So Cal Historyland
I was born and raised in Orange, but I did a lot of my growing up at Lost Valley. It's up in the mountains above Warner Hot Springs, in the northeast corner of San Diego County. Since 1959, it's been a Boy Scout camp. I've spent a lot of summers up there. I've had some great times -- and naturally I got interested in the history of the area as well.
For more on Lost Valley, check out the camp website at SSRLV.org.
The Place of the Oaks
For centuries, Lost Valley was a part of the territory of the Cupeño people. Their main village was at Cupa (now Warner Hot Springs). Most of their territory was divided between the various clans. In the late 19th Century, Lost Valley was part of the lands of the Temewhanitcem Clan. Their name means "Northerners."
Lost Valley was especially valuable as a food gathering area. The many oak trees provided an important source of winter food for the Cupeño. Each fall, around October or November, the people would come to harvest the acorns, camping in the valley for several weeks.
In Cupeño, one of the names for oak trees is wi'at. This gave the valley its Cupeño name, Wiatava - the place of the oaks.
Roscinda Nolasquez (1892-1987), the last of the old Cupeño to live at Cupa, remembered visiting Lost Valley as a child. But she did not connect the name Wiatava with the valley. For her, it Wiatava was a peak on the mountains above. She called the valley Woyeahonit, which she said meant a valley that was wide at each end, but narrower in the middle. She often said the name using both hands, palms in, tracing the shape. I take it to be a geographical name, rather than a place name. The spelling is my own - I have never seen it in print.
A Name in Print
The earliest appearance that I have been able to find of the name "Lost Valley" in print comes from Helen Hunt Jackson's Report on the Conditions and Needs of the Mission Indians, first published in 1883.
Jackson - best known as the author of Ramona - made a tour of Southern California that spring, visiting many of the reservations and villages. In discussing the Cupeño she adds:
"These Indians have in use another valley called Lost Valley, some fifteen miles from their village high up in the mountains, and reached only by one very steep trail. Here they pasture their stock, being no longer able to pasture it below. They were touchingly anxious to have us write down the number of cattle, horses, [and] sheep each man had and report to Washington that the President might see how they were all trying to work. There are probably from one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and fifty head of cattle owned in the village, about fifty horses, and one hundred sheep."
One of the interesting things about this is that it suggests that the Indians and cattlemen were running stock in Lost Valley at the same time. Back in the 1980s, I asked both Roscinda Nolasquez and Annie Bergman about this, and neither of them could remember ever hearing of any conflicts.
Lost Valley and the '49ers . . . ?
Seldom mentioned in histories of the California Gold Rush is the fact that thousands of ‘49ers came overland on the Southern Emigrant Trail, which crossed the Colorado River at Yuma and left the desert by way of the Warner Ranch.
From the diaries of one of those travelers - Judge Benjamin Hayes - comes a curious historical possibility.
Camped on the Warner Ranch (seemingly along Agua Caliente Creek) Judge Hayes notes in his diary for January 23, 1850:
"Today our hunters came on a valley some three or four miles up the stream we are on in which the grass was already a foot high. Perhaps a thousand acres in the whole cove made by the hills along the course of the valley. There appeared to have been an American camp [there] this fall."
Did ‘49ers camp at Lost Valley?
The mileage is quite wrong. But it is hard to imagine where else the men would have found anything like a thousand acres of valley except in Lost Valley - or perhaps Chihuahua Valley (though it is not much closer, and there's no obvious canyon leading there). And on the other side of the mountain were the villages that are now part of the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation.
It is a mystery that will probably never be solved - but what an interesting possibility.
Lost Valley's First Homesteaders
While Jim Stone had been running cattle in Lost Valley since the 1870s, the first attempt to homestead the valley was in the spring of 1883, when Willis and William Newton, father and son, each filed 160-acre preemption claims that seem to have covered most of the meadow lands in the valley.
But their claims never got very far. In July, Mission Indian Agent S.S. Lawson wrote to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs asking that their entries by cancelled. He was unsure just where the Newtons' claims were located, but felt they clearly covered lands used by the Indians. He may have thought the area was part of what is now the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation.
"The land referred to in T[ownshi]p 9S R4E S.B. meridian, and filed on by the Newtons should be withdrawn as it has long been occupied by the Indians of that village," he wrote. "Definite lines of subdivision can not be given without a survey of the land. It will be safe to hold this filing for cancellation as it will embrace all that the Indians have occupied. These people have lived there long and done well. They cultivate and pasture the land referred to and should not be molested."
And that seems to have been the end of that.
The Newtons were Southern California pioneers. Willis Newton (1840-1924) came from Texas in 1865, and eventually settled in Downey. His oldest son, William (1858-1927), lived near by. Another son, Jesse, lived in San Diego County for many years - which may explain how the Newtons became aware of the Lost Valley area.
Tales from a Lost Valley
For centuries before the first white settlers came to California, Lost Valley was Indian country. Across Hot Springs Mountain to the south, as what is now Warner Hot Springs, stood the village of Cupa. The people who lived there are called the Cupeño (coo-pen-yo), the people of Cupa.
Like most Southern California Indians, the Cupeño lived as hunters and gatherers, following the seasons to harvest the seeds and fruits of various native plants, or hunting small game. Acorns, rabbits, chia seeds, squirrels, and manzanita berries were among their staple foods. Other plants were used as medicine, or for making tightly-woven baskets, or for bow strings. There was hardly a plant that grew in these hills that the Cupeño did not use in some way.
The Cupeño were divided into several clans -- an extended family group all related to a common ancestor. Each clan had its own territory where it could hunt and gather plants. Lost Valley belonged to the Temewhanitcem clan (meaning the northerners); the Cupeño called Lost Valley Wiatava, which means "place of the live oaks". The trail from Cupa to Wiatava went on down towards the desert, and the Cupeño would travel through the valley on trading trips, sometimes going as far east as the Colorado River. Today we call their trail to the desert the Tarabal Trail.
The Cupeño passed down their history through stories from one generation to the next. One story told of how a little child, Kisily Pewish, was the only survivor of a battle that destroyed the original village of Cupa. Later he returned, stopping first in Wiatava where he caught and killed a bear. Then, it is said, he brought the bear back to life by magic, and with its help, defeated the people who had driven out the Cupeño, and reestablished the tribe in their home by the hot springs.
During mission times, in the 1820s and ‘30s, priests from Mission San Luis Rey would sometimes visit the Cupeño and converted some of them to Catholicism. From the missionaries the Cupeño learned farming, how to build with adobe, and other skills.
After the missions were closed, the Mexican government began giving away huge land grants in California for cattle ranches. The rolling, grassy valley before Cupa was given to one of the first American settlers in Southern California, J.J. Warner. Warner's grant was officially called the Rancho Valle de San José, but after California became a part of the United States in 1848, the new American settlers began calling it Warner's Ranch.
In 1851, Antonio Garra, one of the leaders of the Cupeño, tried to bring all the neighboring tribes together to drive the American settlers out of Southern California. Warner's Ranch was one of their first targets, and Warner's house was burned and his cattle and horses stolen. For a time, everyone in Southern California was afraid that there would be a general Indian uprising.
But Garra never succeeded in bringing the tribes together, and the army soon defeated his small force of warriors. Juan Antonio, a Cahuilla chief, captured Antonio Garra and turned him over to the American authorities. He was tried and hanged in San Diego.
For the next 50 years, the Cupeño settled into a more peaceful existence. They rebuilt the village of Cupa (which had been burned by the soldiers) with adobe homes, dug irrigation ditches, and planted crops.
Still the acorn harvests went on. Every fall, the Cupeño would leave their village for places like Lost Valley where the oak trees grew, to gather acorns for their winter food supply. These trips were usually made around October, when the acorns are ripe, but before the first snows of November.
When the acorns are ripe, they drop easily from the trees. Young men and boys would be sent out with sticks, or would climb up into the trees to shake the branches to knock the acorns down. The women and their daughters would gather them, and take them to the rocks, where the acorn shells were cracked open, and the nuts inside spread out to dry. After a day or two they would be ready to be pounded into flour in stone holes that had been worked into the rocks by years of pounding. Finally, water was poured through the acorn flour over and over again to rinse away the acids that gave the acorns a bitter taste. While the women worked grinding the acorns, the men would hunt for rabbits and other small game.
There are many places around Lost Valley where the Cupeño's bedrock mortars can still be seen. The most important grinding site in later years is along the road between the Rifle Range and the COPE course, above the Stables. It is said that while the Cupeño were working in Lost Valley each fall, they camped in the little meadow below, in from of the Rifle Range and the Amphitheatre.
Warner's Ranch passed from owner to owner, and while the Cupeño continued to live and farm at Cupa, they had no place to keep their cattle and other livestock. One visitor in 1883 wrote,
"These Indians have in use another valley called Lost Valley, some fifteen miles from their village high up in the mountains, and reached only by one very steep trail. Here they keep their stock, being no longer able to pasture it below.... There are probably from one hundred and twenty-five to one hundred and fifty head of cattle owned in the village, about fifty horses, and one hundred sheep." (This seems to be the first time that anyone ever used the name Lost Valley in print.)
Eventually, a man named John Downey came to own Warner's Ranch. He had once been Governor of California, and founded the city that still bears his name. Gov. Downey did not want the Indians living on the ranch. Not just the Cupeño; there were four other villages around the valley inhabited by other tribes, including one where Mataguay Scout Reservation is now located.
In 1892, Gov. Downey went to court to have the Indians thrown off the land. The United States Government sent attorneys to try to protect the Indians' homes, but the San Diego County Superior Court, the California State Supreme Court, and finally, in 1901, the United States Supreme Court all said the same thing -- the Indians must go. It did not matter that the Cupeño and the other villagers had lived there for centuries. American law said they did not own the land -- Governor Downey did.
So in 1903 the government forced the Cupeño and the other villagers to move to the reservation at Pala. It took three days for the wagon train to carry them from their old homes to this strange, new place.
Roscinda Nolasquez was just eleven years old when her people were moved to the reservation. It was so very hot, she always remembered, and the people were begging for water. Many of them had to walk the whole way, in the dust and heat. When they camped for the first night, some of the Cupeño refused to eat the food the government agents offered them. Some thought it might be poisoned, but many of them were just too proud to take charity from the white man.
At Pala, Roscinda said, the Cupeño were promised good homes. But when they reached the reservation there were only tents that the people had to set up for themselves. Later the government moved in little wooden portable houses, hardly big enough for a single family.
Most of the Cupeño are still at Pala today. Roscinda was the last of the old people who had lived at Cupa. She died in 1987, not long before her 95th birthday. She spent the last years of her life working to preserve the Cupeño language, history, and culture.
In 1981, Roscinda came back to Lost Valley for her first visit in almost 80 years. She remembered being here as a child, sitting at the grinding rocks, listening to the women talk and sing while they worked. She enjoyed visiting the camp, and meeting some of the young men who worked here on staff -- working hard, she said, just as her people had worked so long ago.
Someone asked Roscinda, if she could, would she want to live at Cupa again. "No," she said, "only memory goes back."
No one knows when the first white man set foot in Lost Valley. It might have been during the days of the Mexican ranchos, in the 1840s. It might have been in 1849, when gold miners heading for Northern California followed the trail up out of the desert to Warner's Ranch. Seeking pasture for their tired animals, the ‘49ers pushed higher and higher into the mountains surrounding the ranch. Did any of them follow Agua Caliente Creek up to the meadows of Lost Valley? We may never know.
The first recorded visitors were a survey party in 1855, led by R.C. Matthewson. Matthewson was not impressed with the "rough and rocky mountains" surrounding Lost Valley. Still, he wrote, they were at least better than the desert lands to the east, which were "absolutely worth nothing".
The first white men to visit Lost Valley regularly were the cattlemen. The first we know of were two brothers, Jim and John Stone, from Mesa Grande, south of Warner's Ranch. They began coming to the valley perhaps as early as 1869, looking for summer grazing for their cattle. They brought their herds in along the old Cupeño trail over the mountain. Sometime in the 1870s, Jim Stone gave Lost Valley its name, because it was so isolated and hidden in the rocky, brushy hills that surround it.
The Stone brothers did not own Lost Valley, they simply used the land. They did not seem to mind the Indian cattle that also grazed in the valley. Then in 1883 a father and son named Newton filed two adjoining homesteads in the valley. They soon abandoned their claims, but perhaps their arrival convinced the Stones that they needed to do something to protect their little "lost" valley.
The homestead laws were very clear. Any man over the age of 21 could claim 160 acres of government land, and if he settled there, built a cabin, raised crops, and stayed for five years, the land was his. But it was only one homestead per person, and the Stones had already filed claims elsewhere.
So instead, the Stone brothers seem to have hired someone else to file a homestead in Lost Valley for them. In 1885 William B. Fain laid claim to 160 acres at the south end of the valley, where Camp Irvine is today. Probably the Stones hired him to do it; at any rate, they later bought his homestead from him, and for the first time someone owned Lost Valley.
It's just possible that Bill Fain filed his homestead on his own, knowing the Stones would want to buy him out to get a hold of the land. Fain had a well-deserved reputation as a bully and a gunfighter (they used to call him "Billy Profane" -- apparently he had quite a command of the English language as well), and he would not have thought twice about trying to put one over on the Stone brothers.
Assuming instead that the Stones hired Fain, it also must have been the Stone brothers who built the first known cabin in Lost Valley, which Fain used to meet the homestead requirements. It stood in a little cove just west of where the Bergman Cabin now stands (the Stables pasture fence cuts across the site). It was a wooden, three-room cabin, built of straight up boards probably cut in the valley from the native cedar trees; it had a dirt floor, no windows, and a stone fireplace at one end.
Mesa Grande pioneer Ed Davis, a friend of the Stones, visited Lost Valley many times. After one early visit he wrote:
"We soon struck Lost Valley, a beautiful little valley of a few hundred acres surrounded by mountains and fringed with pines and cedars and oaks. Two or three hundred head of cattle graze here in the summer months. There is a cabin of hewed slabs and the valley is noted for its rattlesnakes. We made our camp under a spreading pine tree and during the rest of the day we lay stretched out underneath, listening to the music of the wind through its needles. However, not before he had unsaddled and unpacked and washed the backs of all our animals and staked them out on good grass. We are now around a fire made bright by piling on pitchy pine cones while the wind roars softly through the pines overhead. Suddenly the wailing cry of a mountain lion is heard across the valley and continues at intervals for quite some time."
The Stone brothers continued to run cattle in the valley until 1897, when they sold out to another local cattle ranching family, and a new era in Lost Valley's history began.
The Bergman family had been living in Aguanga, about 20 miles northwest of Lost Valley, since 1864. Jacob Bergman, the father, had been born in Germany, and came to California in the 1850s. At one time, he served as a San Diego County Supervisor.
Jacob's son, Henry Bergman, had been born in Los Angeles in 1863, and grew up in the cattle business. Like the Stone brothers, he was also looking for good summer grazing for his stock, and so around 1898 he bought their Lost Valley homestead from them.
Since there was no direct trail into the valley from the Aguanga side, Henry and his cowhands cut a trail in over the hills from Chihuahua Valley through what the Bergmans called Little Rock Valley. This was the start of the Lost Valley Trail, which still climbs the ridge out of Lost Valley to Mt. Birkenstock, and can just barely be traced across the Little Rock Valley over to today's Pacific Crest Trail. The last stretch of the trail, on down towards Chihuahua Valley, has all but vanished.
The Bergmans brought their cattle in each spring, around April, and tried to have them out before the first snows of winter. These were not the galloping trail drives sometimes shown in motion pictures, but slow, peaceful walks, with the cattle setting the pace. Sometimes they might have 150 to 200 head in the valley. The hillsides surrounding the valley made sort of a natural corral. About the only fencing needed to hold the cattle in was at the top of what the Bergman's called Dark Canyon -- Agua Caliente Canyon. Most of the time the cattle were simply left to themselves to graze on the valley's meadows.
Henry Bergman took over the Stone brothers' cabin and used it until the summer of 1911, when two strangers camping outside the cabin let their campfire get away from them and burned the cabin to the ground.
For the next few years, the Bergmans stayed in tents while visiting Lost Valley. Then Henry's youngest son, Arlie Bergman, filed a second homestead in Lost Valley, north of his father's land (where Camp Grace and the Central area are today). Though the law had changed so that Arlie only had to spend three years on his homestead, he still had to build a cabin. And this time, he was going to build one that would not burn.
In 1915 Arlie Bergman packed in everything he'd need to build a cabin over the Lost Valley Trail -- lumber, cement, nails, plaster, wooden doors, and even quarter-inch thick glass windows, all packing in on the backs of burros. For a fireproof exterior, he also packed in large sheets of galvanized metal.
The metal sheets and the doors were so long they stuck out past the burros' heads and tails, and since burros will not turn in a direction they can't see, someone had to guide every pack animal around each of the many turns on the Lost Valley Trail.
Arlie Bergman's 1915 homestead cabin still stands today. Originally it did not have a front porch, it was added in 1916. Out back was a barn built of logs cut in the valley, and an outhouse. At the foot of a little knoll just west of the cabin (between Arlie's cabin and the site of the old Stone brothers' cabin) was a little spring that Arlie developed by driving a pipe back into the hillside and installing a cistern to catch the water.
Arlie spent much of 1915, 1916, and 1917 in Lost Valley, building his cabin and raising crops, including an acre or two of potatoes. The last of the apples trees he planted lived on into the 1980s. The first two summers he was alone, but in 1917 he brought his new wife, 21-year-old Annie Mendenhall, the daughter of a pioneer Palomar Mountain cattle ranching family.
Arlie's 120-acre homestead gave the Bergmans 280 acres covering most of the best meadow land in Lost Valley. After his father's death in 1930, Arlie Bergman carried on the family cattle business, and continued to use the valley for summer grazing.
A few other hearty souls also began finding their way back into Lost Valley. One was W.F. Wheeler, a San Bernardino prospector, who filed a group of mica claims in the hills east of the Tarabal Trail in 1929. The clear, glass-like mica had many commercial uses back then. Wheeler hired some workmen and dug a few trenches and one shallow shaft. He got good mice, but after packing out and selling the first load in 1930, he found he just couldn't make it pay, so he abandoned his claims.
Hunters also sometimes visited the valley. Some were hunting for fun, but others were professionals, hunting mountain lions. At the urging of cattle and sheep ranchers, the State of California offered a bounty of up to $105 each on mountain lions.
A few early visitors flew into Lost Valley. In 1940, one couple almost didn't make it out. While trying to take off, the pilot didn't clear the trees at the south end of the meadow, and the plane tumbled into the creek bed. The pilot was badly injured and had to be flown to the hospital by another plane -- Lost Valley's first "life flight" evacuation.
Another dramatic moment came in September, 1944, when a huge fire burned all the way across the Anza Valley southeast towards Lost Valley, burned across the northern end of the valley and then on down towards the desert. Herschel Higgins, an old friend of Arlie Bergman, was working for the Forest Service then and had charge of a crew assigned to get in and fight the fire. The men came up across the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation until there was nothing ahead of them but the old Indian trail leading into Lost Valley. Higgins recalls:
"We had eight bulldozers, and we had an old man from up north and we put him on a D-7, and I said, ‘Take off.' And he said, ‘Follow the trail?' And I said, ‘That's all right with me." I had charge of them. Boy, they went down with all eight of them and got to the other end, they never stopped. And when we got to the other end there was an Army truck right behind them that drove right down into Lost Valley."
That first fire road came into Lost Valley near Cathedral Rocks; it's now known as the Indian Road, and it's only kept open today to provide emergency access in and out of camp.
Once Higgins and his men had cut a road into Lost Valley, they began working on fuel breaks across the hills. A base camp was established in the valley, near the Bergman Cabin, and a detachment of soldiers were brought in to serve as fire fighters. But Higgins' crew managed to divert most of the fire away from Lost Valley, and the men soon returned to base.
Then about two weeks later, the fire lookout on Hot Springs Mountain called to report more smoke in Lost Valley. It turned out someone had dropped a burning cigarette at the fire camp, which set a root on fire that smoldered underground for days before it finally surfaced and flared up. Higgins rushed back in with a crew and found a fire burning behind the cabin. Besides destroying brush and trees, Arlie's old log barn was burned to the ground.
The Forest Service did more than just fight fire in the valley. Arlie Bergman sometimes worked for them stringing barbed wire fence to keep his cattle from straying into the Cleveland National Forest. The Forest Service also hired men to cut down and treat trees that were being attacked by pine beetles, and men to kill gophers, to cut down on the erosion caused by their digging.
A more unusual attempt at erosion control came in 1949, when the Forest Service imported a group of beavers and planted them in Lost Valley. Their dams and ponds along Agua Caliente Creek, below the Nature Center, were visible for many years. When the camp opened in the 1960s, the beavers moved downstream, into Agua Caliente Canyon. The floods early in 1980 forced the last pair of beaver back up into the valley, and they took up residence in the new lake for several months. They have never been seen since.
Arlie Bergman never saw any beaver in Lost Valley. He had been killed in 1948 in a horseback riding accident. His widow, Annie, survived him by half a century, dying in 1998 at the age of 102.
After Arlie's death, his son, Ray Bergman, took over the cattle business and continued to use Lost Valley. By that time, there was a good road as far as Chihuahua Valley, so that the Bergman cattle could be trucked to the foot of the Lost Valley Trail. Ray soon decided he wanted more access and around 1951 he had a road cut in to Lost Valley from Chihuahua Valley -- the ancestor of our present entrance road. Portions of the "Old Road" (as it came to be called) are still visible; the power line into camp traces it routes, and in some places our current road is built right on top of it.
To help pay for the cost of building a road, Ray let a man use the road to truck out leaf mold from under the oak trees in the valley to use as fertilizer, and Ray took a share of the profits.
The cattle still came in on the hoof over the Lost Valley Trail, though, just as they had done for more than 50 years. But as the 1950s moved on, Ray could see that Southern California was changing. The days of range cattle were quickly coming to a close, and Ray Bergman decided that if he wanted to stay in the cattle business, he'd have to find somewhere else to do it. So he turned his eyes towards Montana, and put Lost Valley up for sale.
The Scouts Move In
Back in 1922, the Orange County Council had acquired a few acres at Barton Flats in the San Bernardino Mountains and opened a summer camp they called Camp RoKiLi (named for the three service clubs that had done the most to support the camp, the Rotary, Kiwanis, and Lions clubs). By 1957, RoKiLi's best days were behind her, and the Council set out to find a new summer camp.
The Camp Search Committee visited more than a dozen properties throughout Southern California, but nothing they found really grabbed their fancy. Then one day a real estate agent named Sharpless, who was working with the committee, stopped in at the little cafe in Aguanga and happened to meet Ray Bergman. The two got to talking and Ray told him about his cattle ranch. It was the name the really first caught Sharpless' attention -- Lost Valley. Where is it, he asked. What's it like? And once Ray described the valley, he decided it was worth taking a look.
Howard Bear was a member of the Search Committee. He always remembered his first trip to Lost Valley in the winter of 1958-59. They came in by Jeep over the Old Road -- a rough trip at best.
"The closer we got to it," he recalled, "the more my mind was made up. ‘We don't want this, we don't want any part of it. You can't get in here in winter.' Everybody was very negative.
"The Old Road came in on the west side of camp, and all of a sudden we looked down a thousand feet or so, and there was Lost Valley, a beautiful valley with pine trees and oak trees. That was what sold me on the property, when we came on that brim and looked down. It was exactly what you'd want in a camp."
By the spring of 1959, the Orange Empire Area Council (as it was then called) signed an option to buy Lost Valley from the Bergmans. There were still a couple of things to work out before the sale could go through, however. The Council's main concern was water. They were not going to buy the land unless they were sure they could get enough water. So in the summer of 1959 they had two wells drilled -- the first ever in Lost Valley -- and proved there was enough water, even in summer, to support a Scout camp.
Questions about roads, property lines, and other issues also had to be cleared up, but once everything was taken care of, the deal went through. In the last week of December, 1959, the Orange Empire Area Council bought 280 acres in Lost Valley for $100,000.
But there's more to starting a new summer camp than just buying the land. It would take nearly five years to plan, fund, and build the first phase of Lost Valley Scout Reservation.
Even before the sale went through, in October, 1959, the Santiago District had held their annual Camporee in Lost Valley, under the leadership of Howard Bear. It was the first Council event in the valley, and the last for nearly four years, until construction on the new camp was well underway.
Planning for the new camp went on in 1960 and ‘61. The original plans called for a central administration area supporting four separate camps, called simply A, B, C, and D on the plans. Camp A became Camp Anza (now Camp Grace), the first camp to open. It was named for Col. Juan Bautista de Anza, an early Spanish explorer who crossed the desert not far from Lost Valley in the 1770s.
Camp B opened as Camp Borrego (now Camp Irvine) a few years later. It takes its name from the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, our neighbor to the north and east. Camp C, on the north side of the (planned) new lake, was to have a western theme, "with the main buildings of a log cabin exterior." It was never even given a name, much less built. Nor was Camp D, planned as an Explorer base camp for backcountry and wilderness activities.
The fund raising drive for Lost Valley was conducted in 1962-63. The estimated cost to get the camp up and running was nearly $450,000.
The first construction began in 1963. The Forest Service began work on the new entrance road, and the Council installed the main water lines throughout the valley. Since the new road was not completed until 1964, the Council arranged to have the water pipe air-lifted in by military helicopters. Lost Valley also got its first employee in 1963, Chuck Bolton, who was hired as construction ranger, and stayed on until the work was complete in 1964.
In the spring of 1964, the first buildings went up in the Central area and in Camp Anza. The ranger's house, the first maintenance building, and a combination doctor's residence and medical lodge were built in Central; and a dining hall and lodge, pool house (and pool), and a trading post/commissary building were built in Anza. (The Bike Lair now occupies the old commissary.)
Then there were the campsites, the Handicraft Center, the Rifle and Archery ranges, a Nature Center, Commissioner areas, a campfire ring, and other program areas to be built. Then the camp had to be equipped -- picnic tables, tents, stoves, cooking gear, and program supplies. All meals were prepared by the Scouts in their own campsites in those days, and the tents were ground tents -- no platforms.
The finishing touches were still being applied when the first Scouts arrived on June 21, 1964. More than 1,100 Scouts enjoyed Lost Valley Scout Reservation that first summer.
Construction resumed after summer camp, and continued on through 1965. The second maintenance building, the Central Commissary, and the original Stables were all added. Navy Seabees also began to transform one of the old beaver ponds into Lost Valley's first lake -- now the upper basin below the Nature Center.
In 1966, Camp Borrego opened on a small scale with just four campsites. Except for a few water lines and pit toilets, there was no permanent construction at that end of the valley until Borrego got a pool and poolhouse in 1971,
1968 saw several new additions. Bus transportation to and from Orange County was offered for the first time, to save parents the rocky drive in and out the Lost Valley Road. To cut down on the number of round trips, Lost Valley became a seven-day camp that summer, with the buses bringing in the new Scouts and taking out the troops from the week before each Saturday. When bus service was abandoned in 1993, Lost Valley reverted to a six-day camp.
Also introduced in 1968 was Horsemanship Merit Badge, and trail rides, which quickly grew to be one of Lost Valley's signature programs. Lost Valley also offered its first archaeology program that summer, long before the creation of Archaeology Merit Badge. 1968 also saw the construction of the Meadow House in Central, and the drilling of a new well. The present Health Lodge soon followed.
For the first five summers, Lost Valley depended on big diesel generators for all its electricity. It had taken that long to secure all the necessary right-of-ways for San Diego Gas & Electric to build a power line into the valley. When outside power finally arrived in 1969, no one was sorrow to see the generator go.
During the second half of the 1971 season, Camp Anza offered dining hall feeding for the first time. The Scouts ate under the trees around the Anza Lodge. When it rained, they just ate faster.
1971 was also the year work began on the "new" lake (as it was called for many years after). The old upper lake had never really been very useful; it was too small and shallow -- in fact Canoeing Merit Badge had already been dropped and only Rowing was offered. The new lake, which opened in 1972, was more than four times as big, and even had room for a little sailing, along with rowing and canoeing. It was also stocked with fish shortly after its completion.
Another new addition in 1971 was the Beshears Amphitheatre, which was built by Troop and Post 33 of Tustin as a memorial to one of their former Scoutmasters.
Camp Borrego got a new name in 1973, when it was renamed Camp Irvine, in honor of The Irvine Company, which had done so much to support local Scouting over the years. In 1974, construction began on a dining hall for Camp Irvine, and in 1975 the main summer camp operation moved from Camp Anza up to Camp Irvine.
Camp Anza was not completely closed, however. Besides taking the overflow from Camp Irvine, from 1975-78 it was also rented out for part of each summer to the old Desert Trails Council (Yuma/El Centro) which did not have a summer camp of their own.
Lost Valley Scout Reservation grew considerably in the 1970s. After five years of negotiations, in 1976 the Council was able to trade some land it had bought down in Coyote Canyon to the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park for more than 1,100 acres north and east of the original camp boundaries. A second land swap with the National Forest Service was approved by Congress in 1996, and will leave lost valley with about 1,370 acres -- more than two square miles.
A Scout Reservation
Properly speaking, a Scout Reservation is made up of two or more camps operating side by side, usually with some shared facilities. While Lost Valley Scout Reservation has had two camps since 1966, one was always the main camp -- first Camp Anza (1964-74), and then beginning in 1975, Camp Irvine. Then in 1978 the Council made a big decision.
Back in the 1940s, the Orange County Council had split in two. The southern, Orange Empire Area Council, bought and developed Lost Valley, while the Northern Orange County Council developed their own camp in the San Bernardino Mountains -- Camp Ahwahnee, which opened in 1955.
In 1972, the two councils merged to re-form the Orange County Council, which now found itself with two complete summer camps. In 1978, it was decided to close Camp Ahwahnee and shift the entire summer camp operation to Lost Valley. Both Irvine and Anza would be open side by side, with longtime Lost Valley Camp Director Bob Grafflin looking after Irvine and running the support services in Central, and Ahwahnee's Camp Director, Gene Bergner, coming in to run Camp Anza.
It was an interesting summer, to say the least. There was some friction, but eventually it passed. Grafflin and Bergner both soon retired (Gene in 1979, Bob in 1980), and Al Adler was brought over from the Council's weekend camp at Las Flores to become Lost Valley's new Camp Director.
Reopening Camp Anza in 1979 brought up questions about the old style of outdoor dining there. Beginning in 1980, an extension was built in stages onto the old Anza Lodge to serve as a dining hall -- first just a floor and roof, then screened half-walls, then finally a fully enclosed room. It served on into the 1990s, when it was abandoned in favor of a large tent, used until the completion of Beckman Hall in 2000.
Starting in the late 1970s, Lost Valley began to offer more and more year-round program. In 1979, the first family camps were held on Memorial Day and Labor Day weekends. The first weekend Cub Scout program -- then known as Lad & Dad weekends -- was added in 1981.
In 1982, Camp Anza was renamed Camp Grace, in honor of Grace Hoag, who personally, and through her family's foundation, had supported Lost Valley from the beginning. Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach was also founded by her family.
Several new summer camp programs were also created in the 1980s. In 1981 the Hiking Program was introduced. Two years later, rock climbing was added. In 1985 the two programs were split, and rock climbing became the basis for the Senior Scout Program, which, with the addition of COPE activities in 1986, went on to become today's High Adventure Program.
In 1982, Lost Valley began its first Indian Village program. Wilderness Survival Merit Badge also received an extra boost during these years, starting with a separate Survival Camp in 1979, and then with Navy SERE instructors from the training base near Warner Springs coming up for several summers to help teach the merit badge.
One Scout got his own wilderness survival experience in 1982. Gordi Morey, a 12-year-old Santa Ana Scout, disappeared on his second day in camp while on his way to the lake. When he still had not been found by dark, a full-scale search and rescue operation was called in, with sheriffs, dogs, border patrol trackers, military and civilian volunteers, and a helicopter -- more than 70 people in all. To make matters worse, Gordi was a diabetic, dependent on regular injections of insulin.
The search began at dawn the next morning, focusing along Agua Caliente Canyon, below camp. Thankfully, around 10 a.m. Gordi was spotted by the helicopter about four miles down the canyon, up on a rock, waving his shirt at them. He was a little cold and dirty, but otherwise unharmed by his night out. A little candy he had carried with him kept his blood sugar up. After a visit to the doctor, he returned to finish his week at camp with his troop.
In 1984, after working off and on for five years, Troop and Post 33 completed another contribution to camp, the Observatory in the upper pasture. In 1986, the Campcraft Program was begun -- the ancestor of our present Scout Skills Centers.
In 1986, Lost Valley Scout Reservation suffered its first major fire. It began in the creek bed, below the upper dam, accidentally set by Scouts playing with matches. It spread rapidly up into Irvine, burning trees and brush. Two campsites were destroyed before it reached the Stables, which burned hot and fast. The fire continued up along the pasture, through the Fern Grove (now a part of the COPE course) and began jumping east. The furthest spot fire was at the mouth of the canyon, beyond Cathedral Rocks. At its peak, there were more than 200 firefighters on the line. All in all, about 71 acres were burned over, but fortunately, no one was seriously hurt.
The hardest blow was the loss not just of the Stables, but of all the saddles and tack (the horses had been let out and grazed peacefully in the main meadow during the blaze). In 1987 a new pole barn Stables was built on the old site.
As the 1990s began, Lost Valley began to build again. Except for the new Stables, the last major construction project had been the Irvine Lodge back in 1974. Now in rapid succession came the Irvine Trading Post and Handicraft Center and a new poolhouse in Camp Grace (both completed in 1991), and the remodel of the Irvine Lodge that same year. In 1992 the Rifle Range was expanded and work began on the Weatherby Shotgun Range, which opened in 1993, along with two new Archery ranges. Work on eighteen new Staff cabins began in 1995, the same year the new Wiatava Nature Center opened.
The 1990s also saw several new program areas added. Mountain Biking began in 1993, and the Indian Village was revived a year later. Then in 1996 the new COPE course was completed. Two new merit badges have also been added, Rock Climbing (1997) and Archaeology (1998). The First Class Emphasis program has also proved very popular.
And the growth continues. In 2000, the new Beckman Hall opened in Camp Grace. Construction was made possible by a $1,000,000 matching grant from Orange County scientist and inventor, Dr. Arnold Beckman, who attended the dedication. In 2002, the Irvine Lodge was completely remodeled, expanded, and renamed Casey Lodge. More cabins have been added, and existing buildings are being renovated and remodeled.
But it all nearly came to an end in July, 2003, when the entire camp was almost lost in the 18,000-acre Coyote Fire. Started by a lightning strike well north of the valley, the fire burned for more than a week, and firefighters were barely able to turn it to avoid the main part of camp. Fortunately, all the Scouts had been safely evacuated, and no buildings were lost -- though the fire burned about half of the camp property, including several campsites.
In 2004, the camp received a new name -- Schoepe Scout Reservation at Lost Valley, in honor of pioneer industrialist and longtime Scouting supporter Adolf Schoepe (1904-2001).
Today, the history of Lost Valley is still being written, as thousands of Scouts and Scouters enjoy the camp each year.
A Sacred Memory
June 24, 1981 was one of the most memorable days in all my years at Lost Valley. That was the day Roscinda Nolasquez came back to the valley.
Roscinda was the last of the old Cupeño Indians that once counted Lost Valley as part of their territory. She was born at their ancestral village of Cupa - now Warner Hot Springs - in 1892, and was 11 years old when her people were marched off to the reservation at Pala in 1903. She died there in 1987, just short of 95 years of age.
Roscinda was a key figure in preserving the language, culture, and history of her people, and worked with many scholars over the years. I first met her in 1977, and my connection to Lost Valley gave us a certain bond. As a child, Roscinda had come to Lost Valley with her grandmother during the fall acorn harvests.
Now it was nearly 80 years later, and I had invited Roscinda up to see the valley once more. Many people have asked me what she thought when she saw that we had built a Scout camp on the open lands she knew as a child. The fact is, she was delighted. Everything was so nice and clean, she said, and it was so nice that the boys could come here.
It was Staff Week, and she was impressed to see the staff so hard at work. After lunch, we all sat down and Roscinda talked to the staff and answered their questions for about an hour. It was a memorable day for some of them, as well (though Roscinda always chuckled about some of the younger staff who were so tired after work crews that they could hardly keep their heads up).
Roscinda said Lost Valley was a sacred place. I asked her what she meant by that. Her answer was very interesting - she said the valley was sacred because it had been part of the Cupeño's world, because part of their history was there, because they had visited there; and even though they didn't go there any more, they still carried it with them in their memory.
Notice, please, that there is no religious implication in her answer. Instead, she was trying to explain a concept we really don't have a word for in English. "Memorable" doesn't really hit it. It's not the memory of the place, it's the connection one feels. The place was part of you.
‘If you could, would you like to go live at Cupa again?' one of the staff asked her. "No," she said, "only memory goes back."
Over the next few years, Roscinda often told me how much she enjoyed visiting Lost Valley again. We made one other trip together, in 1983, when she was 91 years old. She asked me if I would take her up Hot Springs Mountain again. From there, we could look down on Lost Valley. It was an awesome moment.
I will always count myself fortunate that I knew Roscinda Nolasquez.
© Phil Brigandi
"In King Lear there is a man who is such a minor character that Shakespeare has not given him even a name: he is merely ‘First Servant.' All the characters around him - Regan, Cornwall, and Edmund - have fine long-term plans. They think they know how the story is going to end, and they are quite wrong. The servant has no such delusions. He has no notion how the play is going to go. But he understands the present scene. He sees an abomination (the blinding of old Gloucester) taking place. He will not stand it. His sword is out and pointed at his master's breast in a moment: then Regan stabs him dead from behind. That is his whole part: eight lines all told. But if it were real life and not a play, that is the part it would be best to have acted." - C.S. Lewis, "The World's Last Night" (1952)