24 November 2013

Mount Lowe

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trail head.

Mount Lowe may not be the highest in the area, but it certainly has a centralness to it. I promised the folks at HIKE the GEEK a six mile round trip with a bit of elevation change and got three takers. We met at Red Box and drove up the last half mile to the start at the road up Mount Disappointment. Crossing the road from the parking, we start up the trail and get to climbing quickly under the cover of oaks with a few pines thrown in. Switchbacks overlooking the San Gabriel River's west fork carry us further and further up until finally meeting with the road again.

overlooking west fork San Gabriel River
Looking northeast, we see the west fork of the San Gabriel River as it winds east. The now closed road passes a few old car camping sites including Valley Forge. The ski areas in the background seem to have a little snow.

Strawberry Peak and environs
In the direction of Strawberry Peak across Arroyo Seco, there seem to be a few more snowy tops in the far distance, perhaps Pinos and the closer Sawmill.

San Gabriel Peak
Our first look at San Gabriel Peak, the local high point, shows a rather steep face.

The road offers a bit of rest as it proceeds flatly to a saddle. There's no interest in following the road up to the top of Mount Disappointment, but we poke around the old missile site at the end of a spur. It gives us new views of the south side of Mt. Disappointment and into the city. A trail heads off at the end of the spur and climbs down the side of San Gabriel Peak, the local high point. A use trail heads up to the top, but we go down along the telegraph wires. The burn from the Station fire is still obvious and looks like the burn was rather complete, but the old poles still stand. The trail winds down to a fire road below.

short poles with wires along the trail
Old telegraph poles along the side of the mountain.

fire road around the bottom of Mt. Lowe
Mount Lowe and Markham to its left.

The trail continues flatly on the other side of the fire road. We end up stuck dodging about a dozen bikes, a few at a time, as we travel along it. At a saddle, a bit of rough trail turns up Mount Markham for one last possible peak distraction before climbing Lowe. At other side of the saddle, the map shows the trail splitting to head around the mountain on either side and faint trails go up the mountain and around to the north side while well used trail heads along the east side. Following the main trail gets to a real junction between trail to the peak and trail going around the mountain. We head up to the peak where there are sighting tubes and the top of the Sam Merrill Trail coming up from the end of Lake in Altadena. At the very top, there is a sign about Professor Lowe's railway, which he planned to get all the way up here, but ran out of money.

bench and sighting tubes at the top of Mt. Lowe
Hanging out at the top of Mt. Lowe.

We have a look through the tubes and then take in the views for a while. For me, it is funny to see the pavilion at Inspiration Point far below rather than far above Echo Mountain. Eaton Canyon stretches out to the southeast and Idlehour sits in the bottom of it somewhere. The tree farm at Henninger Flat stands out on the other side. Sunset Point of Sunset Ridge is the target of one of the tubes. West, Bear Canyon extends toward Arroyo Seco and Grand Canyon toward Millard. The destinations that become familiar when living in Pasadena are all scattered around and don't seem so separate. The snowy Baldy should be easier to see now, but it refuses to come out from the clouds.

Eaton Canyon
Henninger Flat as an outpost of trees on the other side of Eaton Canyon. The Mount Wilson Toll Road twists up past it and the trail down to Idlehour can just be picked out below it toward the left.

Inspiration Point
One of the points that has been labeled Inspiration Point since cartographers don't like calling the saddle to the left where the pavilion was build a "point". The trail up from Idlehour comes to a saddle closer to us near where the bikers are now playing.

snowy distance in the clouds
Behind a bit of ridgeline to Mount Wilson, the snow topped peaks are hiding in the clouds. According to the tubes, Baldy is in the clouds right of the near peak.

Disappointment, San Gabriel, and Marham
Mount Disappointment is toward the left with a few communications towers at its top. The largest peak to the right is San Gabriel and the next is Mount Markham.

Eventually, we start down again. It turns a bit long because I'd foolishly thought I could find a dim trail from a good trail and asked if we should go down "the other way". They had said "sure" and so we take the left side trail down. Someone has had to cut away the poodledog bush, which has been prevalent since the missile site, to make the trail passable. There are more sighting tubes along the way as we go down.

sighting tube along Sam Merrill Trail
One of the sighting tubes that can be found at the switchbacks of the Sam Merrill Trail.

At one tube, I have a look down a sketchy looking trail and not realizing this is our only quick route down to the fire road and back, turn away from it. We end up losing a lot of elevation, a fair bit more than we wanted to.

dropping down on the trail quite low now
A different view of Inspiration Point and other parts along the fire road.

It's a long walk back up on the road around the mountain. The bottom of the sketchy trail I'd seen is marked with a cairn as we come around.

road around Mt. Lowe
Hiking up the fire road again. There's a patch of the prevalent poodledog bush on the right.

Bear Canyon
Bear Canyon stretching toward Arroyo Seco. A fellow along the road said volunteers are working on the trail up it, which needed quite a bit of work even before the fire.

At the saddle, we keep to the road for the easier route out. After a conversation involving wormholes on trails, the tunnel got a chuckle. It seems to be a bit of a hit with the other hikers along the way as well, as many groups are stopping by it for pictures.

tunnel on a fire road
One of Los Angeles County's rare tunnels, and it occupies a fire road.

Once back at the road, we'd already gone 1.5 miles more than promised and the guys are tired. I offer to bring the car up, but they're having none of quitting, so we all hike 2 miles down the road together to finish it off.

©2013 Valerie Norton
Posted 30 November 2013

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