Take care of the earth and it will take care of you. That was the message of Tongva descendant Richard Toyon as he addressed a crowd of 70-plus community members gathered at the top of Tongva Peak in the heart of the Verdugo mountains on Sunday morning.
The stop at the peak was one of four that the group made as they traveled across the hillsides as part of the annual Verdugo Mountain Auto Tour.
The tour was a chance for participants to learn more about the unique geography and history of the hills that embrace the Crescenta Valley.
Toyon, a fourteenth generation Californian, began his presentation with a ceremonial ritual blessing where sage was burned in an abalone shell. A fan made of eagle feathers was used to spread around the sweet-smelling smoke.
Once Toyon was done with his presentation, the group made its way back to the dozen or more cars that were caravaning through the mountain.
At the second site, Steve Goldsworthy made a presentation on the various aircraft that had been lost in the hills. He also touched on the rich aviation history that was part of the old Grand Central Airport in Glendale. “William Boeing learned to fly at the grass strip which is now the parking lot for the Los Angeles Zoo,” Goldsworthy said. He also told of Charles Lindbergh’s numerous flights out of the Glendale location and how Amelia Earhart could often be found at the airport.
Jeff Weinstein, trail master for Glendale Parks and Recreation, met the group at the Experimental Forest, the third stop on the journey. The forest was started after a fire in 1927 and was named in recognition of the cedar, pine and cypress trees that had been imported to see if they’d grow amid the native scrub and chaparral.
At the Experimental Forest, Weinstein was joined by Ranger Eric Grossman who spoke on the reported sightings of mountain lions in the area. Grossman offered tips to the group on how to react if a mountain lion was sighted while hiking through the Verdugos.
The future of the Verdugo Hills Golf Course was discussed at the final stop of the day as the tourists gazed upon the site from the hillside high above it.
Activist Marc Sturdivant provided information on how local residents could fight the proposed development of 229 condominium units on the golf course site. Toyon, an accomplished landscape architect, presented a rendering of an alternative plan for the acreage, a regional park that could be utilized by local residents.
The tour lasted about five hours and was co-hosted by the Glendale Department of Parks and Recreation and the Historical Society of the Crescenta Valley.