Monday, September 30, 2013

Inspiration point via Sam Merrill Trail and Castle Canyon trail

Inspiration point via Sam Merrill Trail and Castle Canyon trail

  • Miles: 9.8 miles round trip
  • Elevation: 2,800 ft gain/loss
  • Note: Multi-use trail
  • Type: Out & Back
  • Location: Cobb Estate - Lake Avenue and Loma Alta Drive

Do you have that place that, no matter if it gets quite popular and crowded; you just keep going back to it. This one’s mine. My first ever hike in Los Angeles County introduced to me by an occasional hiker when, some (more than) 10 years ago, from her previous job of shuttling adults, she would take them just beyond the Cobb Estate’s gothic looking gates to just relax and be outside for a bit.

It is quite a popular hike, recommend starting as early as possible to be able to find parking and have a lesser foot traffic on the way up. There is no designed parking area, find your spot along the curb of Lake Ave and Loma Alta Drive. Please be mindful of homeowner’s driveways and be respectful.

The trail head sits pass the Cobb Estate gates, which have always been closed for every visit I ever made, but there is a pedestrian (and mountain bike riders) entrance just to the right of it and another one passing behind the covered waiting bench. Following the rundown asphalt road, where the road curves to the left, the Sam Merrill trail head can be found right by, a now graffiti decorated sign and a stone piled water/drinking fountain.

The Lower Sam Merrill trail leading up to the Echo Mountain junction is dry, dusty, very well used and pretty exposed, prepare to get slightly sunburned -- if you're like me, who thinks sunblock is so tedious.. refuses to put on any.. and then regrets it at the end of the day (ring ring! Skin cancer called, she said to keep it up!). Bring enough water for the whole trip, since there are no water sources on the way, except for a one or two trickling mini streams that are completely unreliable (one day they're there, next they're not). There are mile markers going up to Echo Mountain, wooden posts with gold colored plates as numbers. I've always missed them on the way up but seem to always catch my attention on my way back. I'd see the short wooden posts (now) on my left and would have to look back to know the mile number.

After climbing a little over 2 miles, at the Echo Mountain Junction, you'll see a trail veering to switch back on your left. This would be the Upper Sam Merrill trail that can also take up to Inspiration Point. I have yet to try this route up.. and/or down to create a lollipop hike. Just a few step further, the Castle Canyon trail can be found as a quick left turn. If it weren't for the erected tombstone-like trail sign, on some days, this trail may be missed. Thick brushes conceal it a bit, making one doubt if the path you're looking is really leads to something more further.
Lovin'some Fall foliage - even SoCal can find some.

At this point, you will lose a good majority of hikers. A good turn around point, most head out to Echo Mountain (elevation 3,207 ft above sea level), which is just a few more steps further, to scream & hear their voices echo around, check out the resort/hotel ruins that was once built there (White City) and/or just take a quick break before continuing on. Most mountain bike riders, also use this as a turn around point.

Inspiration Point - so close, yet so far.
Continuing along the Castle Canyon trail, you'll still be able to hear most of the hikers hanging around Echo Mountain, and some screaming their lungs out, followed by laughters once they hear echoes of their voices. Watch your steps on this part, as there are pipes protruding along trail. This part of the Some parts of the trail on the way up are a bit washed out and are narrower than the first part (Lower Sam Merrill trail). Just be mindful and careful of your steps, everything should be fine.

Once at Inspiration Point, get ready to kick up your feet and enjoy the view - provided mother nature has graced you with clear skies that day, you'll get to see as far as Catalina Island, folks say. I have yet to have that. Although on a clear day on January, I thought I saw a silhouette of it in the horizon but maybe that was just hunger making me see things. Nevertheless, should mother nature grant you clouds though, rolling clouds are a mesmerizing thing to watch. Either way, you have better come prepared for the winds up here and have packed something to keep you warm, if you're planning to stay around. No matter how warm it is at the foothills, it does get a bit chilly up here. 

There are a couple of picnic tables that can be used to spread your feast, if you've brought any. And a bit of history reading about the long gone Mt. Lowe Railway. There are also some metal tubes that have been set-up there and are fixed looking towards the direction where each metal tube is labeled. Have a bit of fun trying to make out all the places. There's one particular metal tube there labeled as "Ostrich Farm". I just don't know of any ostrich farms at all in L.A. County.

When you're ready and immersed yourself silly into the outdoors, you can either go back the way that you came or, like mentioned earlier, there is an opportunity to make this into a lollipop/loop trail taking the Upper Sam Merrill trail on the way down to Echo Mountain junction. I'll update this once I've had the chance to make that hike.