1,175 Miles, 66 Days Through Snow and Sun : Walk West Retraced 100 Years Later

Times Staff Writer

One hundred years ago, Charles F. Lummis walked from Ohio to Los Angeles to become city editor of the Los Angeles Times. His new boss, Times Publisher Col. Harrison Gray Otis, met Lummis under a giant grapevine at the San Gabriel Mission.

Exactly 100 years later, on Jan. 31, Arizona historian Rod Hutchinson, who had walked Lummis' route from Colorado, arrived at the mission. He was met by staff members of the Southwest Museum in Highland Park, which is commemorating the centennial of Lummis' trek west.

Hutchinson, 46, is a carpenter from Bisbee whose avocation is history of the Southwest.

"I had heard about Lummis and then I read a book he wrote describing his walk," Hutchinson said. "I am not really that interested in Lummis and I don't know that much about him. What existed around him is interesting to me, not the man himself. I felt walking through the Southwest would give added dimension to my interest."

Hutchinson followed Lummis' route from Colorado through New Mexico and Arizona, dividing the 66-day walk into three parts. He began the last leg of the 1,175-mile trek Jan. 8 in Flagstaff, Ariz., in 12 inches of snow and zero-degree temperature.

"Weather was the worst problem," he said, "especially because I camped out on 44 of the nights. I had done other walks on parts of pioneer trails but this is the first long walk I've taken."

Hutchinson followed the Rio Grande Railway until it intersected with the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe. His route took him from Denver south to New Mexico and then west through Arizona to California. He averaged 21 1/2 miles a day.

"Twenty-five miles was a good day," he said, "but it depended mostly on my mood. If I knew there was a town ahead where I wanted to stop or the weather was beautiful and the route good I might walk 14 hours. Lummis could walk five miles an hour but my average is three."

Hutchinson avoided major highways by walking along frontage roads or dirt roads along the railroad tracks. The best part of the walk was Jan. 16 to 26 across the Mojave Desert because the weather was perfect, he said. Lummis, who made that walk at the same time of year, had difficulty because he encountered bad weather, Hutchinson said.

It took Hutchinson two days to get from the San Bernardino County line to San Gabriel. He went from Etiwanda on Foothill Boulevard to Claremont and then walked Arrow Highway through Pomona, La Verne, San Dimas and Glendora to Azusa.

The next day he again walked Arrow Highway to Live Oak Avenue and Las Tunas Drive. The walk from Azusa through Irwindale, Arcadia and Temple City to San Gabriel took five hours.

"Previous expeditions had used this route," he said, "but I don't really know what Lummis' route was in Southern California."

Hutchinson was born in Altadena and grew up in Colorado. He teaches history of the American frontier at Cochise College in Douglas, Ariz., and lectures at the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. He said he plans to write a book on his Lummis walk.

Hutchinson, who is self-employed as a carpenter, financed the project himself. He said he divided the walk into three parts because he had to go home between segments and work to earn money for the rest of the trek.

He also admitted that he got bored on part of the walk. "The West was novel to Lummis. He had never seen any of these places," Hutchinson said.

But Lummis later became a historian of the area. Lummis, who was born in 1859 and died in 1928, left Los Angeles for New Mexico and later returned to become librarian of the Los Angeles Public Library.

In 1907 he founded the Southwest Museum and near it, in the Arroyo Seco, built his home, El Alisal, which became a cultural center of Los Angeles.

The anniversary of his walk is being celebrated through May 19 with an exhibit of his photographs and a lecture series at the museum, 234 Museum Drive.

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