Echo Mountain gives a troublesome Los Angeles hike with a wealthy historical past


This story is a part of our Final Information to Mountaineering Los Angeles, you should purchase a printed copy at LA Occasions Retailer.

Echo Mountain, amid the 700,000 acres of nationwide forest that’s Los Angeles’ yard, was as soon as a playground for the well-to-do.

Over a century in the past, the barren mountain peak above Altadena changed into a seaside resort the place the rich got here to get together in a civilized manner, breathe the contemporary air and immerse themselves in nature – all with out setting foot on a path. Some ruins stay, giving modern-day hikers a glimpse of what handed for luxurious on the time.

A tilted automotive approaches Echo Mountain Home.

(Los Angeles Public Library)

The expansive four-story Echo Mountain Home opened in 1894 on the daybreak of Los Angeles’ nice climbing period, when hundreds of Angelenos had been mesmerized by exploring their wild yard.

Hikers pass remnants of the old electric railroad tracks on the Sam Merrill Trail to the top of Echo Mountain.

Hikers cross the previous cogwheel that helped pull the tilted vehicles as much as the highest of Echo Mountain.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Occasions)

Many not-so-wealthy folks hiked a steep donkey path to the three,200ft peak. Those that had cash acquired into open vehicles referred to as tanks, a part of the electrical mountain. Lowe Railway which swept the guests 2,200 ft uphill and delivered them to the station’s entrance door.

A hiker walks past a large tree on the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain.

A hiker climbs the Sam Merrill Path to Echo Mountain.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Occasions)

The Inclined Railroad and Lodge had been constructed by Professor Thaddeus Lowe, who, amongst different accomplishments, led the Union Military Balloon Corps that spied on Accomplice troops for President Lincoln. Each had been initially worthwhile.

“The resort was an costly proposition,” mentioned Paul Ayers, a lawyer who has spent many years uncovering the historical past of Echo Mountain by researching and climbing its trails. “It was just like the Ritz-Carlton.”

The Victorian-style resort was marketed as a winter resort, though it’s open 12 months spherical. There was “a social room with a fire, Persian rugs and a grand piano; a big eating room with a balcony the place an orchestra performed; a small salon for ladies; a billiard room; Bowling alley; hair salon and shoe shine, all outfitted with electrical lights and fuel heaters pumped from Pasadena to the valley beneath, ”says a digital story from the Altadena Historic Society.

It prices $ 15 per week to remain in one of many 70 rooms. Prospects might select from 17 sorts of wine (Californian and imported) and 6 sorts of champagne, in accordance with a menu on February 22, 1895.

The resort was a part of a posh that included a 40-room cottage, a small zoo, an observatory, and the projector from the 1893 Chicago World’s Honest. It was painted shiny white and nicknamed “the white metropolis.” partly as a result of it was so seen from the plains beneath.

The great occasions didn’t final.

The resort burnt down utterly in 1900 and has by no means been rebuilt. Lowe ran out of cash whereas making extra elaborate resort plans, and the railroad grew to become owned by the Pacific Electrical Railway Co., operator of Los Angeles’ crimson electrical automotive community. The Incline Railway made its final journey up the mountain in 1938.

Hikers who climb the 2½ miles to the highest of Echo Mountain at present will discover nothing near luxurious. The must-see coaching path, shared with mountain bikers and path runners, winds relentlessly. The preferred route, the Sam Merrill Path, was inbuilt 1935 with switchbacks that clean out the incline. In windy climate, the ascent goes shortly; on a highly regarded day it may be depressing.

Hikers enjoy a picnic at the top of Echo Mountain.

Hikers Lori Kassabian, left, and Berj Parseghian, proper, get pleasure from a picnic atop Echo Mountain.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Occasions)

You perceive what attracted early hikers to this place if you rise up and begin to see wide-angle views of Los Angeles and, occasionally, the ocean. On the prime, a staircase and the foundations of the resort stay. Historic markers with pictures (Ayers attended) inform the story of the station and the railway line. On the fringe of the mountain are remnants of the station and a 9-foot-wide cogwheel gear and cable that pulled the slope vehicles up the mountain.

Flip round and discover among the many ruins the Echo Cellphone, a black metallic megaphone mounted on a pole that factors to Fort Canyon. Sure, earlier than cellphones and selfies, that is how folks had enjoyable. Be at liberty to step up and provides your greatest (no touching essential) – and hearken to the reverb. It’s a stunning place to cease and look into the center of the mountains.

The Echo Phone on the Sam Merrill Trail to Echo Mountain.

The Echo Cellphone on the Sam Merrill Path to Echo Mountain.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Occasions)

Though the resort has disappeared, the good period of backpacking continued, reaching its tempo between 1910 and 1920, as improvement from Los Angeles unfold east in the direction of Pasadena, the San Gabriel Valley and the San Bernardino space. Naturalist and activist John Muir helped popularize the world by writing concerning the hikes he took within the San Gabriel Mountains close to Pasadena within the late 1800s.

“The mountains had been all the time there in everybody’s yard,” mentioned Mark Landis, who writes about early Southern California historical past. “As issues acquired extra civilized within the cities on the foot of the mountains, many individuals started to yearn for a few of these harder pioneer occasions that their ancestors had instructed them about and so they started to enterprise into the mountains,” to ascertain climbing trails. . ”

With the backpacker crush, there have been extra companies. Though the Echo Mountain resort was misplaced, different smaller resorts flourished. “Enterprise house owners noticed an actual alternative,” mentioned Landis. “They began to construct … little stops alongside the best way the place [hikers] might cease, have refreshments, relaxation for some time and transfer on to the subsequent level. ”

Hikers watch the sunset from the steps of an old hotel atop Echo Mountain.

Hikers watch the sundown from the steps of the previous resort on the prime of Echo Mountain.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Occasions)

Folks would often spend the day climbing after which arrive at a resort to spend the evening in a hammock or tent. Not like Echo Mountain, Switzer’s Camp and Mt. Wilson Resort, each north of La Cañada Flintridge in the identical mountain vary, had been solely accessible by foot or by mule.

Ayers had a unique tackle the explanation for the climbing increase. He attributed this to stressed and irritated Angelenos, having nothing else to do. “There simply weren’t a whole lot of leisure alternatives to get out of the home,” he mentioned.

He and Landis agreed on what killed the heyday of climbing: the automotive. With the auto, improved roads, and a neater approach to get to the mountains of Los Angeles (building started in 1929 on the Angeles Crest Freeway). By the top of the Twenties, the climbing increase had began to blow up.

“After 1920 you may have a whole lot of different issues to do,” Ayers mentioned. “You could possibly go to the flicks, you possibly can go to skilled sports activities, you had the radio and greater than [anything else], you had the auto.

If you’ll
Park on the finish of Lake Avenue in Altadena. Enter by way of the open gate and stroll on an asphalt street till you see an indication for the Sam Merrill Path. The route is 2½ miles every manner with 1,500 ft of achieve / loss. As soon as on the prime, stroll east to see the resort ruins and the inclined railroad tracks, then flip in the direction of the mountains to seek out the Echo Cellphone.

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