San Gabriel Peak

Mt Lowe, 3 miles RT, 5,604' Max Elevation, 548' +/-, September 30, 2018

Mt Lowe, 3 miles RT, 5,604' Max Elevation, 548' +/-, September 30, 2018

My husband and I did a sunset hike on Mt. Lowe this past Sunday. We drove up to Eaton Saddle, followed the Mt. Lowe Fire Road through the Mueller Tunnel to Markham Saddle and then picked up the trail to the Mt. Lowe summit. I really like this area a lot. There’s never very many people and you get some great views of the rugged San Gabriels. The hike to the summit is a short one, but it was perfect for a day when we didn’t have time to do a long hike. The views are pretty great too. As the sun began to sink behind the Santa Monica Mountains to the west, we started to make our way back down the mountain. We reached Markham Saddle just 10 minutes before the sunset then stopped to enjoy the show as the light faded from orange, to pink and finally inky black. It was a little spooky coming back through the Mueller Tunnel in the dark, but the city below us lit up in a romantic, sparkling glow of lights. It was a great way to wrap up the weekend!

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Eaton Saddle to Muir Peak 4,688', 9.5 miles RT, 1,358 +/-, July 4, 2018

Eaton Saddle to Muir Peak 4,688', 9.5 miles RT, 1,358 +/-,  July 4, 2018

Today we started out with a plan to do “just a short hike”.  Well, by now I should know that it rarely ever works out that way.  We didn’t feel like driving too far so we decided to stick closer to home and take a ride up to Eaton Saddle.  We hiked up the Mount Lowe Road, through the Mueller Tunnel (which I think is absolutely amazing) and reached Markham Saddle.  At that point we had several options to climb the peaks that we’d done before; Mt. Lowe, Mt. Disappointment, San Gabriel Peak or we could continue on the Mount Lowe Road.  I pulled out the map to see where it would take us.  It looked to be a little over four miles to reach the Mount Lowe Trail Camp and Inspiration Point (which we’d also been to before, but never from this direction).  We decided to give it a go.  What a great route!  I’m so glad we did it.  This area has so much history.  Not only was this a very low stress, no cliff hugging ledges kind of hike, but it also had a lot of butterflies.  After reaching Inspiration Point, we continued along the fire road past the crowd of people until we reached the junction to summit Muir Peak.  I knew we’d have the peak all to ourselves along with the views to boot.  My husband and I hung out up there for a while.  I chased around the Chalcedon Checkerspot butterflies trying to get some photos while my husband talked on his HAM radio.  There was a lot of California Buckwheat up on this peak, hence all the butterflies.  I even got one to sit on my finger.  The surrounding views were terrific; Pasadena and the city below, Mount Wilson, Occidental Peak, Mount Harvard, San Gabriel Peak, and Mount Lowe to name a few.  After we were done enjoying having the place to ourselves, we started heading back.  By this time it was getting pretty warm and much of the morning shade we had earlier was almost gone.  Thankfully, we always come prepared with plenty of water and there was a nice, refreshing breeze every now and then to help keep us cool.  As we hiked back, the road was buzzing with butterfly activity.  There were plenty of Blues, Swallowtails, Chalcedon Checkerspots, Hairstreaks and I was also able to find and photograph the elusive Great Basin wood-nymph.  As always, it was another great day to be in the mountains!

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Mt. Lowe 5,604', Mt. Disappointment 5,963', San Gabriel Peak 6,161', 6 miles RT, 1,637 +/-, December 10, 2017

Mt. Lowe 5,604', Mt. Disappointment 5,963', San Gabriel Peak 6,161', 6 miles RT, 1,637 +/-, December 10, 2017

With the cooler weather, it was a good day to explore the front range.  We drove up to Eaton Saddle and started the hike up a fireroad and through the Mueller Tunnel.  We took the trail to summit Mount Lowe first.  There’s a lot of fire damage in this area from the 2009 station fire, but it looks like things are coming back nicely.  I’d seen so many photos and read about the history up in this part of the San Gabriels, so it was exciting to finally check it out.  In 1893 there used to be an electric powered railway here that was constructed by the ambitious Thaddeus S. C. Lowe.  The Mount Lowe Railway would take guests back and forth from the Echo Mountain House (also constructed by Lowe), and today you can still hike to the ruins on Echo Mountain.  We are saving that hike for another day.  In addition, Lowe also constructed a tavern, an observatory and the world's largest search light. Lowe planned to extend his railway up to the summit of Mount Lowe, but sadly many of his endeavors were lost due to fires or natural disasters.  Eventually, he ran out of money.  Today you can look through the viewing tubes on the summit that are strategically placed at points of interest such as Mount Baldy and Mount Wilson.  You’ll also see hitching rails where horses were once tied and there’s a sign with more information for anyone who cares to learn about the history of the mountain on which they are standing.  After spending some time reflecting on the summit of Mount Lowe, we hiked back down and took the trail leading to Mount Disappointment and San Gabriel Peak.  Interesting story about Mount Disappointment in case you don’t already know:  In 1894, USGS surveyors climbed to the top of Mount Disappointment after viewing it from the San Fernando Valley.  They thought it was the highest peak in the region only to be “disappointed” when they looked over at San Gabriel peak and discover that the mountain they’d climbed was shorter!  So there you go.  Another point of interest along the route is that you’ll pass by what’s left of a Nike Missile Defense System from LA’s cold war-era.  We took the route up to Mount Disappointment first.  The route travels up a fire road which, as much as I hate hiking fire roads, wasn’t too bad.  The summit has some radio towers, a helipad and great views, so I feel like this peak deserves a better name.  Anywho, after exploring Mt. Disappointment, we headed up to San Gabriel Peak.  The trail is quite steep, but it’s a nice climb to work for your reward of even more great views from the top.  I should also mention from these peaks we could see the billowing smoke plumes off in the distance from the Thomas Fire which as of this writing is still, unfortunately, burning.  Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed this hike.  We’ll soon be hiking Echo Mountain to Inspiration Point so we can take in even more history about our nearby mountain range.

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