A Hike Through Crescenta Valley in 1910
In 1910, a writer for the Los Angeles Times wrote about a hike he and a friend took from Glendale to Tujunga one January day in a piece titled “A Walk With Bill Through La Crescenta Valley and On To Sunland.” At that time the Crescenta Valley was almost entirely rural, with a small business district at Foothill and La Crescenta. Here’s a description of their hike:
The writer and Bill left downtown L.A. on the trolley, and got off at the end of the line in Glendale – Casa Verdugo, a popular restaurant and tourist destination at the southern base of the Verdugos, near the top of Brand Boulevard. They took a small trail east toward Verdugo Canyon. After dipping down off the trail to steal a few oranges from an orchard around the area where the Civic Auditorium is, they continued on through Verdugo Park, which looked then very much like it looks today.
As they struck off into Verdugo Canyon, they took the western-most trail, what would today be Cañada Boulevard. The canyons along the Verdugos held huge apiary operations (bee hive boxes), and the flatlands of the canyon were covered in vineyards. Those would have been the vineyards of the Le Mesnager family, who just five years later would build the stone barn in today’s Deukmejian Park.
Soon the trail merged into a dirt road following the northeast base of the Verdugos, today’s La Crescenta Avenue below Sparr Heights. They passed several farm wagons hauling loads to Los Angeles – wagons piled with olives, honey and firewood. The once wooded canyons above CV were a source of firewood for L.A., and woodcutters visited them regularly.
They came across a couple of road repair teams – men at work with shovels and mule-driven scrapers repairing storm damage to the dirt road. The mule skinners urged their animals forward with “picturesque and expressive language” as our writer politely put it. At one point an icy stream burbled across the road (perhaps Pickens Creek – it crosses La Crescenta Avenue near Shirleyjean). The two stopped for rest, a long drink from the cold creek, and a view of the snow covered San Gabriel mountains.
They continued on the road along the base of the Verdugos (La Crescenta Avenue to Honolulu, going past CV Park) and began to climb (Tujunga Canyon Boulevard going past Verdugo Hills Golf Course), until they reached the narrow divide (where In-n-Out is) and descended into Sunland, or Monte Vista.
Here the land was covered in olives and grapevines and as they walked down today’s Foothill Boulevard, they were treated with an expansive view of the San Fernando Valley and, beyond, the snow covered mountains above Newhall. Along the way they ate partially dried and half-frozen grapes left on the now bare vines.
As they neared today’s Sunland Park, they encountered the grand Monte Vista Hotel, an elegant retreat for wealthy L.A. businessmen.
While resting on the lawn of the hotel, they met two locals. One, the piano player for the hotel, was once very sick (perhaps TB?), and had come to Sunland to die. After four years of the clean air, he pronounced himself a “pretty husky looking corpse.”
The other was an ex-cattleman from Texas who had been shot several times and robbed by his business partner. He too had come to Sunland for health, and now penniless, ran a little store. He was a Civil War veteran, and when asked whether he had a military pension to help him out, replied “No dammit! They say I was on the wrong side – but I’d do it again if I had the chance!”
From there the two descended to the Tujunga Wash where they waited until a wagon came by to give them a lift across the rushing stream. They reached their destination, a small ranch owned by the writer’s father, where they filled up on a big dinner of beans and coffee, and bedded down in the bunkhouse for their return trip the next day. A fascinating slice of life from a century ago.