Louise Dolley wrote this in the 1980’s as she recalled life along Highway 4 when she moved here (1939), and as the road changed over the years. It helps to be familiar with the various towns and locations along Highway 4 when you read her story. Naturally, the road today is different in many ways from what it was when she wrote this, and that, in turn, is much different from what it was like when she arrived here.
Some of the locations she mentions along this spectacularly scenic road are little known today, like Hanford Hill; or no longer exist, like Indian Springs; or have changed names, like Bloods, which became Bear Valley. Just remember that her description moves up hill from Murphys. If you note what locations she describes before and after the one you’re reading about, you can get a feel for where she’s talking about.
If you print her story, you can have an enjoyable day locating the spots along the highway. You’re in real luck if you can find an old (1940’s or 50’s) topo map of the highway, but you should be able to do pretty well without it.
Landmarks Over Ebbetts Pass
Starting from Murphys Coming Up The Hill
By Louise Dolley
[The land in the Murphys area] had opened up for building after the old families died off. The young ones sold the land and building started, especially up Williams Street.
The new PG&E powerhouse replaced the old one further up the creek, which is a Historic Site.
At Indian Springs there were a few old cabins that the Indians lived in. Also there were pear trees above the road. When the new road was built the cabins were done away with.
Brice Station had been a stage stop years ago. We had gotten pears there from Mrs. Youngson. Just past it was Hanford Hill. There was a bar there owned by Fred Jones, plus a small sawmill. The bar burned in the first few years and the present building was built by then Verna Martincello’s father. There was a lumber business there, then various other businesses. Pat and Richard and the kids lived in the apartment in the back ‘til they moved down the hill. The Hugh Prestons lived there for several years.
The Red Apple has been there for many years. The elder Darby family having it and planting the apple trees. At that time, and just before we came down [from Calpine], they had a Post Office and store and gas there. We became very good friends with the Darbys as Lloyd, Sr. and Lloyd, Jr. and Kenneth all worked for Brown on the road crew. We had many a good time together up to and after Lloyd, Sr. died in 1954, and ‘til Anna died in 1973.
On the turn just before Hathaway Pines, where the US Forest Service office is now, across the road was an old house, which was torn down and the big one was built by the Freeman’s who had the drug store in Murphys. They later sold it to the Lee Phillips [family].
There were only a few houses at Hathaway Pines. Across the road in the apple orchard, during the war years, was an observation post that was manned 24 hours a day in six-hour shifts all by volunteers, two at a time, several husband and wife teams, looking for airplanes. Amy (Jack’s wife) and I had the late shift (12-6am) every other week and on our last night we got the only plane we had. It was so exciting I could not phone it in right! During the night the deer would come around the small building, set upon legs, to get the apples. We had a small wood stove and would write letters. She would darn socks to help pass the time. Everyone got an armband and pin for it.
Avery was an old stage stop, and also a place where they held the cattle overnight when they took them to the mountains [in the spring] or brought them back in the fall. The hotel had been there for many years. The road to Big Trees, way back when, went up the Moran Road. The present road is only a latecomer. The hotel served the travelers going up to the Big Trees as that was a long trip by horse and buggy, or wagon, as it went on up to Bloods.
Where the Paradise Ranch Boy Scout Camp is, there was nothing. The lake was built. There was a small store and a roller skating rink outdoors. Not very big, but everyone had fun while it lasted. We went swimming there until the Scouts took over.
DeVore’s, now Mountain Mike’s, was a big place. I don’t really know what it was for. There were living quarters and down in back were some cabins that were rented for some time, now being quite a few houses in the outback. The old building there before DeVore’s was used as a restaurant for several years by Bea Tipton when she moved there from Hathaway’s. Then it was torn down and this new place built.
Hunt’s Meadow, now Meadowmont, was a big orchard filling all the meadow, now the golf course, and a big apple shed was where the store is now. They had a big apple crop then and we would go down there in the evening in the fall and spotlight the deer. There were upward of 50-60, [including] some big horns. They liked the apples on the ground and on the tree. The little green house still there was where Doris Ingley’s grandparents lived when they were first married. He worked for Manuel at the sawmill.
Arnold had been built in the early 30’s by Bob and Bernie Arnold, a wide spot in the road ‘til we came.
Big Trees Park was quite a sight to all of us. No one could begin to imagine that trees could be that big. There was a hotel there, a big two-story place, that burned in 1942 and was never replaced. It was always a treat just to ride up around the park, and, at times, have a picnic. The school always had a big picnic there the last day of school, and it was enjoyed by all.
There was a road around back of the meadow at Big Trees where the dump was that was the place to see the bears. A nightly group was always on hand to see them there. The flat area between the entrance and the road was a CCC camp. It is all trees now. There were quite a few men in it then. They did a lot of woods work, building roads, etc. A make-work project during the depression that brought a lot of men from the east and mid-west out here, and took men from the west to the east, really mixing up the population.
Dorrington was an old stage stop and overnight stop for cattle going to and from the mountains, and also, going down the road to the river to Boards Crossing and on over to Beaver Creek, where there were cow camps. There still are, and camp grounds.
Camp Connell was a later place. I don’t know anything about it [except] that it was a store, and there were some summer places there.
Hinkleman barn was on up the road past where the Forest Service station is now. There was a nice meadow there, now overgrown with trees.
Ganns was a small place in name only. There were some summer cabins there, then a small hamburger place was built, and then rebuilt, and to the extreme, and they lost everything. (sic)
Big Meadows had summer homes, too, being Forest Service land. There were camp grounds and the Boy’s Camp down on the river.
Tamarack is an old place. There was an old log building, the Lodge, a bar and restaurant that burned shortly after the Mosbaughs bought it and had started to remodel. Then they built the new lodge that sat where the highway is now. It was moved to its present location when the new road was built. It was a nice place ‘til the French bought it and changed it, as is usual with the times. These people seem to think that us mountain folk need all that fancy atmosphere, and they spoil it all and lose their shirts. There have been summer homes there for years, too. There have been many times in the winter when the snow was up to the upper story.
Sherman Acres has sort of just held its own. Jean Loomis’s father owned it for years. He did some logging in there once and a few houses have been built in the area.
Sky High Ranch was developed by Doc Linebaugh and others as a summer home area, there being nothing there but a big rock pile.
Bloods Meadow, now Bear Valley, was a summer range for cattle and, in the early years, was the end of the road. It was toll road from there on over the Pass. All the building at Bear Valley was a French idea again, and has many problems financially most of the time. The big housing boom started with the ski area growth and keeps on going. The roads are not plowed in the winter. People park their cars on the flat and use the Bear train, a ski-mobile, to shuttle to their houses for a fee.
Mt. Reba ski area was built in the late 60’s. A group of developers had been working on it for years. It has been very good skiing and at times been expanded ‘til there’s not much room left to go.
Lake Alpine is Forest Service area. The Lodge has been there for many years. There is a camp ground, some summer houses, and to the south of it, by the dam, a few houses. The PG&E built the dam years ago as well as the dams at Utica and Union and Spicer’s for their water supply for power down the line. In recent years, the Girl Scout Camp on the east side was built, and a road or trail went past it to some fishing areas and cattle range.
Stanislaus Meadows has grown over with willows so bad. It was a large area for cattle grazing. It had a water drinking fountain that was blocked off, supposed to be polluted, a few willow leaves were found in it once. Some wild currants grow along the road. They sure make good jelly.
Mosquito Lakes has the cabins on Forest Service land. The lake is planted with fish often and is fished heavily, too.
Pacific Valley at the bottom of the grade, has the Whittle cow camp way back up the valley, and a campground just off the road.
Hermit Valley is a popular camping place, with summer cabins on the far side of the creek. It has almost grown over with Tamarack trees. The Forest Service started to cut them out, but the cabin owners put up such a fuss – they would lose their privacy – so that was stopped. The bridge crosses Mokelumne River, which comes out of the lower, or first, lake at Highlands Lake.
The Highland Lake turn off goes down to the first campground at the bottom of the hill, Bloomfield camp from years past. The road winds along the creek and meadow for five miles, crosses the river at the bottom of the hill, and up to the cow camp, which is Wooster’s and some other cabins. There was a nice little meadow, but the willows and skunk cabbage have taken over ‘til there’s nothing left. The Forest Service would not let them clear it out.
In 1980-81 an avalanche came down the ravine above Wooster’s cabin and took the middle right out of the cabin above theirs, as clean cut as could be, leaving both ends and the roof, as if cut with a saw.
The lakes are so pretty and fishing was always so good. ‘Til later years, Brown could always catch fish when no one else could. And the wind always blows, sometimes harder than others. As usual the Forest Service had to change things and close the camping areas, and put them all together. It only made it more congested, plus there was no place you could park near the water. The upper, or smaller, lake drains into or starts the Stanislaus River.
The summit, or Ebbett’s Pass, has changed from the 8800-foot altitude to the now 8730 feet. A lot of the old original road is still visible. It must have been quite a job to build it with the tools they had then.
The Kinney reservoir on the road is the water supply into the Carson River area. Up from the reservoir a ways are the Kinney lakes. They are small but a very pretty spot, one above the other. You have to hike into there now. At one time a four-wheel drive could get into there but the road or path was closed off. The Wolf Creek road is a dead end; the trail makes a loop.
The Silver Tip Campground was improved in later years. When we used to hunt over on Silver Mountain, we camped on the turn above the trail to Noble Canyon.
Silver City had 10,000 people in its prime, when the silver was first discovered. All that remains is the small part of the jail. There was a lot more of it then, but so many people took the blocks they had to put the fence up to save this much.
The old brick chimney is the remains of a smelter from years back. It has quite a history. A Englishman started it and then left it and his wife and family and no one saw him again. The wife and children are buried in the cemetery beside the road. Someone has put fresh flowers on their graves every year since we have been here.
Scossa’s Cow Camp is years old.
My brother, Laurie Kirk, helped build the new piece of highway from the Carson river bridge in 1938.
The road up over Monitor Pass was started in 1940 or so. They just did a bit at a time each year. It was nice to ride up that way to see the deer. Since it is the shortest way to Lake Tahoe from Los Angeles, it is opened first in the spring.
Markleeville is about the same as it was with a little added growth. Up the river to the west of there is the Hot Springs, which at one time the Darby family owned a part of, as Anna Darby’s family, the Scossas, had it. It was sold to the state and made into the present park, with a campground. The pool was enlarged for swimming. The original one was very hot. Many people go there each year just to soak in the mineral waters, which are good for aches and pains.
Editior’s Note: For more information about the spectacular drive over Ebbetts Pass, which was designated a National Scenic Byway in 2005, see the web pages at Scenic4.org.