Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The Lady from Thorn Point

Almost two months ago I received an email from a stranger entitled "Thorn Point L.O.". Believe me when I say that I was not expecting this. The letter was from a lovely lady named Lorinda who had at one time been the USFS lookout person on Thorn Point. I was immediately fascinated by her story and of course I figured that some of you folks might like to hear some living history. Lorinda ("Rinnie") has been a treat to correspond with and I hope to stay in touch. And perhaps one day I might be lucky enough to meet her.

The older photos in this post come straight from Rinnie's collection.  Three of the photos seen below are my pictures of the filigreed cabinets in the lookout, carven with animal images. These carvings are Rinnie's. Pretty cool ain't it? So take a minute to hear how it was not all that long ago, and I'm sure you'll appreciate her story.

My heart broke and my eyes filled with tears when I found your blog and saw your pictures of Thorn Point. Wonderful pictures, but to see how time and abandonment has taken away the dignity once there. 

I grew up on the Stanislaus National Forest, which boarders Yosemite National Park. My father was employed with the USFS. I grew up in a place and time that generations of now can only read about and with disbelief that such times ever existed.

There wasn't a town. Scattered in the trees and meadow was a one room schoolhouse, community hall, chapel and small grocery store, that had the necessities to carry one through if your supplies ran out between the monthly or bi-monthly trips to the nearest town which was a two hour drive away. To obtain any of the luxuries of the day or to see how the rest of the world was living meant a two hour drive on narrow winding roads, the same roads we traveled every day if we wanted to continue our education with high school. 

Ranchers, a few County employees for road maintenance and USFS were the means of support, with a few gold miners trying to eke out a living, my grandfather being one.   I had the best childhood that anyone could have had, with fantastic parents.

Thorn Point And Our Connection- 

Before moving to the Stanislaus Forest, my grandparents worked the "Good Luck" mine in the Lockwood Valley area. I'm sure that you know of the place as much as you have combed the trails on the Los Padres. My father was just a teenager of about 17 at that time. In those years my father was much like you, always out exploring. He was not employed with the Forest Service at that time, but back in those days manpower of any age was appreciated and liability was never thought of. When Thorn Point was being put in, his back and hands were welcomed to help. Dad recalled how there was a crew up at the top of the point and then a crew down at the bottom. I assumed the crew at the bottom was there at the Guard Station where the trail takes off. They had a string of mules that the crew at the bottom would load with needed supplies and send them off on their own. Reaching the top, the crew stationed there would unload and send the string back down the mountain. I can see where that could be true by my own experience. 

In 1970 I had left home on the Stanislaus and went down to Southern Cal. When my money ran out and no place to lay my head I remembered good friends living in New Cuyama. Hurston Buck and his family used to be on the Stanislaus but had transferred down to the Los Padres, Cuyama Dist. Hurston and his family were good friends with us. He was, as then called, the FCO (Fire Control Officer) on the Stanislaus and same when transferred to the Los Padres. After being at their home for a few days, Hurston came home from work and asked if I would take a L.O. for him. For some reason the other party was leaving and the tower needed to be manned. With my growing up around the business and my grandparents manning both Jones Point and Woodsridge L.O.'s in the 40's and early 50's on the Stanislaus, Hurston just brushed me up on my "10 Code" and the next day I was up on Cuyama Peak to finish out the season. Cuyama Peak was MY first lookout. Over that winter I had made Southern California my home and was in Taft, Bakersfield and then Lebec. Being on that side of the forest I introduced myself to the Mt. Pinos District and found that they needed a lookout for Thorn Point. Before going up on Thorn, I covered a short period on Slide Mountain until the full time empoyee arrived....then off to Thorn Point. 

Yes, that's a CA Condor gnawing on the tower's support cable.

The facilities of Thorn Point were more to my liking...more like my bringing up. Wood stove, gas lights, hauling water, etc....and knowing that my father helped build it made a special spot in my heart. Too many years have gone by and I can't remember many of those at the District Office, but two employees were responsible for packing in my water, food, and propane if needed. One of the employees names was Eddie Padilla. I remember his name as he married a girl that had also had grown up on the Stanislaus, Peggy Webb and was there on the Mt. Pinos Dist. Times really hadn't advanced much from the 30's, other than I had a SMALL gas refrig and I did have the gas cooking stove along with the wood, but means of getting things up and down the mountain was still horseback with a string of mules. I had my own horse and I had a pack pony for a short while. One of the Forest Service mules name was Red. He was a short, shout mule...sweet and gentle as can be...but.... About half way up the mountain where the rock out-cropping is, there is a tight switchback with a little bit of a landing spot where we could stop and let the animals have a breather. We always had a hard time getting Red to start going again when the break was over...not mean, just a little stubborn. One time we used our handheld radio to call about something ????and when we started out....Red was ready to go! We found out later that the Forest Service had purchased him from another government agency and he had been used in the Korean War with the radio platoon (or whatever you call them). He was used to hearing the radios when he was stopped, and when they were done with their contacts, then he knew it was time to go. From that point on we always keyed the radio after our break. Old Red would hear the squelch and then he was good to go! What a dear old mule!!!!

 Most all of the mines that my grandfather mined have either been the victim of fires or vandalism.  In the 70's USFS tore down many of the cabins and stamp mills to keep the "Hippies" from moving in.  I guess I have to realize MY age and know that things don't last forever.  I miss being able to do what you are enjoying though...still going to those spots and knowing what was once there. I truly feel that people would have more respect for the planet we share and persons around them if we all knew a little of the generations that came before. 

 I haven't wanted Thorn to be taken by fire.....but honestly, the more I see what has happened to the other tower, I almost wish that a fire would take her.  I think it would preserve her dignity instead of ending up like Cuyama Peak.

-Lorinda Poole

All the large type above comes from emails that I've shared with Lorinda and are reprinted here with her permission. To leave a message for Rinnie, email me at 


  1. Good history.
    A few years ago I read the logbook in the tower. The ranger mentioned a spring nearby. Followed his (her?) general directions and found a remote rocky spring with a bear and her two cubs right there. Watched them play around for quite awhile.

  2. Very cool! Thanks for sharing, DS. Love her old photos.

  3. This is marvelous. It is so easy to forget the wonderful lives that extend back ages. Someone may see a disparate old hovel where another sees their childhood; a remnant of a bygone era.

    Thank you for sharing, and please thank Lorinda on my behalf.

  4. Will do Joseph. I agree, the history is just as important (at the least) as the present, especially when they overlap.