Bob's Dance and Music °

Harwood Lodge

by Bob Brooks, published in Folk Dance Scene, ca. 1984

The building is an imposing two-and-a-half story gray granite structure with high-pitched roof, originally of Belgian slate, with a large, wooden dance floor, well equipped kitchen, dining room, and dormitories.

Volunteer Sierra Club overseers operate the lodge on weekends year-round, making it available to club members and their guests. Weekends are scheduled by various groups: southern Sierra chapters, Sierra singles, young Sierrans, mountaineering training classes, and folk dancers. There are occasional work weekends to keep the lodge in shape. There is no paid staff and the lodge is maintained and operated by volunteers, with one or more persons taking responsibility for buying and preparing the weekend meals. Everyone participates in the cooking and clean-up. I continue to be involved as Sierra Club overseer, but others now share organization and hosting.

Each weekend has a different flavor, reflecting the personality and interests of the host or host organization. There has been an increasing emphasis on music, both instrumental and vocal, and the weekends invariably include folk musicians who are delighted to provide music for evening parties. During the day, there may be informal teaching, musical jam sessions and hikes in the surrounding mountains.

The weekends tend to be for the adventuresome. Accommodations are on the spartan side and uncertainty always lurks nearby. One weekend had to be canceled at the last minute when mud-slides blocked the road up the mountain. At a spontaneous, substitute party at Carty Wilson's house, someone thoughtfully posted a sign on his front door reading, "Welcome to Harwood Lodge". The plumbing is a constant problem and one winter we arrived to find the pipes frozen. We washed with melted snow and cooked with water from the water heaters; spirits were high and no one seemed to mind the inconvenience.

As you might expect, the weekends have spawned quite a few romances. This past summer two couples were married, after having met at Harwood Lodge a few years earlier. The lodge is a treasure and has provided a warm and joyous retreat for many folk dancers over the years. I hope we continue to enjoy it.

A typical writeup in the Sierra Club Schedule


A weekend of intensive fun, designed for the active, adult folkdancer. Come and enjoy the mountain air, live music, good food, and your favorite dances. Bring a favorite record, musical instruments, and dancing feet. Limited to the first 25 men and 25 women to make reservations.

I discovered Harwood Lodge shortly after moving to southern California in 1962 when I saw an announcement, like the one above, in the Sierra Club schedule. It was winter and several feet of snow had decorated the trees and mountains. I was immediately hooked on the beautiful setting and met many of the Orange County folkdancers, with whom I continued to dance over the years.

Later I mentioned to Mikki Revenaugh that I wished there were more such folk dance weekends. Since I was a Sierra Club member, she urged me to organize and host one myself. With help and encouragement from Mikki and many Orange County dancers, I began my long and continuing affair with Harwood Lodge. At first we had only one weekend a year, but quickly found that that was too long to wait and expanded to two a year. Even then the weekends were oversubscribed (one year we had over 120 reservations for 50 places, and many good friends had to be turned away). Since then the number of folk dance weekends has continued to increase. At present, there are about five folk dance weekends each year, two sponsored by clubs (Westwood and Narodni), two international dance weekends hosted by Ralph Gordon and Jim and Elaine Kahan, and a Scandinavian weekend with Jon and Barbara Petway.

Harwood Lodge, officially known as the Aurelia Harwood Memorial Lodge, was constructed in 1930 by the Sierra Club in honor of Miss Harwood, a former resident of Upland, one of the club directors and its first woman president. The lodge is in the San Gabriel mountains above Claremont at an elevation of 6000 feet. Sierra Club members, a relatively small group in those days, built the lodge for $6500 plus thousands of hours of volunteer labor and donated materials and furnishings.