain Wilderness Preserve. Several rather shaky theories have been advanced to explain the mountain’s name. One says there was a local family named Vaulcan living on the mountain as early as 1860. Another expands the name of the adjoining Mexican rancho to Santa Ysabel Baulcon, the Spanish word for a balcony, which the mountain is said to resemble. But both of these names may just be misspellings of the Spanish.
Warner Hot Springs (a). The hot springs at the upper end of Warners Ranch naturally took its name from the ranch. In Mexican and early American times it was simply known as the Agua Caliente (hot water). But to the Indians it was known as Palatingua and their village there was known as Cupa, from which the tribe gets its name – Cupeño, the people of Cupa. The Cupeño remained undisturbed in their possession of the hot springs in Spanish and Mexican times, but the later American owners of the Warner Ranch sued to have them removed as “trespassers” in the 1890s, and the U.S. Supreme Court confirmed the decision in 1901. So it was that in 1903 the Cupeño and the other villagers living on the ranch were marched off on their own “trail of tears” to the new reservation at Pala.
The hot springs had long been popular with tourists and health-seekers, and as soon as the Indians were “removed” a resort opened, using their old homes as tourist cabins. The Warner Hot Springs resort was a popular destination on into the 1950s, but faded in later years. In the 1980s it became a private development known as Warner Springs Ranch, which closed in bankruptcy in 2012. New owners are currently renovating the resort, with the golf course and cafe already reopened (and serving meals to hungry hikers).
Warners Ranch (a). Jonathan Trumbull Warner (1807-1895) first came to California in 1831 with a group of American mountain men to trade for mules and hunt beaver, crossing the valley that still bears his name on his way from the Colorado River to San Diego. Warner soon decided to settle in the Mexican province, became a citizen, and changed his name to Juan José Warner – while his Mexican neighbors nicknamed the 6’3” Connecticut Yankee “Juan Largo” (Long John). In 1844 he received a grant from the Mexican government for about 44,000 acres in the Valle de San José. After California became a state in 1850 Warner gradually lost his land to debt and legal chicanery, but while the last parcel passed from his hands in 1861 his name has been attached to the valley ever since. During the second half of his long life Warner served as an Assemblyman, a State Senator, a newspaper publisher, and the founding president of the Historical Society of Southern California.
Now largely owned by the Vista Irrigation District (for its water rights), Warners Ranch is still leased out for cattle grazing to this day. Though often written as Warner’s Ranch, as a place name it should not have an apostrophe.
Warners Ranch, circa 1910
“The [Warner] ranch comprises about 57,000 acres of land, and is the largest body of comparatively level land at an even elevation of 3500 feet in Southern California. It is an immense circular valley, rock ribbed mountain bound. Out of it, through a narrow gorge to the southwest, flows the San Luis Rey River. The ranch is well watered. Much of it during the winter season is semi-bog or swamp land, and at all times affords wonderful grazing for stock. There are circling hills and level mesa and broad valleys here and there. Nestled between the hills are a number of mountain lakes, fed by innumerable springs around their edges.”
– Jackson Graves, Out of Doors California and Oregon
(Los Angeles: Grafton Publishing Co., 1912)
Waterman Mountain – see Mount Waterman.
Wellman Cienega (b). Frank Wellman came to Strawberry Valley (Idyllwild) around 1885 as a teamster hauling lumber for one of the local sawmills. By the 1890s he was grazing stock in the San Jacinto Mountains and opened a trail past the cienega that now bears his name to reach Round and Tamarack Valleys. But Wellman came to a brutal end. In 1901 he assaulted his young wife in a drunken rage and she shot him in self-defense. “There is little regret expressed because of his death,” the Los Angeles Times reported (August 6, 1901) “…Wellman was considered a decent fellow when sober, but drink made a demon of him, and he terrorized the mountain ranchers and their families…. Public opinion exonerates Mrs. Wellman of all blame, in view of the dead man’s past character.”
West Palm Springs Village (c). A somewhat-less-than successful “planned community,” that first went on the market in 1958. Plans called for a year-round resort, including a hotel, 18-hole golf course, and artificial lake. The site, said the ads, offered “the most gorgeous panoramic view in America,” and the area was “absolutely smog free.” Today the community is commonly called Whitewater.
Whitewater River (c). This rare desert stream tumbles and foams over the rocks as it bubbles down from the San Bernardino Mountains, but Garrett (1998:99) says it is a high lime content that makes this water white. Originally (as early as 1855) it was known as the Agua Blanco – Spanish for white water (though it should be blanca, which suggests it was named by Gringos). By 1869 an Army map shows it as the White River. The White Water name was in use by 1882. Normally the river quickly sinks into the desert sands, but in full flood the Whitewater flows through much of upper Coachella Valley. See Hatchery Canyon.
Willow Springs (e). One of the most historic watering holes in the Antelope Valley, almost every pioneer who passed through this part of the Mojave Desert stopped at Willow Springs. Father Francisco Garcés, the intrepid Spanish missionary-explorer, visited here in 1776. Col. John C. Frémont and his American military expedition were here in 1844. Some of the Death Valley ‘49ers found water here as they made their escape, and by the 1860s it had become a regular stop for stages and freight lines connecting Los Angeles with the mines to the north in Kern and Inyo counties. There was even a small gold rush here around 1900 (some the of old stone buildings here today were built about that time; a few are still occupied). In the 1920s it was a farm and tourist resort. Today the springs are a California State Historic Landmark (#130).
Windy Gap (d). An obvious name to anyone who has visited this spot, the 1941 topographical map of the area shows a Windy Spring north of Mt. Islip. The name Windy Gap was in use by 1953.
Winston Ridge (d). In November 1893 Pasadena attorney and banker Lang C. Winston was out hunting in the mountains with some friends. During a snowstorm he left camp to look for the men’s burros and disappeared. Nine months later, after an extensive search, his body was found on the ridge that now bears his name.
Wrightwood (d). Cattle rancher and apple grower Sumner Wright began buying property in this area in 1890 and his Circle C ranch eventually totaled some 3,300 acres. The property was subdivided in 1924 and Wrightwood quickly grew into the largest community in the San Gabriels, though it did not acquire a post office until 1938. There’s also a Wright Mountain nearby.
[A little detail for those who want to dig deeper]
Bean, Lowell John, Sylvia Brakke Vane, and Jackson Young, The Cahuilla Landscape, The Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains, Menlo Park: Ballena Press, 1991
Becker, Stephen and Jeffrey Birmingham (eds.) The San Jacintos, A History and Natural History, Riverside: Historical Commission Press, 1981
Bedrossian, Trinda, “Geographic Names in California,” California Geology, September 1987
Core, Tom, “Bearly Remembered,” The Grizzly, November 11, 1997
Darling, Curtis, Kern County Place Names, [Bakersfield]: Kern County Historical Society, 1988
Fetzer, Leland, A Good Camp, Gold Mines of Julian and the Cuyamacas, San Diego: Sunbelt Publications, 2002
Fetzer, Leland, San Diego County Place Names A to Z, San Diego: Sunbelt Publications, 2005
Garrett, Lewis, Place Names of the San Bernardino Mountains, Big Bear City: Big Bear Valley Historical Society, 1998
Gudde, Erwin G., California Place Names, The Origin and Etymology of Current Geographical Names, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998 (fourth edition, revised and enlarged by William Bright)
Gunther, Jane Davies, Riverside County, California, Place Names, Their Origins and Their Stories, Riverside: Rubidoux Printing Co., 1984
Heizer, Robert F. (ed.), Federal Concern about Conditions of California Indians, 1853-1913, Socorro: Ballena Press, 1979
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