Friday, April 22, 2011

Hill 582

I love it when I stumble onto something cool! I Stumbled on a hill. Hill 582.

It actually has a heart warming little story to it. My son and I found it on a drive to find some colored soil. He is making something called a Dorodango, a ball made of colored soil, hand rolled into a shiny Beautiful orb. (follow the link they are really interesting) It is a Japanese art form I guess.
We took a drive down into Cajon Pass to a place called the Blue Cut.
I'm not sure why they call it that, the colored out cropping of rock there is more a green color. We got really lucky by going there. The recent rains had washed some fine green powder down onto the road and we just scooped some up. He said he would like to find some red soil too, so we started to drive around in the pass area to find some. We never found any "Red" soil but we did find a hill.
We drove up this dirt road off of Highway 138 and we came to one of the many Railroad Crossing in the pass and spied a kind of park like setting on a hill with some retaining walls. To us it looked like someones residence. I never knew there was homes in that part of the Pass. I have looked down into this area from the rim of the Pass a few times and don't remember a home there.

View Larger Map
(This is the Google Maps version a close variation of Google Earth. You can move the picture around with your mouse. )
We back tracked and took the green soil home so he could start balling it up. I in the mean time fired up Google Earth, one of my favorite online tools, and focused into that area.
One of the cool things about Google Earth is that people can post pictures they have onto the maps that are displayed and it shows up as a small blue and brown square. There was a Square over this hill we had looked at. The picture that displayed wasn't for a home it was for something called Hill 582, It showed some sort of Memorial. Back to Google, type in Hill 582, there is a website with lots of pictures. Well since I started this I have been reading this site and stopped back by the hill, this time driving right up onto it.
I better back up some, because people may not know what Cajon Pass is. It is a Canyon that separates the San Bernardino mountains and the San Gabriel mountains. The Pass was probably used by the Early Native Americans in the area in ancient times to trek into the High Desert area and to access the High Mountains to avoid the high summer heat of the valley. The word "Cajon" is a derivative of the Spanish word for box, pronounced "Ka-hone". It truly is a Box Canyon with high mountains surrounding it with a lower summit at the 3000 to 4000 foot level.
Some of the local peaks in the area are at the 9000 foot level.
The pass is formed by Plate Tectonics, where the Pacific Plate and the North American Plate come together. The World Famous San Andreas Fault runs right up the Cajon Pass and it has cause some rather awesome Natural Rock Formations. This is the location of the Mormon Rocks, a nice setting for any movies or TV shows that need a strange setting. I remember a Star Trek episode with those rocks in it.
This Pass was the easiest way to get down into the San Bernardino/Los Angeles Basin, and a shorter route to the San Diego area. The old Spanish trail wound through here, as well as the Mormon Trail.
Then the Railroad ran tacks down the pass, then Route 66 was run down the hill from Cajon Summit. Those two transportation corridors were the start of the boom that was Southern California. Now Interstate 15 runs down some of the roadway of Old Route 66. Not to be outdone by Man, Mother Nature also runs the wind down that Pass. During certain times of the year the Santa Ana Winds blast down the Pass and into the Valley, blowing your trash cans down the street and tipping over 18 wheelers.

Another little tidbit of history is about a large encampment that was set up in the Pass near a place called the Blue Cut. This area is a narrows that the Cajon Creek, Railroad and Highway Dept, Had to cut through some Blue/Green Granite to follow the Canyon down into the Valley.
During the Depression a lot of Oklahomans, displaced by the "Dust Bowl" were following Route 66 to California in search of work. Well the locals did not take a liking to these "Okies" and the Federal Government set up a camp just above the Blue Cut to keep the locals and "Okies" separated.

Cajon Pass is a major Transportation Corridor. A good portion of the goods that America uses, goes through this pass to parts eastward. Interstate 15 has tons of the Truck traffic. Then there is the trains. I'm very familiar with the train traffic in this area. My apartment is less than 800 feet from those tracks that take goods out of the L.A. Basin, and goods back into the L.A. area, as a matter of fact I can hear one now as I type. Large Diesel Electric Locomotives lugging heavy loads past us several times an hour.

Which brings us back to Hill 582, and a new term I found when reading up on this hill, and it's use. "Railfanning". Those people among us that love all things trains.

I don't have much interest in trains, but I can see why they may interest people. Seeing a Locomotive pulling a huge line of rail cars, and see all that power going by can be very exhilarating. Last year I posted on our trip down to L.A. by train and I posted the short video of the Steam Locomotive that was at the San Bernardino train station. There is a link between this hill and that locomotive.

From what I have learned the Cajon Pass is a world renown site for Railfans. There is several places along the tracks leading to the top of the pass to view, photograph, or shoot video of the trains as they go by. Best viewing places, The Blue Cut, near the Mormon Rocks, The actual Pass at the top where Hwy. 138 is right next to the tracks and you can look down on the trains, and Hill 582.

The start of my education of Hill 582 was when I found a website run by a gentleman From Switzerland, Werner Meer, who posted a narrative and a lot of photos about the hill written by another gentleman, Don E. Toles, known as the Hilltender. The History of Hill 582.
I guess back in the 1980's Mr. Toles started parking on this hill, on a fire break that the Forest Service had cut on top. It actually is a perfect site for Railfans. It sits in the middle, and above, of all the action. There are tracks to the north,

and south of the hill,

giving you and excellent view as the trains pass by.

Some time around 1991 Mr. Toles started planting Trees and shrubs there on the hill. The hill didn't have a name yet, but it was a favorite spot to watch the trains go by. Just to the north of the hill, before they added a new parallel track next to the original 1913 track, there was a signal block that was numbered 582A and the hill took on the name. The sign is now on the hill since it was removed and a new signal was put in for the new tracks.

Mr. Toles and some friends, some who worked for the Railroad, kept fiddling with the hill and planting, building retaining walls and pads to sit and view. Somewhere along the line they ran a foul of the US Forest Service. The USFS took down some trees and plants they deemed invasive. I guess Mr. Toles met with the local Forest Service Botanist and they came to an agreement even to the point of letting them get some pine trees form the local ranger station to plant on the hill. A couple of brush fires have come through and burned and killed some of the trees but the hill lives on.
Here are some pictures.
From Hwy. 138.

Near the Southern Tracks.

On top of Hill 582.

It was very peaceful up there in this Oasis on a hill.
There is Rosemary in bloom up there.

They even have a irrigation system. Probably a French Drain type system. Just pour water down these pipes. Cover when done and put a rock on top.

They even have a place to store seeds for the local birds and squirrels.

The Ammo can is a Geo-cache and sign in place.
There is note pads you can right down your thoughts and name in.

I didn't look what the Cache was but I did write something in the journals.

It is so true that my hand writing is crappy.
Mr. Toles, the "Hilltender", and his friends have been happily caring for this hill. Even sitting up on the hill During the Holiday season with signs wishing the train crews "Happy Holidays".
They have had to abandon the hill due to fire, but they come back and rebuild. Some of the people involved with the hill have passed on now, but they are remembered on the hill with small memorials.

One of the Gentleman memorialized here was instrumental in getting an old Steam Locomotive, 3751, rebuilt down in the San Bernardino area. I posted some pictures of that train in an earlier adventure.(The Olvera Street one) I had found a website showing how they rebuilt this excellent piece of American History.

And I said I wasn't a
I guess in 2005 or so the Railroad decided to put in another set of tracks to parallel the original 1913 tracks down through the pass. There use to be a tunnel the trains went through but to put the new tracks in the Railroad had to just cut a huge gap in the hill.

Some one was able to save the date stamped top of the tunnel and it was placed on Hill 582.

I had a great time up there but the tracks were quiet while I was there.
I saw some California Poppies down by the north tracks.

I love using the Macro setting on my camera for close ups of flowers and such things.

There were a lot of Poppies

This next shot had the potential for being a little dangerous. I had to cross the tracks on foot to get the shots of the Poppies. There hadn't been any trains for the 20 minutes I had been there so one had to be coming any time. A warning! Stay off Railroad tracks! I couldn't resist getting this shot. This is a grade so the trains move pretty slow here. So not heeding my own warning I grabbed the proverbial shot down the tracks.

No sooner did I click the button on my camera a train horn sounded. So I moved off the tracks and back on to Hill 582. From there I channeled my inner Railfan and I set my camera to the video setting. Modern cameras are so cool. Sorry for the poor The Train I had heard was just passing over the top of the pass.

I got more video, as it got closer.

The Engineer waved at me as he passed by. I waved back. I can't tell you how bad I wanted to do what we use to do as kids and pump my arm to signal him to blow the

I Thank Mr. Toles for building this hill into what it is today. He and his friends have been through Fires and Vandals, and extreme weather but always the hill is kept nice.
I put everything back as it was as I left the hill. When I go back again I will bring some wild bird food and some water for the plants.

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