December 12, 2011

Photo Essay: Pasadena to the Mt. Lowe Alpine Tavern

I've been skulking around the periphery of Mount Lowe in the Angeles National Forest for over a year now.

This summer, I spotted the closed trails to Mt. Lowe from both Henninger Flats and Mount Wilson, but the 2009 Station Fire left a lot of those roads, fire roads, and trails closed for repair and rehabilitation. Last summer, I hiked up Echo Mountain to the old White City, to explore where the old Mt. Lowe Incine Railway used to drop folks off. At the time, I thought that was kind of it, but now I realize, just as you can hike farther up from there, the incline railway's passengers' journeys did not have to end there, either: they could take a trolley all the way up Mt. Lowe to the Alpine Tavern, and even stay overnight in one of the surrounding cottages.

The original path of the trolley is actually open to the public, but not to vehicular traffic. But last weekend, thanks to the Scenic Mt. Lowe Railways Historical Committee, a group of us got past the locked gate and drove up the old path of the trolley in an annual trip that occurs every December to commemorate the opening of the railway.

Looking down at Echo Mountain...

...past the Cape of Good Hope, the site of the old Circular Bridge, Dawn Station...

...winding around the mountain, first on asphalt, dodging falling rocks...

...and debris from the wind storm that rocked the area just two days before.

To experience the vehicular journey up the mountain to the Tavern—a narrow, harrowing trip that served as a good approximation of the original experience, I think—check out this video shot from the passenger side of one of the cars in our small caravan:

The site of the old Alpine Tavern - the original end of the line for the railway - is now the Mount Lowe Camp in the Angeles National Forest, but the campground still bears some vestiges... an old rusted-out stove...

...the terracotta kitchen floor...

...and the kitchen walls.

Volunteers scour the mountain and the canyon for relics, and when they can, they bring them back to their (sometimes guessed) original location, like this snow plow that used to be attached to the front of the train...

...and this metal ring, which the rangers and volunteers think used to encircle a tree by the tavern.

The 2009 Station Fire miraculously spared much of Mt. Lowe and what little remains of its railway, but as evidenced by the pervasive crunch underfoot of uneaten acorns, much wildlife was not spared, and the ecosystem has not yet snapped back into place, despite how much of the forest actually has recovered in the last couple of years.

Not much else remains around the Alpine Tavern, save for some stairs that now lead nowhere, and some interpretive signs installed by the Historical Committee.

One of the committee's greatest contributions has been the restoration of the Ramada (or pavilion) at Inspiration Point, a short hike for us (and for the railway passengers back in the day) slightly higher up the mountain, where several trails now intersect.

Stay tuned for the next post that shows Inspiration Point and the journey back down to Pasadena.

Related Post:
Photo Essay: Heart-Pounding Hike to a Lost City

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