Thursday, October 17, 2013

Death in Orchard Hills (Halloween 2013)

(GPS: N33 45.195 W117 44.210)
The Sinister Secrets of Black Star Canyon #3

Another month or so went by after my last conversation with the Old Man. While life got in the way of immediately doing anything more connected with Black Star Canyon I was able to sign up for the docent led hike in Orchard Hills. It’s located a little to the southwest of Black Star.

Prior to this hike, off and on over the previous few weeks I had an issue sleeping. I would wake up after having dreams about Black Star Canyon, the Old Man, and the imagery in his conversations. Some dreams I would consider nightmares, but others were not. I really didn’t think too much of it at the time other than it being really annoying, but I was not getting enough sleep on those nights. As a result, right before this hike I got sick!

It wasn’t like they were offering this hike every few weeks. I didn’t want to cancel either. What a terrible coincidence. You cannot access this area without a docent. So I had to suck it up and do it. I got to the Orchard Hills parking area early and have to admit I was a bit anti-social through the whole thing because of the sickness. A bunch of people showed up, and we were on our way.

On a normal day I would not really consider this strenuous, but due to the sickness I had a lot more problems with it than I should have. I started off with a jacket and then had to take it off after the first ten minutes.
I could see immediately why this was called Orchard Hills. We passed a lot of them as we went along.
The long ascent. This is where the 1800 ft. total elevation gain started to get to me. We did not have to go over that peak you see. After ascending we went around that little notch you see on the upper left and then went behind the peak. Then we went along the ridge you see on the right side of the picture to the first destination.

Somewhere in here near the end of the uphill one of the docents asked if I was okay. I said I was fine, but I was really breathing heavily and not doing very well. It was kind of embarrassing since I knew I had done much worse hikes then this.
We got to the top of our ascent and the docents let us rest up. I was fine from here on out. We started heading to our first site. In the picture above, straight ahead and then turn to the right along that ridge leads to the following:
We reached the first location on Loma Ridge. In the distance on the ground you should be able to see the strip where aircraft could lift off. During the Vietnam War era a Boeing C-135 crashed here. On June 25, 1965 at 1:46am soldiers were being transported from El Toro Marine Base with a few stops on their way to Vietnam. They never got there because the aircraft collided with Loma Ridge. This killed all 80+ members of the flight.
Loma Ridge is about 4 ½ miles away from the El Toro Marine Base strip. Normally, any aircraft would be required to make a left turn 2 miles away in order to avoid Loma Ridge. This was standard procedure. The problem was that night it was extremely foggy where the pilot was not be able to see just looking out the window. The mystery is why the experienced pilot did not make the left turn. A few ideas have been proposed, but it will always be a mystery.

I was slightly disappointed about not seeing much aircraft remains of what I thought I read we would see before coming here. We were warned not to take anything, but I did not see anything that could be taken. Of course, I have been to places where the aircraft after a crash is not completely destroyed so a lot is left. So, I think my expectations were a little high. I have been told that there are remains there, but we would have had to continue over to the ridge more.

As an aside, my brother knows a man that was stationed at El Toro during this event. He was one of the men sent to clean up the mess and recover the bodies. He said it was just an awful situation in having to do that.   
From this point we went back a ways and headed on a trail to the north side. We reached the high point and stopped. I tried to pan around with the camcorder, but it was difficult because of all the people around. One can see Black Star Canyon and Irvine Lake from here so I knew why the Old Man wanted me to see this. It was connected after all.

We then dropped down a few hundred feet to a plaque with a gate around it. There was a field around and a few trees. GPS for the hang site: N33 45.790 W117 44.035.
This is where a hanging took place. See the branch running parallel with the ground? That is supposed to be the tree.

I’m going to gloss over this really quickly to get to the point since whole books have been written on the background here. Juan Flores, a Californio bandit, was pursued by a sheriff Barton for a murder he had committed. On January 23, 1857 Juan Flores and his gang got into a shootout with Barton and three of his deputies. Barton and the deputies were killed.

This caused an uproar with posses formed in pursuit of the outlaws. Flores and some of the gang were spotted at what is now Flores Peak. I have pointed out that peak when I did the Harding Canyon Falls hike a few years ago. Flores and gang were captured, but he was able to escape captivity later that night.

It was at this point that General Andres Pico, brother of the last Californio Governor Pio Pico, hanged Francisco Ardillero and Juan Catabo. This tree is said to be the hanging tree.

“At midnight Flores and his compadres slipped out of their bonds and fled into the darkness. The guards awoke and fired a volley of shots after them but the fugitives escaped. At daybreak a dejected Gentry sent a rider back up Santiago Canyon to give Andres Pico the bad news. The rider met Pico near the present day location of Irvine Lake. Pico and his company were coming down the canyon with Juan Silvas and Francisco Ardillero, the two bandits who refused to climb down the rope, in custody. The general became enraged at the news and declared that there were two bandidos who would not escape. He ordered his men to ride to a small grove of sycamore trees, which are still standing in a side canyon one quarter mile southwest of Irvine Lake. Ropes were looped over the branches and in moments Silvas and Ardillero were hanging in midair. When they were dead Pico instructed one of his men to cut off their ears. Pico’s act harkened back to the old days under Mexican rule when soldiers who tracked down and killed Indian horse thieves traditionally removed their ears as proof of a successful manhunt." (Boessenecker, John. Gold Dust and Gunsmoke: Tales of Gold Rush Outlaws, Gunfighters, Lawmen, and Vigilantes. New York: John Wiley, 2000, p. 126)

Flores was later captured and hanged in Los Angeles on Feb. 14, 1857.

After viewing the plaque and tree we made our way back up and then back down the way we came. I enjoyed it, but since I was sick I was just glad to get home and get some liquids into me. I rested up, and in about a week I felt a little better.

Another two weeks went by. I then decided to see my old friend on a Saturday. I remembered his every other Saturday schedule at being at the coffee shop. Sure enough he was there.

The Old Man was not as excited to see me this time around. I could tell something was deeply disturbing him. I assumed the worst. Maybe he found out from the doctors he was terminal. What could be bothering him? His health was fine.

After engaging in some small talk he finally admitted that his daughter was probably being forced to move from San Diego to somewhere back east. Turns out her company was being relocated, and to keep her job she would have to go with it.

I asked, “When will this happen?”

“Sometime in the fall,” he replied.

Over the past few months I reasoned the Old Man was somewhat of a lonely person and had outlived a bunch of his friends. He seemed like the person that needed the company of others. and that was one of the reasons he enjoyed having me around. However, I knew I could not give him what he really longed for. Having his daughter leave was probably another thing that seemed that life was taking from him.

“Enough about me, did you ever visit Orchard Hills?” he asked.

“Oh good grief. Yes, I did. I was sick as I could get, but still pulled it off. I took a lot of mental notes. You were right. Both of those events that took place there were rather dark. When I got home I did a lot of reading on the internet about those events. Obviously, the two hanged one can argue that justice was really served even though it was a lynching, but the air crash was just awful to read about. So many innocent people killed, so much grief from friends and family left behind.”

“Did you see Black Star Canyon in the distance?” he asked.

“Yes. It was definitely in range and I made the connection you were telling me.”

At this point the Old Man proceeded to drop the bomb on me. He again mentioned the Sentinels and the Old Ones. The Sentinels are like the priests of the Old Ones. They guard the canyon and influence those who are nearby. Some people can handle their influence better than others. Some go mad, some make simple mistakes, others use poor judgment in situations they know better, others make quick and severe judgments they might not normally make. But, in all this, the purpose of the Sentinels is fulfilled in attempting to get the attention and please the Old Ones.

“This sounds like something I would hear on Coast to Coast AM,” I replied.

“Can you explain the madness of the people and stories you have heard around here?” he said.

He was right about one thing. This is the point he had been hinting at the entire time I knew him. Many people who have gone in and out of Black Star Canyon do have some strange stories come out of them. I can’t say that for any other place I have been to in my life, and I have been to some strange places. The history of the canyon verifies that.

Then he told me something that was deeply troubling…

“Some of the geological places around this area are like temples the Sentinels oversee. Places like Red Rock Cliffs and the Sinks are temples to the Old Ones. Much blood has come about by their influence and dedication to their gods.”

Geological temples, extra-dimensional beings, and ancient alien sentinels were just too much. Yet, I felt the need to inquire:

“What do these beings look like?”

“I cannot tell you what the Old Ones look like. I can tell you something about the sentinels. When they take earthly form their faces can be seen in rocks. Sometimes they have humanoid like features, some with bird like faces, but otherwise human. Others have an amphibian look, but are humanoid. Some have other geometrical features for faces. They can be very big compared to humans or any other life on earth. They might not move at all if you were in their presence, but they can at any moment. The most dangerous ones that influence the area overlook Black Star Canyon,” he said.

Trying to be funny I said, “Your physical descriptions sounds like you are describing the Transformers.”

He wasn’t up on robotic pop culture so I had to fill him in. I think he understood my sense of humor and was not hurt by my apparent sarcasm there. I was listening to what he had to say, but then realized I had already used my quota of sarcastic humor on him earlier so I decided to get more serious.

“Okay boss! What you have said sounds interesting and does explain some of what I have encountered. Where do you think I should visit next?

“No! I have told you all that I know, and this is where this should end. I think I have answered your questions about this region. There is no other area I think you should visit,” he said.

A bit shocked, but realizing his daughter’s news was upsetting him I just let it go. I wished him well, but told him I would get back to him in month or so to see how he was doing.

Driving home I went over the conversation in my mind again. I knew there had to be more than he was telling me. What he said was incredible, but I had this urge to know more.

Then I realized there was something he said in the conversation about the geological temples of these beings. There was one he referred to as the Sinks! I decided I would find out what I could about this one and go there!

For the following video on this one I think I should note that I made this video in the same style I typically do with a certain mood the music portrays. It's a downer and not supposed to be very happy. While I doubt many people will care about the two hanged, I should note we still live in a time that a lot of friends and family are still alive that lost loved ones back then with the airplane crash. So, there is some sensitivity involved here which I did not take lightly while doing this. Personally, I think it would be a lot more dishonorable if I had some "happy go lucky" type of music playing during this video, but that's just me. Of course, one can always mute or turn the sound off...

Death in Orchard Hills (Youtube Version)

Death in Orchard Hills (Vimeo Version: PLEASE NOTE, I had to compress this one)

The music used for the video is called Paranoia taken from Purple Planet.

A few articles about the crash:

Los Angeles Times (2007)


OCWeekly (This article was dealing with a political issue in the area during the year 2000, but it talks about some of the history)

A few articles on the hanging:

OCWeekly (2009)

Los Angeles Times (2009)

Irvine Conservancy

Juan Flores (Wikipedia)

Two books I have found useful over the past few years on this:

Gold Dust and Gunsmoke: Tales of Gold Rush Outlaws, Gunfighters, Lawmen, and Vigilantes by John Boessenecker has the section quoted above and more.

If you really have interest in this then one book that is useful for the historical context is Bandido: The Life and Times of Tiburcio Vasquez by John Boessenecker. Although the book is a biography for Vasquez it does give a lot of the background for what happened in California at the time. Again, not a book about Juan Flores, but his name does come up a few times.