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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Icehouse Canyon‏

February 14th, 2008 · 24 Comments

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Now I know why they call it Icehouse Canyon. It’s icy.

I drove just 18 miles from the Motel 6 in usually sunny Southern California to the canyon’s trailhead at 5,000 feet, where it was 33 degrees and overcast in a fierce wind. Almost every foot of the trail was slick ice.

Fortunately, I had taken my Yaktrax, which they gave me all the stability I needed on the ice. I also put on my parka, which I was carrying because it was raining lightly when I set out. The parka provided all the head-covering gear I had, since I hadn’t brought my headsock from Colorado in order to save space in my overcrowded suitcase.

But actually Icehouse Canyon got its name more prosaically. Way back in 1858 somebody began cutting ice there to sell to the hot inhabitants of Los Angeles.

As much as I love this canyon it was far too cold and windy for me to go very far today. I have hiked here many times over the years, but hiked only an hour today.

The Trail Up Icehouse Canyon

The Trail Up Icehouse Canyon

Icehouse Canyon is 1.5 miles above Mt. Baldy Village, where I lived from 1943 to 1946, when its name was Camp Baldy. When I was in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades, I went to a one-room schoolhouse there that had a total of 20-25 students in all eight grades. According to a neat little guide book that I bought there, the school started in 1921 for kids who lived in the village’s 50 or so houses and cabins built on Forest Service leased land.

I went back to the schoolhouse today. It is now the forest service visitor center where I went to pick up the wilderness pass that I needed to park at the Icehouse Canyon trailhead. When I got there, a ranger was giving a talk to a group of a dozen or so kids on the history of the area. I asked the ranger to say a word. I told the kids that for three years I had gone to school in that very room more than half a century ago. That is also history!

Now the Visitor Center, Formerly my School

Now the Visitor Center, Formerly my School

In the Visitor Center, this was my Classroom for 3 Years

In the Visitor Center, this was my Classroom for 3 Years

Then, I drove around the corner to the house that mother and dad bought for my health. I was always sick and scrawny from the asthma that I had when we had lived 15 miles down in Upland, but overnight I got well in the mountain air. No wonder that I love the mountains in general and Mt. Baldy in particular!

The sparse vegetation of these mountains remind me of the Sandia mountain range just east of Albuquerque. But the temperature certainly reminded me of Colorado.

Since I had got going early in the day for what I had planned as a long hike, I had time to explore the whole area. So I drove up to the very end of the road where the Mt. Baldy ski lift starts at 6500 feet. It was 27 degrees there according to the thermometer in my rented Pontiac Grand Prix. But I took the ski lift to the top at 7800 feet, where the ticket attendant said the temperature was 13 degrees, and with the windchill factor it was minus 5.

I believe it. I was so cold that my eyes hurt during the 12 minute rides up and down. At the top I stopped at a funky restaurant called “The Notch” for a hot cup of coffee. Fortunately, the weather cleared on the way up the ski lift, although it stayed windy for the next hour or two.

View of the Southland from the Top of the Ski Lift

View of the Southland from the Top of the Ski Lift

It’s amazing that the base of the ski lift is only 23 miles from the motel that I’m staying at. And when I got back to the motel it was more than 40 degrees warmer.

On the way back down the road from the ski lift I noticed the Mt. Baldy Zen Center on the left. I stopped to look around and photograph it, because it was here that my favorite singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen spent 10 years as a monk.

The Monastic Retreat Center for Joshu Sasaki Roshi\'s Rinzai-Ji Community

The Monastic Retreat Center for Joshu Sasaki Roshi's Rinzai-Ji Community

I proceeded back down to Mt. Baldy Village and decided on the spur of the moment to hike up my other favorite trail in the San Gabriel Mountains, Bear Canyon. This trail starts right in the village and is the first trail that I ever hiked. That was 64 years ago. By the time that I got there today it was sunny and still and the temperature had climbed to 39 degrees. I hiked up a very steep trail until I reached a creek where the bridge had washed away. Then I returned to civilization.

The San Gabriels (Old Baldy and Cucamonga Peak) from Foothill Blvd, Upland

The San Gabriels (Old Baldy and Cucamonga Peak) from Foothill Blvd, Upland

Today was a rendezvous with my history.


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Posted in: Hiking

24 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Don Campbell // Dec 2, 2008 at 4:16 pm

    Sir, I hope you write down everything you can remember about your years in the one-room shoolhouse. That is indeed, history, and it should be recorded. Lucky you!

  • 2 David Mendosa // Dec 2, 2008 at 5:47 pm

    Dear Don,

    Thanks for the encouragement! I hadn’t thought of doing that before. But you are right that few Americans living today have had that experience. I will start right away.

    One who had that experience is the great Montana novelist, Ivan Doig. I know that you would enjoy reading his book “The Whistling Season,” which revolves around one-room schoolhouses.


  • 3 Baylaurel // Oct 23, 2009 at 10:55 am

    Mr. Mendosa, what a beautiful site you have. I just read you article on hiking on Mt Baldy, where I have a cabin in Icehouse Canyon. There are only 16 of them left, and the fact that you can own one is a well kept secret. However, there are several cabins whose owners are aging and can no longer hike up here, and others who have moved away. If your readers are interested in contacting me, I will be glad to answer their questions.

  • 4 David Mendosa // Oct 23, 2009 at 11:11 am

    Dear Baylaurel,

    Thank you! Years ago I backpacked up Icehouse Canyon to the saddle. It was in the late summer, but eventually the snow was so deep that we had to turn around.

    I once dreamed of living in a cabin in the canyon. Do I assume correctly that while you can own the cabin, the government owns the land. When I moved with my parents to Mt. Baldy Village many years ago, they had a 99 year lease on the land. Is that true now for Icehouse Canyon?

    Best regards,


  • 5 paula // Nov 5, 2009 at 7:34 pm

    And David as well…my husband and I are looking to rent an icehouse cabin. It’s been difficult finding any contacts whatsoever. If you or anyone you know has information or contacts on this it would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you in advance!

  • 6 David Mendosa // Nov 6, 2009 at 2:49 pm

    Dear Paula,

    I hope that Baylaurel gets back to you. Here is a message that she wrote me directly: “We now have 20 year leases; the new period began in 2009. One of our neighbors has his cabin for sale on Craigslist. And our Icehouse Canyon Improvement Association can answer questions and refer inquiries.”

    At the time I checked the listing on Craigslist ( ), but couldn’t find it there this afternoon. I don’t have contact information for the improvement association. But if Baylaurel doesn’t see you message here and get back to you, write me privately so I can give you here email address.

    Best regards,


  • 7 Kris // Dec 7, 2009 at 4:35 pm

    I would also be interested in renting a cabin in the canyon. If you could send me the info as well. Thank you

  • 8 Keith Armour // Jul 8, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    Dear David (or anyone else who might be out there who have an interest in Ice House Canyon):

    I have .jpg pictures of 1920s-1930s real photo postcard of a winter scene along the San Antonio Canyon Highway on the way to Ice House Canyon Resort. It came from an album of a 1937 vacation taken to the west coast by a CT couple.

    Would you (or do you know anyone who would) be interested in acquiring this postcard for your photo collection? If so, please contact me by email.


    Keith Armour

  • 9 Keith Armour // Jul 8, 2010 at 3:25 pm

    My email address is attached

    Keith Armour

  • 10 Brian // Jul 9, 2010 at 8:33 am

    Hi Everyone.

    My name is Brian, and I own cabin 35 in Ice House Canyon.

    In the last two years there has been a huge turnover of owners due to aging and so on. At this moment I don’t think there are any available for sale, but I may be wrong.

    In terms of cabin rental in Ice House, the USDA per our contract allow us to rent the cabins only so many days a year. Most owners do not rent to others due to the fact that the cabins are delicate, and require a certain amount of self reliance to keep warm and safe while staying there.

    On the other hand, I’m forming a plan that will allow others to rent the cabins.

    Here are the guidelines I’m thinking of implimenting:

    If a person, couple, or family wish to rent the cabin, the owner or representative of the cabin should be staying in proximity.

    Since many of the cabin owners have gotten to know each other, the option of a cabin owner staying in a nearby cabin is viable. This allows a person to be available on site to answer questions, and assist only when requested by the renter. Opening and closing a cabin can be intricate, and require assistance to keep the integrity of the structure intact. Well, I got to go into Jury duty, so I have to stop, but if anyone is interested, pleae let me know.

  • 11 Chris // Mar 1, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    It has been a long time since I backpacked to Icehouse Canyon to the saddle. It was a great hike, If anyone would like to advertise their Icehouse Canyon for free you could check out my website. I will give you a free listing:
    cabin rentals

  • 12 Lorene // Apr 1, 2011 at 7:04 pm

    Oh my goodness, what a pleasure to read your hiking journal of the Mt. Baldy vicinity and all the posts! I grew up in Ontario, and lived there until 1984. Our front window looked at Mt Baldy, Ontario Peak & Cucamonga Peak. I love those mountains and miss them very much. Thank you all for sharing.

  • 13 Jim Koeppel // Feb 9, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    Thank you for a great write-up. I’d be interested in reading more about your experiences “back in the day”.

  • 14 Dan McDermott // Feb 11, 2012 at 2:03 am

    I’ve owned an Icehouse cabin since 1985. I’ve also started school in a 1 room schoolhouse in the Santa Cruz Mts. with stories of that experience. I love Icehouse and until 4 years ago lived up there for 22 years and loved conquering all 8 of the local peaks over 8 to 10 thousand ft., as well as the old gold mines in East Fork. I’ll be visiting the cabin in March for regular maintenance needs, and if any nature loving folks wish to meet me and discuss the next turn of events for such a unique piece of real property, let me know…707 591 6585.

  • 15 Gwen Rodman // Feb 14, 2012 at 11:44 am

    It has been fun reading all the comments in this website. Any history we’d love to have. Contact (Marta) as she is the president of the History Museum group. It does have a formal name, so it is a 401c organization which means the donations can be tax deductable.

  • 16 Skip Penner // Aug 27, 2012 at 12:08 pm

    Thank you for sharing your memories and experience. My son and I just hiked to the saddle over the weekend. Seeing all the cabins made me wonder about a time past so I had to research it a bit further…Thanks again!

  • 17 Aaron Terrazas // Nov 6, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    I am very interested in renting a cabin. I am an avid backpacker/survivalist. A weekend in a location like that is right up my alley. Please contact me with any information regarding possible rental.

  • 18 Tony // Nov 28, 2012 at 11:05 am

    Thank you guys for wonderful stories. I am also interested in renting the cabins. If any of you go info, let me know.


  • 19 Maddie Rohde // Aug 8, 2013 at 9:48 am

    I have been going up icehouse canyon for my whole life with my dad and now my boyfriend. I have always seen the beautiful cabins and we have stayed in some in the past but there is just something about those that are really special. I would love to rent one even if it was just for a weekend for my boyfriend birthday in October.
    If any are avalible please call 9514151514

  • 20 Brian Legrady // Jan 21, 2014 at 11:16 pm

    ok. Interest is strong on rentals. Only with the conditions I posted in my old post, will i be interested in renting for 1 to 3 night stays. My e-mail is

  • 21 Christopher Black // Jul 16, 2014 at 12:40 pm

    Hi, I’m looking for pictures of John Kelly’s camp and the resort that followed. I’m also interested in any history photos of the area of the early days. Does anyone know where his mine was located ?
    I camped at Kelly’s camp on 7-10-2014. It was Thurs. night and I had the whole place to myself. I heard a squeel at 2200 hrs. it was a cat the size of a Germ. Shep. Snacking on a small animal. He hung around for about 30 min. at 50 ft. or so. Then at 0430 a nice sized doe came through camp. (caught on my game cam) Up from the spring it’s really green. There must be a puddle up there. The spring @ K camp is dry. Any help is appreciated.
    Thanks, A. Christopher Black.

  • 22 Danielle Niemann // Sep 13, 2015 at 10:50 am

    To any owners of cabins ice house canyon,

    I’m looking to rent one for a day during the weekend. Let me know if anyone is renting out.


  • 23 Eric // Oct 19, 2015 at 7:11 pm

    Is there someone I could contact to find out if someone owns the ruins of one of the cabins up there? I’m interested in doing some restoration.

  • 24 David Mendosa // Oct 19, 2015 at 8:14 pm

    I don’t know, Eric. But perhaps someone else will read your message and contact you.

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