This forty acres along Carroll Creek is simply remarkable. On a road 19 miles long, it is the only private property. Dramatic vistas span near and far with nothing but wide-open spaces. With its gravity-fed water and abundant riparian corridor along the slopes of otherwise high desert, it’s plain to see why the modern Paiute & their ancestors were here for thousands of years.
On paper, Non-Paiute ownership began in the mid 1800’s, when this region (now Inyo County) was still part of Tulare County (located now entirely on the west side). In the early 1860’s, a wagon trail up from Lone Pine ended here at Carroll Creek. A man named Hockett built a trail from here on up the mountain. The trail continued across the range all the way to the Visailia area, on the west side of the Sierra. This man, Hockett, built the trail originally as a business endeavor (a toll was charged for use). The route was heavily used by Central Valley settlers’. Hearing of the lush valley grasses, which survived the state-wide drought of the time, cattlemen and their families poured over the mountains from the Central Valley. At the time, the Owens Valley was rich in horse high grasses perfect for the settlers’ cattle. Most of these valley grasses ran along the Owens River, which had been diverted and spread by the Paiute for thousands of years. Little did the settlers notice that the grasses were actually farmed, and essential for game cover, for sustenance, and for baskets amongst the original peoples of the Owens Valley. The onslaught of farmers, ranchers and minors entering the Owens Valley in the late 1800’s would change the way of life for the Paiute forever.
The Hockett trail quickly ceased to be a toll trail when the Military was called in to “settle” conflicts that ensued as the Paiute lost their way of life. After the federal government’s use of the trail (they did not pay the toll) and decreased settlers due to word of “Indian wars”, Hockett went bankrupt and left the area. The Hockett trail continued to be the most used route over the mountains for years to come. And, as the future brought increased recreationists, east side sections of the Hockett trail supported three large packing operations. Carroll Creek was the hub of a fair amount of mountain traffic for a bit more than 100 years.
By 1880 the forty acres at Carroll Creek was owned by Alfred DeLaCour Carroll, for which the creek is named. Alfred Carroll is a founding member of the Sierra Club, along with John Muir and many others like them—educated men from the east and beyond with grand vision and the means to lobby congress. Because of such visionaries, we all enjoy the mighty Sierra as it is.
We do not have a whole lot of information on Alfred Carroll, other than he hailed from Ireland and took interest in the Eastern Sierra Nevada along with many of his contemporaries. He owned this property from 1880, which is essentially the mouth of Carroll Creek, until some time in the 1920’s. Records indicate he returned to Europe, was knighted for his “great work in preservation” and discontinued paying Inyo County land taxes.
At the point of his failure to pay taxes, the property title reverted back the State and was auctioned off . In the early 1930’s, two men, Chrysler & Cook, started the first pack station here at Carroll Creek. With the Hockett trail access, its location was ideal. In the narrow part of the canyon, where the cabins now are, the Pack Station operated through several owners over the years until the late 1960’s. Horses and Mules and equipment were brought up from the valley every year to summer in the lush Carroll Creek canyon. Thousands of people hired the services of tough mountain men and woman, and their dependable stock (mostly mules) to haul gear, families, and food into the high country for their mountain adventures. Several generations of young people worked the pack stations up and down the Sierra range. The packing industry was a large part of the local economy. High Country pack stations still operate (one is above us at Horseshoe Meadows), though at a much smaller scale than back then.
In the late 1960’s , the County of Inyo built the final extension of Horseshoe Meadow Road up from Carroll Creek into the high country. The construction of the road destroyed the first section of the Hockett trail, and officially ended the need for Pack Stations at the bottom of the mountain, here at Carroll Creek. It was now possible to drive a normal car up to the top and enjoy the spectacular Horseshoe Meadows and the headwaters of Cottonwood Creek. Once the road went up, the trails were increased in all directions out from Horseshoe Meadows. Some follow sections of the original Hockett Trail, but most are mountain passes leading to the Pacific Crest Trail, the John Muir Wilderness, and Sequoia National Park. All the trails have astounding beauty with streams of golden trout, clear water lakes in pure granite bowls, with mountain peaks in all directions. This access to high country trails is unprecedented in the southern Sierra Range.
Today, from DelaCour Ranch, Horseshoe Meadow Road continues up 13 miles to the Horseshoe Meadows trailheads, campgrounds, packs station and equestrian camp.
DE LA COUR RANCH TODAY
Coale purchased “Carroll Creek” (as it was known by generations of local packers), In 1998. He named it DelaCour Ranch in honor of the great works of Alfred De La Cour Carroll. Coale designed and built the cabins and barn and the needed infrastructure toward establishing what is now our guest farm. In 2007, we moved here full time. The Cabin rentals are just part of the ongoing development of this gorgeous canyon. We see ourselves as students of the place, forever learning what it has to offer and what it needs to thrive. We focus on creating sustainable operations with lavender production, soil building, meat sheep, laying hens, horses, and garden produce. All the while, the property continues to blossom with permaculture farming practices, creative terracing , native plant and water management, nature trails, farm tours, innovative work trades, and an ongoing awe and respect for the land and her story.
MUSIC AT DE LA COUR RANCH
Coale Johnson has been composing and performing music nearly all his life.
He is available for events both on and off the ranch.
For more information, check out www.coale-johnson.com