Friday, December 31, 2010

Echo Mt. and Rubio Canyon Hike - December 27, 2010

Echo MountainSee Echo Mountain Hike Description and Rubio Canyon Hike Description on Dan’s Hiking Pages

A rain storm that started on Christmas evening and carried over to the next day cleared up for an absolutely gorgeous day for hiking. Thankful for a week off from work between Christmas and New Years, I was eager to hit the trail for a final hike to conclude 2010. With all the rain we have had, this is certainly a great time to visit a waterfall. But the exceptional visibility drew me to a high place instead—Echo Mountain above Altadena.

On my drive from Azusa to Pasadena, the beauty of the mountains after the rains is striking. I find a place to park on Lake Avenue near the Cobb Estate trailhead.

On Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mt. 12:31 - Begin my hike. The weather is perfect...sunny, clear, low 70s. I love the greenness of everything! On the Sam Merrill Trail, I begin my 2.5 mile ascent. Lot of people on the trail. My pace is brisk. I am captivated by the beauty of the surrounding mountains and the ever expanding view of the human sprawl below. Virtually nothing in bloom. Red toyon berries add a splash of color. I am peeved by the thoughtless dog owners who believe that they are exempt from leash laws and common courtesy.

12:55 - One-mile marker. Really enjoying the hike. Sun feels good. Sky is so blue. Views are great. Chaparral is fragrant. Pass the two-mile marker at 1:23. Further up in Las Flores Canyon now as the city views narrow. Can hear water flowing deep in the canyon below. Can see all the way to Catalina Island.

Foundations of Echo Mountain House hotel1:41 - Arrive at the old rail bed junction. My thinking is to head north to the Cape of Good Hope, but first I’ll take a quick look around the Echo Mt. ruins. Snap pictures of the various signs, machinery, and foundations. Others are enjoying the site as well. As I stand on the grand steps of the historic Echo Mountain House, I imagine ladies with parasols and men in derbies...100 years ago. I’ve been here four times before, so I’m not sure why my inclination to again explore this historic site trumps a “quick” visit. I yell through the echo phone, and yup, there’s still an echo.

Leontine FallsI wander over to the site of the chalet and continue following the trial east toward Rubio Canyon to get a pic of Leontine Falls. I’ve explored some of these trials before, but I don’t recall where this one leads. A ways down the trail, I sit on a rock and have some lunch while enjoying an excellent view of the old incline tram bed and the southland beyond. I relish the solitude (I’m sure that the vast number of Echo Mt. guests don’t venture over here). At 2:37 I continue down the trail, thinking that it probably bends north up canyon, if my recollections are correct. But it continues to zigzag east into Rubio Canyon. I finally decide that I’m not going to climb back up to Echo Mt., so I sure hope this trail ends someplace favorable! It bends south and shortly I see in the distance that the trail intersects the incline tram rail bed.

Incline Tram rail bed3:00 - Arrive at the incline tram rail bed. I’ve been here before, only that time I had climbed from the bottom. A route clearly heads down, but I don’t readily discern a route heading up. I begin my steep descent. The path zigzags down the old tram bed. My steps are guarded. I take pics of railroad remnants. Bypass the chasm which had been spanned by “Macpherson Trestle.” Descend the tram bed through “Granit Gorge.”

3:33 - Arrive at Rubio Canyon Trail. Of course, before I turn south to head home, I’m compelled to boulder hop upstream the quarter mile to visit the waterfalls. The creek is flowing briskly. My pace is slowed by finding the route, fording the creek numerous times, and negotiating the foliage that has grown since the creek bottom was laid bare in the October 2004 storm. At several points I pondered if it is even wise to proceed. But I pressed on. A father and son pass me as they head down.

Ribbon Rock and Moss Grotto Falls3:52 - Arrive at Ribbon Rock and Moss Grotto Falls. What a beautiful site! Direct sunlight still lands on the upper falls. I know I can’t linger long because sunset is in less than an hour. I explore the area and take lots of pics. Been here four times before...twice before the falls were covered with rocks, and twice after the October 2004 storm restored the falls.

View toward L.A. on Rubio Canyon Trail4:04 - Leave the falls. I’m more confident now negotiating the boulder-strewn creek bed. I arrive back the old pavilion site at the lower end of the incline tram at 4:20. Beyond the ruins I pick up the main trial and am relieved to be on nice path. The sun still alights on sections of the canyon. The trail is newly washed out in several spots making for some dicey moments. The creek is far below. My pace is casual as I soak in the beauty of the canyon at day’s end. The distant downtown L.A. skyline silhouetted in an orange sea of haze emerges through the V-shaped canyon mouth.

4:42 - Arrive at the Rubio Canyon Trail trailhead at the corner of Rubio Vista Road and Pleasant Ridge Drive in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The warm glow of the setting sun is beautiful. Now for the task of navigating a walk back to my car on Lake Avenue. The map I have with me is virtually useless. I walk down the street and once on Rubio Canyon Road, I discover Altadena Crest Trail running alongside the drainage wash. Looks like it’s heading in the right direction, so I give it a try. Shortly I meet a couple walkers who confirm that this route will take me where I want to go. In a few minutes it transitions into a creek bed and in a few more minutes I am pleased that it delivered me to the beginning of Sam Merrill Trail.

5:13 - End hike, back at car. What a thoroughly enjoying outing! Fantastic weather, dramatic scenery, green hillsides, historic ruins, a gushing waterfall, and a serendipitous adventure with a favorable ending!

Rubio Canyon Trail MapMap Note: At the Rubio Canyon trailhead, a white box sitting against a sign post contained copies of a line map (provided by Paul Ayers). One side showed Rubio Canyon Trials, and the other side showed Mt. Lowe Railway Trails. From it I learned that the trial I took from the chalet is Chalet Trail, then turns south and becomes Old Echo Mountain Trail, and the final piece is Incline Trail. icon

See blog posts from other hikes in Rubio Canyon:

See Echo Mountain Hike Description and Rubio Canyon Hike Description on Dan’s Hiking Pages

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Summit 2843 Hike - November 26, 2010

Looking south toward Azusa from Summit 2843See my Summit 2843 Hike Description on Dan’s Hiking Pages

Great weather, a day off from work, and the need to work off a Thanksgiving meal create the perfect recipe for a Black Friday hike. I decided on Summit 2843, a conspicuous peak standing guard at the month of San Gabriel Canyon in Azusa. I’ve hiked it a few times but it’s been five years since my last visit. I’ve never seen it written up anywhere, so it was one of those hikes that I just forged. The last time I hiked it the route suffered from mud slides, downed trees, overgrowth, and poison oak obstructions. I figured it was time to check the trail conditions and update my webpage.

An eight minute drive from my home in Azusa gets me to the trailhead near Morris Reservoir on Hwy 39. The temps are pleasant enough to stash my long-sleeved shirt in my pack.

Toyon (Heteromeles arbutifolia) aka Christmas berry, California holly, holly wood10:15 AM - Begin hike up 2N28, Silver Fish Road, an abandoned fire road. The grasses are lush green from the good rains we’ve had this season, a big contrast to the brown deadness of the dry months. The air is pleasant in the sun and brisk in the shade. Frost is in patches. Autumn leaves and the bright red berries of the native Toyon bush (aka holly wood) add a dash of color to the scenery. Virtually no flowers are in bloom except for a few occurrences of fuchsia and mustard. It’s quiet here except for the sounds of vehicle traffic on Hwy 39 below. The water in Morris Reservoir is green.

View east toward Glendora Mt. and Mt. Baldy11:30 - Arrive at the descending/ascending ridge which will be my return route. For now I continue on the fire road as it bends northwest into Water Canyon. The large landslide that had covered the trail a few years back is not an issue now as hikers have beaten a path over it. There is no water in the small waterfall, even after some rain earlier in the week. As I reach the location high in the canyon where the trail cuts back to the east, I am pleased that the jungle of poky trees that had previously impeded progress has been thinned out by helpful humans. And I am relieved that the barricade of leafless poison oak has a clear path through it. Further up the trail the deadfalls have been removed. The views open up east and I get my first glimpse of snow-covered Mt. Baldy. I’m soaking in the beauty of the autumn chaparral. Across the canyon toward Glendora Mountain, barren hillsides left by last year’s Morris Fire are a stark reminder of how devastating fire is. The chaparral grows back, but it takes many years to become mature. I am thankful that my present trek takes me through rich landscape.

Climbing the buckwheat-covered firebreak11:29 - Arrive again at the descending/ascending ridge. A left (east) would take me down (my return trip), but I shall turn right and climb the old firebreak. The path is not terribly steep as its snakes through a sea of California buckwheat. I break out my pruners and trim a scrub oak that is intruding into the path. The sky is blue and the sun feels good. Soon Pine Mountain comes into view to the north and the panorama of Mt. Baldy and its neighbors to the east.

12:05 - Arrive at the upper and final intersection of 2N28. Before I continue up the firebreak, I decide to turn right (north) and follow the road to the saddle. It is quite brushy in spots. I stop several times and do some trimming.

12:35 - Arrive at Saddle south of Silver Mountain. Great views down into the upper reaches of Roberts Canyon and across to Mt. Bliss and Monrovia Peak. I can see the remains of the old Silver Fish Road (2N28) as it meanders northwest toward White Saddle. Have snack and change my camera battery. I decide to press on past the knob on the saddle to the base of the Silver Mountain route. It’s quite brushy and I do some trimming. An old washout poses some risk to negotiate. Glad I brought along my trusty old ski pole to aid me.

Silver Fish Road heading into Robert's Canyon1:15 - Arrive at the base of the Silver Mountain route where 2N28 crosses over to the Roberts Canyon watershed. On a previous expedition, dense brush blocked the route after about 200 yards or so. I press further to see how it is now. Someone had trimmed some brush and the route is now passable. I venture on wondering how far I can go, trimming brush along the way. At 1:42 I reach a washout that requires climbing along a rock face with a steep drop off. Looks pretty dicey and I decide not to take the risk. One essential rule in hiking solo is to “know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em.” I turn back and retrace my steps to the Silver Mt. junction. I veer right, deciding to walk along ridge over the knob only to find it drops off sharply making a very precarious climb down—a moment of déjà vu from a previous hike. I pass through the saddle and then on to the descending/ascending ridge route and arrive there at 2:40 (that side jaunt took 2 hours and 35 minutes). The sun is over the ridge now and the deep shade and cools temps are a very different feel from earlier. To reach the summit and return, I will be flirting with a 4:45 sunset and freezing nighttime temps. But this time I “hold ‘em” and turn west to climb the old firebreak.

 View south along the ridge toward the crescent2:50 - Arrive at the ridge divide. Sun feels good. To the north, I ponder if the route climbing from the saddle is still doable. It looked pretty brushy from the saddle. I turn left (south) and start my climb following a web of use paths up the ridge. Soon the ocean to the southwest comes into view appearing as a shiny gold band reflecting the late afternoon sun. In another three minutes the summit guarding the north approach to Summit 2845 comes into view. I press along the buckwheat-covered ridge and descend into the meadow-like crescent with soft green grass. I spot a deer on the distant ridge. She is aware of my presence as she bounds down the other side. I curve around the crescent, climb a steep, grassy pitch, and come again into the sun as I spot my destination up ahead, marked by a lone eucalyptus tree.

View east toward Mt. Bliss and Monrovia Peak3:19 - Arrive at Summit 2843. There’s no geological survey marker or summit log on this unnamed peak, but it has become a friend. The 360 degree panorama is rewarding. A number of familiar peaks are in view. That vast expanse of the San Gabriel Valley sprawls before me to the south. There is a slight breeze but the temps are still pleasant enough to be in short sleeves. I sit near the eucalyptus tree and have a snack. No cell reception. The new Target store a few blocks from my house in Azusa appears as a big white square dominating the tree covered neighborhoods.

Morris Dam3:45 - Leave Summit 2843. My pace is earnest. The afternoon sun casts a warm light on the mountains to the north and south. The crescent meadow is now in shade but I soon emerge into more sunlight. Takes 15 minutes to reach the descending/ascending ridge junction heading east. I leave the sunshine and begin my descent. Much cooler in the shade. Only 45 minutes until sunset but I should be fine as long as I keep making good time. I pass over 2N28 at 4:09 and again at 4:24. Now I’m on the section which I have not done yet today. Shortly the last vestiges of the sun alight upon Glendora Mountain and Mt. Baldy. At 4:38 I begin the incredibly steep section. It’s not as bad as I had feared from my recollections and I reach 2N28 at 4:47 as the sun disappears from the distant peaks. I never did stop to put on my long-sleeved shirt. The evening air and my walking pace are brisk now. The path is gentle and the aromas pleasant. I savor the last minutes of a splendid outing.

5:02 - Finish. The car thermometer reads 42 degrees but it quickly increased to 51. What a thoroughly enjoyable hike! On this Black Friday where hordes of humanity invade the shopping malls, I experienced the solitude and beauty of our amazing San Gabriel Mountains just minutes from my home. I am truly thankful to an awesome Creator for such a rich treasure and the health to partake of its rewards. icon

See my Summit 2843 Hike Description on Dan’s Hiking Pages