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Rustic Link Between Civilization and Wilderness Is on the Block

Unable to make a living in her 'heaven' in the mountains, the owner of Adam's Pack Station is a motivated seller.

November 27, 2005|David Pierson | Times Staff Writer

For sale: A historic two-bedroom, 900-square-foot cabin set against the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains for the same amount many would consider a down payment on some Los Angeles County homes.

That's what Kim Kelley, owner of the Adam's Pack Station in the Angeles National Forest, is putting on the market.

Mind you, there are housemates in the package. Eight donkeys, one horse, perhaps some dogs and cats. Then there's the yearly fire danger, snakes and the occasional mudslide.

"Whoever buys this has to be someone who loves the mountains, hiking and horses," said Kelley, who set the asking price at $250,000. "It's definitely more remote up here. It's a rugged lifestyle. But it's heaven."

Built in the 1930s, the Chantry Flat pack station is about four miles north of Arcadia and 2,200 feet above sea level, yet 35 minutes from downtown L.A. if there's no traffic.

Kelley bought the one-acre property in 2000 and has been operating the pack station, which she says is the last one in Southern California. That means loading donkeys with groceries, furniture and other goods and leading them by horseback to the nearby Sturtevant Camp and to cabins as far as four miles away.

But running the pack station full time wasn't paying all her bills, she said.

In her five years in the forest, access to her pack station has been cut off about half the time, she said, because of fire dangers or flood damage.

The gate on Santa Anita Canyon Road, which leads to the pack station, has been locked to the public since April 2004 because of the threat of a blaze and more recently because a boulder blocked the artery. Fewer and fewer cabin dwellers, campers and hikers use Kelley's donkeys and shop at her general store.

"I'm at the end of rope, finances, whatever you want to call it," said Kelley, 49. "I don't know where my next mortgage payment is coming from. I thought I'd be there for the rest of my life and grow old."

Living and working on her own, Kelley depleted her savings of $50,000 trying to keep her dream lifestyle afloat. To make ends meet, she substitute-teaches in the Monrovia Unified School District. She also learned massage therapy earlier this year for the extra cash. She has three sons -- two in college, one in high school -- who often help her out when they're not at school.

With the stunning views and clean air, the station will be difficult to leave, Kelley says. She grew up in New Jersey but always loved horses and most other animals. It's a fiercely independent way of life, and even forest fires aren't enough to scare her from her home.

"It's an open area," Kelley said. "The perimeters are well-protected. I have sprinklers and big fire hoses to keep things wet."

The cottage is a rustic wooden structure with a large porch. Kelley has decorated it with antiques, including an old library counter and a barn workbench. A 100-year-old electric fan still rotates in the store.

Kelley says she won't sell the property to one person, knowing how hard she struggled. The buyers would have to be able to run the general store and pack station, feed the animals in the barn and earn a steady income from somewhere else.

Kelley advertised on and two equestrian websites. As of late afternoon Saturday, she had nine responses. One person even came up to look at the place.

"It's hard for people to believe something like this exists in L.A.," Kelley said.

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