Week in Review: Mt. Lowe Snow

Snowman at Mt. Lowe

Snowman at Mt. Lowe

April 9 – 15. Every time I run El Prieto, I run into Ian Rusk, who stops and introduces himself and tells me how many consecutive days he’s hiked. Saturday made 1009 days in a row. When it’s raining, as it did Friday, he hikes in his hallway. When he was in the hospital for minor surgery, he hiked the hallways there.

I’m not as diligent about it as Ian Rusk. This week, I really slacked off. Tuesday morning I had a wonderful 7 miles in Cherry Canyon, and came up the elderly throat singing couple I wrote about in Cherry Canyon Overtones. Tuesday evening I struggled through 8 miles of flat on the Griffith Park bridle trails. Somehow between 10am and 6pm I’d lost it all.

The weather didn’t feel right – it felt like a storm was on its way, which was indeed the case – and I felt tired and sore and like I’d rather be parked on the sofa watching TV, which is usually not what I do.

Wednesday I played hooky from running. Thursday I debated going to the gym instead and blew that off too. Friday another storm blew in, and with it came snow as low as 4,300 feet.

Saturday I’d’ve stayed home too except that I really really wanted to play in the snow even more than I didn’t want to run. I set out at 10am – I’m a late runner, none of that 6am-on-weekends crap for me. As usual, I ran into folks I know…and, because it was El Prieto, I ran into Ian Rusk.

Yogi Berra said “When you get to a fork in the road, take it.” This is the sort of accidental Zen koan he was famous for. I didn’t follow his advice. Instead, I turned right when I should’ve turned left, and that was a fortuitous mistake that took me up a trail that ended with a car hood upon which is painted the first verse of the St. Francis Prayer, which, in its entirety and as far as I am concerned, is about as concise and clear-cut a set of instructions on how to live life as ever was written. This prayer pretty much anticipates ever self-centered thought or action I might ever have and presents me with the exact contrary action to take.

Bouyed by seeing friends, encountering Ian Rusk, and stumbling up the St. Francis Prayer (and a bunch of weird yardart just beyond the trail head), I headed up…and up…and up…following the ac100 course in reverse for a ways but looping around to Mt. Lowe Camp rather than Echo Mountain, and then up to Mt. Lowe itself rather than down from Sam Merrill.

I started hitting patches of snow at about 4,300 feet. As I got closer to 5,000 feet, the snow got thick. I stopped and made a little snowman and then continued a few miles in the snow until I reached the trail up to Mt. Lowe summit.

There were no footprints but mine at this point. There was also a search-and-rescue helicopter flying around. I don’t know the trail to Mt. Lowe summit well enough to know what was underneath the snow, and it was slippery, so I decided to play it safe and head back down.

Here’s a bit of trivia: In 1886, Mrs. J.D. Hooker took the trail from Switzer’s Camp to the top of Mt. Disappointment, becoming the first woman to make a recorded ascent in the San Gabriels. Mrs. J.D. Hooker was good friends with John Muir, who founded the Sierra Club. She spent a lot of time climbing various peaks in the San Gabriels, and her adventures are well documented on the Sierra Club website.

Tuesday: 14 miles (Cherry Canyon – 6, Griffith Park – 8.)
1,400 feet climbing (16 Heartbreak Hills)

Saturday: 26 miles, El Prieto to Mt. Lowe & back
5,650 feet of climbing (64 Heartbreak Hills)

Sunday: 13 miles, Eaton Canyon/Mt. Wilson Tollroad
3,700 feet climbing (42 Heartbreak Hills)

Total: 54 miles, 10,750 feet climbing (122 Heartbreak Hills)

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