Charles Francis Saunders

Charles Francis Saunders was an avid hiker, an expert botanist, and a prolific writer. He moved to Pasadena from Pennsylvania in 1906 and lived there until his death in 1941. The following are excerpts from his book The Southern Sierras of California, 1923…

Up San Antonio

In this piece, the author explains his decision to take knapsacks up Mt. Baldy rather than using a donkey. It should be noted that this was written in 1923, when it was common practice to rent donkeys to mountain travelers…

“…The burro is a nice animal to read about in your armchair at home, but he is a beast for experts – admirable if you know how to handle him and your temper, but the spring of woes unnumbered if you are green at the business – a creature of unsuspected whims and contrarieties. If you stop to enjoy a view or take a photograph, he likes to walk briskly ahead and, leaving the trail, will artfully entangle his load in the brush, even to the necessity of repacking; if you are in a mood to make time, he loiters exasperatingly, crops every trail-side blade of grass, and must be prodded and belabored till your arm aches. He will refuse to drink at a torrent and manifest a prodigious thirst a mile farther on when there is no prospect of water for a day’s journey. Stops for camp must be arranged with view to his provender, concerning which his views may be totally different from yours, and your sleep will be disturbed by thoughts of his getting loose in the night and leaving you stranded. If you have a tender heart, he is forever breaking it with deceitful sighs and groans, one eye the while upon you, as he toils painfully up steeps that, if you were not looking, he would take as nimbly as a goat. He develops real troubles, too; as lacerated knees, or, worst of all, saddle sores. Then the pack – a dozen times a day it slips over the burro’s head or under his belly, and must be taken off and laboriously reset…”

Out By Sturtevant’s Trail

…A beautiful trail is this of Sturtevant’s, passing from shadow to sunshine and from sunshine to shadow again, its higher stretches companioning the tumbling waters of a foamy, energetic mountain brook, the Big Santa Anita, called Big, as I take it, not because it is really big, but because Little Santa Anita is less. Clinging to the slopes of the gorge, in the cool twilight cast by Big-Cone Spruces, Bays and Water Maples, are the cottages and cabins of city folk who thus take their mountain air with a dash of home comfort. These are sometimes clustered so thickly as to seem a sylvan village, and perched about as they are amid the crags, with the musical waters cascading below and a waterfall of respectable dimensions close by, they have a touch of the alpinesque. For the itinerant, two or three boarding-camps, as Sturtevant’s, Roberts’, and Fern Lodge, display the bush of hospitality at a price, their supplies brought up on burro-back from the mountain’s foot. Woodwardias, most regal of Southern Caliornia ferns, crowd the stream borders, and in favored situations rise in graceful fountains of five feet or more…