Lost Valley Online History History

Lost Valley -- The Bergman Years

Phil Brigandi

For more than sixty years, Lost Valley belonged to the Bergmans.

The Bergmans were backcountry pioneers. Jacob Bergman (1832-1894) had brought his wife and young son, Henry, to Aguanga in 1864 and moved into the abandoned Butterfield Stage station. His ranch there became a well-known stopping place on the road to Temecula, and Jake had a reputation as a friendly host and a colorful storyteller. His popularity helped him win a seat on the San Diego County Board of Supervisors from 1873-75.

Henry Bergman grew up in the cattle business and became a very successful rancher. He was widely respected throughout the hill country. Lester Reed (1890-1984), an old time local cowboy who later wrote several books on the early cattlemen, recalled,

“Henry Bergman seemed to have been born to become a very thrifty cattleman, not in a big way, but in a very thorough way. Like the old-time California Spanish vaquero, he took real pride in having a good horse, a quality saddle, and other riding equipment, including a long rawhide reata, with which he was better than average when using a big loop. ... As well as taking up the ways and know-how of the old-time California vaqueros, Henry Bergman could speak their language very well, and appeared to be very much at ease when doing so.”

Along about 1898, Henry Bergman expanded his grazing operations by buying Lost Valley from the Stone brothers. To reach the valley, Henry Bergman cut a new trail in from Chihuahua Valley, that became known as the Lost Valley Trail. It was used for cattle drives until the 1950s. The eastern end of the trail -- from the valley up to the ridge where Mt. Birkenstock stands, is still in use. Though badly overgrown, some of the remains of the trail can then be followed across the next valley and up the ridge to the Pacific Crest Trail. From there to Chihuahua Valley, the trail has vanished.

The trail had something of a reputation in the old days. Evelyn (“Ma”) Smith, who ran the riding stables at Warner Hot Springs for many years, recalled being on the Lost Valley Trail in the 1940s: “It was an awful hard place to get in in the early days when they went in with the cattle. It was nothing but boulders, you didn’t see any dirt. I went over the trail. I said, ‘Never again!’ I just held my breath ... I couldn’t hardly get through on a horse.”

In the summer of 1911, a group of campers accidentally set the valley on fire, and burned down the Stone brother’s old cabin. According to the Hemet News (August 18, 1911), “Two campers pre-empted the house in the absence of its owners and carelessly built a camp fire in the back yard. The fire spread to the house, barn, and haystacks, destroying them, and from there got into timber.” The fire then moved towards the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation. “Forest rangers from different parts of the reserve responded to the call for extra help and private citizens and landowners turned out in large numbers to fight the flames. The section through which the fire swept was heavily covered with underbrush and small growth, which carried the flames along at a rapid rate and made the situation exceedingly difficult to handle. Only by a system of back firing were the fighters finally successful in stopping the fire.”

Henry Bergman rushed to the valley, and was relieved to find that his cattle were all safe. He told the papers that the fire burned more than six square miles of territory before it was stopped. He also told reporters he planned to sue the men who started the fire.

With the old cabin gone, the Bergmans had to stay in tents for the next few years when they visited Lost Valley. It was up to Henry’s son to do something about that.

When Henry Bergman’s second son was born on July 7, 1892 his parents named him Orlando Bergman. But his Grandmother Bergman did not care for that name, “I’m going to call him Arlie,” she said. And Arlie he was, to everyone, for the rest of his life. Raised in the cattle business like his father, Arlie Bergman was even more successful and more respected than his father. In more than 25 years of digging into backcountry history, I have never heard a bad word said about Arlie Bergman.

In October of 1914, Arlie Bergman filed a 120-acre homestead adjoining his father’s land in Lost Valley. It took in much of what is now Camp Grace, along with most of the main meadow. A few months later -- probably in the summer of 1915 -- Arlie began construction of his own cabin, as required by the homestead laws.

All of the material for the new Bergman Cabin (which still stands) had to be packed in on the backs of burros over the Lost Valley Trail -- even the glass windows. Arlie’s nine-year-old cousin, Walt Bergman, accompanied him on at least one of the pack trips. “We’d have two sheets of galvanized iron on each burro,” he recalled, “and it’d be sticking out two or three feet behind ‘em and two or three feet ahead of them.” Because the metal blocked their vision, the burros balked on turns -- “they weren’t about to go in the direction that they couldn’t see.” So Walt’s job was to grab their lead rope and pull them around the many twists and turns of the Lost Valley Trail.

Arlie’s cabin was a big step up from the old Stone Brothers cabin. It is covered in galvanized tin and has lathe and plaster walls and a wooden floor inside. “We built it so it wouldn’t burn down again,” Walt Bergman says. There is a connection between the two cabins, though. Arlie salvaged the stones from the fireplace of the old cabin and used them to build his own fireplace.

Besides the cabin, Arlie also built a log barn out back with cedar shingles cut near Shingle Springs (below where the Bear Hollow campsite is now located in Camp Grace). There was also a corral and a “one-holer” a polite distance away from the cabin. At the base of the hill just below the cabin, Arlie drilled a pipe horizontally back into the hill and got a good flow of cold water.

Not long after he built his cabin, Arlie Bergman asked Annie Mendenhall to be his bride. Born on Palomar Mountain on September 10, 1895, Annie Mendenhall was the daughter of another prominent cattle ranching family. In 1899 a fire swept the Aguanga side of the mountain, and the Bergman and Mendenhall cattle began to graze side by side. Each fall, a round-up would be held to sort out the herds. “The cattle would bring the families together,” Annie recalled. That was how Arlie and Annie met.

When Arlie first asked her to marry him in 1915, Annie said no. He kept asking, though, and in 1917 she finally said yes. They were married on February 10, 1917. To prove up his homestead, Arlie had to keep a legal residence at Lost Valley for at least seven months each year. He was there in 1915, 1916, and for the third and final year in 1917 with his new wife by his side.

Arlie was also required to raise crops on the land, and he grew potatoes and other crops in what is now the Stables pasture. Closer to the cabin, Annie kept a little kitchen garden, and Arlie planted a few fruit trees. Two of his old apple trees survived for years, finally dying in the 1980s.

By the end of 1917, Arlie had met all the legal requirements to “prove up” his homestead and receive a patent. Various factors (including the death of registrar in Los Angeles) delayed the process until 1918, when Arlie officially presented his claim. The law required four witnesses to certify that the applicant had occupied and improved the property. Appearing for Arlie were his father, Henry, Aguanga storekeeper Dave Ellsworth, and two Chihuahua Valley homesteaders, James Jeffries and Albert Otto.

Arlie testified that he had built a house with two rooms, a barn, corral, and outhouse, and had strung nearly three miles of barb wire fence. The value of these improvements was estimated at $1,000. In 1915, he said, he cleared five acres and grew maize and fodder for his livestock. In 1916 he cleared an additional seven acres and planted “potatoes, [a] garden, maize, corn, [and] soudan grass”, harvesting 1,000 pounds of potatoes and a ton of hay. He also set out “13 assorted fruit trees” that year. In 1917 he cleared a final 17 acres and planted potatoes, barley, beans and soudan grass; harvesting two tons of potatoes, 225 pounds of beans and another ton of hay. Henry Bergman and the other witnesses backed all of Arlie’s claims, Henry noting that he had been in and out of the valley for 20 years, and still came up regularly.

With all the legal formalities out of the way, Arlie Bergman was issued his patent on October 25, 1919, giving the Bergmans a total of 280 acres in Lost Valley. In addition, Arlie sometimes leased some adjoining grazing land from the Forest Service.

The Forest Service

West of Lost Valley is the Cleveland National Forest. In 1906, the Forest Service set aside an “administrative site” on the west side of main meadow, between where the parking lot and the Indian Village are now located. Later they fenced in a small corral there, so that there would always be feed for their horses when they rode in, even when Arlie was grazing hundreds of head of cattle in the valley. The remains of the Forest Service corral were still visible on into the 1980s.

During the fire season each year, the Forest Service would hire local ranchers to ride fire patrol. Arlie was already riding for the Forest Service while he was homesteading in Lost Valley in the ‘teens. He also got the job in 1928, but passed it on to a young friend from Sage, Herschel Higgins. “I was only 17,” Higgins recalls, “and you had to be 18 to work for the Forest Service. So Arlie was patrolman for them, and they just paid Arlie and then Arlie paid me. And I stayed there [at Aguanga] with Arlie and Annie, and helped Arlie with the chores, and I rode all of Palomar Mountain, Lost Valley, all that ... on horseback.”

Higgins later went to work for the Forest Service as a full-time ranger, and was stationed at Oak Grove, Lake Henshaw, and Mt. Laguna before giving up his position in 1947.

Around 1930 or ‘31, Higgins rode in to Lost Valley tagging trees that had been infested by pine beetles, then worked with the cutting crew that followed. Men and equipment all had to be packed in over the Lost Valley Trail. Higgins recalls:

“Oh boy! It was a hard old trail in there, I’ll tell you. Especially going down into Lost Valley. It wasn’t so bad going up this [Chihuahua] side and across Little Rock Valley through there, but when you started down, it was bad ... . [We] took that stuff in there for those guys to cut “buggy” trees, and one of them old mules fell down, right on one of those rocky cliffs, and it was quite a ways down to the bottom. And we pulled her out, had to get the pack off here, and you know that mule wouldn’t get up. We took the pack off, then she didn’t want to stand up so we could put the pack back on. So we took her down a little ways, then ... [we] carried the stuff down a little ways and put the pack on her ... if she’d rolled over she’d went off down there.”

In the late 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps workers from Puerta la Cruz started work on a road up Agua Caliente Canyon into Lost Valley. The work was abandoned far from the valley, but the road was dubbed the Lost Valley Truck Trail, and the Forest Service has kept it open all these years. It provides access to their campground at Indian Flats, which was developed about that same time. Quite recently, a sign went up at the bottom calling the Lost Valley Road.

But the Forest Service’s most interesting project in the Lost Valley area was the introduction of beaver into the valley in 1949. According to the Ramona Sentinel: “The Fish and Game Commission brought seventeen beaver from Merced, Friday morning to plant in this area. Glen Willingham of the Forest Service accompanied them to the several spots picked out to put in the beaver, but most of them were too dry. Seven were planted in Lost Valley, five in Mendenhall Valley on Palomar Mt. and the other five will be taken to Pine Hills [near Julian].”

The hope was that in building dams and dens, the beaver would provide erosion control in the mountain meadows. The plan had first been tried at Santa Ysabel in 1945. This 1947 description probably reflects what happened in Lost Valley two years later:

“The first few months the beavers explored the entire length of the stream, cutting only enough willows for food; living in old windfalls and log jams or burrows in the bank. As the summer approached and the stream grew smaller, the beavers began building a series of small dams. ...

“The past summer and fall they have been very active cutting large numbers of willows, some eight inches in diameter or more and building numerous dams. The dams hold back hundreds of thousands of gallons of valuable water, catch silt and sub-irrigate pasture land. From the amount of work it is assumed that the colony has had an increase in population [from four] so that there are now probably six to eight beavers working for conservation in the stream.

“Two other plantings were made. ... To date these beavers have spent most of their time exploring the stream channel for several miles to find a location that suits them. If molested by too many cattle, humans, or dogs, they migrate down or up stream to a quieter location. It appears, however, that they have adapted themselves to [weather] conditions in the county and should, as the colonies grow and spread, do a tremendous amount of good in controlling erosion, run-offs and floods ... and in conserving water. ...

“Adult beavers often weigh 40 pounds or more, and with their thick coat, sharp, strong teeth, would be a good match for the average dog. At present we known of no natural enemies that would keep the beavers from developing colonies here. In their new homes they are tireless workers that will benefit the whole country.”

The Lost Valley beaver eventually selected a stretch of Agua Caliente Creek near today’s Nature Center. In the early 1960s, the beavers and their dams were still much in evidence. But in 1965 a man-made dam was built across the creek near the beaver dams, to form the camp’s first lake, and the beaver headed downstream into Agua Caliente Canyon.

Nothing more was seen of them until the floods of 1980, when a pair of beaver -- probably seeking safer waters -- came back up into the valley and took up residence in Agua Caliente Lake. They built a den, and lived alongside the lake until June, when they headed back down the canyon. In 1988 I hiked the entire length of Agua Caliente Canyon, but saw no sign of beaver.

Lost Valley Cattle Drives

Throughout the 1920s, ‘30s, and into the 1940s, the Bergmans kept up their twice a year cattle drives in and out of Lost Valley. After his father’s death in 1930, Arlie took over the family ranch. He also leased or purchased pasture land near Anza, in Dameron Valley, and at Oak Grove. Like most of the backcountry cattlemen, Arlie shipped his cattle to market from the railroad at Temecula, which ran until 1935.

Lost Valley remained strictly summer grazing; sometimes he would have as many as 200 head there. The cattle would be driven up in April, and taken back out in November. Annie Bergman said the cattle seemed to know each spring when the time to head up to the valley was near, and you could see them get a little more excited.

Once the cattle were brought in, Lost Valley acted as sort of a natural corral, and Arlie needed almost no fencing to hold them. About the only fencing he had to build was at the entrance to some of the canyons; one bit of old barbed wire fence still exists at the top of a fork of Agua Caliente Creek, near the Lost Valley Trail.

Herschel Higgins rode with Arlie many times in the 1930s. “We’d drive ‘em from Aguanga,” he recalls. “Most of the time he’d take them to Oak Grove, and we’d hold ‘em over there at Oak Grove, then the next day we’d drive ‘em all the way into Lost Valley. They’d go right up there.” Higgins says Arlie left his cattle in the valley until the first snow hit (usually in November), “and coming out, after the snow fell, you didn’t have to worry about it, all you had to do was get out of the way and stay out, ‘cause they were coming down out of there!” Sometimes, the Lost Valley Trail was thick with snow:

“You’d try to go up that trail, and you’d have to get off and walk; the snow was deep, the horses would just jump along, jump along, but they’d get up there. And then after you got up on top it wasn’t too bad through the Little Rock Valley and out through there over to Lost Valley. But ... to get up to the gate at the top of the hill in the Little Rock Valley, you just had to fight; you couldn’t ride the horses ... and as soon as you get up there [to the gate], we’d get the horses out of the way and open the gate and those cattle would go down that trail just a’flyin’! And you could ride right back down, it was just hard-packed from maybe 40 or 50 head of cattle going down there.”

Lester Reed accompanied Arlie Bergman on one of his last cattle drives out of Lost Valley in the mid-1940s. In 1983 he recalled:

“Years ago I camped at Oak Grove, trapping and gardening, and Arlie came down and wanted to know if I’d help bring a few head of cattle down from the [Cahuilla] Indian Reservation -- I believe it was the next day. I was tickled to death to get to work with cattle again. So we got up early in the morning, went up to the Reservation ... and we got the cattle on the road. ...

“Then [the next day] Arlie comes to me again, he says, ‘Say, Lott,’ he says, ‘could you help me bring the cattle out of Lost Valley?’ I told him sure ... so I went with him at the appointed time, with trucks hauling horses, and we drove to the upper end of Chihuahua Valley and then rode the horses in. And that’s when I mentioned about Arlie not having the key [to his cabin], and he couldn’t get in. So we spent the night there.

“The next morning we had good luck in gathering the cattle, got ‘em gathered up and out with them through Chihuahua that night. We corralled ‘em at Chihuahua and went down to Aguanga for the night. And when Arlie read his mail, why he comes to me, he says, ‘Hey Lott,’ he says, ‘you think you and [my daughter] Esther and that friend of hers can bring the cattle on from Chihuahua?’ ‘Well,’ I says, ‘Arlie if we fail it’ll be after we tried.’ ‘Well,’ he says, ‘I got to be away,’ and he pulled out.

“So he hauled these two girls and I up to Chihuahua before he left on his mission. And as we went by Oak Grove -- the old Wentworth place -- why he stopped and showed us where he wanted us to put the cattle in the pasture at, what gate. So we got along just fine ... Arlie left us and we started out with the cattle up at Chihuahua, and got along just fine. Bragged all the way about how well we were getting along. Then just opposite the Forest Service Station there at Oak Grove, somebody slammed the back door.

“I don’t know how many cattle we had, pretty nice little bunch of them, though, and they split about half and half. One half went up the road and the other half down the road, just really leavin’ the country. Well, Esther and I went after the ones that went back towards Chihuahua and this other little girl, the last we saw of her, she was really making time trying to get ahead of those that was headed toward Aguanga.

“So Esther and I, we got ours stopped all right, but we had to give them quite a little time to settle down before we could drive ‘em back. We were getting back with them and we found out right away that we couldn’t go by Oak Grove, where they got spooked. So Esther says, “I know where there’s a gate around back.” And so we headed for that gate around back and when we got around to where we could see ‘cross the valley, why, there was the little white-haired girl, across the valley at the gate where Arlie said we should have gone to put the cattle in -- she remembered all of that.

So Esther and I got ours in and went across where she was. ‘Oh say,’ she says, ‘Mr. Reed, did I do everything right? The right thing?’ I says, ‘You couldn’t have done better.’

Hunting in Lost Valley

Lester Reed was also in Lost Valley in the 1940s working as a government trapper. “Twice,” he recalled, “I found fresh tom lion track that led me into Lost Valley, when I had only one day to hunt. One time that old tom lion led me to where he had made five different deer kills, some of them rather old kills, and some not so old. I am sure that I needed one more day to catch up with him, very likely two or three more days.”

Other trappers had been in the valley before him, Reed said. “Old John Collins and John Wentworth used to catch lions there whenever they could get away to do it, I guess, and they hid their traps right there somewhere. I tried to find out from John [Wentworth] where they hid their traps, but he wouldn’t tell me.”

Herschel Higgins ran into John Collins once while he was in Lost Valley looking after Arlie’s cattle. He says Collins set his traps on the east side of the valley near the Tarabal Trail. Higgins went out with Collins to check his trap line the next morning:

“We went over on the desert side, and there he had one of his traps gone. He killed this one lion right there, he was in the trap, and he shot him. And we went on down to the next trap and it was gone. And this old female lion, she walked on a ridge and down the ridge [dragging the trap], and we were walking down there [following the tracks], and there she was. She started right up the hill. I didn’t have any firearms with me at all. Old John had his ... rifle ... .”

The cat charged the two men, and Collins began shooting. After five shots, Higgins said, “John, you better drop her this time or you’re gonna be by yourself!” He did, when the cat was only ten or 15 feet in front of them -- “I would have been half a mile away,” Higgins says.

In 1930, John Goswick of Ramona got two lions “on the rim of Lost Valley,” the Ramona Sentinel reported, calling the valley, “a wild, rugged and little known part of the country far removed from the highways.”

“Accompanying Mr. Goswick in his latest hunt were his five famous hound dogs that are especially trained for lion hunting and B.F. ‘Nonie’ Meissen of Ramona.

“‘My dogs are considered the best lion hunters in the southwest,’ declares Mr. Goswick. ‘I break them in young in such a way that they will take to no trail but that of a lion.’

“The dogs generally precede the hunters by several miles when in the lion country and proclaim a fresh trail by staccato barks followed by constant baying. The pursued lion, finding that the pack is encircling him, invariably takes to a tree and from a high branch snarls defiantly at the dogs below. Such is the picture that Mr. Goswick sees when he comes on the scene with gun in hand to dispatch the lion.

“The combined state and county bounty on a male lion amounts to $95, and a female lion commands a bounty of $105. Therefore the business is quite remunerative if many lions are found.”

To hear Lester Reed tell it, trapping mountain lions was no trouble at all. “If you find their main travel ways they have no sense of suspicion at all, like a coyote does. The lion doesn’t and if he’s traveling, we’ll say south, why that’s the way he’s traveling and that’s it. And he’s going to step on what he thinks is the best place in front of him.” So Reed would disguise his traps, and then spread rocks, or pine cones on the trail, leaving a bare spot where the trap was hidden. “I had pretty good luck trapping on that theory,” he recalled.

Most of the hunting in Lost Valley, though, was deer hunting. The Bergmans hunted deer (Arlie was an excellent shot), their friends hunted deer, and strangers hunted deer. Yet despite the hunting, the deer still roamed unafraid through the valley (just as they do today). Anza cattleman Bud Clark (1902-1995) visited the valley with Arlie in the 1920s, and was impressed even then. “I remember I got up in the morning and looked out, and there’s deer grazing around the meadow right there. That was a beautiful place.”

Some hunters, it seems, couldn’t tell a deer from a cow. Annie Bergman recalled, “One thing that was almost absolutely necessary was somebody to be there during deer season, otherwise you’d be amazed how many calves went out of these and were eaten up as deer. So we had to have somebody there for our own protection.” Usually family or friends would do the job. Arlie’s uncle, Jim Bergman, was often there for deer season in the 1940s, serving as fire guard for the Forest Service as well.

Not everyone hunted in season, though, and Ted Jolly, the local game warden (not a popular guy in some quarters) was always trying to catch the poachers. Once, Herschel Higgins says, John Collins and Harry Bergman was staying in the cabin at Lost Valley, and Collins had taken a deer out of season and Harry was cooking it up for dinner.

“John said, ‘Jolly might come walking in here.’ Old Harry said, ‘oh, my dog, he’ll bark.’ So Harry was frying some deer meat, and he had some potatoes in another frying pan. And old John looked out the door, and Ted was about two feet from the door, and he said, ‘Here’s Jolly right now.’ And old Harry just dumped the potatoes on top of the meat, put the lid on it and opened the [stove] door and dumped it all in the fire! Well Ted ... smelled it, he knew it was frying deer, and he looked, he looked everywhere. The barn, back in the trees, just walking around, walking around.”

But Jolly never found the deer. All the while it was hanging in the cabin’s attic.

All sorts of people stayed in Arlie’s cabin over the years. “We never locked it,” Annie said, “because anybody was welcome to come in. If they were caught without food, why they’d help themselves and usually do something about making it right.” “The only difficulty we ever had, there was a guy camped there and he stole a lot of stuff -- handmade quilts, bedding and food -- and they tracked him down, but the authorities could never do anything because we could not legally identify any of the stuff he had -- food stuff, canned goods, that sort of thing.”

Perhaps it was after that incident that Arlie began to lock up the cabin. When Lester Reed rode in with him in the mid-1940s, he said Arlie forgot to bring his key, “so he had to take a pane out of a back window, so we could enter for the night. Not long after, I was in Lost Valley looking for the sign of mountain lions, when I wanted to spend part of a night in Arlie’s cabin, so I entered by way of the same back window.” When I reminded Lester what Annie had said about never locking the cabin, he replied,

“When saying that, Annie is almost right! ... They had been going there for so many years when the house did not have to be locked, that Arlie forgot to take the key. Our Hill Country was changing a lot, from what it was when Arlie and I first knew it. I remember of living in our Hill Country [at Sage] over a period of many years when our old home had no way for us to lock the doors!”

The Carlsbad Mine

In 1929-30 Lost Valley was the scene of a little, local mining boom. It wasn’t gold or silver, or even lead. It was mica that brought miners to the Lost Valley area.

In 1929, W.F. Wheeler, a San Bernardino prospector, filed five claims in the hills northeast of Lost Valley, and also reserved a mill site at Indian Kitchens, along the Tarabal Trail. Wheeler called his claims the Carlsbad group. In the Fall of 1930, geologist R.J. Sampson of the California Division of Mines visited Wheeler’s mine, and left an interesting report:

“The property at present may be reached on horseback over a rough and in places, precipitous trail from Chihuahua Valley, which is some 12 miles northwest of the claims. It is stated however that there is an old road at the foot of the mountain below the mill site which leads into Temecula, some 30 miles northwest. This will eventually form the outlet from the property.”

(Sampson came in on the Lost Valley Trail, and formed the usual opinion of it. The “old road ... into Temecula” was hardly a practical route. First, you had to drop down steep, rocky Sheep Canyon into Coyote Canyon, then up the canyon and over the ridge into Anza before you reached anything approaching a vehicle road.)

“The country rock of the entire district is granitic. In this granite there are numerous pegmatite dikes, out of which, in places, the mica, feldspar and quartz have crystallized into lenses which are more or less distinct from each other, at least, to depth which have now been attained.

“In this particular area the surface is completely covered by a thick growth of brush which makes it difficult to distinguish outcrops ... .

“At the present time, the low price paid for feldspar and silica, and the inaccessibility of the region make these deposits of little commercial value. The greater value per ton of the mica, however, offsets the disadvantages of its location, to such an extent that it would appear to have good possibilities for profitable exploitation.”

(Mica has a number of commercial uses. In sheet form, it makes an excellent insulator from both electricity and heat. In the 1930s, clear sheets of mica were often used instead of glass as windows in furnaces, and other heat sources. Ground, it is used in drywall, paint, and rubber.)

“On the Carlsbad claims, two principal dikes or zones have been partially prospected. ... An open cut on the first one of these dikes exposes a width of some 30 feet. ... The average space between individual [mica] seams probably does not exceed four inches and the thickness varies from a fraction of an inch to about four inches. To date only two small books have been found. They were approximately 6x4 inches thick but the smaller flakes also occur in book form.

“The open cut here is about 80 feet long across the formation by ten feet wide and from five to 15 feet deep.

“In a canyon some 1,000 feet northwest of this open cut and about 250 below it, is a prominent outcrop of feldspar and quartz. ...

“On the dike ... a shaft 25 feet deep has been sunk in the granite wall near the face of an open cut which is 30 feet long and about seven feet wide and up to nine feet deep. The occurrences of mica here are similar to that described above. Some quartz crystals have been taken from these workings but no sales have yet been made.

“The muscovite [mica] is clear and apparently free from impurities.

“There are numerous other outcrops on the property which have not as yet been investigated.

“The mill site is reached by one and one quarter miles of rough trail. The stream on which it is located appeared at the time of our visit (Oct. 24, 1930) to be flowing at the rate of from 100 to 150 gallons per minute.

“The owner plans to erect a plant here, transporting the mica by burros to the mill. After treatment, he expects to drop it down the mountain in a chute to the old road mentioned above.

“He estimates that by working in some six different places he can produce about one ton per day.”

Everything going to and from the Carlsbad mines -- men, supplies, mica -- had to be packed in on burros. It was an expensive proposition, and Wheeler just couldn’t make it pay. He had stockpiled a lot of mica along the trail, and may have even packed out one load before giving up.

Walt Bergman never visited Wheeler’s claims, but he remembered seeing the mica stacked along the trail in the early 1940s. It had been bagged in hundreds of gunny sacks, which had all but rotted away, leaving piles of mica along the trail -- “it looked like a fence,” he recalls. Wheeler, he says, had a couple of men working with him, and they were bringing out good sized sheets of mica, maybe 15 to 18 inches square. Today, most of the mica has also eroded away, but you can still see outcrops along the Tarabal Trail where Wheeler took mica samples. His open cuts are all grown over, but that 25 foot deep shaft should still be identifiable -- if we could only find the right spot.

A Plane Crash

Over the years, several people have looked at Lost Valley with an eye to creating a guest ranch for tourists. Herschel Higgins claims that singing cowboy Gene Autry even looked over the property at one time: “I couldn’t tell you what year it was, but I rode in there with Gene Autry. He was going to buy that Lost Valley. And I rode in there with Gene Autry, and he looked the valley over and I guess he wasn’t interested because we didn’t have a road, or something.”

Another one of them was apparently Charles Miller of Los Angeles, who flew in and out of Lost Valley several times to visit. In June, 1940, he and his wife flew in for the weekend, landing in the main meadow; but when it came time to leave, Miller discovered he had left the ignition on in his plane, and the battery was dead. When Miller did not come out on time, his father started in to look for him, getting as far as the Forest Service lookout tower on Hot Springs Mountain. With the help of the local sheriff, he secured a horse and pack mule, and rode down into the valley on Tuesday morning -- “a distance of almost seven miles from the nearest road.” The Ramona Sentinel picks up the story:

“With the use of flashlight batteries which the parties had brought in, Miller was able to get his plane started, and told the posse he would taxi up and down the field, which was waist deep in grass and brush, in order to flatten out a take-off runway and to lighten his gasoline load so the plan would lift more quickly ... .

“He taxied down the field once, turned and roared down the field in an attempt to take-off. The plane raised clear of the ground but was too heavy to clear some trees at the end of the field, according to sheriffs, and Miller attempted a vertical bank to miss the trees, catching his left wing in the ground and hurtling the plane over several times, crashing in a ditch.

“Miller suffered a broken ankle, lacerated head, lacerated finger, and neck and spinal injuries. The plane was badly wrecked.”

The local sheriff, who witnessed the crash, made the three-hour ride back out to Warners and called an “ambulance plane” from Los Angeles, which reached the valley later that night. By 8 p.m. Miller was in a Los Angeles hospital.

The Forest Service ordered the wreckage of Miller’s plane removed. Bob Grafflin once spoke to a retired soldier who said they had hiked in and packed out the wreckage of a small plane -- perhaps Miller’s aircraft.

From time to time other fliers landed in Lost Valley. Walt Bergman recalls that one time when his parents were staying the in valley during fire season, a group of hunters touched down, thinking they had found a really isolated spot; but before they even left the plane, his mother walked over and surprised them. They hadn’t expected to meet anyone, much less a woman.


The lack of large pine trees in the earliest photographs of Lost Valley suggest that the valley may have burned over sometime in the late 19th Century. The 1911 fire that destroyed the old Stone Cabin has already been described. A 1939 blaze that consumed at least 10,000 acres starting on the east side of Hot Springs Mountain may have also come near the valley.

The next fire to burn into Lost Valley was in September, 1944. The fire began beyond Chihuahua Valley, and burned over the mountains past Lost Valley and down towards Coyote Canyon. Herschel Higgins was working with the Forest Service at the time:

“It didn’t burn too much [in Lost Valley],” he recalls, “it was all at the north end. They took a ‘maintainer’ and they went around there with a maintainer and cut a break around the edge of the valley, and then they fired out from that, and the fire just stayed in the brushy country, it didn’t get down into the valley. Nothing got down into the valley on that fire. It got in right close to Shingle Springs, they call it, it got right in close to Shingle Springs, and it went down in that deep canyon.”

Accessibility was the big problem. The crews drove in as far as they could on the Los Coyotes Indian Reservation, but without a road, they could not get their equipment into the valley. Higgins took care of that; he ordered a line of bulldozers to follow the old trail down from the reservation into Lost Valley.

“We had eight bulldozers, and we had an old man from up north and we put him on a D-7, and we said, ‘Take off.’ And he said, ‘Follow the trail?’ And I said, ‘That’s all right with me.’ I had charge of them. Boy, they went down with all eight of them and got to the other end, they never stopped. And when we got to the other end there was an Army truck right behind them that drove right down into Lost Valley.”

That temporary fire road -- the first road ever cut into Lost Valley -- was the start of what we now know as the Indian Road. Once the men and equipment could get in, they moved their fire camp down into the valley in what is now the upper pasture. Besides the regular fire fighters, 200 Marines had been called in to work the line. Eventually, with hand crews, fuel breaks, and back fires, they got the fire out as it was moving on down towards the desert. A week or two later, Higgins recalled, they got a call from the fire lookout on Hot Springs Mountain:

“He said, ‘There’s smoke down in Lost Valley.’ So back up there we went, and they’d put a cigarette down in that ground, and there was an old dry root or something, and it burned all along that thing, probably two weeks, finally come out on the other side, and we had a pretty good fire behind the ... [cabin]. We got it out, but ... that’s when the old barn burned.

Arlie’s log barn stood less than 50 feet from the cabin, but it’s tin siding protected it. Some of the older trees nearby still show signs of this blaze.

Shortly after the fire, Walt Bergman drove his V-8 Ford in over the Indian Road -- the first private car in Lost Valley, and according to Walt for many years the only one. “The next winter all those roads they built back in there to fight that fire washed out,” he said.

A State Park Neighbor

East and north of Lost Valley is the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. In the 1950s, rangers were sometimes patrolled the Lost Valley area, and a few of their field reports still survive. Ranger James Chaffee came in on the Indian Road in August, 1954, and wrote:

“The road got progressively worse from the gate on in to Lost Valley and about a half mile in I had to spend a couple of hours building up one side of the road where it had been badly washed [out] and a little further on had to get out and chop away at a big old pine which had fallen across the road.”

The road from Chihuahua, he added, “is in bad shape, however a pick-up or even a sedan could probably get over it, but I don’t think anything buy a jeep or a jeep pick-up could get over the road in from the Indian Reservation.”

A month later, Ranger Wes Cater drove in:

“The entire Lost Valley area is very green and the stream is running. Saw several large gray squirrels in the area. No sign of deer at this time, not even fresh tracks. Also made [a] special effort to see if we could find any evidence of mountain lion being in the area, but we were not able to find any sign of mountain lion being in this area ... .

“There has been very little activity in this area. No one is using the ... [Bergman] road with the exception of the Division of Forestry who used it September 1, to extinguish a lightning strike [fire] in the Lost Valley area.”

Often the rangers made a special effort to be in the valley during deer season. Ranger Chaffee came in for the last weekend of the season in October, 1954:

“We managed to get camp set up before dark on park property just off the road coming in from the Indian Reservation. No hunters came in during the night but three came in in the morning in a jeep, they turned around as soon as they saw the park jeep but we overtook them and explained about parks and hunting. We contacted a total of eight hunters, all on the reservation road, except for the three mentioned above. Actually several of them contacted us for information about legal hunting areas.”

Ranger Jack Welch was in for the start of the 1955 season:

“We bedded down near Lost Valley Creek. It didn’t get too cold, but about 1:00 a.m., the low clouds that gathered quite suddenly let out a few big splatters. It had cleared by morning except for a few wisps of low clouds that came breezing up Caliente Creek.

“We were up early, but not too bright. Didn’t hear any shots until about 10:00 a.m.. From camp we went out the ... [Old] Road to our locked gate. The persons using this road would have to have a key ... . There is no way around the gate.

“Although we heard three or four shots, we saw no one hunting, either on Park land or private land. On our way out, we met a few groups of hunters, but most of them appeared rather disinterested and ready to give up.”

One point these Patrol Reports make clear is that there were already several roads around the valley in the 1950s. In June, 1957, Ranger Frank Fairchild wrote,

“It has been a long time since there has been anyone over the [Indian] road into Lost Valley. Cattle tracks and grass have completely obliterated all tire marks on the road. This was true of all the roads and trails throughout the valley. At times it was a little confusing.

“After circling all the flat part of the valley, during which time I pointed out the trails into the various canyons, we drove north on the road to Chihuahua Valley. There has not been any traffic over this road either. The rains during the winter have made parts of the road quite rough ... .

“The entire area is in a good, clean, unused condition. With the exception of a dozen or so cattle grazing in Lost Valley, and a few birds, there wasn’t a sign of another animal, wild or human.”

Another neighbor is the Navy training base near Warner Hot Springs, established in 1953. As part of their survival training, Navy pilot and crewmen were marched through the hills, and reportedly sometimes even parachuted into Lost Valley and had to make their way back to base. Anza-Borrego historian Horace Parker once wrote,

“California State Park Rangers from the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park tell some amusing stories about encountering military survival trainees in the vicinity of Lost Valley in back of Warner Hot Springs. This is a rugged, mountainous country extending down into the Colorado Desert. The rangers patrol those parts of Lost Valley which are in the state park in their Jeeps. When on duty they wear a khaki uniform. As they made their rounds they were surprised to encounter half-dressed men who took one wild look at them and plunged recklessly into the brush.

“This shook up the rangers who immediately thought these apparitions were fugitives from justice. In time word came back they these were men on survival training and that they in turn thought the rangers were military personnel out to capture them, hence the headlong flight for cover.”

Arlie Bergman’s Death

On January 28, 1948, Arlie Bergman was on his ranch, working with a new mare he had just bought a few days before when the horse spooked and took off at a mad run. The horse ran into a tree, and Arlie was knocked off, but his foot caught in a tie rope fastened to the mare’s halter, and he was dragged to his death, dying almost instantly. His funeral a few days later was one of the biggest ever seen in the backcountry.

“Arlie was a wonderful guy,” Herschel Higgins says, “everybody loved old Arlie. You had to go a long ways to beat Arlie. I thought the world of Arlie . . . and the way he had to die was terrible.”

A few years after Arlie’s death, Annie bought the Aguanga store from Charles Clark and owned it until 1968. She also served as local postmaster from 1953-63. Annie Bergman died in June, 1998, at the age of 102.

With Arlie’s death, a third generation of Bergmans began running cattle in Lost Valley. Ray Bergman, Arlie and Annie’s oldest surviving son, took over the ranch. Shortly after 1950, Ray had the first road built in to Lost Valley from the Chihuahua Valley side. He hired Frank Walker, an Anza cat skinner, who did the job in “about four or five days” with a D-8 tractor, Ray recalls. Later, he made back some of the cost of having the road built by charging people to drive in and haul out leaf mold for fertilizer from under the oak trees around the valley.

The road came in through Coombs Camp, and then along the south side of Bucksnort Mountain. It stayed down in the canyons, for the most part, climbing steeply over several ridges. The power line into camp follows Ray’s road for the most part. The last two and half miles of the road down into the valley can still be easily followed on foot; since the modern entrance road was completed in 1964, it has been known as the Old Road.

It must have been some time after the Old Road was built that Ray developed a little spring west of the road as it drops down into the valley, running a pipe back into the hillside, and installing a little concrete cistern below. This is the spot now known as Bergman Spring.

Ray continued to run cattle in Lost Valley until 1957 or ‘58. Although they were trucked as far as Chihuahua Valley, he still brought them in and out on foot, driving them along the Old Road. By the mid-1950s he was only pasturing a couple dozen head in the valley each summer.

Southern California was changing in the 1950s, even in the backcountry, and Ray could see that before long, the cattlemen were going to be driven out of the hills. So he began to think about selling out and moving to Montana. Eventually, he found a buyer in the Boy Scouts of America, and a new era in Lost Valley’s history began.

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