A family run operation, Amos and Elva Lewis, formerly from Burbank, CA. purchased Hidden Springs Cafe back in 1971. Jim, one of the couple's four children, manages the cafe. Jim has a twin sister, Janice, who has been working at the cafe on weekends since 1971. Otis, another son works during the week, he draws a crowd with his stories of the mountains. Truelly a family affair.
The cafe began as a stop-off point offering sandwiches and drinks to the miners in the 1940's after the highway was built . According to Otis, miners helped build the original stone storefront that still exists. The completeed cafe and home to the Lewis's, as it stands today, was built in 1956.
Their fresh apple cider draws a majority of the customers into the cafe, but it's their "Nearly Famous Homemade Chili" that brings them back.
It's hard to believe just 17 miles north of La Canada on the Angeles Forest Highway such a rustic oasis exists. Nestled in an area known as Upper Big Tuunga Canyon, Hidden Springs originally was the domain of miners staking claims to dig for gold. About a half dozen miners still hold claims in the region, Otis said.
The entire 56 acres, of private property in Hidden Springs was originally one piece of land homesteaded in the late 1890's before the goverment declared the area national forest. Since then, the property has been sub-divided seven times and at one time nearly 30 residents lived in Hidden Springs, 12 of which belong to the Lewis family.
The Lewis's purchased the cafe in 1971 when Amos Lewis was a Los Angeles County Sheriff's Deputy patroling the canyon (Angeles National Forest).
One day I was driving by and saw a "For Sale" sign on the place, and Elva and I decided this was where we wanted to live," Amos said.
The elderly woman who previously owned the cafe, according to Amos, found the rigors of running it by herself too much and decided to sell.
"There were times when she(the former owner) had to melt snow to do her dishes." Elva said.
Not much has changed since then; the Lewis's find themselves battling with frequent power outrages and troubled telephone lines. Outside sits the only public telephone for the entire stretch between Palmdale and La Canada Flintridge.
Twice a week, Elva goes to town to load up the car with supplies for the cafe that stocks a modest reserve of grocery items for its customers. "If we don't have it, you don't need it." she said. The only items delivered at the cafe are propane and beer, which is sold on a carry-out basis only.
Since his retirement from the Sheriff's Department in 1983, Amos finds plenty to keep himself busy. "You really have to do for yourself," he said, "and up here there is always something that needs to be done. If there's a problem you can't call someone from town, you just have to fix it." Elva said they never complain about being so far away from town. "We all chose to live up here and we count on each other," she said. "It's truly a big support system up here." "The attitude is different up here, Elva said. "We really pull together."
Forest officials appreciate that attitude especially with the extreme fire danger that often exists in the region. Public Affairs Officer Carla Van Dyne of Tujunga Ranger District said she has heard nothing but good things about the Hidden Springs residents.
"When workers are fighting a fire, the residents are always ready to lend a hand. They do especially thoughtful things for the forest service firefighters like make baked goods." she said.
Amos said the forest service reciprocates by providing fire hoses and equipment to help make their home safe. "We always keep full water tanks and the hillsides clear, up here you've got to work together." Elva said.
Elva Lewis said she can't emphasize enough the fire danger in the forest and hopes to make all Hidden Springs visitors aware with her vast collection of "Smokey Bear" mobil and posters lining the cafe walls.
The people living at Hidden Springs have at tmes been instrumental in helping with traffic accidents along Angeles Forest Highway.
According to Otis Lewis nearly all residents own citizen band radios in case of such emergencies. During rush hours, increased traffic between Palmdale and Los Angeles has turned their peaceful setting into a raceway, residents have refered the highway as the "Palmdale 500".
If you have a pioneer spirit and a sense of adventure, you can love living up here,"said Elva. "We have lots of special times."
"We have lots of special customers, who have become good friends too." said Elva.