The history of Hippies in Sugarloaf
Photo by Jay Gamel. Cynthia O’Neil and Joan Finkle (right) listen to Larry Maniscalco’s Sept. 27 presentation about hippie activity in Sugarloaf through the decades.
Maniscalco hosted a talk about the movement’s impact on the park on a Saturday morning in late September, showing the 30 or so sexta- and septuagenarians a slide presentation and talk, with a follow-up hike to the former Camp Butler, site of many a colorful tent in 1967. Camp Butler was also the epicenter for the Harmonic Convergence of 1987, an event that pulled a thousand of people to the spot for a Mass Meditation intended to draw the Earth closer into the peace and love heralded by the dawning of the Age of Aquarius due to the alignments of Mercury, Venus and Pluto.
Sugarloaf and Flower Power both got underway in the mid 1960s, with Sugarloaf opening its 3,900 acres to the public in 1964. By 1967’s Summer of Love, it was a barely known but accessible mountain retreat when jaded and burnt out denizens of the Haight-Ashbury scene headed back to nature to recharge their communal spirits. Sugarloaf was a brief stop in that initial migration.
Jack London’s well-known grand-nephew Milo Shepard was Sugarloaf’s first ranger and seemed to have genuine affection for the hippies who came to stay, Maniscalco noted in his research.
According to Maniscalco, “Hippie activity in the park was loosely organized, with individual or small groups drifting from place to place to hang out in houses located in various places including San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Crooks Creek in Oregon and Ojo Sarco in New Mexico. Hippie habitation in Sugarloaf never received the kind of notoriety or star quality as did Lou Gottleib’s Morningstar Ranch in western Sonoma County or the Grateful Dead’s and the Chose Family’s settlements at Olompali State Park in Marin County.”
Hippies also had a temporary home at the Hurd Ranch, adjacent to Sugarloaf, at least until the house burned down in 1968. The clan living there included Jack the Human and his trusty companion, Jack the Dog.
In all, the hippie presence in Sugarloaf in the sixties was peaceful and without major impact on the surrounding community, although the band H.P. Lovecraft that lived in the Chateau St. Jean mansion for several years at that time raised a few eyebrows in Kenwood.
The biggest event to date at Sugarloaf is clearly the convocation of over a thousand people for 1987’s Harmonic Convergence, a rare planetary alignment that fascinated astrologers and numerologists worldwide who concluded that the primary energy nodes were Mount Shasta and Mt. Fuji, and that Sugarloaf was an acceptable local energy nexus for those who couldn’t make it to the grander sites. Other minor sites included Catalina, Mt. Tamalpais, and Mt. Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles.
The idea was that if enough people meditated strongly enough at the same time on Sunday, Aug.17, the Age of Aquarius would get off to a positive and loving start.
And according to the six extra rangers who were brought in to cope with the expected crowd, it was a peaceful event, as evidenced by their entries into the park’s daily logs.
August 16: “It’s been busy and disorganized, but peaceful. Despite the paperwork bungle and the inability to straighten out the camp situation quickly, it was not that bad. The camp was for the most part pleasant and agreeable. We did not get the big hassles one usually expects with this large of a crowd. Approximately 1,200 visitors were in park this day, including 1,000 for the Triple Harmonic Convergence event.”
Today, thousands and thousands of visitors have found Sugarloaf a remarkably peaceful place to be, as did the native peoples who inhabited the area for more than 7,000 years. Peace and love.
To read Maniscalco’s research, go to www.sugarloafpark.org/about/history/, and click on Hippie History.