Arroyo Seco to Eaton Canyon Nature Center
via Bear Canyon

May 22-25, 2000

On Monday, May 22, 2000 we left Pasadena from the west end of Altadena Drive, just above the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. We hiked up the Arroyo Seco to Gould Mesa where we stopped for lunch and a swim. We then continued on to Oakwilde, where we camped for the night. We were the only ones there that night, as was the case with all of our campsites. On Tuesday we followed the trail out of and above the Arroyo Seco to a trail junction. To the left one can hike to Switzer Campground and the Angeles Crest Highway: we went to the right to rejoin the Arroyo Seco in its upper reaches. Once inside the canyon we took a short and pleasant detour upstream to Switzer Falls where we enjoyed a well deserved swim. About two hours later we packed up and continued down the Arroyo Seco. We were tempted many times to stop and swim again, and finally did so at a pool with a natural water slide. But we had to pass up all the other pools in order to get to our campsite by nightfall. We left the Arroyo Seco at its junction with Bear Canyon, continuing up that canyon to Bear Canyon Campground. On Wednesday we continued up and out of Bear Canyon to Tom Sloane Saddle, then up to the Mt. Lowe road. We had planned to camp at Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, but there was no water, so we continued on to Idlehour. As we left the Mount Lowe Road, we descended into a dense fog, which became more dense and more wet as we approached Idlehour. It rained that evening, continuing to do so the next morning. Finally, on Thursday we climbed out of the canyon to the Mt. Wilson Toll Road, down to Henninger Flats and finally to Eaton Canyon Nature Center. Total distance - 25 miles. A very demanding but very rewarding trip.

Manuel Arias (age 8), Emma Qualls (age 10), and Bill Qualls (age 43)
Manuel, Bill, and Emma ready to go. In Pasadena at the west end of Altadena Drive.
I had just completed one of Christopher Nyerges' survival walks and was anxious to share some of the things I had learned with Emma and Manuel. Here Emma reluctantly tries lamb's quarter. Turns out she liked it.
This is a shelter left from one of Christopher's classes. He said this particular shelter was two years old.
We stopped for lunch and a swim at Gould Mesa. Gould Mesa can be crowded on weekends, but we had the place to ourselves.
This large stand of agaves was just past Gould Mesa.
As I said, the kids were reluctant to try lamb's quarter. They were even more reluctant to try prickly pear cactus. But try it they did, and they loved it. Emma said it tasted like candy, and she would later refer to large bunches of cactus as a candy store! They also ate wild mustard and miner's lettuce.
There are many beautiful views within the Arroyo Seco. Incidentally, the Arroyo Seco is part of the Gabrielino National Recreation Trail.
Here's a shot of Manuel and Emma at Oakwilde Campground. There are many ruins here (such as this retaining wall) from a resort that was here in the 1920's.
This is a view from our camp at Oakwilde. I took this picture Tuesday morning. The skies were clear when I woke up. I enjoyed watching the fog slowly fill the canyon.
As we left Oakwilde, the trail continued to follow the Arroyo Seco. We saw a skunk just off the trail, and lots of salamanders, including these two.

Emma is wearing her Hoods Woods t-shirt, which was autographed by Karen Hood.
The Arroyo Seco becomes too dangerous to hike through, so the trail leaves the Arroyo Seco at Long Canyon and begins a long, hot climb.
Finally you reach a saddle which looks down into the upper reaches of the Arroyo Seco and Bear Canyon. It is an extremely rugged, mostly vertical, terrain. Pictures cannot do it justice. This is one feeble attempt.
Another feeble attempt. I think this is Mt. Disappointment, though it may be Mt. San Gabriel.
We left the Gabrielino trail and followed another trail back into the Arroyo Seco. When the trail reached the stream, we detoured upstream for a quarter mile to Switzer Falls, where we took a much needed swimming break.
There are many pools within the Arroyo Seco. Manuel and Emma really enjoyed this one, which had two natural water slides.
Emma was the first to spot this rattlesnake within Bear Canyon. It didn't make a sound as its rattle was broken off.
Emma and Bill at Bear Canyon Campground. It is ironic that the sign should say "Please Use The Trail". While there are some portions of trail within Bear Canyon, with the rock slides, floods, and downfall, I would be tempted to call it a route rather than a trail!
One of the many stream crossings within Bear Canyon. I would guess we crossed the stream one hundred times that during the 24 hours we spent in Bear Canyon.

Many crossings were much worse than this. But I was too busy helping the kids across at those times to take any pictures.
Bear Canyon was somewhat foggy Wednesday morning. This was much appreciated as we continued up the canyon, then up and out of the canyon to Tom Sloane Saddle. We then took the trail to the Mt. Lowe Fire Road. I like this picture for the sharp contrast between the yucca, the fog, and the mountains.
This is another picture from the trail between Tom Sloane Saddle and the Mt. Lowe Fire Road. The clouds below us are covering the upper reaches of Bear Canyon.
Almost there kids! Yet another picture of the trail between Tom Sloane Saddle and the Mt. Lowe Fire Road.
Emma reaches the top. This is where the trail from Tom Sloane Saddle meets the Mt. Lowe Fire Road.
We continued down the Mt. Lowe Fire Road to the trail to Idlehour Trail Camp. Shortly after beginning the descent to Idlehour we came upon this rattlesnake. Look at the size of its head and tail and then look at its middle: it appears to have just eaten!
It was a long, steep descent to Idlehour. Emma and Manuel never complained, but Emma did finally tell me "Walking has become a reflex." The fog was very dense when we arrived at Idlehour on Wednesday night. It began to rain lightly after supper. It rained off and on all night.
The forecast had been for clear skies all week. But we were prepared with ponchos.
There are streams at all three campsites. The water is probably safe to drink. Nevertheless, we use Polar Pure (iodine) to treat the water just in case. Here Emma treats our water.
A large seam came apart on Manuel's pack. Seemed like a good opportunity to demonstrate yet another survival skill. I cut a yucca leaf and trimmed the leaf down to fashion a needle and thread. Here Emma repairs the pack with the yucca. It held up great for the remainder of our hike!
Copyright © 2000 by Bill Qualls. Last updated August 25, 2000.
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