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Mount Gleason

1933 (The Long Way)

By: Ralph Turner


We two, Dick Mott and I, were fifteen and had been backpacking together for two years. We had only the 1933 Forest Service map to guide us (I still have it, in tatters.) Our sleeping bags were wool - heavy! Before the advent of freeze-dried food, we carried a metal skillet and saucepan with fresh eggs carefully packed in the saucepan, and a full-sized ax to cut firewood for cooking. My mother boiled potatoes for us to slice and fry - in the grease from bacon we cooked. We depended upon beds of needles or fallen leaves in lieu of mattresses. And we didn't have the Angeles Crest Highway past the Red Box or the Angeles Forest Highway to give us a head start to our destinations. One compensating circumstance was that nobody had heard of Giardia, so we only carried a single canteen each and drank freely from every stream and spring.

Early Saturday morning in May, Dick's grandmother drove us to Chantry Flats.

From there it was down into Santa Anita Canyon and up past Sturdevant's Camp, hoping that the lonely caretaker there wouldn't waylay us for a half hour as he distilled his wilderness wisdom and chastened me for having a dull ax as he had done on several earlier hikes. We were lucky this time, so it was quickly down into the West Fork, up Short Cut Canyon, down into upper Tujunga Canyon, and up again to Charlton Flats and Chilao.

From Chilao a service road led down to Loomis Ranch in Alder Creek. Uncertain about the trail over to Mill Creek, we knocked on the ranch door. Mr. Loomis, who had retired there as Los Angeles Police Chief many years earlier, came to the door, greeted us cordially and walked us out to the start of the trail we sought. Though he walked with a cane, he was still a tall and imposing man whom I would have liked to know well. Meanwhile his wife looked on disapprovingly, suspicious and fearful of any intruders into their sanctuary. (The trail from Loomis Ranch to Mill Creek no longer appears on current maps.)

The third resident of this isolated homestead was a long legged puppy who had learned to run by watching deer, always bounding along with all four feet hitting the ground at once. As we started up the trail that would cross the ridge a little north of Round Top, the puppy bounded along with us. When he didn't leave after half a mile or so we started throwing rocks at him, which he took as a game. The trail was supposed to come out near Monte Cristo campground, which we couldn't find, so we made camp in an open field. When we laid down to sleep it turned out that every inch of the field was alive with tiny, pin-pricking ants. In addition, the dog, who wouldn't leave us for anything, barked all night.

Groggy the next morning from limited sleep, we made our way up the service road to the Mill Creek-Tye Canyon Divide, then by trail to Mt. Gleason. We climbed up the 60-foot fire tower (no longer there), only to find it was closed and empty. Meanwhile, we were immersed in a solid bank of clouds, obscuring all views and directional cues. We intended to hike down Trail Canyon to the Tujunga, where my parents would be waiting for us. But as we started down we found the trail constantly cut up by a new CCC--built service road - not, of course, on our map! After struggling between trail and road for half a mile we made the fatal decision that the road and trail were going the same way. Earlier, I had encountered construction underway on the current road up into Trail Canyon and erroneously assumed that this was it. After miles of walking on the road and not recognizing the Trail Canyon that I knew from past hikes, we were lucky to come on two fellows backing their convertible down the narrow dirt road, looking for a place to turn around. They told us we were in Pacoima Canyon. We had come down the wrong side of Iron Mountain! They invited us to get into their rumble seat - with the dog - and drove us down to Foothill Boulevard. We were again twice lucky, hitching rides, with the dog, up Foothill Boulevard and then up Mt. Gleason Avenue to the Trail Canyon junction. (The last ride was with two fellows who wanted to know if there was a good "Cat house" in Tujunga Canyon.) There was my parents' car, parked, but they had hiked up Trail Canyon to meet us. We walked a mile up Trail Canyon and met them coming down, since it was getting dark. And to the puppy's sheer delight, they had our dog, Laddy, with them.

On Monday, while we were back in junior high school boasting of our two-day 50-60 mile hike, my father visited Angeles Forest headquarters and made arrangements for us to meet a ranger who would be driving to Loomis Ranch the next weekend and would return the puppy. Throughout the week the puppy would not leave Laddy's side, once chewing through the ropes that tied them both and then chewing through the wire we used the next day, so that they could cruise the neighborhood together. We learned that the suspicious Mrs. Loomis was sure we had stolen the puppy. I later heard that soon after, the puppy similarly adopted the next young hikers who passed their door, for a repetition of our experience.

Editor's note: Ralph Turner adds the following in a cover letter, "Growing up in Pasadena in a family of hikers, I spent much of my childhood and youth in the San Gabriel's and San Bernardino's. Over the years as an adult I continued hiking, but only joined the HPS 2-1/2 years ago. I completed 100 peaks last December, and will be leading hikes in November and February. At 76 years of ago, I have no intention of retiring from hiking."

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