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Muir Trail Ranch Owner Passes

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Muir Trail Ranch Owner Passes

Postby ERIC » Fri Sep 05, 2008 9:49 am

Adeline Nord Smith was hostess to Central Sierra visitors
Lifelong Valley resident and her husband bought their High Country ranch in 1952.

By Jim Steinberg / The Fresno Bee
08/29/08 22:55:16

Adeline Nord Smith, known to many as matriarch of the Central Sierra, put up, refreshed and occasionally rescued backpackers and explorers of the High Country.

Adventurers seeking the restoration that came with time in the Sierra often stopped to relax, resupply, water up and celebrate at Mrs. Smith's Muir Trail Ranch east of Florence Lake. She gave it all to them -- at over 7,600 feet.

Adeline Nord Smith, 93, operated the Muir Trail Ranch in the Sierra.
She had suffered congestive heart failure, and died Aug. 23. She was
known as a matriarch of the Sierra, playing host to many who ventured
up into the mountains, and rescuing some of them.

She became close friends with Hollywood notables who visited her ranch, including Sam Peckinpah, the late film director, but was better known for her hospitality plus occasional horseback rescues and frequent horseback packing trips.

Mrs. Smith, 93, who had suffered congestive heart failure, died last Saturday in Fresno. Her husband, Karl, died in 1981.

Adeline Nord was born in Kingsburg and attended elementary and high school there. She went to college in Reedley before training to become a teacher at Fresno State College.

She camped often through childhood in the Shaver area long before construction of the hydroelectric dam there, and spent a summer with Lena Shaver, Mrs. Smith said in her oral history adapted by Ed Selleck of the Central Sierra Historical Society & Museum-Learning Center.

Adeline Nord met Karl Smith in Fresno State's music department, and they married on St. Patrick's Day 1942.

Karl Smith, an accomplished musician, played horn, eventually in the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.

The Smiths later moved to Auberry, and finally bought their High Sierra ranch in 1952. Mrs. Smith taught at Auberry Elementary School for 17 years, commuting weekends and summers to the ranch.

Karen Sthol, a retired Auberry Elementary teacher, remembered Mrs. Smith mixing High Sierra life with Auberry teaching. Sthol's husband would see Mrs. Smith when he delivered propane to Florence Lake on weekends, then Karen Sthol would see her the following Monday in the Auberry school.

"She loved her kindergartners," Sthol said.

The Smiths had daughters Camilla and Karla. Camilla, whose married name was Solari, died of cancer in 1991.

Dusty Sullivan worked seven summers for Mrs. Smith as a horse packer and guide at the ranch, starting when he was 15. He remembered her as strong-willed but kind, the woman who took care of the business and social ends of Muir Trail Ranch.

"She'd run over you if you didn't stand up to her," he said, "but she was a good person."

The Smiths renamed the historical Diamond D Guest Ranch, and added tent houses, log cabins, a diesel generator, a laundry and kitchen services -- all surrounded by the John Muir Wilderness.

Getting there could be a trick. When Sierra winters blocked ground parties, they flew in by helicopter.

Daughter Karla Hurley said her mother conquered every challenge to establish a place of respite and soulful cleansing, above modern turmoil:

"She led an incredible life. She beat every challenge. Three hours from Fresno, across Florence Lake by boat, on a horse or hiking to the ranch. What a challenge."

Composer Igor Stravinsky intended to visit the ranch, but never made it, Hurley said. He missed out on her mother's vision of the Muir Trail Ranch: "How America used to be."

Hurley said her mother celebrated her 93rd birthday with a flight to the ranch earlier this summer, but there was too little oxygen at that elevation for her, and she flew back.

Private services will be held later.

The reporter can be reached at jsteinberg@fresnobee.comor (559) 441-6311.
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Re: Muir Trail Ranch Owner Passes

Postby Baffman » Sat Sep 06, 2008 10:25 am

Thanks Eric. I met her a few years ago. A neat lady and a great place she ran.

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