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Discovery, Find, Beginnings, Early, Challenge, Breaking, Paving, Residents, Tourists, Kelly's, Conclusion

I find my way back to the historic road

   Six years ago, while heading north over the new I-5 Route to visit my parents in Visalia with my son as passenger, I immediately recalled my 1955 adventure when my son commented that the first road over the mountains must have been a real challenge for the early cars. Having some spare time, we left the freeway at Templin Highway and headed east in an attempt to locate the original road. In a mile or so we found it, and cautiously followed it north, ignoring the sign which states that it is not a through road! Although in bad shape, it was passable, and we were able to drive all the way to Highway 138. Here we came upon a county crew resurfacing the northern end of the road.

    I interrupted their work momentarily to ask if this was still officially designated a county road. They didn't know, stating that they only maintained the pavement up to the national forest boundary. With this limited offering of information, I recall thinking that someone should look into the possibility of preserving this remaining stretch of the original Ridge Route. I wondered how you could go about saving a road when there is no agreement on where it begins or ends. I later found that it is generally defined as that section of highway which winds over the Tehachapi Mountains between Castaic on the south and extending north to the bottom of the Grapevine grade.

   The more I looked at the Ridge Route, the more I realized how this single highway affected the development of California.

   I began gleaning information from old newspapers and magazines, going to universities, libraries, contacting historians and searching through endless reels of microfilm. As I collected documents and pictures, I became more excited about the history of the road. Before I realized it, I became a "someone," who, with others, would help to preserve this remaining, virtually undisturbed, example of early highway construction.

   The time came to find out what the requirements are for submitting a preservation nomination. I contacted the California State Office of Historical Preservation, and to my surprise learned that I could not submit nomination papers. There was a technicality. My project area was for the major part on U.S. national forest land. In addition, I was told that it is much more difficult to qualify a road, as opposed to a stationary site. After so much effort, this setback rendered my hopes a devastating blow. For the first time I had doubts that I could accomplish my goal.

   I contacted the Angeles National Forest headquarters and ultimately presented my intentions to Michael McIntyre, Forest Archaeology Supervisor. He told me that the Ridge Route had always been a candidate for historic recognition; however, no one had pushed to bring it about. Mike referred me to Doug Milburn, his colleague and fellow archaeologist. Perhaps we could work jointly toward nominating the Ridge Route for the recognition it deserved.

   Since I could not singularly submit the paperwork, I jumped at this opportunity. Doug and I have worked together diligently for five years, I continuing to collect information and Doug inputting the information onto the various nomination forms. It was not an easy task, considering his limited time as the constraints of the recently tightened budget hit the national forests. I truly thank both Doug and Mike for allowing the project to move forward.

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