Tower: NOTT10’- Non-battered, open timber tower, 10 feet tall
Cab: C3 (USFS Region 5 1934 standard 14′ X 14′ wood cab)
Elevation: 4636 feet
Topo Map: USGS Sunland
Coordinates: 34.348462, -118.313603
Trail reports: Iron Hiker, OTPHiker, Summit Post, Peak Bagger
Mendenhall Peak at 4636 feet, sits above Little Tujunga Canyon at the western end of the San Gabriel Mountains of Angeles National Forest.
Mendenhall Peak was named after Frank Mendenhall, a 19th century hunter, trapper, and explorer and father to William V. Mendenhall, the former supervisor of the Angeles National Forest. It was William who named the peak for his father, who was killed in a rock slide when William was young.
A fire lookout tower was built on the summit in 1936. A non-battered, open timber tower, standing at 10 feet tall (NOTT10’) was erected with a standard 14′ X 14′ wood cab (C3).
The lookout station has been referred to as “Highline” lookout a few times in the 1950s including in The Signal Aug 26 1954, The Los Angeles Times Sep 14 1954, and in the Newhall Telephone Directory January 1958. In modern maps, the name Highline was retained only for Highline Saddle, a halfway mark to Mendenhall Peak from Dillon Divide.
Lookout staff included Arthur Giesen in 1949, Martha Gist with her husband 1954-1956, Patsy van Leer in 1960, and Peggy Hotchkiss 1960-1966. In 1960 a major brush fire was set deliberately in Little Tujunga and threatened the lookout. Patsy van Leer the 27-year-old U.S. Forest Service lookout had to escape from her post and was rescued by helicopter. The fire had come within a quarter mile of the lookout
The Mill Fire of Big Tujunga in 1975 burned 47,000 acres and was the second largest forest fire to hit the Angeles National Forest. Hot Santa Ana winds fanned the fire with gusts up to 60 mph. In the end, the fire razed 43 buildings including the forest lookouts on Josephine Peak and Mendenhall Peak.
William Vandevere Mendenhall 1890-1973
Although Mendenhall peak was named after his father, William V. Mendenhall’s contributions as forest supervisor led to epoch-making developments in the Angeles National Forest.
Born in Pasadena, William worked as a teenager at Mt. Wilson Observatory, then as a mule packer for the forest camps in Big Santa Anita canyon and to Barley Flats.
“In Lopez Canyon, he had a dapple gray horse named “Billy Boy” that he rode up and down the mountain for trail checks and rescues. He spent many years in the saddle on the trail…”-S.A. Mendenhall, credit: S.A. Mendenhall
He began working for the Forest Service in 1911 at age 21 as a Forest Service Guard and was assigned to Lopez Canyon above San Fernando Valley. He moved up the ranks from Assistant Forest Ranger to Division Ranger in San Antonio Canyon. From 1922 to 1929 he was the Assistant Supervisor of the Santa Barbara Forest (now Los Padres National Forest)
From 1929 to 1956 Mendenhall served as the supervisor of the Angeles Forest, the longest held position in forest history. Under his stewardship, the Angeles Forest modernized its firefighting techniques, and the Civilian Conservation Corps built networks of fire roads and lookouts equipped with telephone and radio systems. Mendenhall enhanced public forest recreation with new campgrounds, picnic areas, and trails.
The construction of the Angeles Crest Highway was started in 1929 when Mendenhall became Angeles Forest Supervisor and was completed by 1954-55, creating greater public access to the mountains. He even gave the highway its name.
Officials examine Eaton Wash Dam, L.A. County Flood Control District facility, which is hoped to tap much debris when rain floods the burned out hills to the NE. William V. Mendenhall further most right. Credit: USC Digital Library
William V. Mendenhall died at age 84 on July 5 1973 in Altadena and was buried in Mountain View Cemetery, Pasadena. The inscription on Bill’s grave marker reads, “William V. Mendenhall ‘Forester’ 1890—1973.”
Many thanks to the wonderful Mendenhall family for providing photos and information on William V. Mendenhall including a copy of “The Forester” William Vandever Mendenhall 1889-1973, California written by S.A. Mendenhall. Thanks to Katie Mendenhall for connecting me to the family resources.