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The strange, true story of how Mount Disappointment got its name

Deborah Netburn, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

LOS ANGELES -- Poor Mount Disappointment.

Located high in the San Gabriel Mountains, it's the only peak in the 60-mile-long range with such an unflattering name.

Nearby you might summit Josephine Peak, named for the wife of a federal surveyor, or savor the views from Mount Markham, named after a former governor.

But Mount Disappointment honors nobody. It's jarring. Petty. Mean-spirited.

"It's not a popular destination," said Nathan Judy, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service.

And yet.


"When I first read there was a mountain called Mount Disappointment, my immediate reaction was I need to see this place," said Casey Schreiner, founder of the L.A.-based website "And I don't think I was the only person who thought that."

By why Mount Disappointment?

The answer to that question lies in a little-known tale of ambition, adventure and, yes, disappointment, that would forever alter the nation's perception of the great American West.

The story begins 150 years ago when George Montague Wheeler, a 27-year-old Army lieutenant, proposed a bold plan to map the whole of the United States west of the 100th meridian -- a north-south line that runs through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and the Dakotas.


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