Visiting Fort Tejon State Park
Whenever I’m out exploring with family and friends I’m the go to driver. I like to drive (or rather be in control) and I’ve no fear of the road…except when it comes to mountain roads. They’re my Achilles heel. I’ll still drive but I WON’T enjoy it. So when it happened to rain on a planned day trip to Big Bear nerves got the best of me and I couldn’t bear (pardon the pun) the thought of slick, windy roads. So I needed a back up plan. My family and I had already planned on a day of adventure and once in travel mode there was no way were staying home. We put on our thinking caps and then we had it – Fort Tejon!
Fort Tejon is a state historic park just off the 5 freeway near the Grapevine. We’d passed it numerous times on road trips and had never stopped so it was long overdue a visit. And it just happened to be one of the monthly Frontier Army Days which are filled with fun activities for just $5 admission. Big Bear was practically forgotten.
As I mentioned, it was a rainy day and unexpectedly cold for May. After a 2 hour drive we got to the park and found it to be windy and freezing! Thank goodness we brought our jackets. The weather might have also deterred some visitors and were were one of a few hearty soles ready to revel in the 1850’s.
Fort Tejon was founded in 1854 in response to discontent between local settlers and Native Americans. A US Army fort many of its soldiers were sent east when the Civil War broke out and it was closed permanently in 1864. It was also an outpost for the US Camel Corps which attempted to use camels to transport supplies. The experiment didn’t quite work out but you can still find camel adorned objects in the gift shop.
Frontier Army Days are held on the first Saturday of each month and offer several interactive activities. We arrived just in time for the cannon demonstration and after a brief lesson on how it works we got to hear it fire. The impressive blast echoed across the hills and I can only imagine what it must have been like in the heat of battle.
In addition to the cannon demonstration we also made candles, churned butter and learned how to blacksmith taking home numerous free souvenirs in the process. Every docent we met was friendly and had true enthusiasm for California history making it a memorably fun day.
Fort Tejon is one of our smaller state parks but don’t let that deter you. Nestled in the beautiful Grapevine Canyon and rich with California history it’s definitely worth a visit.