Tuesday October 7: Lower Millard Canyon Trail, Sunset Ridge Trail, Mt Lowe Road to Alpine Tavern (Mt Lowe Campground) - over 20 miles. Difficulty: Moderate
I start this run thinking I will make this a short one, but the Lower Millard Canyon trail is gourgeous, following the stream bed under a canopy of alder, sycamore, oak and bay with great pads of leaves under foot. I reach Millard Campground and decide to head up the Sunset Ridge Trail, knowing that it is generally shaded and a much more pleasant option than the lower section of the Mt. Lowe Road. The trail rejoins the road near the junction for Echo Mountain whre the Great Incline section of the Mount Lowe Railway ended coming up from Altadena. Click here to ready about the Mt. Lowe Railway and other Mt. Lowe historical info. I check my water, ask myself how I am feeling and decide to continue up the Mt. Lowe Road (the old rail bed) past Dawn Station (one way down to the Dawn Mine), through the "Granite Gate", a cut blasted and hand cut through solid granite in 1898, around the "Cape of Good Hope" and on to the site of Alpine Tavern, once one of the most popular resorts in the San Gabriels. The railbed road is dotted by historical information sign posts about the Mt. Lowe Railway. The signposts make great reasons to stop and take a drink of water and recover a bit from the long uphill grind, now mostly in the sun. I reach the shade of the Mt. Lowe Campground (the old Alpine Tavern) and close my eyes for a moment and imagine the charming hospitality that the place must have offered in this sylvan oasis at the top of the world (the "Railway to the Clouds" as it was known, ended here after traversing this engineering marvel of a railroad). After touring the ruins of the Tavern, I head back the way I came.
Tuesday October 14: Farnsworth Park to Echo Mtn, Echo Mtn to Inspiration Pt via Castle Canyon Trail, then to Mt. Lowe via East. Mt Lowe Trail, and back via Upper and Middle Sam Merrill Trails. 14 miles - Difficulty - Moderate Plus
The climb up Echo Mtn Trail (known now as Lower Sam Merrill) is a long climb up the switchbacks, but it is at least in the shade this early in the morning. Reaching Echo Mtn, I explore the fascinating ruins of the White City that stood at the top of the Great Incline Railway that took riders (over 3,100,000 of them) from Altadena to Echo Mtn on an engineering marvel in the form of a cable drawn trolley. Some of the heavy cable wheels on display in the ruins attest to the wizardry of Professor Lowe and his chief engineer, David J. Macpherson. There's a great summary of the rail and hotel operations in the Mt. Lowe area in Chapter 23 of John Robinson's book Trails of the Angeles. Lots of historical markers, pictures and diagrams on Echo Mtn give a sense of what this was like at the turn of the century. From Echo Mtn I decide to head to Mt. Lowe (elev 5603) via the Castle Canyon Trail that heads up Rubio Canyon, the water source for the old operations at Echo Mtn. Crossing over the stream bed at one point I am surrounded by a CLOUD of butterflies. Another half mile, however, and I am now in a haze of buzzing gnats which continues on for the better part of a mile. The trail is VERY steep and treacherous in some sections, but the scenery is spectcular with a lovely canopy of tress most of the way as you ascend the 1200 feet or so to Inspiration Point. Inspiration Point was one of the two stops of the O.M. &M. Railway - One Man and a Mule - that ran from Inspiration Point to Panorama Point. Herbet was the mule's name and he pushed the railcar to keep the dust off the passengers. On a less smoggy day the sight tubes at Inspiration Point would direct your gaze to some of the incredible vistas from that height. Today, however, everything is a brown soup and not even the skyscrapers in Downtown LA are visible. I leave the shade of Inspiration Point's rest stop and head up the East Mt. Lowe Trail toward the summit some 900 feet above me. It's a tricky run with lots of loose rock and some steep drop offs that urge caution like the Castle Canyon Trail. Once at the summit there are some more historical information plaques about Professor Lowe's ambitious plan to run an aerial tram across the forbidding chasm between Mt. Lowe and Mt. San Gabriel and build a nature center and an astronomical observatory there, as well as a hotel on Mt. Lowe. None of that ever happened as his operations went bankrupt around 1905. I take in the views and then head down the West Mt. Lowe Trail (now know as the Upper Sam Merrill Trail). This one is REALLY rocky with loose granite everywhere demanding attention and caution. It's also now exposed to the mid day sun and it is HOT. I finally make it back to the Mt. Lowe Road and take the Middle Sam Merrill Trail back to Echo Mtn and return down the Echo Mtn Trail. Three bottles of water is barely enough on this trip, but all in all, this is a VERY nice run that I would recommend to anyone who wants a long hike or a tough slow run with lots of history and great scenery. This run could be combined with the Alpine Tavern and Mt. Lowe Road run to make a real railroad history tour.
Tuesday October 22: Flintridge, El Prieto, Millard Falls, Dawn Mine, Tom Sloane Saddle, Mt. Lowe Rd to Echo Mtn, Echo Mtn Trail to Altadena, Alta Loma Drive to Flintridge. 20 miles - Difficulty - tough
This run was NOT what I had planned. I had intended to go to Dawn Mine via Millard Falls, but a missed trail changed a 14 miler to a very hot, out of water 20 miler. The run up the Arroyo and El Prieto was pleasant. The trail up to the falls involves some boulder hopping, but was pretty much runnable. Then the climb up the rock face of the falls as an adventure (I don't much like heights). Next came some very severe boulder hopping up the canyon toward Dawn Mine. The trail disappears here and there and a lot of time was spent figuring out which way to go. This is NOT a runnable trail at all. Then there was the rattlesnake.... just as I put my hand on the next boulder there was dry, loud, unmistakable rattle. I looked ahead of my hand and saw the rattler tucked back under the next rock about two feet from my hand... I backed slowly away and thought about turning around, but really didn't want to go back down the boulders and down the face of Millard Falls. So, I changed my direction up the boulders and was VERY slow and careful. The next mile or so took me about an hour. I finally reached the mine and explored the tunnel area a bit. Amazing that the miners got in here with all the gear that is there - iron pumps, engines, concrete, pipes, cables. Then I headed up the canyon trying to find the trail up to the MT. Lowe railway bed and Dawn Mine Station. However.. I must have missed it, because as I wound my way up the canyon (a couple of false trails and a fall on my knee later) I had this feeling that I was on the wrong side of the canyon. Sure enough, I got high enough that I could see out across the canyon, and there is Granite Gate on the Mt. Lowe Rd. - ACROSS the canyon. So now I know I am commited to ending this climb at Tom Sloane Saddle, west of Mt. Lowe. This means more miles and climbing (it's about 1000 feet of climb on either of the trails from Tom Sloane). When I reach the Saddle I consult the map and do the math and realize this error will mean most of the return (about 12 miles from this point) will be hot and exposed. I brought more water than normal, but I know it won't be enough. I opt to head down the Middle Sam Merrill rather than staying on the road to Echo Mtn because about half of it is in the shade. I adopt a strategy of running the shade and walking the sun to stay a bit cooler. I finally reach the Cobb Estate at the foot of the Echo Mtn. Trail in Altadena and refill ALL my bottles for the final asphalt trek across Altadena to Flintridge. I could have taken the Altadena Crest Trail, but that meant climbing and no shade. I can't recommend the route beyond the falls to Dawn Mine to anyone except the adventurous. It would be better to reach Dawn Mine from Dawn Mine Station on the Mt. Lowe Road. And carry LOTS of water.
Tuesday November 11: Altadena, Echo Mountain Trail, Castle Canyon to Inspiration Point around Mt. Lowe and across Markham Saddle to Mt. San Grabriel. Return via Mt. Lowe Rd to Middle Sam Merrill and down via Echo Mountain. 16 miles - Difficulty: Moderate
After having missed two weeks of trail running due to the fires and a field trip for my daughter's school, today was a great day to hit the trails again - perfect weather - cool and cloudy. Much of this run's route is described in other log entries. The new section was the stretch from Mt. Lowe across Markham Saddle and part way up to Mt. San Gabriel. The trail is pleasant and the views across the canyon offer a panaoramic vista beyond Big Tujunga Canyon to Mt. Lukens! The climb up to Mt. San Gabriel was taking too much time, so I did not make it all the way to the top (not happy about that), but the going is steep and slow, climbing almost 1000 feet from the Saddle to the 6128 foot peak. Professor Lowe had intended to build an aerial tramway from Mt. Lowe to Mt. San Gabriel and put an observatory and small hotel on the peak. When you see the chasm to be crossed it was an incredible to have conceived of such a venture, esepcially in 1898! I also took along my new tiny digital camera to record some scenery to give you a better idea of the terrain and a taste of the beauty and majesty that awaits you on the trails!
Scenes from November 11 - Mouse over the pictures for a short description.
Thursday November 20: Eaton Canyon Nature Center to Mt. Wilson via Henninger Flats and the Mt. Wilson Toll Road. 20 miles - Difficulty: Moderate
I twisted my ankle running near the store last weekend and didn't want to chance any more damage on trails today, so I ran the Toll Road - dirt, but in pretty good condition. I haven't been up this road for years, and I had forgotten how long a grind it is. The Eaton Canyon Nature Center at the top of Altadena Drive is at 960 feet, and in 10.1 miles you reach 5710 at the top of Mt. Wilson. Be sure to stop in at the Nature Center before of after your run. It's very informative and the staff is very friendly and helpful. Great place to take your kids if they love the outdoors or need an introduction to it. The grade is remarkably uniform the entire way at about 8.9% - pretty steep, but not unrunnable. Footing is good, and there is water at the Henninger Flats Visitor Center. The Center is new since I was there last. Henninger was once the largest forestry plantation in the world (1906). There is a campground and the Visitor Center is really quite interesting. As you climb from Henninger you are treated to grand vistas of the San Gabriels and (if the smog weren't so bad) the entire Los Angeles basin. This time of year much of the run is in the shade and some of the trees were actually turning color to gold. Well, so is the poison oak, so stay on the road! Quite a bit of bird life up here. I saw several kinds of woodpeckers, jays and a hawk as well as the ubiquitous crows. All in all a pleasant and challenging run.