THE MISSING INTRUDER OF CABIN TWO
BIG SANTA ANITA CANYON
by Billy Orville Taylor
Mom Nature selected eight days in January of 1969 to bestow 33.53 inches of moisture in and around Big Santa Anita Canyon! This was the second, ”once in a century,” flood in Big Santa Anita Canyon! There were 9 cabins lost in this deluge. (The past major cabin loses were experienced in the March 2nd, 1938 flood and during the fire of ‘53!)
The little crystal clear babbling brook turned into a raging torrent of foaming, muddy water which carried away all within its path! Unseen huge boulders were rolling along the stream bed, thus creating a muffled, thundering, rumbling sound and caused the ground to tremble! This was somewhat unnerving to the brave souls who would stand on the stream’s banks in order to observe the wrath of nature!
After the massive storm started to move east, some of the cabin owners were able to returned to the canyon in order to determine if they still had a cabin or make plans to repair any damage.
Immediately after the last of the rains had subsided, Homer Wilcox, owner of cabin number one, and his young son, David, carefully made their way down Bo’s Trail to check out his cabin.
A short historical aside, if I may? The following is a bit of history necessary to better understand this account. Bo‘s Trail was constructed by Burton Bogardus in 1948 shortly after he and Les Bounds purchased cabin one. Bo needed the shortest way possible to backpack cement to his cabin. He was in the process of adding the stone second story bed room. He started his trail at the road and used a shovel, pick and a lot of sweat to dig out a very steep trail just wide enough for one person. No room for passing going up or down.
He parked his Jeep Wagon in the park-out next to the Chantry road, then tied the cement to a WWII surplus US Army backpack and hiked down the almost “free fall” trail. Some of us are made of sterner stuff than others, and Bo was one of these!
The trail no longer exists and the one-car-park-out, at its head, was covered with large boulders decades ago by the Forest Service.
Homer and David found cabin one high and dry as expected. His cabin was built on a bench well above the flood level of the stream and was in no danger.
They decided to hike up stream on the high canyon trail to inspect cabin two. That structure was then owned by Paul Sharp. Homer and Paul were employed by Electro Music, a CBS owned company located in Pasadena. Bo had also worked there, but sold number one to Homer in 1966, when he and his family moved to Berkley.
Homer later reported that hiking up the muddy, slippery and damaged trail was more than a little spooky! They tried not to look down at the churning flood waters well over a hundred feet below the edge of the narrow trail!
When they finally reached cabin two they discovered it was in jeopardy! The roaring water was shooting over the crib dam just up stream from the cabin, and the churning water was well over 10 feet deep at that narrow part of canyon. The unseen boulders creating mini ground tremors to the terraces on which the cabin was constructed in 1919.
The streamside supports for the 10x10 foot porch had been washed away, and the porch slanted steeply toward the rushing water which was just a couple of feet below the edge. The wooden railings, once attached to the porch, had been ripped off!
Across the tilting porch, Homer could see the front door was standing wide open. The door should have been locked! Something was wrong! Had the storm somehow shifted this part of the cabin causing the door to open? The other possibility was a break-in either before or during the storm.
Homer and David were able to carefully step along the precarious upper edge of the porch while holding on to the rocks of the cabin wall. This edge was still attached to the cabin and they were able to gain entry into the cabin.
They observed that the door had been forced open by brute force which had cracked the door and split the door frame! The striker plate had been torn out of the broken wood! At that point Homer realized that someone could be in the cabin! He immediately started announcing their presents, in a loud voice, and assured the any intruder they meant no harm.
There was no response. No sound except the roaring water. Somewhat relieved, he and David entered the main room. As their eyes became accustomed to the dim light, they saw damp and muddy clothing draped over the chairs and other furniture. Someone had recently occupied the cabin, but where were they? They checked the other rooms, but could find no one.
Homer saw a three inch, reel to reel, battery operated tape recorder placed on the table. He assumed the machine belonged to the intruder.
The tape was rewound and played. The voice was that of a young man detailing his hike down the mountain, in the rain, on slippery washed out trails. He stated he had abandoned the trail and short cut down the side of the canyon. He described falling and sliding many times before reaching the main trail which led him to the cabin. He said he carried his clothing in a pillow case, and everything was wet, and muddy! He did not give the date nor his identity, but did admit breaking in the door to find shelter from the storm.
The last entry stated that the rain had stopped and his intention was to go outside onto the porch and see how high the water had risen!
Homer’s educated guess was that this tape documented activity which had transpired just a few hours before their arrival. He and David gathered up the tape machine and retreated across the porch edge. They looked down stream, and over the area around the cabin, but didn’t see nor hear anyone.
They returned to their car at the top of Bo’s Trail and drove to the Temple City Sheriff Station. There, they explained the days events, played the recorder for the desk sergeant, filled out and signed the report, received a receipt for the tape recorded and went home.
Paul Sharp was informed of the damage to the porch and the break-in to his cabin. The details of the days events were told to a few interested friends and co-workers.
That seemed to be the end of story as nothing more was reported to Bill and Lila Adams or their pack station at Chantry Flat. No news from the Sheriff’s office or news paper reports.
A year later the Temple City Sheriff Station called Homer and requested he stop by and pick-up the recorder as it had not been claimed. He picked-up the recorder and was informed that a few parents, who had reported their sons missing, listen to the tape, but could not identify the voice.
The opinion of the LA County Sheriff Department was that a young lad had run away from home, for an unknown reason, and met his death when the porch collapsed beneath his feet. They also assumed the lad was not from The San Gabriel Valley area. The remains of this mysterious intruder of cabin two have not been found.
Please, appreciate that the decade of sixties was the major “Hippie” years. More than one teenager ran away from home to join the “drop out” movement. Most of these young people returned home when found, disillusioned or hungry.
Here is a little more history about the cast of characters and cabins within this tale.
I was also in the employ of Electro-Music and a co-worker of Bo, Homer and Paul during this period. We, as well as others of our fellow employees, enjoyed many Friday evenings during the fifties and early sixties in Bo’s cabin number one.
During the summer months, we would select a Friday evening and hike down Bo’s trail after work to enjoy a BBQ steak dinner cooked over the hot coals in the fire place. The wonderful meal and camaraderie was followed by a little penny-anti poker!
When telling family and friends about our Friday evening gatherings, we referred to them as our “prayer meetings.”
Some of us believed they were, because we prayed for a straight flush. Three of a kind? How about a pair deuces? Our prayers were always answered. However, most of the time the answer was “NO!”
I purchased cabin number two in 1974, and for the next 34 years, it was my hide-a-way in the pucker brush!
My dear canyon friends, a detailed history of those wonderful visits to cabin one and of other canyon adventures will be covered in other stories, in this same place, at another time.
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