History Sycamore Sage

Searching for Stowe – a video presentation by Carol Crafts

Hello, my name is Carol Crafts and I am a docent for the Sycamore Canyon/Goodan Ranch Open Space Preserves and the author of Goodan Ranch and Sycamore Canyon: A History of the Land: Then and Now.

I became involved with the Goodan Ranch when I met a granddaughter of the Goodan Family, through a program we were both involved in. While researching the history of the area for docents at the Preserve, I became fascinated by the township of Stowe.

Stowe was located at the top of Sycamore Canyon.   In the 1880s, families began settling in the area southeast of Poway and north of Santee along a well traveled route used by farmers taking produce to El Cajon as well as the train stops in Foster and Santee.  This route was recognized in 2003 as the Stowe Millennium Trail.   Homesteaders in Sycamore Canyon hoped to see the railroad go through Poway and connect them to the surrounding areas.

In 1884 families began to file homestead claims at land offices in Los Angles, which meant that they had already been living on the land for several years.   In 1889 a post office opened in Stowe receiving mail twice weekly.  By 1903 the office had 32 patrons.

1890 saw the opening of a school at the top of the canyon for the homesteader’s children.  The school originally served the children of eight families in the area.   By 1903 the Stowe school was closed and students went to either the Poway or Santee school districts.   The school house was sold for $25 and the wood was used to build another dwelling.   1905 saw the post office close as well.   While the town of Stowe remained on Triple A maps of the area until 1914, it was quickly dwindling away as families moved on.

Why did this town, which seemed so promising just a few years before, disappear so quickly?   After years of researching, I believe that the disappearance of Stowe is related to several different factors which came together to make Stowe a difficult place to live.   The railroad spur which had been planned to go through Poway, Stowe, and Ramona was canceled in 1896 leaving Stowe isolated and hard to reach.   This time period also saw some extreme weather in the area with alterations between torrential rains and drought making farming a difficult endeavor.   The twin challenges of uncertain weather and difficult transportation made Stowe a less than ideal place to live and many families from the Stowe area saw children marry and move into either Poway or Santee. Charlie Bottroff, son of the Stowe Post Master and Post Mistress, married Josie Fischer, daughter of the former Stowe Postmistress, and moved to Santee as a blacksmith. Other children moved to Poway or Escondido.

In the 1930’s, the Goodan family bought most of the Stowe land to add to their ranch.   Today the Goodan Ranch and surrounding area are jointly managed by the cities of Poway, Santee and the California Department of Fish and Game and is known as Sycamore Canyon/Goodan Ranch Open Spaces Preserves.   The Preserves contain more than 10 miles of hiking trails and allows horseback riding and bicycling. They are also home to a wide variety of plant and animal life. If you enjoy hiking, biking, or riding and are interested in San Diego County’s natural habitat please come and visit the preserves.  For more historical information about the township of Stowe or the Goodan Ranch, please visit the San Diego Historical Society, the Poway Historical Society, the Santee Historical Society, the Lakeside Historical Society Archives, or the El Cajon Historical Society. These wonderful institutions have made my own research into Stowe possible and hold the history of San Diego for those who care to look.


Founding of the Friends of Sycamore Canyon – A reflection by Paul Kucharczyk


Paul Kucharczyk

I was the supervising ranger assigned to the Goodan Ranch and Sycamore Canyon from 1996-2000. Prior experience in managing a sixth-grade camp program utilizing Urban Corps personnel, providing interpretive programs, and operations experience from my first 11 years at Agua Caliente and William Heise County Parks helped me in this promotional opportunity. My residence on-site was the stone house (est. 1939), still standing today as a burned ruin since the devastating 2003 firestorm. Twenty years ago there was no office, no computer, no Visitor Center. There was no park truck and no other staff or volunteers assigned. The park budget was $1,000.00 a year. Sycamore Canyon Road was mostly unpaved. Think ‘Dances With Wolves’ when Kevin Costner’s character was sent to the furthest Union outpost in the west; that was how I felt when I arrived. I encouraged Boy Scout projects to help repair our trails, gates and fences. Other than that I was pretty much on my own, 24/7.

I did have resources through the docents of the Blue Sky Ecological Reserve ( . Hosting trainings for them at the Goodan Ranch brought good ideas my way. Integral to Blue Sky was the Friends of Blue Sky, a supporting non-profit. There was no similar organization I could call upon for Goodan Ranch/Sycamore Canyon support. During these years the County of San Diego’s Department of Parks and Recreation updated their 5-year plan document. Upon my review, one line-item stood out from all the others: “There shall be established a Friends group for each of our open space preserves”.  Sounds great, but how does one start? Back at Blue Sky I started sharing to a few docents my dream of a support group. I desperately needed help in the form of volunteer labor, and a supporting non-profit could be the catalyst.

Blue Sky Reserve docent, Karen Larson, understood the mutually-beneficial support linking volunteer opportunities to a worthy cause. Planning meant more meetings with more people, and our circle grew. The very first Friends of Goodan Ranch and Sycamore Canyon meeting was held on March 9th, 1999 at President Karen Larsen’s home. Its Mission Statement paralleled the County of San Diego, Department of Parks and Recreation’s Mission Statement. The Friend’s Vision Statement was an inclusive one recognizing the needs of bicyclists, hikers, and equestrians. David Breitweiser, Lee Fowler, and Bill Golightly represented hiking and cycling trail use. Mike Kelly’s long-standing with the Friends of Los Penasquitos provided a parallel experience in supporting an open space preserve. Nancy and John Conney of Sky Hunters brought non-releasable birds of prey to the forefront at interpretive and community events. I’m sure this inspired Garden Road residents Jerry and Mary Kay Tomlinson in their design of the Friends logo. So far, so good, but, what I needed was help… volunteers with boots and gloves. By the end of June, the National Charity League, in which Karen and her daughter belonged, provided the first Friends volunteer cleanup on-site. Avid trail user and cyclist Terry Callen and equestrian DeAnne Erickson joined the Friends. In September we sponsored our first Friends booth in Poway’s Community Day event. By 2000, Blue Sky docent and near-by resident Carol Crafts joined our efforts. Our Friends group continued to engage the public at community events and street fairs in Poway and Rancho Penasquitos. Also in 2000, a boy scout took on the project of constructing an amphitheater which is still in use today. My time as the resident ranger was by this time coming to a close. This led to the promotional opportunity for a new supervising ranger, Maureen Abare-Laudy, who still patrols the trails and boundaries of the Goodan Ranch and Sycamore Canyon Open Space Preserve with her great staff. Trail maintenance, effective signage, perimeter security, staging areas, and, of course, the Visitor Center’s native gardens, nature displays and interpretive programs thrive under Maureen’s care and protection. Ann Laux and Robert Coates, avid equestrians and trail riders, joined the group in 2001. Carol Crafts stepped up to become the next president of the Friends in 2002.

It was my pleasure to visit the Friends board meeting in February at the Hamburger Factory and see it continue for another year. Of course, I renewed my membership. The Goodan Ranch and Sycamore Canyon Open Space Preserve is still my favorite place to ride my horse, ‘Sedona’. Goodan Ranch history and my time living and working there will always be intertwined as I reflect on the past while riding in the present, and pondering its future.

sycamore canyonHappy trails!

History Wildlife

Brochure on Goodan Ranch / Sycamore Canyon