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The First Recorded Ascent of "Old Saddleback" - Horse Thief Raids on Orange County Ranchos, 1830-1855

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Anyone who has spent time hiking in the Santa Ana Mountains has experienced stepping into a world out of time. The rough ridges clothed in chaparral with pines sheltering in the upper canyons invoke a feeling of the distant past. Indeed, these mountains were used by bandits and horse thieves to abscond from the law. This article attempts to tell how the story of outlaws seeking refuge in the mountains led to the first recorded ascent of Santiago Peak (the tallest peak with radio towers at right in the image) in 1853. The complex human story of both Orange County and the Santa Ana Mountains that led up to the ascent is a compelling chapter in the great story of the American West. The First Recorded Ascent of "Old Saddleback" Horse Thief Raids on Orange County Ranchos, 1830-1855 “After an infinite amount of scrambling, danger, and hard labor,” wrote Major Horace Bell, “we stood on the very summit of the Temescal mountain, now by some called Santiago mountain.” So begins the sto