Saturday, October 31, 2009

The Black Star Canyon Hike (Spooky Legends and Lore 2009)

(GPS: N33 45.870 W117 40.680)

Here is the hike I like to think of as a cross between the movies The Hills Have Eyes and Deliverance. The video will be linked at the bottom.

Before I get into this hike, I thought I would briefly mention a few things that I was going to do in a separate blog entry. As one might guess from this blog I enjoy various aspects of history. One of the tricks of history is finding out what is true factual history vs. what is just mere storytelling. Most movies tend to emphasize the latter and that is why I do not really watch movies for history lessons. The best they do is stimulate interest in the historical subject.

One interesting thing that happens are legends can develop over time usually based on a few facts. There is some fun and some bad that comes out of this. Everyone likes a good story. The problem is over time when people look back on the history it becomes hard to tell what is fact and what is legend. Then, as John Ford told us in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, it becomes a case of "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

One of my local areas has this problem. Turnbull Canyon near Whittier, CA has a lot of local urban legends, but when I go to examine the facts behind the story little come up. For example, this message on that forum claims to be heavily researched. Of course, there are no footnotes, the sources are conveniently not named, etc. There is this story that I find intriguing about a mental hospital located in the canyon. It would be cool to find out the story behind that, BUT I get the idea that is total internet fabrication.

On the other hand, Black Star Canyon in the Santa Ana Mountains in Orange County, CA does have some facts involved regarding its legends. My main goal was to reach the historical locations, and that will come in the next two blogs. This one will cover the hike through most of the area. Part of what I wanted to do was a sort of debunking of a lot of the nonsense one hears about this area. I do believe a lot has been "made up" regarding this location. There are people that do live in this very secluded place in the back of the canyon. One might think that if you wanted to keep people out of an area then lots of spooky legends would do the job. No, not at all. This sort of thing attracts people, and not always the people with the best intentions. I do sympathize with the people that live in there. In fact, I noticed a blog created by some of the relatives of the people that live there was started a few years ago that seems to be a form of damage control over some of the claims people have made over the years. On my hike, I did come away understanding why this place is considered haunted.

It is more spooky to go during the night, but I wanted to actually see the area like any other hike. So, naturally, I hiked the canyon in the middle of the day. I got to the trailhead as a man with his bicycle was leaving; it is a popular place for riding bikes. You do have to be careful you park legally off this road since police officers routinely make the rounds on this place. Also,If you are there during the late night hours you will be ticketed here. I parked and went past the gate. Only those that live back in the canyon and police officers can take vehicles past this gate.
The next quarter mile is a paved road. There is barbed wire that runs on each side along it. You are not to leave the road at anytime or you are on private property. I show it in the video, but at this point if you look to the right there is a huge white cross on top of a mountain. This is sort of the basis for rumors of Ku Klux Klan activity out there which I must say is highly unlikely. There are stories of Satanists coming here during the 1980's. Which would not totally suprise me that a few weirdo's that like secluded places have come here. In any case, you continue down the road and eventually you turn along the road around the corner to the right at the end of the paved road.
Now here is where I did a feel key clue as to why this area is a spooky legendary area. Part of the trick to this place is you are going back deep into a secluded canyon. The real creepy part of it that I felt is, even during the daytime, that you can not really see too far in front of where you are going on the road due to trees and the way the road curves around corners. This area is fillled with what I call "ambush points." At any moment going around these turns you just wonder if someone or something is on the other side of the corner ready to pounce on you. At two different points along this hike I could hear someone or something in the bushes along the road. My guess is that it was some animal, but it did feel like I was being watched by someone. The road continues to narrow as you go around corners and over a few bridges.
Ah, yes, during the 1970's a group of school children were on a field trip in this canyon, and their bus mysteriously ended up in this river bed. The students, the driver, and their good teacher were all killed. NO, that did not happen! It is a spooky sight to see this bus just down into the river bed (Edit: Oct. 2012, I am told the bus was taken out over the summer so you can no longer see it there).Just after you pass this point you see the sign by the local residents that it is a private road and permission to pass can be denied at anytime. This has been the real controversy going back to the 1980's from what I can see. I did not take any pictures or video through this area, but this part of the road is where the locals live behind their lots off the road. In the past, those who live here have come out with guns and threatened people passing through. Legally, the authorities and the rest of the public have the right to pass on this road at anytime. So, even though I sympathize with the locals with issues regarding wierd people trying to stir up trouble, the trespassing signs one might see can be ignored. I never saw anyone during this part of the hike. It was very silent, and it was most creepy part of the trip because again I heard rattling in the bushes wondering if I was being watched.

You really cannot see many of the trailer homes the people have back in the lots. You do see some and an occasional vehicle. The last house on the right (lol!) before you start climbing the switchbacks is actually a very nice looking lot. They have a type of small putting golf course, a bridge to the place, and it looks setup for picnics. Once you pass by that last residence you encounter the above concrete cylinder. Then the road starts to get steep and starts to switchback and forth. The following picture is looking back from where I came.
You start to see the cliffs that rise above the canyon.
One can see how the wind might howl in this canyon causing people to freak out. I am not sure about the ghosts, but I can understand how the mind can play tricks on someone going through this area during the day and, especially, at night. Personally, I would not suggest coming here during the night because of ghosts, but for whatever living humans (be it teenagers, gangbangers, etc.) that might wandering around.

At this point I conclude my short October location series. I had one more hike I recently went on that I could have added, but there is always next year! However, I will continue the hike to the historic locations in the next two blogs.

Here is my video of the hike:

Black Star Canyon Hike (Youtube Version: has a slightly different edit and music)
Black Star Canyon Hike (Vimeo Version)

Happy Halloween!

EDIT (August, 2014): If you would like to see all my other Black Star Canyon blogs then click this link and go to the bottom.