A Look at Reds Meadow - April 2012
By David McNeill
One summer in 1975, my boss, Herb Carls, from the U.S. Forest Service office in Mammoth Lakes, told us the story of his involvement with the resort at Reds Meadow in the 1950s. Reds Meadow is a popular recreation destination in the eastern Sierra, located over the ridge called Minaret Vista in a beautiful valley. Just getting there is half the fun, and the view of the Minarets from the vista is astounding.
Herb and Bob Tanner, the current owner and long time permittee of Reds Meadow, joined into a partnership after they returned from WWII to run a pack station and small resort. One of the activities was a stagecoach ride that had an unfortunate accident where a lady was injured. A lawsuit and further financial troubles ended the partnership, and Herb went to work for the U.S. Forest Service in the Mammoth Ranger District taking care of the wilderness.
Bob expanded his resort and packing business and turned it into one of the most desired places to hang out in summer. He also made himself a wealthy man in the process, and now his son, Bobby, runs the business. Bobby is famous for driving the 20 mule team borax wagons in the Mule Days parade in Bishop. He once drove 100 mules all tied together at one time around the arena at the fairgrounds.
Even though there may have been some ill feelings over the split-up between the two mule packers, Herb always went out of his way to keep Bob’s trails in perfect condition. They still are to this day.
We had a government pasture at Reds Meadow near the resort right off the road where the mules and horses were kept for trail and wilderness work. This is the location where Red Sotcher grew vegetables in the summer.
By the 1870s red-bearded Red Sotcher was settled in the area. He sold his produce to hungry miners who were coming into the area from Fresno via the French Trail. Most of these men were searching for the Lost Cement Mine, made famous by Mark Twain in his book, Roughing It. This mine was described as being in the eastern Sierra near the headwaters of the Owens River, “… a country of black lava and white pumice, and somewhere a ledge of reddish cement spangled with the flakes of the purest gold.”
Old Red went on to prosper in his endeavor better than the miners, and the resort and nearby lake were named in his honor.
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