Shorty Lovelace

On March 4, 1940, Congress created Kings Canyon National Park. This effectively put Shorty Lovelace out of business.

Joseph Walter (Shorty) Lovelace  was born in 1886 on his fathers homestead above Three Rivers, California. Shorty grew up in the mountains, exploring and hunting. He attended the eight grades offered at the Sulfur Springs School in Three Rivers. He became a mechanic in Visalia, but the call of the mountains was ever present. By 1920, Shorty built a cabin at Crowley Canyon near Comanche Meadow and trapped the surrounding area.

Trapping had to be done in the winter months when the pelts of wolverine, fisher and marten were at their best. The season began in late November and lasted until the spring thaw in March. During this period, Shorty had to survive in a very harsh environment without assistance. It was common for a storm to deposit five feet of snow at one time. Temperatures below zero, avalanches, falling trees and ice were ever present.

Prices for these pelts in the 1920's
Pelt Price
Fisher $45.00
Wolverine $25.00-$30.00
Marten $15.00
Mountain Lion $8.00
Bear $8.00

Lion and bear were not commonly found in the winter. Badger was popular but also not usually found. Beaver and otter were not found at all. Shorty had much better success than most trappers. The average trappers annual income was only $160 while Shorty's income would run as high as $2000.

Sparse animal population and deep snow required Shorty to travel beyond a one day trek, so he began to build additional cabins. These small shelters were always within a day of another and arranged in loops. Besides Crowley Canyon, he built cabins at Williams (Quartz) Meadow, Rowell Meadow, Kettle Peak, Ellis Meadow, Moraine Meadow, Cedar Grove, Granite Pass, Woods Creek, Upper Basin, Vidette Meadow and Cloud Canyon. It is believed that there were also shelters in Deadman and Ferguson Canyons, Big Meadows, Horse Corral Meadow, and Sphinx Creek. The cabins were built with whatever materials were available at the site. They usually measured six by ten feet and five and a half feet high. This not only required less work than a larger shelter, but was also easer to heat. Inside there would be a small bunk, a few shelves and a wood stove. Most of these cabins were built in the summer when it was not trapping season.

In the 1930's, a tree fell on his Granite Pass cabin, causing a fire which burned him out. He managed to escape with no broken bones, but suffered internal injuries. To survive he had to make his was to another cabin. Eventually, proceeding slowly along his chain of cabins, he covered the fifty miles through deep snow to Crowley Canyon. In March, a snow survey crew found him more dead than alive. He refused their offer to take him out and waited for the snow to melt and came out by himself.

Shorty traveled in the winter on homemade skis from trap line to trap line and from cabin to cabin. Winter was spent without seeing another human. His trapping range included almost the entire watershed of the South Fork of the Kings River. Topographically, this was one of the roughest areas in North America. From Crowley Canyon to Upper Basin was a distance by trail of over fifty miles with elevations from 4,600' to 12,000'. As the spring thaw ended the season, he headed to Visalia and cashed in his pelts. With his pockets filled with money, his annual spring drinking binge became well known. When the money ran out, he would head back to the mountains to build cabins, and make preparations for another winter.

With the creation of Kings Canyon National Park, Shorty was forced to move to the Helms Creek drainage near Sand Meadow. Working east from there, he built thirteen cabins to support his trapping activities. He trapped into the late 50's and had no official relationship with the Sierra Forest. He never applied for a trapping permit or a cabin permit. He withdrew in 1961 at the age of seventy-five. Two years later, he was dead.