A Window on the Wilderness
Fall Equinox 2001 || Volume IV, Number 3
The Story of Comings Cabin
by Lea Wood
ometime in April 1978, I led hikers from the Santa Cruz Regional Group of the Sierra Club on a trip that started at Bottcher's Gap, went over Devil's Peak and down into Comings Cabin area. The purpose of the trip was to explore the extent of previous fire and bulldozer damage. We made camp in a grove of madrones on the hill above the old site of Comings' cabin. In the evening, the frogs down at the springs gave us a twilight concert. As soon as the dozen or so of us gathered around the campfire, Sherman Comings, the oldest member of our party told the story of the origin of Comings Cabin.
(Borrowing now from an account first written by Amy Hubner, May 1978, a member of the group) :
During the 1880's, a one-armed man named Vogler homesteaded 160 acres around what is now Comings' Cabin. He and a partner built a pine log cabin at the edge of a sloping grassy meadow beside a fern-encircled spring. Some years later he built a redwood cabin to replace the pine one. The redwood was hand split and transported by horses from Skinner Canyon, two or more miles away. The main room of the cabin was divided into two areas. Nobody was allowed into the second half.
DOUBLE CONE from DEVILS PEAK
Apparently, Vogler was not an easy fellow to get along with. He never married and except for a few essentials like sugar and flour, he lived off the land. One night a notorious game warden of the area came to dine with Vogler. When the warden found that the dinner was venison, he refused to eat. Vogler then went into the other room and returned with a forty-five which he set on the table. "Eat!" he commanded. The warden probably did, though the story ends here.
In 1926 Vogler was found dead in his cabin. The redwood floor was worn, and the cabin showed signs of being well-used. The rooms were papered with newspaper articles of German activities during World War I. The secret of the other room was also discovered: it was full of tin cans!
Sherman Comings' father, Harris Comings, and three partners from the area, purchased the cabin and acreage for $2000. In 1927 Sherman, then a teen-ager, made his first trip out to "The Ranch" as his father called it. There were still signs of the 1924 fire that had burnt 36 square miles over Skinner's Ridge and Devil's Peak. It was the worst fire in that area until the 1977 blaze which the group listening to this story was checking out. The recent fire had come down further from the hilltops and got around more into the valleys than had the 1924 fire.
Between 1935 and 1941, the Comings sons bought out the original three partners of their father. Harris Comings spent as much as two or three months at a stretch at The Ranch until his death. He, his wife and two sons, considered living in the camp year round but decided against it because of the difficulties of living in wilderness.
The zig-zag trail over Devil's Peak was used until the late 30's when the Forest Service built a new trail. Getting supplies to The Ranch and taking fruit home by backpack or horse was difficult and irksome. In 1946 and 1947, Sherman's brother built a road from The Hoist over Devil's Peak. The Forest Service had been reluctant to give permission for the road but finally agreed when the Comings took responsibility for putting out any firest that might originate from use of the road.
One day in 1951, an old crony found Harris Comings dead in the same cabin where Vogler had died twenty-five years earlier. By that time a number of apple, pear, and prune trees surrounded the old cabin. Comings had also built a concrete box over the spring, directing the water into a series of pipes connected to a wooden storage barrel as well as to the cabin.
PAT SPRING SUNSET
After Harris Comings' death, The Ranch was used less by the family than by friends who borrowed the key. Sherman, raising his own family, found that he didn't like the responsibility of the threat of fire and its cost, and began negotiations with the Forest Service to purchase the property and incorporate it into the Ventana Wild Area. The cabin and the pipes to it were removed, and official names were apportioned to the area..
"Why they named it Comings' Cabin and Comings' Creek, I don't know," Sherman said, "they should have called it Vogler's Cabin....And who's Skinner? Don't know where they got the spelling for Bottcher's Gap; we always spelled it 'Boucher'."
As for the fire and bulldozer damage survey, the vegetation and trees were scarred by fire, the land rutted by erosion, with earth mounds and uprooted tree stumps left in the wake of fire-fighting bulldozers. A grand old apple tree stood in 1978 at the site of the cabin, and bore blossoming promise of a full crop of summer fruit. Wild strawberries were in bloom on the slope above the springs, along with wild lupine that follows the track of fires.
hiked in the Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres from 1970 to 1992. The last time was April 1992 when I was 75 and about to pull out my California roots and move to Vermont--for family reasons. I had lived 42 years in California, very much rooted there. In that last hike the skies wept for the way I was feeling about leaving, and a trail I had hiked so many times and never thought particularly difficult except the mile up Devil's Peak, exhausted me in a way I knew this was also my last backpack. At 84 now, I hike a mile and a half daily with my collie mix in a lovely forest of pine, maple, beech and birch on my way to the newspaper box! I live a country life 24 miles from Vermont's biggest town, Burlington.