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Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to O’Neals Meadow Loop

Same dirt road close to home but a different spur road off of it gave me a looped adventure back to O’Neals Meadow, searching for flowers and history. Men weren’t the only homesteaders in this neck of the wood. Cora Ives lived here, ranched here and was quite the adventurer. She also wrote articles for Fresno newspapers about wildflowers, Native Americans, ranching in the meadows and much more.

Distance: About 8.2 Miles (but you can go shorter or longer)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Elevation Range: 3,418′ to 4,839′
Date: May 5, 2020
Maps: Ben Hur and Daulton Topographic Maps
Dog Hike: Maybe

After studying the map, I decided to visit O’Neals Meadow again to see if any wildflowers were showing up, plus I wanted to come in on the old road that led to where John Ruffin “Ruff” O’Neal’s buildings where located. In a prior Blog, I shared this history of him and his homestead. I knew that his house, barn and other buildings had burned down by 1922. When I had visited a month ago, I tried to locate the old road which led in on the higher side of the meadow from the bottom and there were numerous motorcycle trails and logging roads. If I could figure out where the route was, I thought I could locate at least some of the old building locations. And I did but I also located more interesting history of the meadow that occurred after O’Neal’s death.

It was a warm spring day and I wore shorts, sprayed my legs down with mosquito spray and brought along my bug net for my head, just in case. I also brought some bug spray with me in case I needed to cover more. I started my walk across from the Worman’s Mill, parking off the road in a wide spot at the intersection of Road 601 and Worman Road and making sure I wasn’t blocking anyone. I headed up Worman Road which turns into N-6S24.

I hiked up this road a week ago and in that short time, more shrubs and wildflowers were starting to bloom.

For me, the showstopper were the  Fremontia (aka flannel Bush).

A few lupine were also blooming.

Buckeye flower spikes were just starting to form.

As I gained elevation, I had views of Ahwahnee.

 

 

 

About 1.1 miles, I took the road to the left signed 6S14.

 

 

The road was in good shape toward the bottom.

I was really surprised to see a redbud with flowers still on it.

And some bush poppies, a fire follower. You may see them around the area but after a fire you will see many more. Their seeds are difficult to germinate into new plants and when they go through a fire, it can stimulate the germination process. The bush poppy is one of the first to appear after a fire and that is why it is called a fire follower.

 

 

 

It was about this time that I decided I needed to put on my bug net. Those gnats were were hanging around my head and I had gotten tire of swatting them away. I don’t know why I am smiling in the picture because I really don’t like wearing it.

 

 

 

After about a mile, a spur road, 5SW12, took off to the left and I headed up it. It was kind of rutty but not bad.

 

 

 

The road followed along the edge of private property that was well signed.

 

 

 

 

 

Trees had fallen on the road and been cleared but this one wouldn’t allow a wider vehicle through it.

The road continued to climb then paralleled Carter Creek. After close to another mile, 5S12A took off to the right and I followed it, going through the open gate and crossing Carter Creek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This area was a little more lush and shady with a few snow plants along the road.

I also spotted a very strange plant that Joanna Clines, Botanist for the Sierra National Forest identified for me. It is a narrow-petaled trillium (Trillium angustipetalum).

I soon reached an area that I thought was probably the old road that went into the upper part of O’Neals Meadow but I wanted to continue to follow the road I was on in case there might be other roads that headed down that way. There were many old logging skid trails and roads but none were as obvious as this one so I came back to it and followed it out.

Motorcycles had used the old road that was growing over.

I saw many dogwoods starting to leaf out along Carter Creek but was thrilled when I spotted this small one blooming.

The road started getting a little narrower but well used by motorcycles.  I continued on.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the road turned into O’Neals Meadow area, this was the area that I had seen structures located in on old maps, only 3 of them but it was worth exploring and I could see that this was the perfect area above the meadow but close to a water source. After John Ruffin O’Neal died, his estate was probated and the Sheriff was ordered to sell the property for $179.80. Nathan L. Cathey had the highest bid of $922.

The Ives family, who had moved from Los Angeles County to Bailey Flat where they operated the Happy Creek Ranch, spent summers at O’Neal’s Meadow starting around 1912. At that time, O’Neals Meadow was “cattle leased land” with a grazing permit. Their daughter Cora Matilda Ives was born 1891 in New York City, and her recollections were captured in Zelda Garey Dubel’s outstanding book on the history of our area called To Yosemite by Stage: Raymond to Wawona and Remembering Cedarbrook Inn. She also has some pictures of Cora’s buildings at O’Neals Meadow. Cora did not remember John O’Neal’s buildings being there in 1922 when her family built 4 cabins. By 1940 there were 2 cabins. One of her two cabins was called the Biltmore because it had been built onto more than the others. The other cabin had a kitchen and living room with screened sides. Benches made of 3/4 logs were covered with Indian blankets for people to sit on. The Ives family also built a little chapel at O’Neals Meadow and for a while a priest came to the meadow once a month to give a service in the chapel.

Cora wrote articles for the Fresno newspapers about wildflowers, Native Americans and social going doings. It is also said that she wrote two or three books. I thought you might like to check out one of her columns from The Fresno Morning Republican dated June 6, 1923.

Fresno Morning Republican June 6, 1923

I mentioned earlier about Cora being a homesteader but it wasn’t at O’Neals Meadow. She filed on 320 acres on December 5, 1918 down by Bailey Flats and her sister Annette also filed on April 21, 1919 for 80 acres adjacent to Cora’s. I suspect that this is the Happy Creek Ranch but can’t be sure. On Voter Registration, Cora listed her occupation as Rancher. Also of note is that Cora’s father, Eugene Semmes Ives, was visiting at the Happy Camp Ranch in 1917 where he died.

Cora Ives Homstead

Cora Ives Homestead Map

The Fresno Bee June 25, 1965

Lillie Riney

Cora Matilda Ives (Courtesy Lillie Riney, Find a Grave)

Cora never married and was living at her sister’s in Los Angeles when she died in 1965 of ovarian cancer. Below is one of her obituaries shared in To Yosemite by Stage.

Cora M. Ives. Sierra Nature Writer Died in Los Angeles. Raymond, Madera Co.

Cora M. Ives, who for years wrote for The Fresno Bee on Sierra nature subjects, did features and covered general community news here, died of cancer in Los Angeles this week. A granddaughter of Lieutenant Joseph C. Ives, an explorer of the Grand Canyon, she was born in New Work City in 1891 and came to California with her family in 1895. She was educated in the Marysville Sacred Heart Convent in St. Louis, made her debut in Los Angeles in 1911 and traveled in Europe with her three sisters. The outdoors had greater appeal for her, however, and in 1913 she homesteaded in Madera County and later established a rustic dude ranch in the O’Neals Meadow which attracted a variety of guests, many of whom became her lifelong friends. She began writing in the early homestead days and became known for her articles on flowers and Indian lore. In recent years while traveling in Lebanon and Africa she wrote of current conditions and of the backgrounds of those lands. Surviving are two brothers and a sister, Ennals Ives of Palmdale, Los Angeles County, Eugene Ives of Long Beach and Dr. Elinor Ives of Los Angeles; and two nephews and a niece, Navy Captain Eugene I. Malone, Ennals Ives, Jr., of Palmdale and Ann M. Sweet of Modesto.

Cora’s little cabin had been torn down by 1968 and a Boy Scout Troop planned a cleanup. A grape arbor, some orchard trees and a yellow rose were all that remained at that time.

I was drawn to search the upper meadow area for any hints of old building sites or remains. I wandered around a little kind of figuring out where a building could have been due to the flatness of the area and unnatural diggings. I also stumbled across some fragments of what could have been an old sink. That made my trip a success in my book!

I followed the road as it went into the meadow. No wildflowers were blooming yet, except what looked to me as an occasional dandelion.

I walked through the middle of the meadow and back to 5S12 then to 5S12X. Along the road, I spotted this blooming bush/tree all by itself on the side of the dirt road. What was it? I couldn’t be sure, maybe an apple tree, but how in the heck did it find itself here?

It wasn’t long before I had views of squiggly Highway 49 looking to the south into Madera County.

And looking to the north into Mariposa County.

There were other cabins in and around O’Neals Meadow during this timeframe and I am sure there are some interesting stories to learn. I didn’t see a soul on my walk up a dirt road close to home but you can expect to see 4 wheelers and motorcycles on this road.

Dog Hike? Maybe

This could be a good dog hike if your dog is a good fit. The road is lightly traveled by vehicles so you would need to keep an eye open for a vehicle coming around one of the curves. I would imagine in the summer that you could run into a rattlesnake out here also. This is mountain lion country, along with other wildlife that you could encounter. There were a couple of areas with running water on my hike but it probably dries up in summer, so you would probably need to pack dog water.

Doarama:

What is a Doarama?  It is a video playback of the GPS track overlaid on a 3 dimensional interactive map. If you “grab” the map, you can tilt it or spin it and look at it from different viewing angles. With the rabbit and turtle buttons, you can also speed it up, slow it down or pause it.

Worman’s Mill Looped O’Neals Meadow Doarama

Map and Profile:

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to O’Neals Meadow Loop Topographic Map

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to O’Neals Meadow Loop Profile

Sources:

Dubel, Zelda Garey, To Yosemite by Stage, Zulu.com, Third Edition, 2011.

Greene, Linda, YOSEMITE: THE PARK AND ITS RESOURCES; A History of the Discovery, Management, and Physical Development of Yosemite National Park, California, U.S. Dept. of the Interior, National Park Service, September 1987

The Fresno Morning Republican, June 6, 1923, Fresno, Ca

Fresno Bee, June 25, 1954, Fresno, CA

Find a Grave Cora M. Ives

Find a Grace Eugene Semmes Ives

BLM General Land Office Records Ives

In the Heart of the Sierras by James M. Hutchings (1888)

Snow Plants U.S. Forest Service

Prior Blogs in this Area:

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to the Lone Sequoia April 28, 2020

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to Pilot Peak April 22, 2020

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to O’Neals Meadow April 15, 2020

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill to Sunny Meadows April 10, 2020

Walking up a Dirt Road: Worman’s Mill and Beyond March 31, 2020

In Search of the Lone Sequoia February 13, 2015

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