Palmer Canyon still has eerie feel 9 years after fire

What was supposed to be a quick photo shoot for the Almanac to update the conditions in Palmer Canyon ended up being an odd trip down memory lane. Located just north of Padua Hills, it’s a graveyard for the homes that once dotted the landscape.

Since a fire in 2003 that ravaged the entire area, only shells of former houses still exist.

Now Palmer Canyon has only a few diehard (and in some sense lucky) residents who still call it home. These were the residences left untouched by the fire. But for all purposes, this is a dead neighborhood because of the high costs to rebuild.

There were a number of things that made this photo shoot unique. First of all, visitors are not welcome. There’s a locked gate, with so many signs, they ought to just say, “Go away!” If you are lucky enough, one may be greeted by a resident living near the entrance. I’m not sure who she is, only to say she verbalizes what’s on all those signs.

The entire road that dead-ends in a mile is littered with burned homes where only a foundation, stairway or fireplace still stand. Some are covered in the vegetation that covers the landscape. The canyon almost looks like a fire was never there…except for the former homes.

I realize most of us have seen burned-out structures. But the sheer enormity of seeing so many, in such a pristine setting, is jarring. Then a home untouched by fire pops up, still lived in by one of the current residents. Now that’s commitment.

And then there’s the tree house. Actually, it’s a little house in a tree. I expected an old gent with a long gray beard to stick his head out and tell me to get lost. No one lives there now, but what’s weird is it wasn’t touched by fire…even though the homes below were destroyed.

My advice would be not to take your family up the canyon for a picnic. The last thing anyone wants is lookie-loos. Our story of the canyon are in the Almanac. Maybe it’s just better to remember Palmer Canyon as the vibrant neighborhood it once was.


Letter to the editor

I am the last person to want to continue our conversation on Michael Valentine’s comments last week. But being a publisher and human being, I will second-guess myself after reading the responses from readers. There were many good points.

The COURIER readers comments are managed by Kathryn Dunn and she makes every effort to make sure many voices are heard. We have criteria for people to follow, but no blanket policies on what is refused. Much of it is common sense, something our managing editor has a lot of. We take each letter on a case-by-case basis.

In retrospect, I don’t think we should have published Mr. Valentine’s comments. There was really nothing to advance a conversation on anything current. It started with a quote from my father Martin that was over 25 years old. When I first read the comments, that’s what hit me. Old, old news. I cannot remember a reader comment so passionately negative about old stuff that went on in the city. It was almost a history lesson of Claremont events. This was an eye-opener for me.

Obviously, it was also hard to take the criticism of my father. Unfair or not, I had to ask myself…why? It clearly brought out old wounds of losing him, so much so, I didn’t even show the edition to my mother Janis. It would only upset her.

My comment to Mr. Valentine’s letter has been rightfully construed as projecting a “love it or leave it” attitude. That was not my intention. While I might have been a bit oversensitive, I’ve learned the love and defense of our parents extends even after they have left us.


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