Sunday, April 19, 2015

Inspiration Point (4,525') and Echo Mountain (3,250') from Altadena

     While the sights and sounds of Professor Robert Lowe's Echo Mountain Resort and Inspiration Point tourist traps are now long gone; the sights and sounds of nature, which has reclaimed these places, still beckons.  This is a wonderful half-day trip to sample the beautiful natural wonder of the San Gabriel Mountains Front Country.  The first half of this trek, from the trailhead to Echo Mountain is flooded with hikers and mountain bikers each weekend,but the 2.5 mile section from Echo Mountain to Inspiration Point, though Rubio and Castle Canyons, with their steep granite and metamorphic outcroppings, should be relatively void of crowds.  Many extensions are available see HERE for more information.   


Category: Moderate/Strenuous 
Miles: 10.6
Elevation Gain: 2700'
Location: Angeles National Forest 
Directions: From the I-210 in Psedena, exit Lake Ave. and head towards the mountains.  Follow this street through Altadena until it ends.  Park here and enter through the Iron  Gates of Cobb Estate.  

The Hike:     From Cobb Estate (1780') trailhead follow the trail signs and obvious route Echo Mountain 2.8 Miles and 1400' higher.  From there, back track a bit to the Castle Canyon Trail which drops off to the east into Rubio Canyon.  Follow the trail over a few ups and down and across a brook, until you enter the next vale over, Castle Canyon; with its high rocky ramparts and noble firs crowing them looming high above you.  From here the trail stays predominately in the shade, before its sweet grade ends and the abrupt switchbacks commence.  After about fifteen switchbacks you will have gained the crest and found yourself at Inspiration Point (4,525'), with its telescopes and shelter.  Enjoy the stupendous view from Huntington Beach to San Fernando, and either add on more (see link above), or return the way you came.  

It should be noted that I had a late start on this hike, finishing at 10:30 pm.  

Hiked: 4-19-2015, Los Angeles County, No Adventure Pass Required.    

Castle Canyon

In the canyon

Castle Canyon outcroppings 

Firs and Los Angles from 4000'

Inspiration Point (4,525')

Mount Lowe from Inspiration Point

Mount Wilson, Occidental Peak and Harvard Peak

Neat view-finders

A setting sun

Wierd rock formation on Echo Mountain

9 PM: Echo Mountain Summit, Pasadena and LA

East San Gabriel Valley and OC

La Canada, Glendale, Burbank, West LA 

Saturday, April 11, 2015

East Fork of the San Gabriel River: Bridge to Nowhere

     While mountain peaks and passes are my preferred destinations while hiking, watersheds and river-canyons can be nearly as spectacular as well.  I had been wanting to do the East Fork of the San Gabriel River to the Bridge to Nowhere for quite some time, but never actually found the right time for it.  I have hiked from Wilson to Baldy and from San Gorgonio to Whitney, but I was still missing this hike: my last quintessential Southern California trip.  Part of the reason I had put if off so long was for the notorious crowds in a fair-weathered weekend for Bungee Jump America's new attraction at the destination, and the reputation it has for attracting "hikers"; namely unprepared, boom-box blaring flip-flop wearing teenagers from the Basin who want to test their "Big Hike" endurance (and other hiker's nerves) in a federally designated Wilderness area, the Sheep Mountain Wilderness.  Surprisingly while I was there I left early enough to avoid the majority of the weekend crowds and chaos, and I found myself wondering many times if I was in fact on the correct trail.  Happy to say, I was, and I found it to be a most enjoyable half-day hike.  As hiking legend Jerry Schad acclaims, "The trek to the old bridge is in the same league as the climb up Old Baldy."--  If this is true, how can you miss out?    


Category: Moderate 
Miles: 9
Elevation Gain: 1000'
Location: Angeles National Forest, Sheep Mountain Wilderness
Directions: Here  

The Hike:  From the rather large parking lot (if you arrive after 7 am on a weekend good luck getting a nice space), go north and enter onto a locked fire road, and follow that down 0.5 miles to Heaton Campground.  Here there is a toilet, a trail sign, and trail split (to Allison Saddle) and a self-issue wilderness permit kiosk (required, no limit on people).  After filling out a permit continue on the trail as it looms above the rushing river below, and soon enough you will have your first opportunity to cross it.  It should be noted, that for first-time hikers, the trail is very hard to find because of the river's overflows and use-trails made by fisherman and prospectors.  With this in mind, try to follow what appears to be the main trail, but other wise follow the river, and if you do find yourself lost retrace you steps until you are at the trail.  Even I got lost numerous times, as I was the only person around that early in morning, and I could not follow where other hikers were going or using as a path.  Nonetheless in total en route to the bridge the only required river crossing number around six. 
Anyhow, as you progress further in to the canyon you enter into the Sheep Mountain Wilderness, marked with a sign, and impressive views of Ross Mountain towering high to the north above the canyon walls.  For a large section of the trip you are hiking not directly near the water, but about 20-100' above it an an overhanging cliff, usually to the east of the river.  Take in the fresh mountain breeze, and let it breathe into your spirit.  Watch the Alder trees and seasonal grasses dance in its breath below, while the San Gabriel cascades down from the summits to the cities.  The escarpment of solid igneous walls around give testament both to the river's mighty rampages throughout the ages and the mountain range's ever-active geological faults.  All are precious gifts from the Creator.  
   After four miles, you make a sudden turn east and in no time at all, you will be at the infamous Bridge to Nowhere, complete now with a rather tacky Bungee Jump concessionaire, which because this bridge is an island of private property in a sea of designated wilderness, is technically and most unfortunately legal.  Many ask why there is a solid vehicle-worthy bridge in the narrows deep in San Gabriel Canyon.  The Answer is that back in the 1930's there was a road proposal to complete a highway from Glendora to Wrightwood through this canyon.  The idea was abandoned after the great flood of 1938, as the great, wild, untamed upper  San Gabriel River stood too much in the way of modern progress.  Thus it remains in the shadows of the past.  You can continue on into the Narrows, deepest gorge in Southern California with peaks rising over 5000' above the canyon on either side.  I because of time constrictions, did not proceed.  When done, return the way you came.    

Saint Faustina, Pray for us! 
Divine Mercy Incarnate, Raise us to You!

Hiked: 4-11-2015, Los Angeles County, Wilderness Permit Required and Adventure Pass.  

Trailhead: 7:22 am

Heaton Campground and Allison Saddle Split

First Crossing

Solitary Tranquility

The might shoulders of Iron Mountain (8,007')

Spring  grasses

Wilderness Sign

Ross Mountain (7,402')

Almost there!

Tacky Bungee stuff.....

The Bridge after crossing it.

Bungee Jumping...

View of the River from the Bridge

Wow!  During my 20 minute break  look at how it fills up!  I hiked ahead of the crowds all morning! 


Monday, March 30, 2015

Hawkins Ridge, Throop Peak and Mount Islip from Crystal Lake


   Like a great wall separating the cool and hospitable ocean-influenced Los Angeles Basin from the harsh winds and heat swells of the Mojave Desert stands the Middle High Country of the San Gabriel Mountains:  A long line of peaks with numerous summits scraping 
out barely over 8000' in the west, to topping 9,000' in the east.  Along this impressive barricade stands the rugged and remote Hawkins Ridge, with its four minor summits, as well as Throop Peak  (9,138') , and isolated Mount Islip (8,250').  Each one of these mountains are on or near the Pacific Crest, which separates the Pacific Watersheds from the Great Basins'.  Each one of these destinations, whether it be Throop, Islip, or the Hawkins Ridge, could be done alone in a worthy day-hike, but to those of strong endurance tackling all three, which includes bagging six distinct peaks, would certainly be an adventure to remember.     


Category: Strenuous
Miles: 16
Elevation Gain: 4,700' (some roller-coaster action)
Location: Angeles National Forest, Sheep Mountain Wilderness (No Permit Required) 
Directions: From the I-210 in Azuza, exit CA-39 (Azuza Ave) and follow it 30 minutes from the freeway into the mountains, after some upgrades, take CRYSTAL LAKE ROAD on your right (just before Ca-39 ends), and take this road until in ends at Crystal Lake Campground. Park here.

The Trail: From the Crystal Lake Trailhead (5,811'), follow the lower Windy Gap Trail as it winds through some oaks and pines, but mainly burned vegetation from the 2002 Curve Fire.  You soon pass a paved road, and then about 0.25 miles after that the Hawkins Fire Road.  This is your new route.  The sign says in is 3.7 miles to your first peak, South Mount Hawkins.  Take the abandoned fire-road east, and then south(some spots are badly eroded in places) past a seasonal spring (the only water directly on route).  The road gradually gains elevation, which gives you more of an opportunity to enjoy the scenery around.  Windy Gap and Mount Islip stand to the north, Crystal Lake Basin below, and the sprawling Southland further down.  Once you find yourself on the summit of South Mount Hawkins (7,783'), you can stomp on the old ruins of a Fire Lookout tower, which burned in a blazing inferno over a decade ago.  Despite the fire, the north-slope of this peak is heavily forested.
   Once done on top, take the path right back down to the junction 0.5 miles away onto the Hawkins Ridge Trail.  This recent trail skirts the next to peaks, Sadie Hawkins (8,050') and Middle Hawkins (8,505'), over the next 2.5 miles on its impressive namesake ridge.  You can do your homework on a topographical map, then make your peak attempt to these two blissful bumps.  After you steep ascent of the Hawkins Ridge you will find you self at the junction with the Pacific Crest Trail, 8,411', and 7.5 miles from the start.  From here take the trail eastward 0.5 miles to a small climber's path up Mount Hawkins (8,850'), and then from there another 0.75 miles to the day's highlight, Throop Peak (9,138').  Throop Peak is named after Dr. Amos Throop the founder of what is now known as the California Institute of Technology (Cal-Tech), and this impressive summit honors his legacy.  From here you can gaze into the wild chasm of the Iron Fork of the San Gabriel River below you, Mounts Baden-Powell and San Antonio to the east, Telescope Peak (Death Valley), the Sierra Nevada, and the Mojave Desert to the north, the peaks culminating to where you are in the west and as far as distant San Clemente Island to your south (120 miles away).  The views are truly spectacular.  
      After your time on summit is done, retrace your steps back to the Pacific Crest Trail, and follow it down through some absolutely blissful stands of White Fir and Sugar Pine, 2 miles to Windy Gap at 7,570'.  Take a breather here before the last 800' up to Mount Islip, 0.8 miles away.  Take the recently built Islip Crest Trail, and follow it along the ridge to the summit, topped by a small cabin from the 1930's.  From the summit you have suburb view of the untamed San Gabriel Wilderness and Bear Canyon to the west and the Hawkins Ridge and Throop Peak to the east.  Once done up on the zenith, take that same trail down to Windy Gap and follow the trail from 2.6 miles back to the Crystal Lake Trailhead.  A most inspiring and exhausting day in God's wondrous Creation tackling the San Gabriel Six-Pack of Peaks!     

Passion of Christ, Strengthen Me! 

Hiked March, 30, 2015
Advenure Pass Required.  Los Angeles County 

Google Earth Layout of the View


Hawkins Fire Road

Erosion on the Fire Road

Crystal Lake Basin

Hawkins Ridge

Windy Gap Pass and Mount Islip

Pine-filled route!

S. Mt. Hawkins Summit 

Along Hawkins Ridge

Going up Middle Hawkins (Class 2)



Throop Peak (9138')

Snow Streaked Baldy

Islip Cabin

Bear Canyon

Trail back down to trailhead