On Friday, November 22, five Troop 4 Scouts and three ASMs headed up into the rugged hills at dusk to complete yet another segment of the San Gabriel Trails Award — Mount Lowe.
The proposed route would take the T4 adventurers from Eaton Canyon to Henninger Flats, through Idlehour to their second camp at Mount Lowe Campground. The plan was to summit Mount Lowe (time permitting). They would then continue down the mountain to hopefully complete a near 20-mile backpack with an average of less than 15 pounds of base weight on their shoulders. Obstacles and challenges, including a black bear, didn’t slow their efforts as the T4 Scouts pushed on toward the coveted Mount Lowe patch.
“Pushed out of the Nest”
On this trip, the Scouts made all their own decisions as well as were asked to each “grub master” for themselves. By following the Patrol Method and taking responsibility for their own planning, preparing and packaging of food, the Scouts learned what it takes to prepare a successful backpacking trip and meal plan. They were left to cook, clean and set up camp, all 100% on their own and as a patrol.
The Journey Begins
The evening was cold and blustery with a few light showers. Wet and soggy conditions didn’t hinder the Troop as the Scouts made the decision to take on the challenge despite a cold and wet forecast.
The first night was spent at Henninger Flats where the Troop was the only group to brave the moist and chilly conditions.
Things That go Bump in the Night
On that Friday night, the backpackers were visited by a black bear that toppled a nearby trash can and began rummaging for food scraps. After one of the Bear Aware-trained ASMs was able to safely divert “Yogi” from his feast; the rest of the night was spent in peace until sunup.
Saturday morning was cold but clear with visibility near 100 miles. The Scouts were able to see not only Catalina Island, but Santa Barbara Island, which is well over 90 miles away.
Once the boys completed their morning camp chores, the Troop looked over the map, chose a route and strapped on their packs. They were guided to their next destination by the appointed Crew Leader, Caleb Scott.
Although the day ended up mostly sunny, temperatures never exceeded 55 degrees, making some of those steep hills a little easier to tackle.
Once on the Mt. Wilson Toll Road, Mr. Grace pointed out an unmarked trail leading to a water source and a series of tunnels and caverns. The Scouts found themselves scrambling up and around rocky footholds to discover the secrets that lay beyond the hidden holes in the rocks!
Back on the old fern-lined trail, the Troop headed to the road and crossed over the wooden bridge onto the Idlehour Trail. About two miles later, they arrived at Idlehour Camp for more camp ruins exploration, adventure and lunch.
The warm sun filtered through the giant, maple leaves as everyone devoured their trail meals along the stream’s edge. Caleb and Ben collected sugar berries for dessert while others like Sean and Isaac scooped up and treated valuable water for the hard-hitting, 3-1/2-mile hike ahead.
Earning the San Gabriel Trails Awards are not meant to be easy, especially the Mount Lowe segment with miles of rugged and sometimes burned out trails from recent fires.
The boys took turns leading, navigating and sweeping as they and the ASMs put one foot in front of the other, up and out of the canyon to the Mount Lowe junction.
Everyone was tired and ready for a rest by the time they arrived at their campsite at the historic ruins of “Ye Alpine Tavern.”
While some Scouts chose to set up under trees, two creative Scouts opted to pitch their shelter on a shelf where part of the old tavern once sat. It was pretty cool! (see the photo on the title banner)
With daylight quickly coming to an end, all the Troop 4 backpackers decided to rest rather than try to summit Mount Lowe. They eat dinner early and did a night-hike to the famous, Inspiration Point for a spectacular view of the Los Angeles and Orange County basins.
Upon their return, the local camp host, Christian, helped prepared a fire from the wood gathered by the Scouts earlier. All of the backpackers, including our new friend, Jeff, sat around the fire to keep warm as stories, riddles and jokes flew through the cold night air.
Sunday morning broke with bright sunshine, but the air was still very cold, as that night the temperature dipped to about 35 degrees. All Scouts, however, reported staying warm in their respective shelters.
Before leaving camp, one of the Scouts, Isaac, offered food and batteries to our host, Christian. The gesture was well received and appreciated. Definitely a good turn!
It didn’t take the Troop long to pack up, as they practiced “minimalist” backpacking, also known as “lightweight and ultralight.”
Back on the trail, the Scouts were anxious to eat breakfast and tackle a peak. The sun shined bright at Inspiration, so they chose to set up the morning kitchen there, overlooking the city.
After breakfast, the Troop headed down the road toward Panorama Point but discovered another spur trail along the way. Without hesitation, every Scout decided to take on the unknown path to Muir Peak. After climbing the steep and sandy trail, their efforts were rewarded by one of the best views the San Gabriel Mountains has to offer.
Some of the campers noticed a use trail heading down the ridge to Panorama Point so everyone negotiated their way through brush, crumbling rock and steep grades to Panorama Point for a quick rest and yet another incredible view.
Back on the road, the Scouts led the Troop another 1-1/2 miles to the junction of Sam Merrill Trail and then proceeded down the rocky trail, past “Sunset Point” and eventually to Echo Mountain. After a quick lunch on one of the walls of the old, 1890s hotel, they pressed on with vigor another 2.7 miles to the top of Lake Avenue where their parents were eagerly waiting.
Good job, Boys–you defiantly earned your patch. Congratulations for completing 19 miles (27 “backpacking” miles)!