So I Heard You Liked Ranchos?

Hola! So as promised in my previous post, here’s what went down on my trip (6/26) in search of historical research information with NPS Environmental Historian Timothy Babalis. We set off to the Santa Monica Mountains (SAMO) archives in search of literary resources for a project Timothy is working on for the NPS. He took me to a bungalow-looking location in the Santa Monica Mountains, not too far from another cool site called Rocky Oaks, where all of SAMO’s records, artifacts, historical documents, and more are housed in a temperature-controlled room. For obvious reasons, I couldn’t take pictures inside of the storage facility, but I can tell you that there were hundreds of cardboard boxes filled with countless Native American artifacts, old pamphlets from former “recreational fairyland resorts for adults and children”*, soil samples from various locations of the SAMO recreation area, and even bug collections!* There were also about ten bookshelves each with books relating to SAMO and its surrounding sites, which we used to find research material for Timothy’s work. I skimmed through a book that caught my eye, The Archaeology of California by Kerry and Joseph Chartkoff, which I ended up checking out from my local library (use the Los Angeles Public Libraries!!).


I guess I did take a picture at the archives…shhhh!

We gathered the information we needed from the archives and headed out to our next destination on our search for knowledge: Los Encinos State Historic Park. Located in the heart of Encino**, Los Encinos State Historic Park sits on top of a former Tongva village, who utilized the area’s natural spring and whose artifacts were uncovered when the city established the park in 1949. The site underwent several owners and uses, which include Spanish contact made through the Portola expedition, ownership by the de la Ossa family who turned the land into a ranch and built the 9-room adobe farmhouse that still stands in the park today, a stopping point along El Camino Real, acquisition by Basque rancher Simon Gless, re-acquisition by Gless’ father-in-law Domingo Amestoy for wheat farming, and ownership by the Garnier brothers who built the Garnier House that also still stands in the park and used the land for sheep-herding. We stopped at this beautiful park to pay a visit to an archaeologist that had relevant information to Timothy’s research. We chatted with her for a bit and then explored the area a bit more.

The 9-room Adobe Farmhouse


The Garnier House


Beautiful oak trees


Nopales (delicious)

Now for these last two weeks of my internship… The Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority and SAMO just kicked off their first-ever Urban Archaeology Corps (6/29), where youths ages 16-26 will learn more about archaeology and parks, and why parks are important places in cities like Los Angeles. We’ve been spending most of our time introducing the members to archaeology, GPS/GIS software and basics, the National Park Service and SAMO, and other essentials that will ensure them a fun and interactive time during their 6-week program. The group, comprised of 8 students, has already gotten a chance to visit our headquarters and visit the site they’re going to be working on the summer: Rancho Sierra Vista / Satwiwa! 080 Rancho Sierra Vista / Satwiwa is a prehistoric*** Chumash “workshop” and transient campsite, per se, since most of the archaeological evidence found at this site mainly consists of shell middens (debris), lithic (stone) tools, glass trade beads, and other artifacts that give us the impression that people worked and traded here, but didn’t permanently live here. After contact by the Spanish and the influx of Mexican ranchers between the 1500s and the 1800s, the land became a ranch and also went through several owners and names, including Rancho Las Virgenes (1802) owned by Miguel Ortega, Rancho El Conejo (1803) owned by Jose Polanco and Ignacio Rodriquez, Rancho Guadalasca (1836) owned by Ysabel Yorba, Rancho Sierra Vista (1936) owned by Carl Beal, and its last owner Richard E. Danielson, who bought the ranch in 1947 and kept its name and early Spanish atmosphere by employing true Mexican vaqueros (cowboys) to handle their large herd of Hereford Cattle. The Urban Archaeology Corps will be assisting SAMO archaeologists in excavating the site, which underwent severe fire damage from the 2013 Springs Fire. Although the fire tore through much of the vegetation in the area, it also served as a sort of coin on a lottery scratcher to the land in the sense that it scratched off the surface layer of soil to reveal previously-hidden artifacts that revealed more understanding of the site, including a stone oven complete with shellfish remains and burnt rocks. The students don’t exactly have a background in archaeology, but with the help and guidance of our team of archaeologists (and myself, since I’ll be accompanying them at times), they’ll be able to put their new skills to the test and uncover more pieces of the Chumash jigsaw puzzle. 🙂


SAMO Youth Program Manager and Park Ranger Antonio Solorio teaching the students about the benefits of cacti and other native plants in Rancho Sierra Vista / Satwiwa


Archaeological Technician and Park Ranger Austin Ringelstein introducing the students to the site they’re going to be working on over the next 6 weeks. You can see bits of the stone hearth on the bottom left.


A historic windmill associated with the site’s ranching days


Me standing outside of a replica Chumash house. 🙂


Fellow LHIP intern Jose Gonzalez and I taking a RSV selfie 🙂


The rolling hills of Rancho Sierra Vista / Satwiwa


The students listening in on Austin’s Native American talk inside of the visitor center

I’ll be out of town all of next week because I’m accompanying SAMO Youth Program Manager Antonio Solorio on a week-long camping activity out on Santa Rosa Island, the second largest island in the Channel Island! I’m very excited about that, so I’ll catch you all up on the fun and details when I get back! 🙂

*The “recreational fairyland resort” is none other than the predecessor of Disneyland, Lake Enchanto! With its lush fields of grass and oak trees, giant, outdoor swimming pool, dance hall, aviary, and terraces, this resort was the it spot of Angelenos in the 1930s. However, competition from larger, easily accessible theme parks (Disneyland) sprouting up, Lake Enchanto lost its enchantment and closed its doors in 1960. **Encino actually means “oak” in Spanish, which is why the city is named as such, because of its abundance of oak trees. ***The difference between prehistoric and historic is literally language. Anything considered to be prehistoric refers to it having occurred or being from the time before written language. For example, most Chumash sites are considered prehistoric because the Chumash did not have an official written language, even though they most certainly had a spoken one. Anything considered to be historic refers to it having occurred or being from the time after written language and at least 50 years into the past.    

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