An Old Vineyard Trail Reopened in Deukmejian Park
Just a couple months ago, the all volunteer Crescenta Valley Trail Crew re-cut an old trail out of the sagebrush on the east side of Dunsmore Canyon. It had previously been called the Boy Scout Trail in honor of an Eagle Scout who created the trail over a decade ago. When the Station Fire decimated that portion of the park, the re-growth of sagebrush obliterated the old Boy Scout Trail. Just this year the trail crew, part of Glendale’s Trails and Open Space Program, reopened that trail. It was renamed the Vineyard Trail in honor of the grape growing tradition of the French Le Mesnager family that developed this canyon starting in the 1800s. Signage telling the vineyard history will soon be installed.
To find the Vineyard Trail, head up the main Dunsmore Creek Trail that leaves the parking lot by the old stone barn. Within a couple hundred feet a trail branches off to the right and heads down into the Dunsmore Creek streambed. Follow the well-marked path across the dry creek to a large oak where the trail builders have set up a couple of benches under the oak’s canopy. From here stone steps head up the canyon’s side and wander along the edge of the creek bed cut. It’s there that you’ll find sections of water pipe that the pioneer Le Mesnager family laid from the springs higher up the canyon down to their many vineyards, and further down into the valley below where thirsty valley ranchers purchased the water. Note that this is very old riveted pipe, which makes it pre-1920s, probably over 100 years old!
The next feature is a huge granite boulder that looms over the trail at the edge of a 10-foot high cliff. According to geologists, this cliff is an ancient debris flow that ran out of steam as it headed down the canyon. The boulder had been “surfing” the front edge of the debris flow and was frozen in place when the flow stopped. The image of that debris flow with the massive boulder at its point roaring down the canyon at 20 mph is impressive!
The trail now switchbacks up the cliff to one of the most talked about mysteries of the park – two rusting old swing-sets stuck out in the middle of the wilderness. My own theory is that in the three generations of the Le Mesnager family’s occupancy of the canyon there were many children. The swing sets were placed here so the kids could play while the family worked the vineyard. There was also a small shooting range to the east of the swing set where the Le Mesnager boys could plink away at bottles.
Next the trail winds through the old vineyard, as evidenced by the many upright water pipe sections planted in rows – repurposed as trellises for the grape vines. Although the Le Mesnager family had hundreds of acres of commercial vineyards around Los Angeles, they grew grapes for their own wine in this vineyard from the late 1880s until the 1960s when they sold the land. Legend has it that these vines were brought over from France.
The trail wanders the long abandoned vineyard until it abruptly Ts into the Crescenta View Trail. A right turn takes hard-core hikers up the mountainside as far as Mt. Lukens. A left turn returns to the developed portion of the park. The return route takes you down into the creek bed, up the other side and back on the main trail where you can continue on several other trails through the park, or head down past the big oak tree to the parking lot. Before returning to your car, view the demonstration vineyard just below the stone barn, and think about the acres of vineyards like this that once wandered up the canyon.
This trail is perfect for kids and beginner hikers as it’s relatively level, passes many interesting features and is well under a mile. The Vineyard Trail is a chance to view some of the history of Dunsmore Canyon, both man-made and geologic, in an easy half-hour stroll.