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Arroyo Seco Foundation

News of the Arroyo


Opening up the gate to the Mount Wilson Toll Road: Larry Wilson





<b>September 12, 2017</b> - Larry Wilson reports good news from Paul Ayers about that pesky locked gate that frequently blocks access for hikers up the Mount Wilson Trail in Eaton Canyon.<b></b> -


Larry Wilson


Pasadena Star-News


Early well-dressed Pasadenans are shown enjoying Eaton Canyon. John Muir called Eaton Canyon, named for pioneer settler Benjamin S. Eaton, “the Yosemite of the San Gabriels.” (Photo from Pasadena Museum of History collection)

For years — for decades — access to one of the great hikes in the San Gabriels, the Mount Wilson Toll Road to Henninger Flats and beyond to the peak of Wilson itself, has been complicated by a frequently locked gate in the fence at the principal trailhead.

The bureaucratic elements at play here are myriad. The start of the Toll Road — mostly unpaved but wide enough for cars, and for the huge mirrors for Wilson’s telescopes to be trucked up a century ago — is on Pinecrest Drive in unincorporated Altadena. But as soon as she sets foot into Eaton Canyon itself, where the Toll Road dips before rising into the mountains, the walker or cyclist (civilian cars have been forbidden in the contemporary era) is in the city limits of Pasadena, which long ago snagged the water rights for the stream that flows through the canyon.

Yes, you might imagine you are in Angeles National Forest territory, and thus under the supervision of rangers, but you are not. Look on a map — just as in the Arroyo Seco, and for the same reason, the Pasadena city limits go way up into the mountains.

While it’s a hiker’s paradise, Pinecrest neighbors since at least when I was a boy at neighboring Noyes Elementary have hated how many cars are consequently parked on their street. That’s what comes with the territory of living next to an attractive recreational resource, you might say. But neighbors have long succeeded in having a pedestrian gate allowing access to the canyon and the Toll Road locked up — a gate to which they were given a key, by the way. Mostly the gate remained open from dawn to dusk, but woe to the hiking party that was a few minutes late coming back up the trail. You’d be able to see your car, but barbed wire kept you locked in, and you’d have to stumble a mile down canyon in the dark to the Nature Center to escape, and then walk back up busy Altadena Drive.

But trails activist — nice that he’s a lawyer, too — Paul Ayers reports that a formal July 13 letter from the Los Angeles County Department of Parks and Recreation to Pasadena’s Water Services Division asking that the pedestrian gate be permanently removed has been answered in the affirmative. The gate has been removed. Congratulations to Ayers and the Altadena Crest Trail Working Group for this breakthrough.

But as ace canyoneer and Caltech prof Chris Brennen says, “There are still a number of locked gates on roads into the Angeles that pose similar risks for hiker entrapment.” When he was “trapped behind a locked gate for several hours in Monrovia Canyon” several years ago he “had to suffer the abuse of the so-called official who heard my screams and came to let me out.” Free the mountains from their gates!

Wednesday at random:

Talking of the great outdoors, when I wrote about the 70th anniversary of the Pasadena Casting Club recently, it had been nominated for this year’s McKenzie Cup, awarded annually by Fly Fishers International to an outstanding fly fishing club. Now the news from the casting pond in the Lower Arroyo Seco is that the group took the cup. Tight lines to all of its fishers! ... Is there a red wine drinker in the family? Then join in the celebration of the queen of the grapes on Sunday, Sept. at PinotFaire, the ninth annual tasting of pinot noir wines at the Altadena Town & Country Club. The charity event includes selections from more than 100 wineries, and there’s always good eats as well. It’s a benefit for AbilityFirst, with more than 90 years of helping children and adults with disabilities, “focusing on capabilities, while expanding possibilities.” AbilityFirst helps people find jobs, offers recreational and socialization programs and operates 12 accessible residential housing complexes. Go to to get tickets. ... Lincoln Avenue is now home to the two hottest, genuinely literary book publishers in the area. Prospect Park Books moved a couple of years ago to its Altadena Lincoln location just above Woodbury Road. And on Sunday, Red Hen Press, publisher of literary fiction and poetry, currently at Lake and Washington, celebrated breaking ground on its renovation of new offices and a literary center for readings and events at the big former Family Church International at 1540 Lincoln in Pasadena, hard by the 210 Freeway. Red Hen authors include local legend Ron Koertge, who you ought to read.

Larry Wilson is a member of the Southern California News Group editorial board.




Arroyo Seco Foundation, PO Box 91622, Pasadena, CA 91109-1622 (323) 405-7326