Thursday, September 6, 2012

"Up at Rock Creek" 6x8 oil

From Joe Mancuso's blog...

Available Through Coons Gallery In Bishop California. 300. framed

I painted this piece while I was up at Rock Creek a couple of weeks ago. This is the scene right before arriving at Rock Creek Lake. Before arriving, I had already planned on painting from this location so I was already thinking about values, colors and shapes etc. You could say I was already painting it before I arrived. I had thought about the granite on the mountains and the blue sky and how they related to each other. I was also thinking about the apsens and if the greens used would be warm or cool or both? When I first arrived and setup my easel I noticed the shadows across the road and how they would be the first shapes to change, so I quicky made shape and color notes for those as well as the shadows on Mount Abbott. From that point on I roughed in the biggest shapes and then worked more on the details later. When I began painting, the sky was clear and when I finished it looked like it might rain. Experiences like this keep me excited and motivated to paint on location often.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Benton Hot Springs

Here's an interesting bit of history on Benton Hot Springs. Might be a fun side trip next time you're in the area.

Old Benton Hot Springs by Windyscotty

Saturday, August 18, 2012

More Photos!

After seeing the photos I've been posting, my cousin Jessica Roby Martinucci (Tom Roby's daughter) was inspired to scan and share some of her own on Facebook.  Since not everyone can see them there, I'm sharing them here too.  I also added them to the Slideshow (see link above)... we're slowly filling in the timeline.

Tom Roby, August 1965

Linda (Mitchell) Roby with Tom Roby and horse's behind at Rock Creek Pack Station, circa 1965 

Brothers Kib and Tom Roby behind the counter in the store, July 1966 

Tom Roby in green jacket, Bud Edmonson in blue, Charlie McNeil in glasses, Kib Roby standing, July 1966. Does anyone recognize the others?

Rear: Eric Boutwell, unknown guest, Kib Roby (standing).  L-R seated: Pamela (Hunsicker) Stadler; Hazelle, Kimberly, and Jack Rosander; Tom & Linda Roby. July 1966

June 1971

Jessica with her mother Linda, and Kib in the background, June 1971

Creek above the Lodge, 1972

Donna & Dean Miller, Leslie holding onto swing, and Jessica showing her love for cousin Kibby! July 1972

Leslie teaching cousin Jessica to fish with Linda Roby watching, July 1975

Kib, Kibby, Jessica, and Pepper, July 1975 

Cousins!  Jessica, Kibby & Leslie, July 1975

Campfire fun! Unknown boy in red, Kibby, Pepper, Leslie, and Torrey, Jessica, & Tom Roby, 1977 

Smores!  Kibby, Torrey, Leslie, and Jessica Roby (and Pepper and Sandy), 1977 

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Buried Treasure

As mentioned in my previous post, my parents and I had dinner with the Von Rohr family in Mammoth last week. Ken had said he would try to find some old photos for me to scan and share, and he delivered. Here are the treasures (you can click on them to see them larger). Be sure to check out the short shorts on the boys! We all got a good chuckle about 1980s "fashion."

Leslie & Kibby Roby enjoying a campfire, 1978
I think the dog on the left is probably Duke, Ron Williams' dog. None of us knows the kid on the right, although he looks vaguely familiar. Does anyone recognize him? The funniest thing about this photo for me is what I didn't see until I pulled it up on-screen; our dog Pepper is under Kibby's chair, about to taste whatever was on my plate!

typical crowd hanging out at the store, 1981
Christopher Reavis (seated), Kib Roby, Billy Villarin, Leslie Roby, Kibby Roby, and Shirley Roby.

Eric & Mark Von Rohr and Kibby at an unknown location, 1981

Mark Von Rohr, Kibby, Jeff Williams, Ken (Ollie) Kramer, Eric Von Rohr, 1982

the old gas tank, 1986
Ken, thanks so much for sharing. I promise to get them back into your hands safely!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Robys at Rock Creek

Recognize this?

Yep, that's Kib and Shirley about to arrive at Big Tire. They were spending a week in Mammoth, so I joined them for a few days. Naturally, we had to do a bit of "hiking" at Rock Creek, followed by pie. The walk around the pond was as nice as it always is... lots of wildflowers blooming and absolute peace and quiet.


tiger lily
We also walked around Convict Lake; I can't believe how turquoise blue that water is!

The highlights of the trip were a brief visit with Christine Ferrara Engel and dinner out with the entire Von Rohr family. What a treat to see such great old friends. Sorry there are no photos to share; we were too busy yakking to think of getting out the cameras.

I do have a bit more to share from the visit, but that will be another post...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

1961 Brochure

My mom recently sent me a (slightly damaged) RCL brochure from 1961. I have a few older ones from my parents' days of running the lodge, but had not seen one from my grandparents' time. Looking at the photos more closely, I realized that they were taken by my great-grandmother. I had always assumed they were provided by a professional photographer, but now recognize them as hers since I've been poking around in family photo albums.

As you can see, the brochure was originally a tri-fold. Later, abbreviated editions lost the interior photos, but the one on the cover remained the same, just cut in half. Note the photo of the lodge before the store was added, and my dad and his siblings with their donkey. I will take this opportunity to publicly note that although I tried many methods of persuasion throughout the years, my dad never allowed ME to have a donkey. So unfair!

Anyway, here's the 1961 brochure and one from our final years for comparison. If you click on the images, you can view them full-size. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

We're Now on Facebook

Yes, that's right!  We now have a page on Facebook.  Which means that if you're already on Facebook, you can "like" our page and connect that way too.  And if you're not on Facebook, you can at least view the photos posted there - by me or others.  You'll see I have added a Facebook badge on the blog in the left-hand navigation - just click and you'll be taken to our page.

Also, now that I have a new (working) printer/scanner hooked up, maybe I will get back to sharing some old photos and stuff.  Stay tuned...

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Rock Creek Pack Station in the WSJ...

Into the Wild West 

A suburban family's thrilling, chilling, life-changing trip through the beyonds of the Sierra Nevada 


MOUNTAIN CLAN | Crossing a stream on horseback, in the eastern slopes of the Sierra Nevada. George Steinmetz
It wasn't until we reached the summit of Mono Pass, a spectacular trail carved 12,150 feet up in California's Sierra Nevada, that my maternal alarm bells went off.

Ahead of me, my husband and three children were about to descend a series of steep, narrow switchback trails littered with loose granite rocks—on horseback.

Suddenly, hazards seemed to be everywhere. The altitude was winding the horses. Bears lurked in the vast forest below. Mountain lions obviously lay in wait. The words of Craig London, the owner of Rock Creek Pack Station who'd sent us on our six-day trip that morning, echoed in my head. "You're completely dependent on your stock," he said, looking us in the eye. "If a horse trips and falls, you die."

Terror was not what I had envisioned when my husband, an intrepid traveler, proposed taking our suburban New Jersey children on an outdoor adventure. Ages 12, 9 and 9, the kids were growing up much more "indoors-y" than out—to them, "the wilderness" might as well have been a sequel to "Angry Birds." George wanted to give them a memorable experience and teach them some basic survival skills before they became completely alienated from the natural world. He assured me that they would be more than fine without the antibacterial wipes, helmets and location-tracking iPhone apps that we had come to rely on at home. The physical discomforts, he argued, would be worth it.

I agreed in principle. But in reality, I had no idea how painful it would be for a self-confessed helicopter mom to relinquish control in the woods. 

For an authentic experience—far from hotels or Internet access—George chose a remote section of California's Sierra Nevada, a snow-capped range that includes Mount Whitney, Yosemite National Park and some of the last uninhabited wilderness areas in the contiguous U.S. Its backcountry trails are accessible only on foot, no motors allowed.

Mr. London recommended we explore the John Muir Wilderness, 589 miles of trails through sapphire lakes, granite peaks and pine forests, named after the Western naturalist and set aside as part of the 1964 Wilderness Act. Mr. London furnished us with horses, a guide, a cook, camping equipment and food. Five mules hauled our gear and six bottles of good California wine (my secret to survival), over the pass to set up our camp—14 miles from the nearest road—in advance.

I asked what would happen in an emergency. Mr. London, who trains special forces in backcountry navigation, shrugged: "Oh, you'll suffer for a day while they ride out for help. It's the wilderness—there are risks!"

But even he wasn't totally cavalier. Unless our kids wore "protective head gear" on the horses, we'd have to sign a release, he said. This was a no-brainer for me, but George strongly disagreed. "Cowboys don't wear 'protective head gear,'" he said.

I reluctantly stood down, mindful of my promise not to hover. The horses never faltered. And after seven hours, our helmetless children emerged unscathed from their descent over the pass, giddy with the adventure of it all. I recovered from my heart palpitations as we arrived at camp.

Catch trout and have a picnic.  George Steinmetz
Tucked beneath the imposing 12,000-foot Mono Rock, the campsite looked out on the kind of landscape our family had only experienced while watching "The Sound of Music"—a lush valley with a babbling brook flowing through it. Nick and John were amazed that they would be brushing their teeth in a creek. I, meanwhile, was fixating on Giardia lamblia. My guidebook warned that the parasite could be found in some Sierra lakes and streams, and should be avoided by boiling and filtering all drinking water.

This (I thought) helpful advice was dismissed by Ed, the cook; Paul, the guide; and my husband. "Been coming here for years. Never got that," said Paul, a plain-spoken Texan who'd worked the rodeo circuit. 

Besides, he said, there were other concerns. Ed had spotted bear scat around the campsite, meaning a visit was possible. While this thrilled 9-year-old Nick, I could only recall the group of teens who'd recently been mauled by a grizzly in Alaska.

Paul explained that although they adorn California's flag, grizzlies are extinct in the state. Local black bears generally don't attack humans unless you get between a mother and cub or food is involved. Our food, he pointed out, would be sealed in metal canisters and kept away from our tents.

By day three, it was very clear that the instincts that granted me undisputed authority in suburbia were useless in the mountains. My husband's skill set was now ascendant: He could read a topographic map, gut a fish and follow tracks to find his way back to camp. He took us on trips to sparkling high-altitude lakes and meadows bursting with wildflowers where we would hike, catch trout and picnic.

One afternoon, while George and the boys were out hiking, Ed and Paul needed to go wrangle the horses. The sun was setting and I couldn't stop thinking about the bear.

"Do you want my gun?" Paul asked. Nell, age 12, whose entire experience with firearms involved a squirt gun in our backyard pool, asked meekly, "What's it for?"

"Horse shootin'. Bear shootin'. People shootin', if necessary," said Paul, spitting out a wad of chewing tobacco.

By day five, I could see how self-reliant our kids had become. Nick and John could catch and clean a trout, feed a horse and read a topo map. Nell could identify 24 different wildflowers and tell stories around the campfire.

Yet I was the most unexpected beneficiary of the trip. I didn't learn how to shoot a gun. But I could now tend a fire, identify wild chives and enjoy total silence. As we made our way back up to Mono Pass, we met another group heading down, forcing us to turn around. I maneuvered my horse into a 180-degree turn on one of the steepest sections of the trail. I felt no fear; I'd finally learned to let go.

The Lowdown: Sierra Nevada 

Planning It: Rock Creek Pack Station plans horse and mule trips throughout the eastern Sierra Nevada. Our six-day trip for five cost $6,235.

Getting There: Mammoth Yosemite Airport is a 20-minute taxi ride from Tom's Place, the closest town to Rock Creek Pack Station. You can also fly to Reno and drive about four hours to Tom's Place.

What to Pack: Rock Creek has a 30-pound-per-person limit. But bring: air mattress, sleeping bags, rain gear, head lamps, sun and winter hats, bug repellent, sunscreen and cash for tips.

Write to Lisa Bannon at

 A version of this article appeared April 7, 2012, on page D11 in some U.S. editions of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Into the Wild West. 

The online version:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Memories of Grant Clark

We've got mail! Grant Clark, who worked at the lodge in 1969, sent the following e-mail. It's a perfect description of "life at the Lodge" that I know many others will enjoy too. Thank you again for contacting me, Grant. We really enjoy hearing from everyone and catching up.

Dear Leslie,

I hope this letter finds you well. I have not seen you since you were two years old in the summer of 1969, when I worked that season for your father at the lodge. Through the years I have thought often of your family and I was very happy when my oldest daughter, Michelle, found the Rock Creek Lodge blog. I enjoyed the photos of your mom and dad as well as you and your brother (I didn't know you had a brother). Michelle encouraged me to write and share some memories of my time at the lodge.

I had just finished my junior year of high school (Buena Park High School in Orange County). I arrived on a Greyhound Bus in early June, 1969, at Tom's Place and there was Kib Roby waiting for me in the old VW to drive me up to the lodge. That afternoon, in June, it snowed at the lodge and it was the first time in my life that I had been in falling snow ... it was pretty wild for a So. Cal. boy. I met your mother, Shirley, and you, and if I remember correctly a dog named Pepper. We all got to know each other over dinner. Your dad gave me a tour of the lodge and grounds, and I was so excited for the adventures that I knew lay ahead that summer.

The winter of '68-'69 had been a severe one for snow, and its volume and weight had collapsed the roof of the dining hall right down through the middle of the floor. Of course the dining hall and kitchen were essential to the operation of the lodge so the repair of roof/floor was the first order of business. Kib had already started the work before I arrived so I helped in its completion and that was my introduction to building/remodeling skills. Climbing up on the roof to repair it and paint it green finished the project.

There was some minor damage to the roof of the lodge, but it did not suffer a collapse. We accessed the attic through the drop down stairs and then strengthened several trusses with 2x4's we cut to size. We finished that project by painting the roof of the store/lodge the same green color as the dining hall. Through the experience of rebuilding structures and the entire summer of working with Kib as he repaired plumbing and electrical, I think he is the handiest man I have ever known.

Within a few days the entire summer staff arrived; Penny and Wendy Sykes (sisters), Tom Pogue, Roger Nielsen and I. Roger had worked at the lodge the previous summer and was the most knowledgeable and responsible of the three guys. He was an easy choice for your father to be the go-to guy. Roger lived in the room up in the attic of the lodge while Tom and I bunked in the room over the shower/laundry rooms. I forget where the Sykes sisters stayed, probably in one of the cabins. You and your family had the small cabin across form the kitchen and you had your own little play ground with a red slide and swing I think. By-the-way, you were the cutest little thing at age two.

As I suspected, that summer turned out to be one filled with adventures. The guys had daily routines of opening the store at 6:30 a.m., cleaning cabins after guests checked out which meant we cleaned the kitchen and dishes, changed bedding, swept and mopped floors, etc. The A-frames had bathrooms that also needed cleaning between guests and we cleaned the flush toilet outhouses. Penny and Wendy along with Shirley washed all of the sheets, towels, etc, in the old washer with the hand ringer. Everything was line dried as there was no clothes dryer. At various times during the day we took turns watching the store and serving customers who stopped in.

Penny, Wendy and Shirley worked in the kitchen and prepared three squares a day for the staff. I must say, we ate well that summer. Each evening they would prepare dinner for the lodge guests and sometimes we guys helped serve. It was always fun being around the guests who were generally in good spirits. On Fridays we barbecued steaks, burgers or dogs and that was always a treat.

The guys had several special assignments and projects. We spent the better part of a month cutting and chopping fire wood for the stoves in the cabins, and laying in a large stock of fire wood for the winter ski company who occupied the lodge. Large trees with trunks three to four feet in diameter on the lodge grounds had already been felled so we used chain saws to cut rounds about one foot tall. We then employed steel wedges and sledge hammers to separate a round into four or five pieces. We then used axes to cut the pieces into two inch thick sticks that were twelve inches long to be put into the wood burning stoves. I thought of the whole process as a manly task ... just what a 17-year old boy needed!

Once a week Tom and I hiked the 1/2 mile or so up to the cistern and checked on the water level. The source of water for the entire lodge and cabins was the natural spring and well that fed into the cistern, so its level was critical to maintain.

Once each week we guys made a trash run through the grounds of the lodge. We drove the old, large stake bed truck and picked up bags of trash as well as the trash cans. We then drove down the canyon to the dump (ravine) behind Tom's Place and dumped the load. As an aside, in those days one could buy fire arms through mail order catalogs. Shirley had a Sears Catalog that Tom and I got a hold of and we discovered some .22 caliber rifles that we could not live without . . . so we each ordered one! In ten days they arrived in the mail and they made the runs to the dump a whole lot more fun. We shot up the dump like we were defending Fort Apache . . . they were great times.

Each week Shirley made a shopping list for one of us guys to take to Bishop to get the week's supply of food and other commodities for the store. Going to Bishop (going to town) was always the coveted job. We drove the old, blue Dodge pick up and Kib had a large, insulated chest in the bed that we used to haul back the dairy and refrigerated goods. We bought meat, vegetables, fruits, canned goods, dairy supplies and what ever Kib wanted for the store. The trip often took the better part of the day, but we were always back for dinner.

Each day someone drove the old VW down to Tom's Place to pick up the mail. I remember that our address was Rock Creek Lodge, Star Route 2, Bishop, CA. The post office was downstairs under the bar at Tom's Place, but it really wasn't a post office, it was just big box about 4x4 feet with lots of cubby holes, one of which was labeled Rock Creek Lodge and our mail was in there. Kib always liked a news paper to be brought back to him as there was no T.V. or radio up at the lodge.

Each evening after dinner Kib made a roaring fire in the lodge fire place. Many of the lodge guests gathered with us to visit and tell stories. When customers came into the store we served them. One night we asked Kib how hot the fire could make the temperature in the lodge. He said, "Let's find out." We stoked the fire with wood and more wood, we closed the doors and got the temperature up to 87 degrees -- that was too hot so we opened all the doors.

Kib always gave us a day off each week. We traveled, hiked and saw the sights of the eastern side of the Sierras. One night all five of the staff made a moonlight hike over Morgan pass. Once I climbed with an experienced climber to the top of Huntington Peak and that was really something. Once we traveled to Bodie, the old ghost town. Sometimes we went to the hot springs and pools. Usually each day Tom and I could find some time to put on our running shoes (we both were cross country runners in high school) and go for a workout. We developed strong lungs running at 10,000 feet.

When early September arrived I had to leave to finish my last year of high school, but a part of me would have willingly struck a deal to be like Peter Pan and suspend growing up if I could have stayed. Leaving the Robys, my friends on the staff and Rock Creek Lodge made me sad. Three months earlier I didn't know what to expect and how great a summer it was going to be, but it turned out to be the best summer of my life -- a coming of age summer. I think I instinctively knew that a chapter was closing and that I would never return to this place, at least not as a member of the Rock Creek Lodge staff.

For the summer of work and fun, Kib compensated each staff member with their room, their board and $400 cash. After tallying up the cash advances, treats I ate from the store, the purchase of a .22 caliber rifle and the purchase of my first pair of cross country racing shoes, I departed Rock Creek Lodge with $124 in my pocket, a hug from Shirley, a hand shake from Kib and a lifetime of memories. I couldn't see spending the money to buy a bus ticket to get home so I hitched a ride in the back of a pick up truck from two guys who were heading down to L.A. My father worked in L.A. and when I showed up at his down town office looking a little like a hippie (I had let my hair and mustache grow), he took a double look and was quite surprised to see me. We had breakfast together and then he put me on a bus that delivered me to Knott's Berry Farm which was only one mile from my home in Buena Park. When I walked through the front door of home, my mother squealed with delight that her oldest child was home from a summer of adventure. I know you can't go back, but I do miss the days and times of Rock Creek Lodge in the summer of 1969.