Located 7,600 feet high up in a glacier carved canyon in the Eastern Sierra, sits a 2,000 square-foot stone building built by a philosopher, his wife, and their followers over a twenty year period. Welcome to the Tuttle Creek Ashram.

I'm the type of person who likes to schedule a lot of side adventures on my way to a destination but rarely like to schedule anything when I'm heading back home.

I’m the type of person who likes to schedule a lot of side adventures on my way to a destination but rarely like to schedule anything when I’m heading back home. I decided to make an exception to this rule during a recent trip after hearing about the Tuttle Creek Ashram. Located approximately 9.3 miles southwest of Lone Pine, CA, the directions to the trailhead aren’t that difficult to follow. Just head west along Whitney Portal Rd for 3.1 miles, south on Horseshoe Meadows Rd for 2.1 miles and then another 2.4 miles up Granite View Drive…

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…until you find the sign that says “Tuttle Creek Trail”. It’s only another 1.8 miles until you reach the lower parking area where you will begin your hike.

The dirt road is a little sandy but 2WD vehicles

The dirt road is a little sandy but 2WD vehicles shouldn’t have any issues making it to the lower parking area.

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Unless you have a high clearance 4WD vehicle, this is where you’ll be starting your hike. An Adventure Pass is not required.

Once you begin your hike, you'll start to see why a 4WD vehicle is needed past the lower parking area.

You’ll understand why a 4WD vehicle is needed once you begin your hike. While difficult to see in these photos, the road immediately becomes more rutted, sandy, and steep as you make your way up to the trailhead.

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As you begin heading west into the canyon, your path is lined with sage, rabbitbrush, and piñon pines, and you’ll hear Tuttle Creek gurgling down below to your right, hidden by a vibrant green swath of foliage. Moving deeper into the mountains, you’ll reach the “upper” parking area at 0.7 mile. Continuing west into the canyon, the rushing water of Tuttle Creek teases you from below, where it remains hidden by a dense swath of Pinon Pines. Moving deeper into the mountains, you’ll reach the “upper” parking area at 0.7 mile.

Continuing west into the canyon, the rushing water of Tuttle Creek teases you from below, where it remains hidden by a dense swath of foliage.

Moving deeper into the mountains, you’ll reach the “upper” parking area at 0.7 mile.

After 0.7 miles, you’ll reach the upper parking area and the beginning of the actual trailhead.

It

From here you will get your first glimpse of the ashram, straight ahead where the tree line meets the granite.

The trail begins to narrow

The trail soon narrows into a single track…

...as

…and the canyon of granite slowly begins to close in on you.

Looking back at beautiful Owens Valley, the Inyo Mountains and

Looking back at the beautiful Owens Valley, Inyo Mountains and the upper parking area (the flat area in the middle).

As you begin heading west into the canyon, your path is lined with sage, rabbitbrush, and piñon pines, and you’ll hear Tuttle Creek gurgling down below to your right, hidden by a vibrant green swath of foliage. Moving deeper into the mountains, you’ll reach the “upper” parking area at 0.7 mile.

The water in Tuttle Creek remains hidden below but you can easily trace its course by following the row of green firs that make their way up the canyon.

The trail becomes more colorful as you gain elevation.

The trail becomes more colorful as you gain in elevation. 13626380_10154295901761484_3184836281318610729_n

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Built of the native stone, it is quite a challenge to spot the Ashram

Since the stone that was used to construct the building came from the surrounding granite, it’s hard to spot the Ashram, even as you get closer to it.

... if you no where to look.

It will eventually come into view if you take the time to focus and know exactly where to look.

BOOM!

Can you see it now?

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After hiking 1.5 miles from the lower parking area in the 100 degree heat, we finally got a chance to see the refreshing cool water that runs through Tuttle Creek.

It sure was refreshing to

It felt so good to splash it on our faces and take a little break in the shade after our short yet very steep hike.

I heart Tuttle Creek!

Thanks Tuttle Creek!

After crossing the creek, it's only another .02 miles to Ashrama.

After crossing the creek, it’s only another .02 miles to the ashram.

The history of this remarkable building can be traced back to 1928, when Franklin Merrell-Wolff and his wife Sherifa first visited the area west of Lone Pine, California.

The story of the stone building begins in 1928, after philosopher Franklin Merrell-Wolff and his wife Sherifa first visited the area west of Lone Pine, California.

 After spending two months camping out, writing books about transcendental philosophy and mysticism and connecting to the surrounding area while camping, the duo set out to start a theosophical orientated summer school at Hunter’s Camp, a flat area at the base of Mount Whitney.

After spending two months writing books about transcendental philosophy and mysticism while camping out in an area known as Hunter’s Bat (now known as Whitney Portal), the Wolff’s strong connection to the surrounding area led them to seek out a more permanent location to advance their spiritual teachings.

he U.S. Forest Service about a special use permit for the school, and was informed that in order to receive authorization for such an operation in the High Sierra Primitive Area, the Assembly would be obliged to erect some sort of permanent structure.

Unable to secure a building permit at Hunter's Camp, the couple leased some land from the Forest Service one canyon over in Tuttle Creek Canyon but were told they would have to erect some sort of permanent structure.

The couple leased some land from the Forestry Service in Tuttle Creek Canyon in 1929 and set out to build the stone building the following year.

The 2000 square foot building would be made of natural stone from the surrounding area and cement which was carried in on burros and mixed daily.

The 2,000 square foot building would be made of natural stone from the surrounding area and cement, which had to be carried in on burros to the site from the canyon below.

form of a balanced cross symbolizes the principle of equilibrium.”

The structure was laid out roughly along the four cardinal points of the compass, and built in the shape of a balanced cross to symbolize the principle of equilibrium.

The effort took over 20 years to complete with the help

With up to 30 friends and followers spending their summers camping and helping to build the ashram, it still took over 20 years to complete the structure that stands today.

They constructed a large alter on the floor of the structure, using randomly patterned granite stones set in mortar. Sometime in the 1960s, an unknown visitor chiseled the following inscription on the top of it: Father, Into thy eternal wisdom, all creative love, and infinite power I direct my thoughts, give my devotion and manifest my energy That I may know, love, and serve thee.

Their first major project was to construct a large alter on the floor of the structure, using randomly patterned granite stones set in mortar. No inscription was made at the time but sometime in the 1960s, an unknown visitor did chisel the following inscription on the top of it:                      

Father, Into thy eternal wisdom, all creative love, and infinite power
I direct my thoughts, give my devotion and manifest my energy
That I may know, love, and serve thee.

 

Just south of the altar, in the concrete floor, is a thirty-two inch square hole. This spot was called “the cornerstone,” and was where a person addressing the congregation was to stand.

Directly in front of the alter, is “the cornerstone,” a 32-inch square hole in the cement foundation where a person addressing the congregation would stand.

Over the next twenty years, a large stone fireplace, two intersecting heavy-beamed gable roofs, and the window and door casings were all completed.

Over the next twenty years, the stone walls, two intersecting heavy-beamed gable roofs…

...a stone fireplace...

…a massive stone fireplace…

...and the window and door casings were all completed.

…and the window and door casings were all completed.

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Before the windows and doors could be added, work ceased.

But in 1951, before the windows and doors could be added, work ceased when Sherifa could no longer make the trip up to the building site.

It wasn't long before the building

It wasn’t long before the building fell into disrepair.

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The ashram was he John Muir Wilderness was designated by Congress in 1964.

The ashram faced it biggest threat in 1964, after Congress passed the Wilderness Act, and Tuttle Creek Canyon became part of the John Muir Wilderness.

Since the site had not been used as a school for over ten years, the Forest Service invoked a clause that allowed the agency to terminate Wolff’s special use permit. Moreover, since buildings are not typically permitted in Wilderness Areas, the Forest Service considered dynamiting the structure into rubble.

Since the site had not been used as a school for over ten years, the Forest Service was able to invoke a clause that allowed the agency to terminate Wolff’s special use permit.

Moreover, since buildings are not typically permitted in Wilderness Areas, the Forest Service considered dynamiting the structure into rubble.

It also didn’t help that buildings, such as the ashram, are not typically permitted in Wilderness Areas which gave the Forest Service further ammunition to tear the building down.

Fortunately s

Fortunately, with the help of many preservationist, the Forest Service eventually saw the historical significance of the building and later suggested it for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.

As I

As I sat in the worn out rocking chair admiring the view of the Owens Valley below, it was easy to understand why Franklin Merrell-Wolf and his wife were originally drawn to this place. The Eastern Sierra mountains are already spiritual in their own right, so having a place such as the ashram to channel those feelings even deeper, make it an extremely powerful place to be in. This place is truly special and I’m so thankful it’s still standing for future generations to enjoy. Become enlightened and make the pilgrimage yourself, I promise you it’ll be worth it.