By: Ursula Rudorfer
There’s something that incites reflection about being around old structures. Something that was there before you, made by people that aren’t around anymore. Possibly to stay there after you’re gone, to be looked at by more people. All sharing in that conscious moment of being affected by seeing that same thing in a different period of time.
When craving a deeper cognition beyond our own lifetime, looking at these antique fragments of history provide us with insight, but are harder to find in the relatively young state of California. Still, there are remnants of the transient nature of the first settlers that came here, giving us a glimpse of a life they hurriedly pieced together.
One of these places is located in Santa Clarita, California. Mentryville, the state’s first oil boom-town stands half-abandoned, half-restored in Pico Canyon. Named after its founder, Charles Alexander Mentry (also the town’s superintendent), it enjoyed its most prosperous time around the 1900s, with over 200 people calling it home and featuring a school, bakery, social hall, blacksmith, tennis court and more. Though, most of the buildings that existed then were stripped down and taken with its owners once they left due to a decline in oil production. What remains are a handful of structures, some in better shape than others, but enough to get an idea of what life might have been like.
What struck me the most upon entry was the silence of the place. There wasn’t much of a breeze, no animals to be seen, no variety of bugs besides the incessant buzzing of fruit flies around my head. It must have been a quiet and modest life inspired by Mentry’s Puritan ways. Oh, the excitement they must have felt for a new life in the West!
Walking through the town felt haunting. In a way it seemed like trespassing, roaming around a place that once was so personal to someone else. Now, with collapsing walls in some places and stripped paint in others, what would they have thought? Unfortunately, there aren’t any personal accounts of the people that lived there (that I could find, anyway) and so we’re left guessing as to who these people truly were and what their experiences were like.
Sometimes the sheer amount of things to check off your “bucket list” in this big, beautiful world can be overwhelming, but I always find great comfort in how much we can learn by simply exploring our own backyards.
Interested in exploring Mentryville? Learn more here.
Directions: From the Golden State Freeway (I-5) in Valencia, exit on Lyons Road/Pico Canyon Road. Head west on Pico Canyon Road. Near its end bear a left at the Y and continue to the end of the road — a large parking lot is opposite the town. (Address: 27201 Pico Canyon Road, Newhall, CA)
Ursula is a yoga and meditation teacher in her native Los Angeles. With parents who encouraged travel from a young age, she’s adventured across the globe, soaking in different cultures and lifestyles. When she discovered mindfulness meditation as a young adult, travel became less of an external stimulation and more of an internal one. Her most recent trip was to Iceland right after discovering she was pregnant. Having been overtaken with nausea and fatigue, she can’t objectively comment on the wide availability of fish and lamb offered at almost every restaurant. She’s happiest when sleeping, writing, and laughing. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.
SHE ONLY LIVES ONCE is a collection of photos + short stories empowering women of all ages to travel S.O.L.O. in pursuit of adventure and self-discovery. This part of the blog is committed to building a strong and resourceful community of female travelers who share their memorable lessons, from their most delicious adventures to their most awkward of moments . Interested in contributing a short story or photo? Please contact the Trishlist and/or hashtag #trishlist and #sheonlylivesonces for a chance to be featured.
Trishna Patel aka Trishlist is a cultural curator, photographer, and host specializing in travel and the human experience. Follow her latest adventures as she explores Los Angeles and beyond.