Sunday, February 21, 2021

Repurposed Ranch Lands: Wildwood Canyon State Park [Guest post by morangm]

[Guest post by morangm]

Wildwood Canyon State Park, located in the foothills of the San Bernardino mountains in Yucaipa, California, is a really lovely place to spend an afternoon. The park boasts beautiful scenery full of native California vegetation, including some oak forests, and also some nice views of the surrounding valleys from the ridges. The park is a great location for hiking, horse riding, mountain biking, wildlife watching, and native plant observation. Pre-pandemic it was a very quiet place, despite being close to a populous and growing urban area. On most of my visits, there was hardly anyone there. It seems to have gotten more popular since the pandemic has driven people toward more outdoor recreational activities.

Native oak forest in Wildwood Canyon State Park

The park also houses some abandoned ranch houses, the type of topic Kodachromeguy really likes, and hence why I am writing this post.

According to the park brochure, the park's territory has had failed large-scale development planned more than once. In the 1920s, a country club development was planned, but there was little interest from buyers, and most of the lots remained unsold. The property was then sold to Vernon Hunt, who used the lands for his ranch starting in 1940. Another portion of the park lands was owned by the McCullough family, who built "Hi-Up House" in the 1930s and lived off the land. More recently, developers planned to build a new subdivision on the land, but a flood disrupted those plans. Instead, the State of California purchased the land and turned it into a park in 2003.

Today, you can hike about a mile from the parking area to the remnants of the Hunt Ranch. It's a mix of picturesque wooden buildings that are probably the originals from the 1940s and some newer equipment storage hangers with corrugated steel walls and roofs.

Old stable (?), Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
I guess this was a stable.
Chicken hut and equipment storage, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
The building in the foreground seems to have been for chicken. The hangar in the background has rusted bits of farm equipment in it.
Unknown building, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
I'm not sure what this was. Maybe living quarters. Leave a comment if you know.
Unknown building, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Presumably more living quarters with storage underneath
Old truck, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Can anyone tell me what model of truck this is/was?
Newer house, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
A more modern house, equally abandoned
Newer stables, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Newer stables, equally abandoned. Nice place for a picnic.
The acorn woodpecker is a common bird species in this part of California. Unlike most other woodpeckers, it is a social bird and lives in groups. Acorn woodpeckers peck holes in tree trunks, telephone poles, and...houses, and they store acorns and other nuts in these holes. This is for long-term food storage and also, presumably, so they can keep the nut still while they break it open to get the meat out. Virtually all the old wooden buildings in the park are riddled with acorn woodpecker holes. While the State of California seems to be doing general maintenance to keep the abandoned buildings safe, they will have quite a chore on their hands if they decide to fully restore them.
Acorn woodpecker holes, Hunt Ranch, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Acorn woodpecker holes in the wood siding of one of the abandoned Hunt Ranch wooden buildings
Hi-Up House is on the other side of the park, also roughly a mile from the parking area. This house sits on a ridge and has a lovely view of a meadow and the valley beyond it. The front porch/balcony is a nice place to stop for a water break and to enjoy the view or even watch the sunset. On a previous visit, I watched a bobcat on the prowl in the meadow. A fellow visitor told me that Hi-Up House had been used as a boy scout retreat, but I was unable to verify this information.

The house seems to be in pretty good shape, and the roof looks new. Maybe one day the State can turn this into a park visitor center. I hope they can at least fix the floor of the balcony, which is deteriorating.
Hi-Up House, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Hi-Up House, front view
Hi-Up House, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Hi-Up House, back view. The roof is in great shape, so clearly it's been maintained recently.
Hi-Up House, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Hi-Up House balcony
Hi-Up House, Wildwood Canyon State Park
Nice place to watch the sunset
Wildwood Canyon State Park was fortunately spared during the massive El Dorado fire in September of 2020. (That was the fire caused by a pyrotechnic device at a gender reveal party.) A park visitor told me that there had been more wildlife in the park this year because of habitat destruction caused by the fires. She said last fall, right after the fire, it was common to see herds of 20 or 30 mule deer hanging out in the parking lot. Let's hope in the future that these lands can continue to provide a refuge for both wildlife and people who need a break from urban life.

Because Kodachromeguy always does this: All photos were taken with a Samsung Galaxy S10e smartphone.


Unknown said...

Thank you for this article. I really enjoyed reading it and found how some cool things from you. Now I know what the holes are from! I was wondering.

LWcatmom said...

Just rode our horses there May 16, 2021. What spectacular land and historic buildings, tree canopied trails, mule deer. We encountered no horses and only a few hikers and bikers. Thank heaven someone saved this beautiful land from development.