Posts Tagged With: Monte Wolfe


It’s interesting to me that when I first heard of Monte Wolfe and interviewed Harry Schimke, Monte’s unusual  life had been covered by the San Francisco newspapers, the Stockton Record, local newspapers and several historical societies. But, no one investigated Monte like Don DeYoung. Don first contacted me about my blog in 2009 and went on from there to meet the Schimke family. Harry’s daughter, Susan had all of her father’s photos and notes, and his brother Art was still alive.  Don did a major investigation about Monte that led to a  vastly more accurate portrait of Monte than anyone had before. As he put it, thanks to the internet, his skills and his own boyhood fascination with Monte from a boy scout camping trip, (that  he describes in one of the links below), Don  satisfied a lifetime fascination.  Monte disappeared in 1940, a date established by Harry Schimke,  who was the last person to see him alive.

Mark Bonar, too, became fascinated by Monte as a young man through his father-in-law, Paul La Teer, and subsequently collected materials, visited the cabins and introduced his own children to the legend of Monte Wolfe.  Monte built the “new” or second cabin in about 1933, Mark is guesstimating. As you can see, the hinged door is missing but the old woodsman’s device for “barring the door” was  in place.

Mark told me, “Paul knew that country and used to stash food, sleeping bags and wool blankets in rocks behind Camp Irene, which was about eight to fifteen miles below Monte’s cabins.  A Forest Service trail led down to the  new cabin from the Blue Lake side.  It is located about 12 miles from the mouth of Summit City Canyon Creek. The creek funnels into the Mokelumne.  The cabin was well hidden, nestled among the trees about 100 yards from a sharp bend in the river. There was a horse trail leading down behind the cabin (as yet not re-discovered). Monte, too, used “spike” caches to hold food and traps on his forays throughout the steep Sierra Nevadas, a common practice for ranchers chasing cows, sheepherders, trappers, fishermen and hunters.

Mark found a paper at the cabin describing how Monte built that cabin by himself. He hoisted all the material up onto the ridge pole using the wetted incline plane principle. The door was small, but extremely heavy. “The door probably weighed 150 pounds and had massive hinges. No one could remove the door without special tools or help.

“The cabin was beautiful; strongly built,  with two rooms. The foundation of lightly charred cedar rounds  discouraged insects. He had a screened pantry high up off the floor to keep out mice.  Monte dug a fresh spring near the cabin from which he piped water into a carved wooden sink and to a solar shower he hooked up on the cabin’s outside wall.”

“He also built a partly under-ground smoke house with hooks enough for 100 trout or a large deer cut into pieces.”  Mark showed me pictures of  carved log chairs, a table and other items Monte made. There were also  comfortable furnishings that Monte  hauled into that steep canyon from long distances.

(The above two pictures were taken by Mark on one of his many visits to the cabins.)

“Monte hauled a heavy cast iron cooking stove from Hermit valley to the cabin, piece by piece.  He was exceptionally strong.”

Monte was reported to throw a canvas sack of nails over his shoulders weighing 80-100 pounds, stand with it on his shoulders and visit for an hour and never set it down, then move on as  though carrying nothing. He was seen setting off from Blue Lakes on skis to his cabin on the Moke,  at night, an incredible feat in the day time,  without the deceptive shadows cast by the moon. Paul Le Teer described him as “…a swarthy, short man; a dead shot with a rifle, small feet, enormous calves, slender waist, and the broad shoulders of an athlete. He wore his long hair in braids, sometimes tied by a ribbon.”

There are many engaging stories of Monte’s exploits.  One I heard from a former bartender at Tamarack concerns the romantic Monte. Supposedly no one, the law, nor wardens could  “sneak up” on the expert woodsman. But,  the Bartender  came across him lying in a naked embrace  with a woman on a large flat rock  in the bright sunshine. He retreated undetected.

After Monte’s disappearance, people began using the upper cabin until the U.S Forest Service burned it down. The main cabin was harder to find, was locked, and  under the “protection” of the Linford family.

Mark  has a letter from the Lindford’s to the El Dorado Forest Service  Supervisor, Edwin Smith, after Monte’s disappearance was formally acknowledged. The Lindford’s were well off and owned an Oakland Construction Company. They befriended Monte and convinced him to jointly establish a mining claim on Monte’s properties, meaning the area of his cabins and property he occupied, but didn’t own. The Lindord’s enjoyed, with Monte, a private, free, Shangri La Cabin in the mountains. From the letter, Mark speculates the Lindford’s were interested in the amazing private cabin retreat more than Monte. The letter admits that they had never mined nor taken any minerals on their claims, they simply wanted to use the cabin and lands that Monte occupied and asked permission to continue to do so. Permission was granted them as long as they did not extend that privilege to others. So, they shared a special  lock with the forest service on the cabin door.

“Between 1955 and 1970, ” explained Mark, “fewer people were going to the cabin. The elder Linfords were essentially gone and their son, family and friends used it on rare visits.  A tree fell on the cabin and took out one corner of it and the end result would certainly be steady deterioration. The cabin was repaired much later by a committee of interested people formed to protect the cabin. The non-profit Monte Wolfe Society was formed by James Linford.

The U.S. Forest service decided in recent years that the cabin should be left to deteriorate and removed the door to hurry the process and prevent people from using the cabin. They emptied the place of everything but the stove. The group has taken legal action against that decision, arguing that the Mountain Man’s place is an historical  artifact like an Indian Ruins and should be preserved.  The group has succeeded thus far in having the door replaced and the chimney pipe hole patched in 2010. That is heart warming progress indeed.

Don DeYoung’s book is still awaiting publication. But, in the meantime, there are several websites about De Young’s extended research, including locating Monte’s grandchildren and learning his real name at the very interesting links below.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


It is unusual to find someone who has a  link to Monte Wolfe, the legendary mountain man who disappeared over sixty years ago.  Mark Bonar, who moved here in the 1950’s is that man.

In college, he met his wife, Barbara La Teer, who was a native of West Point, Calaveras County. They had three children, Mark Richard, Lynne Alison and Lauren Ann. Mark became close to his Father-in-law and through him, the larger than life character of Monte Wolfe with whom Paul La Teer had crossed paths.

“I hadn’t fished since I was a kid in Idaho,”  said Mark.  “Paul invited me fishing. I went out and bought a primitive fishing pole and reel, and as we began hiking, I heard the first of many stories of Monte Wolfe. Our fishing expeditions became regular, enjoyable occasions. Paul hiked all over the rough and wild back country and was in terrific shape.  And, that is how he encountered Monte’s one room, “first” cabin, which became known as the Upper Cabin,  in the mid 1930’s. It was situated in plain sight along the Mokelumne River and right along Paul’s fishing site. Monte had left a foot- high stack of canning jars piled next to the cabin.

(These two reproduced pictures of Monte and the first cabin were taken from my newspaper article on Monte in the 1980’s and were taken by Harry Schimke.)

” Paul had heard rumors of a newer cabin and as he prowled the high country, he spent the late 1930’s  trying to find it. When he did find it, he was met with a 30-30 deer rifle by an unfriendly Monte Wolfe.  During that encounter, Monte had visitors, presumably the Linfords,  who had befriended Monte and who claimed to be guarding his privacy. Monte was a social person but could be unpredictable and not someone to mess with, so Paul never became a friend of his.”

Veda Linford wrote a book about Monte and once cared for him when he broke his leg. The Linford’s probably knew him best. Monte divulged little about himself and seemed to like being a bit mysterious, for good reason. He was arrested and tried for stealing in Tuolumne County as Ed Mc Grath, not something the locals were likely to forget.

He lived totally off the land on fish, deer, and  whatever game he could trap for food and pelts. Some of it was legal and some of it was not. He had many a run-in with the Calaveras County game warden and the law.

“He would routinely break into local cabins and take food, mostly canned food which was standard fare at the time. He’d usually leave something to replace it, or leave a note of thanks signed Monte The Wolf.”   He would attempt give something in payment at a later date, perhaps a mess of fresh trout.

Paul recollected a story of one of Monte’s encounters with a game warden who walked up to Monte’s camp to find a lot of grouse feathers around it. The warden questioned him. Monte steadfastly claimed that he had seen no grouse and that the feathers must have blown in. Another time, a rifle that went missing from Sonora, out of someone’s car, was spotted hidden in a hollow sugar pine near his camp.

There were many incidents of things gone missing that irked people and the authorities. He was so adept in the woods and a dead shot with a rifle, people were not inclined to challenge him in his own territory, which encompassed three counties, Calaveras, Tuolumne and Amador.

(To be continued tomorrow.)


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment


Last night, a friend of mine offered to share some information he has worked on about Monte Wolfe.  I’ve known Mark for some time, but what I didn’t know about  Mark Bonar was his  long history of interest in the reclusive Hermit, Monte Wolfe.  Since I’d written about Wolfe in the 1980’s,  Mark  came by with materials and we enjoyed an evening of ruminating about Wolfe. Mark had the good fortune of living in Calaveras County in the 1950’s.  His then father-in-law, Paul LaTeer had met Monte and later wrote stories about Monte and influenced Mark and his family to engage the vast, mountainous arenas and rivers that Monte called home. I promised Mark I wouldn’t write anything from our interview until I passed it by him, first.

For those who don’t know the legendary Monte Wolfe story,  I’ve provided two  links  to my  blogs of 2009 as an introduction to Monte Wolfe.

Wolfe spelled his names two ways, sometimes as Wolf and sometimes as Wolfe. Mark uses Wolf with an e and thus this blog is consistent with that spelling.

Wolfe lived like an Indian, surviving completely in the wild with no services. He didn’t have a totem, that I know of, but on a recent walk, I took a picture of a neighbor’s totem that I’d like to share today. I’m always looking for ways to display my amazing pile of junk and this totem  inspired me to build the bottle fence I’ve promised myself.  I only save bottles and jars that are embossed with writing or insignias of some kind, or that have unusual shapes. Anyway, here goes. Don’t tell me. My kids have already informed me that I’m weird.  And, they ought to know.

You  might note that the top of this totem is made of  carved wooden feathers.

What else can you do with rusty tools and broken pieces of tile?

A true totem has a face.

Two faces, optional.

Since I’m part Indian, and I approve, three and four faces are also appropriate.

I also took a picture of a chicken coop.

My brother, Norman, told me he will come back in the spring and build me a chicken coop. (But, what I really want is a totem.)


Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment


An anonymous comment came in my message box about the supposed illegality of the Amador County Forest Service officials removing a door and chimney of the Monte Wolfe cabin in the deep river canyons of the Mokelumne. I blogged about Monte Wolfe three times in March of this year which relates the escapades of a venerable Mountain Man and his disappearance. He lived by himself in the rugged canyons of the Sierra Nevadas. He built cabins in three counties and roamed Amador, Alpine,Tuolumne and Calaveras Counties at will. He built single log bridges to cross the rivers for his own convenience and set out caches so he could range where ever he wanted to go. He built and maintained a fish trap to mine those rivers, planted potatoes, hired out as a mountain guide and socialized with hikers, hunters, forest service officials and locals living near by. He became a legend after his disappearance.

The photo above is of one of his small cabins. His main cabin was in Calaveras County.
After Monte Wolfe’s disappearance, his main cabin was kept in repair by a group of interested citizens from Calaveras County calling themselves The Friends of Monte Wolfe Society. I’m told, members of that group still maintain his cabin. The trail is difficult to find, but Monte hasn’t been forgotten. People still remember him, his haunts and wonder what could have happened to him because no trace of Monte was ever found.


In Amador County, a group also formed to maintain his cabin on the Moke. Members met with the Forest Service in 1962 and signed an agreement. However, in 1964, the Congressional Wilderness Act was signed into law to maintain or manage wilderness as pristine. That means no trails, no structures, no mechanical devices, etc. The cabin was over fifty years old and considered historical. It was documented and went through the preservation office and evaluated. The finding was that the Wolfe cabin was eligible for the National Historic Register. I spoke with Marilyn Meyer, from the U.S. Forest Service at length about this.
There is a “next step” after eligibility to preserve a structure. That next step was never taken. The 9th Circuit Court then ruled on dams and wilderness and defines wilderness as (paraphrased) … magnificent works of nature to be kept as pristine without the interference of man…
In a nutshell, the forest service, by law, must allow the dams, and structures, such as the cabin to deteriorate and become one with nature again.
I queried her about this, knowing that the 9th Circuit Court was taking aim at the dams, not Monte’s cabin. But the law paints with a broad brush.
I find it sad that we can’t (the way the current law is now written) still preserve Monte’s cabin. Then I asked her why the U.S. Forest Service was hastening the deterioration by removing a door and chimney to the cabin?
It seems the very people who want to maintain the cabin have decided they should have it for their own personal use. They’ve cut forest service locks on the cabin door and brought in their own locks. Brought in plastic pipe to pipe water, set fires in the stove, brought in pesticide sprays, carved their initials in the cabin post and walls. While the archetecture of the cabin is unique and admirable, the people who have made alterations do not appreciate that historic buildings are not altered. They are maintained as they were.

The destiny of the cabin is deterioration. Sad as that is, it won’t affect the legend that is Monte Wolfe. Don de Young has a book coming out about Monte with much new information about his life. I’ll be sure and let you know when it is available. And who knows, maybe the preservation group will investigate legal options to see if the cabin can legally be preserved and become a National Monument.
Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at