I decided to the hinder the decline of my alpine conditioning by embarking on an 18+ mile run/hike in the San Gabriels. I found a loop on my Mt Wilson topo leaving from Switzers trailhead with minimal pavement and dirt road. I hadn't been on those trails before, but I could see it had a satisfying amount of elevation gain. After some deliberation Jascha decided to join me.
Sunday rolled around and we detoured to Saigon's Sandwiches and Bakery first for bahn mi and to for the San Gabriel Superstore for mochi, then headed back up north to the trailhead. We parked on the road to avoid getting locked in the gate, which supposedly closed daily at 4:30p. The trailhead was packed with picnickers and day hikers. I would soon regret leaving my camera at home. We headed in a counterclockwise direction, heading SW down the Bear Canyon trail. The canyon was lovely, shady with water-worn rock walls, and the trail zigzagged through the river bed.
At the Tom Sloane Saddle we encountered a four-way intersection. Only three of these trails were depicted on our topo and we weren't sure which of the two trails leading to the Mt Lowe road was the one shown on the map. We chose the right-most trail, which we later learned added 1.5-2 miles. The trail was precipitous with bushwhacky sections and washouts, but also with extensive views all the way to the ocean. When we finally reached the road we realized that we were quite a ways in the wrong direction from where we wanted to go. As we looked over the edge of the road down the canyon we could see the more direct trail we chose not to take. We stopped for a mochi break and map consultation. We had several options for getting back, one requiring ~3 miles of pavement and one which was longer, but trail. The later sounded more appealing.
As we approaced Markham Saddle we started seeing hikers again. After passing through the tunnel we were surprised to see signs for the now defunct Mt Lowe railway. I remembered seeing the old trestles around Echo Mountain, but I didn't realize it once extended up to a huge tavern on Mt Lowe. We left Mt Lowe for our next trip and ran down the twisty Valley Forge trail. Before long we were back down in the Arroyo Seco River Canyon at the Red Box trail junction. The trail was fairly flat until we reached Camp Hi-Hill Outdoor Education Center, which I initially thought was Red Box. The 0.7 (or 0.9 depending who you believe) miles from Hi-Hill climbed about 600 ft and seemed to take much longer than it should have. The temperatures were also starting to drop and the winds were picking up. We took our minds off of our suffering by discussing our dinner plans.
We took our last mochi break and after a bit of searching found the Switzers trailhead. The long switchbacks were frustrating, but at least it was mostly downhill. We initially planned to cut up to Angeles Crest Highway to avoid having to walk up the paved road from the picnic area to my car, but we never found the trail junction that we were using as a landmark. The Switzers picnic area came into view and we trudged up the paved road to find the gate wide open. Oh well. In total we had gone ~20 miles. On the way home we stopped at El Hurache Azteca for their tasty asada huaraches and melon aquas.