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Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
August 14
1986 - Canyon Country's Mitchell adobe demolished; components salvaged & later rebuilt at Heritage Junction [story]
Mitchell adobe

Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Tuesday, Sep 23, 2014

mug_darrylmanzer2The city of Santa Clarita is considering the purchase of 114 acres of Lyons Canyon. The property is west of Interstate 5 and just north of Rivendale Park in Towsley Canyon. It would be acquired as open space for preservation as parkland and natural recreation area.

For the thousands of you who drive over the Newhall Pass every day on I-5, this is some of the most scenic mountains and woodlands in all of the SCV. It would be a disaster if some developer came in and leveled the hills, filled the canyons and built homes and condos.

Slowly, ever so slowly, the city of Santa Clarita is completing a ring around our valley of protected open space and parks that were envisioned a few years ago when the open space ordinance was approved.

Santa Clarita remains the only city I’m aware of that buys open space land for the purpose of natural preservation. It is also a California city that is fiscally sound. That seems to be rare these days.

Los Angeles has kept and maintained Griffith Park as a wild and free area, but it is surrounded by the city. Our little city is doing it a better way: Keep an open space buffer of parks and natural areas all around the town. I think it is a great goal of our city and one in which we can all take pride.


The city is looking to buy the Lyons Canyon Ranch property (in yellow) for preservation as permanent open space.

I wonder how many live oak trees are within the city limits? I would bet our trees far outnumber the vaunted city of “Thousand Oaks.” There are that many in Placerita Canyon alone, plus all those in Sand Canyon, along the streets of Happy Valley and a few scattered around Valencia. And we have all of those other trees that are newcomers to our valley – well, some have been here for almost 150 years. Those are the eucalyptus trees that can be found in various spots in the city and a lot more in the SCV in general.

As you hike the paths and trails in the open spaces in our valley, have you ever seen an oak tree that was bent over in some direction as if pointing at something? Local legends tell us the Native Americans who inhabited our valley would bend over the trees and use them as sign posts pointing at something. I’ve heard them called many names, but “compass tree” fits the best.

There is one that is fairly easy to see, and you can find it in Pico Canyon out past Mentryville, at the old picnic grounds of Johnson Park. It is an old tree and bent over by some force that isn’t known. Natural forces couldn’t have bent the tree like that. Maybe the Tataviam Indians did it, but on the other hand…

Here's an old photo of another compass tree that can still be seen in front of the Extended Stay America hotel at Pico and The Old Road. Click for more info.

Here’s an old photo of another compass tree that can still be seen in front of the Extended Stay America hotel at Pico and The Old Road. Click for more info.

At Johnson Park is another oak tree behind what once was an outdoor bar. There is a piece of heavy cable that the tree has grown around. The cable may have been there for nearly 138 years, if it was placed in the tree when the oil boom got going. I think it was placed there at a much later date, and the tree has grown a lot faster then we think. It is close to the creek and could be getting a lot a water to grow so fast.

Whether those trees were bent by the Tataviam or by natural means, it matters little. I love the story. Now if only I could figure out what the tree in Johnson Park is pointing at, I would be headed up into that north wall of Pico Canyon. Maybe this winter when it is much colder and the snakes aren’t quite as active. Maybe some Spanish conquistador hid some treasure in the cliffs and bent the tree to mark the spot in a cave? That sure would be a wonderful find.

If you think of it, when you see such a tree, maybe you could drop me an email at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. Include a picture and get extra credit. Please note the location. “Bent compass tree in Placerita Canyon” isn’t quite as accurate as we’d like. So please send them in.

I had the chance to drive a little around our valley yesterday on the first day of Fall. The leaves on our trees won’t start turning for quite a while yet. It is a way we can tell the seasons here in Southern California. We don’t get much in the way of snow, but it has happened. Usually our winters are wet and still mild. Given my criteria to determine when I’ll wear shorts with a heavy jacket and hiking boots is simple. The outside temperature must be above 55 degrees at some time during the daylight hours. That includes our “winter.”

Last year I was in Kentucky for Christmas, and we got a little snow. Mr. Renly loved it. (He is my basset hound of a little over 3 years of age.) I didn’t need the cold. I hope we get lots of rain – but snow is a whole other matter.

I like our season just like it is. We have a season. It is also our attitude most of the time. Yep – sunny and warm with a chance of joy.

And any tree leaves that turn color remind us just how wonderful we have it here in the SCV. A pretty good place that is sunny and warm with a chance of joy.

Enjoy the season. Ghosts and goblins in less than a month – at least at Disneyland and Magic Mountain. Get ready now and avoid the rush. I can hardly wait. If you see a tall guy with a pirate hat and wig, make sure you give him only sugar-free stuff.

Maybe I can get some Christmas shopping done before Halloween. Do either of our United States senators need new brooms? It would make their plane flights between our state and D.C. a lot more economical. What do you think? Don’t tell them. It is a surprise.


Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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  1. Does this tree still exist today? If so I would love to go see it

  2. Jeff Selph Jeff Selph says:

    There’s a crooked one off Pico where Carrows is not sure if the same one

  3. Jeff Selph Jeff Selph says:

    It is the same I clicked on the link, Extended Stay

  4. Anyone remeber the tree Old Glory? Remember how some guy basically sat in the tree until they said they weren’t going to chop it down but instead move it? Where’d it go?

  5. Karen Blum Karen Blum says:

    Ryan they moved it across the street where it lives on today thanks to John Quigley.

  6. Karen Blum Karen Blum says:

    Will they buy the land and then put a billboard on it?

  7. That looks like a Tataviam Pointer Tree.

  8. Cathy Martin Cathy Martin says:

    too bad this tree has a hotel and restaurant wrapped around it.

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