Thursday, March 21, 2013

Part 21 - Away from the Trail

I knew that the mountain ski resort of Wrightwood was about twenty miles away, so we decided to go visit the area.  At the junction of Highway 138 which goes to Lancaster, California, and Highway 2, which goes to Wrightwood, we spotted a quaint-looking restaurant called the Mountain Top Café, and decided to stop and have dinner.  The café was almost empty when we arrived, and the waitress gave us her full attention.  We chatted with her and asked lots of questions about the café and its history. 

Her name was Helen and she had been with the establishment for many years.

“Yes,” she said, “It’s kind of quiet nowadays; it’s not like it used to be when military personnel would often stop by.” 

The military personnel Helen was referring to were the men and women stationed at George Air Force Base near Victorville, California.  It was built just before the outbreak of WWII and used as a training base for pilots and bombardiers during the war. (Shaw)

After the war, it was established as a surplus storage facility for aircraft, which included such monstrous flying machines as the B-29 Superfortress.  Mothballed for five years, the base was again activated for training during the Korean War.  In 1992, the base was again declared surplus and shut down, and now serves primarily as a training base for drone pilots.  We all agreed that the food and service were superb, and if in the area again, we would revisit the place. We thanked Helen for her graciousness, got back into our rental car, and drove the few remaining miles to Wrightwood. 

Wrightwood, situated at approximately six thousand feet in elevation, was protected from the desert environs of the Mojave Desert by high mountains on the north side of town.  The town traced its origins to early Mormon cattle ranchers, brothers Nathan and Truman Swarthout.

Sometime after 1900, the main ranch owned by Sumner Wright, was broken up and subdivided into residential and commercial lots, and by 1920 a community had taken hold.  Ski enthusiasts from the Los Angeles area were quick to discover the north-facing slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains, and construction of ski runs and lifts began in the 1930s.  (Wrightwood)

Our drive through town on Highway 2 revealed a charming and delightful community full of quaint homes tucked back into the pine trees on the south side of the highway, and aging commercial buildings lining Main Street, some that looked to be as old as the beginning of the town itself.  We were pleased with our excursion to this little mountain community, and Ken Cutler declared that if the town had a golf course, he could live here.  

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