Burglarized: Summer cabin of the 5 guys who take the same photo for 30 years

Story highlights

  • A California sheriff investigates burglary at a remote vacation cabin
  • Thieves stole just about everything, including a boat and heirlooms from a grandfather
  • "The cabin where all this bonding takes place is burglarized," says owner
  • The five guys' extraordinary friendship was CNN.com's most popular story in 2012
The vacation home to five lifelong friends, who became CNN.com sensations because of group photos they have taken of themselves every five years for the past 30 years, has been burglarized.
"I feel angry and violated," said John Wardlaw, the owner of the lakeside cabin.
"It's just a shame. Last summer we get known for a feel-good story about friendship. Then the following year the cabin where all this bonding takes place is burglarized."
Wardlaw owns the California cabin near the Oregon border through a trust created by his grandfather, John Laux, an executive in the early years of radio and television.
Wardlaw and his fellow graduates of Santa Barbara High School received worldwide attention after CNN wrote a story about their extraordinary friendship, captured in photographs they took sitting in the same order on the cabin deck near Copco Lake.
The most expensive item the thieves stole is a boat valued at $8,500.
"There is no physical damage to the house, which is good because they didn't break things as they went through," Wardlaw said. "We lost some things that were my grandfathers ... an antique oil lamp, his duck calls, a set of horns from a mountain goat."
The Siskiyou County sheriff is investigating the April burglary but says there are no suspects and no signs of the boat or other stolen items.
"Copco is a very quiet, peaceful lake, so it's just a great place to go with your family," said Allison Giannini of the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Department. "It's not like those well-travelled areas."
Wardlaw, a filmmaker who specializes in documentaries and animation, said he learned of the robbery from some neighbors who noticed the boat and trailer were missing from their usual spot near the cabin carport.
Wardlaw lives in Santa Barbara, but says he and his wife, Tricia, still make about five treks a year to the Copco Lake cabin, staying one or two weeks each trip to relax and fish.
The cabin serves as a base for outdoor adventures at Crater Lake, the Oregon Caves and the Rogue River.
"They took everything related to the boat: electric motor, batteries, chargers, gas cans and every fishing rod," Wardlaw said. "They stole my grandfather's .410 shotgun. It's small caliber. It was a bird hunting gun for him."
The cabin is a special place for Wardlaw, who does the carpentry to keep the cabin from falling apart in hot summers and frigid winters.
He has replaced windows, deck planks and stained boards in the three-bedroom home built in 1970.
Wardlaw re-sided the cabin in 2003.
"I found all sorts of acorns hidden by squirrels and, I think, woodpeckers," Wardlaw said.
"I also found a smoke bomb tossed in 1985 by John Dickson (one of the five guys.) There was a bird nest and they were in the walls making all sorts of noise and irritating us."
Dickson threw in a smoke bomb to flush them out.
"Little did we know he could have burned the cabin down," Wardlaw said.
Dickson said the theft is disturbing.
"It's kind of a happy place for us for three decades," Dickson said. "It's our little sanctuary. To be burglarized is just sad."