Week 187: Deukmejian Wilderness Park

September 15, 2019

L.A. Walks: Explore an old winery site on a La Crescenta Ramble, 1.75 miles

Full disclosure, Barbara and I extended this hike to 2.53 miles because, well, it was so pretty, we rambled a lot. California does autumn in its own spectacular tones on trees, chaparral, and sage scrub, from tan to dark green with all shades in-between. Following Charles Fleming's July 12, 2019 post in the L.A. Times, we started our hike at the parking lot of Deukmejian Wilderness Park, 709 acres in the foothills of the San Gabriels, bordered by the Angeles National Forest. Off the parking lot stands a unique piece of La Crescenta history, the LeMesnager Barn. In 1898, George LeMesnager, a French expat, winegrower, and LA businessman, purchased part of this land from La Crescenta founder Dr. Briggs, to grow grapes for LeMesnager's DTLA wine store featuring his "Old Hermitage Vineyard" wine label. In 1918, for equipment and grape storage, George and his family completed a rare, 2-story vernacular rock French-design stone barn using local granite. The barn, with a second story added for family quarters in 1937, stands above a small vineyard planted in 2004 by the Stone Barn Vineyard Conservancy. Amazingly, the LeMesnager Barn and surrounding hills continue to survive a wild series of misfortune and regeneration. In 1920, Prohibition shut down the wine industry and George's grapes were sold as produce. Wine production returned after Prohibition's repeal in 1933, but, within months, a massive fire destroyed everything but the barn. Then on New Year's 1934, twelve-inches of rain in 48 hours flooded the canyon and vineyard, leading to the construction of a dam and debris basin, SE of the vineyard. Whew! In 1968, a developer bought the canyon. Scared and outraged neighbors complained, and, in 1986, the city of Glendale purchased all 709 acres and renamed it after CA's governor at the time, George Deukmejian. The park thrived and all was well until 2009, when the Station Fire threatened to move down toward residential La Crescenta. To save homes, the state did a tactical burn at Wilderness Park, wiping out the flora. Today we hiked through Mother Nature's incredible ability to regenerate (she always impresses me.) After a walk-around of the barn and a lookie-there at the dam below, Barbara and I started up Dunsmore Canyon Trail. Our sighted goal: the McFall Oak. Probably 250-years old, the oak shaded the Tongva Indians, the Spanish explorers, the Mexican bandits, the LeMesnager family, and current hikers, who played or hid out in the canyon over centuries. The old tree finally got a name, a nod to Glendale Parks Director Bob McFall, who coordinated the purchase of the land for the city of Glendale. Barbara and I rested under the McFall Oak, then headed up the winding trails, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at the sweeping SE view of the valleys below, while treading carefully along the rocky, but amazingly well-marked trails. We took another breather on benches at a lookout point high above the LeMesnager Trail, and then looped our way back to our start point. Fleming's hike features two of multiple trails in the park—all are worth exploring for a workout with breathtaking views. 

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