Monday, November 21, 2005

Geocaching: Inspiration Point and Mount Lowe

On Saturday, "Team Compass" made its second expedition into the San Gabriel front range, a 7.8 mile hike to Inspiration Point, Mount Muir, and Mount Lowe. We started from Eaton Saddle (on the Mount Wilson Road) and followed the Mount Lowe Fire Road through the an old tunnel, along a canyon, and descended to the Mt Lowe Trail Camp (elev 4400'). This was the site of the old Alpine Tavern, a famous lodge and tourist destination in the early 1900s. It was built by Thaddeus Lowe (for whom Mt. Lowe was renamed), who built a railroad to bring people up to the Tavern. (He hoped to get his railroad to the top of Mt. Lowe, but he never made it that far.) Today, you can still see old foundations, parts of a large fireplace, and old pipes. There are some great historical markers that include photos of the place from its heyday. After finding a cache there, we headed for Inspiration Point, a 10-minute walk down the road. The Camp is nestled among pines and oak trees, but just down the road lies a ridge between Inspiration Point, Panorama Point, and Mount Muir. On the saddle of the ridge, a viewing pavilion has been restored to how it looked 100 years ago, including "viewing tubes", various pieces of pipe mounted in a fixed alignment so that looking through them you could find specific sites in the panoramic view before you. Each pipe is labeled "Rose Bowl", "Redondo Beach", "Catalina", etc. This particular warm autumn Saturday was so clear that not only could we see the whole Los Angeles basin before us, but on out into the ocean, to Catalina Island (~60 miles distant), and even beyond, to San Clemente Island (90 miles). We could also make out another, which we weren't sure whether it was Santa Barbara Island (75 miles, but smaller and shorter) or San Nicolas (105 miles away, but much larger). The curve of Redondo Beach was clearly visible, so Tom and Katy were trying to decide whether they could see their houses from here, while I looked for mine not far from the easily discernable towers of downtown. After enjoying the pavilion for a bit, we made the short 200' climb up to the actual Inspiration Point summit (4714'), where we signed the Sierra Club summit log and then found the geocache hidden there. We then descended, and walked along the wide flat bed of the old "One Man & Mule Railroad", a 2-foot gauge railway that consisted in an open trolley car pushed by a mule to take tourists from the pavilion (with views to the south and west) over to Panorama Point for views south and east. (It seems they did indeed put the cart before the mule, since if the mule pushed instead of pulled, he would get the tourists less dusty.) A short but scenic single-track trail took us to the summit of Mount Muir (4688') where we found another summit log and another cache. (Apparently John Muir visited these peaks in 1877.) We then backtracked a short ways down the fire road toward the Camp, where we picked up the Mt Lowe East Trail, which snakes its way in a long spiral up to the top of Mount Lowe itself. As it was a warm day, we appreciated the fact that much of this trail was in the shade of oaks and pines. Eventually, we summitted Mount Lowe (5603'), enjoying the spectacular panorama from an even higher vantage, and with the afternoon sun reflecting brightly on the ocean. With the sun hitting the water just right, we could make out Marina Del Rey and Ballona Creek (~30 miles away). After a nice lunch, we found one of the two caches there, and headed back down. Having started at 9am, we finished before 4pm, having hiked 7.8 terrain miles and climbed about 2500' in all, and found six caches (counting one at Red Box station that we found on the way out). Another great day! Check out our photos here.

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