How many names does one place need?

Earlier this month, the folks at the Irvine Ranch Conservancy offered a bunch of Orange County bloggers (including me) the opportunity to go on a special tour. Unfortunately, I could not go myself. However, friendly neighborhood historian Phil Brigandi went on behalf of the O.C. History Roundup and came back with photos and some interesting observations about one of the sites they visited. So, without further ado, here's Phil!:

"On a recent tour of some of the 20,000 acres deeded to county parks last year by the Irvine Company, we stopped for lunch at what our guide told us had once been called Bolero Springs, but which they now call Box Springs. It is one of the few year-round, dependable water sources in the Limestone Canyon area and made a peaceful spot to pause for our picnic.

"The springs undoubtedly had an Indian name, since there are oak trees, and bedrock mortars in the area. To Spanish speakers, it was originally known as Agua Chinon.

“'Before [lime] kilns were built in Limestone Canyon [in 1862],' Don Meadows tells us in his Historic Place Names in Orange County, 'the canyon was called Cañada de Agua Chinon or the Canyon of Curly’s Spring, because high in its headwaters was a spring beside which a Negro had his hut.' (In Spain, Chino meant a Chinese person, but in California it was sometimes used as a nickname for anyone with curly hair.)

"Another watercourse, running south of the springs, is still known as Agua Chinon Wash today. 'The name was misapplied,' Don adds, 'under the supposition that Agua Chinon Spring was located at its upper end.' In fact, it leads up into The Sinks.
"For the story of Bolero Spring, we must turn to Terry Stephenson’s classic Shadows of Old Saddleback. Judge J.E. Pleasants (1839-1934), ...described for Terry how he used to go out in the 1860s to rope bears with the vaqueros from the José Sepulveda’s Rancho San Joaquin. One of the cowboys, Terry relates, 'was nicknamed Bolero because he was too fond of telling great stories of his achievements.' He assured all of them he would rope a bear that day.

“'[L]oudly bragging and extolling his prowess, Bolero led the way under the sycamores and oaks, scrambling through thickets of poison oak and sumac, over rugged points of rocks, down into arroyos and up steep hillsides, following the dim trails left by deer and wild cattle.'

"But when he finally met a bear near the springs, his horse 'knew nothing about bears except that he did not like their odor, and … jumped straight in the air … [and] tore madly through the brush and was instantly out of sight,' despite Bolero’s best efforts to rein him in.

"The other riders managed to rope the bear, and when they met their friend on down the trail, 'Derisive shouts greeted Bolero, and all day and for many days thereafter, Bolero had to meet their jibes and laughter…. Among the vaqueros from that day on, it was "Aguaje de Bolero," Bolero’s spring....'
"(The name later spread to a nearby peak, where for many years a forest fire lookout tower was located.)

"Bolero means 'liar,' or 'braggart,' Jim Sleeper explains in his A Boys’ Book of Bear Stories. Continuing on in a footnote (where some of the best Sleeperiana can often be found), he adds, “I’ve always thought Terry did more justice to this ‘Bolero’ story than it deserved…. The name Bolero on maps seems not to pre-date 1923.”

"But legend or not, either Chinon or Bolero has a long history. The switch to Box Springs seems to be a recent one, and perhaps it is not too late to undo it. Surely there must already be a “box springs” in almost every county in California.
"If you’d like to visit this beautiful spot, the Irvine Ranch Conservancy has a guided hike going out on Sunday, November 6. Registration is required; you can find all the details on their website:

"Each month, portions of the preserve are open for public access as well. The next 'Wilderness Access Days' will be Saturday November 5 and Saturday December 3. The guided tour will be coming in from the Agua Chinon side. You can come up Limestone Canyon from Augustine Camp (just beyond Irvine Lake) and turn right at the watering trough towards Loma Ridge Road. From there it’s less than half a mile to the springs – about a ten-mile roundtrip. Along the way you pass an overlook for The Sinks, Orange County’s 'Miniature Grand Canyon,' which is well worth a visit."

Thank you Phil, and big thanks to the Irvine Ranch Conservancy for letting O.C. Roundup tag along.