Stranded In The Southland

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Mt. Lowe Railroad plus Mount Muir

I slept in this morning, since the Sierra Club hike I had been planning on had been cancelled due to poor weather. I was all the more surprised, then, to wake up and find the most beautiful day I've seen in four months in LA!

I decided to undertake a micro-death march up the old Mt. Lowe Railroad. This is an old narrow-gauge railway (better described elsewhere) that took tourists mid-way up Mt. Lowe. The USFS and volunteers have put up a whole series of interesting plaques describing the railroad and the various stops, making it a fairly interesting geek hike.

I went up Sunset Ridge Fire Road, rather than the more traditional Sam Merril trail, as I'd done the SM just a few weeks ago with the Sierra Club. Sunset Ridge was really steep, but once I got onto the old rail line, things got a little easier.

As I went up, I marvelled at the clear air. I could see the Channel Islands clearly, not just Santa Catalina Island, but what looked like Santa Barbara Island as well. I could see ships just outside of Long Beach, and mountains out to the south and east. It was stunning.

It was also cold. I'd left behind my wool hat and gloves because it looked so clear and beautiful, but every time I walked into the shade, I froze. There was a strong wind blowing, which wasn't evident on the south-facing side of the mountain, but which swept down on me every time I turned a corner.

The last little bit before I made it to the top was especially cold. Fortunately, it wasn't too bad at the top, at the site of Ye Alpine Tavern. Unfortunately, the tavern had burned down in 1937; I could've gone for a beer or two. Anyway, it was a quick, mostly level hike from there to Inspiration Point.

Inspiration Point had a bunch of cool sighting devices (okay, pipes) pointing at various locations, including Venice, Santa Catalina, and the Rose Bowl. I'm a sucker for that sorta thing.

After looking around for a bit, I decided that my feet weren't hurting, and since the hike to Inspiration Point was only 11.2 miles round trip, I might as well go on a bit further. I wandered down to check out Panorama Point, which turned out to be a cold slog, with not much at the end. Sure, it was a panoramic view, but I'd been seeing great views all day.

I turned back, a bit bummed out, ready to make my way down the mountain. I kind of wished I'd had a bit more exciting hike, or at least managed to bag a peak. As I strolled along, though, I noticed a side trail labeled "Mount Muir", and remembered that this was on the Lower Peak List. Woo hoo, I zipped up this little quarter-mile trail, signed the peak log, and got my third Lower Peak!

I walked back to Inspiration Point with a spring in my step, only to find that my haphazard reading of the hike description had doomed me to a longer hike than planned. I was supposed to head down the Castle Canyon trail, but since that was closed, my hike was gonna be a bit longer than I'd figured. I should've noticed that the trail was closed before I headed down to Panorama Point, but I guess that's a lesson for future hikes.

I wound up going nearly 15 miles round trip. My feet were definitely hurting at the end, but I felt much more confident about the 14 mile conditioning hike for the WTC class. If I can make it 15 miles, then the conditioning hike shouldn't be too awful. Besides, I'm feelin' stronger now that I've made a bunch more hikes. I realized that I got my heart rate up to 160 bpm at several points with no problems; usually when my heart is going that fast, I start feelin' a little woozey and need to rest. Hopefully it'll keep gettin' better!