Forest Ranger's Wife Describes Trial to the Top of Old Saddleback

Six Months-Old Baby Probably Youngest Tourist Yet to Make the Accent of Santiago Peak

October 12, 1912
Santa Ana Register

The following excellent description of the trail to the top of Santiago Peak was written for the Cleveland National Forest Fire Guard, a publication gotten out by the forest men of the Cleveland National Forest, of which the Santa Ana mountains, including Old Saddleback, are a part. Santiago Peak is one of the peaks of Old Saddleback.

The article was written by Mrs. J.B. Stephenson, wife of Forest Ranger Stephenson of El Toro. On this trip burros were used to transport the family. Little Louise Stephenson rode a burro up the trail. Comping down, the ranger put a pair of packing boxes on a burro and in one box he put Louise, aged 5, and in the other Jimmie, aged 2 years and 6 months. The youngsters enjoyed every minute of the journey. Mrs. Stephenson's article, contributed to the Fire Guard, follows:

Descriptive of the Trail to Santiago Peak

Few people of our little county know what an ideally beautiful camping spot the summit of Old Saddleback affords. The trip from Andrew Joplin's ranch on the side of the mountain is made afoot or on horseback or by burrow, just as you would prefer, and takes only five or six hours going up.

After leaving Joplin's you follow the ridge for about two and one-half miles then the trail suddenly drops into the head of the beautiful Santiago Canyon, in the lower part of which is located the Orange County Park. The water is constantly running down a narrow bed between monster alders and large oak, sycamore and maple trees. This spot, approachable only by trail, makes a perfectly beautiful natural park. A short distance to the mountain is a grove of big cone spruce, also a lot of mountain laurel or bay trees. It is a grand camping spot, and is called "Old Camp."

From "Old Camp" on up, the trail winds along the creek bed among ferns as high as your head, and the shade of the trees is so dense that the sun cannot penetrate. The next camping place is called "Jamison Camp" and is as perfect in beauty as "Old Camp."

Just by the side of the trail is a large spring of delicious mountain water which seems to be flowing from the rock. It is surrounded by tall brake ferns as high as your horse.

Then you follow the trail for half an hour and you will reach the saddle of the mountain. A beautiful view is opened to you of the country on the east side of the range, from Corona to Elsinore along the picturesque Temescal Valley. The large orange orchards look like small gardens in the distance. The trail winds along through the tall brush (because you leave the timber shortly after you pass Jamison Camp), on the other side of the mountain, slowly upward and presently you will be astonished to find yourself on the highest point of the Santa Ana mountain range.

The view from this point is magnificent. As far as you can see are ranches that you never dreamed could be hidden from view from below and beautiful mountains covered with small forests of oak, spruce, and "Santa Clause Christmas trees," as our little girl called them, that change hues every hour of the day as the sun strikes them or casts shadows from different peaks.

In a little hollow just east of Santiago Peak, is an old cabin that was build years ago by Mr. Adkinson, an old timer in the hills, for the use of the Geological Surveyors. He cut the lumber and shakes from the oak and spruce timber on the side of the mountain, and carried it to the top on burros. The only difficulty with living here is getting water, which as to be carried by burrow about a mile.

In the evening it is wonderful to sit on the peak and watch the different cities and village lights sprint into view, in all Southern California.

This is the peak that has been chosen by the U.S. Forest Service for a Fire Lookout Station. It has a telephone extending from the peak to El Toro at the District Ranger's house, and at present they are building a cabin for the Guard to sit in and watch for fires. He has the telephone at his elbow and all he has to do the instant he sights a fire is to call up the Ranger and give the exact location of the smoke, so that the Ranger can leave home immediately with his fire-fighters for the scene of the fire and have it under control in a short time.

There is a register on top of the peak for the names of the visitors. That this trip is practicable for hundreds of people who would enjoy it, is shown from the fact that my husband, three children and myself, made the trip and had a glorious time. Our baby was just six months old and she had as good a time as the rest of us. We think she will hold the record a long time, as the youngest tourist to the peak.


Santiago Peak 1914
Santiago Peak, 1914