Who holds the key to hiking Eaton Canyon?

33788-James at Gate 10-16-09.JPG

The city of Pasadena limits snake way up into Eaton Canyon for the water rights. Once you step off the Altadena curb from Pinecrest into the canyon to hike up to Mt. Wilson or just to Henninger or Idlehour on the old Toll Road, you’re in Pas for at least a little while … if you can get through, that is.

The key to the hiking highway has long been given to Pinecrest neighbors irate at the noise non-Sierra Club types — the kids who party and sometimes graffiti the rocks at the Eaton falls — can make down in the canyon.

The sometimes persnickety neighbors can close down that gate pretty early. I remember leaving my hiking party behind to run down the trail for half a mile to force them to keep it open well before sunset so we could get out of there without having to hike all the way down to the Nature Center.

Attorney and hiking activist Paul Ayers, whose son is pictured above at the gate in question, asks these questions:

On Friday, my fourth grader James had the day off so we decided to go hiking. After finding that Pasadena had closed the lower Arroyo Seco we wandered over to Eaton because James wanted a walk by “a stream”. Out of habit I swung by the Pinecrest gate and… found it opened; hikers were parking and walking down to the falls, up the Toll Road, etc. James and I went down the road and up to the falls and had a fine time; I have attached a photo of James at the gate. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that no one, including a county fire fighter I met at the gate, had any rational explanation as to when the gate openings began, what the open hours were, etc. Most troubling was the fire fighter’s statement that the gate was “unlocked by a neighbor who has a key”. And the signage on the gates still says the City of Pasadena has no responsibility for the gate and if it is locked when you’re inside, tough luck.

Pasadena Water & Power owns the land at the access point. That entity according to letters I have seen signed by Mayor Bogaard, was responsible for the closure. The closure was in many ways irrational. There was nothing particularly unsafe in Eaton after the rains stopped in 2005 and if safety was the issue [which Mayor Bogaard stated it was] why did access to the “unsafe area” from the Nature Center and other Eaton Canyon access points remain unfettered? Given the lack of logic of the City’s position it is no wonder that the trail community came to believe that safety was not the issue, but rather that the Pinecrest “neighbors” simply didn’t like the great unwashed in their neighborhood. This may not be the case but when a government spreads bullsh*t all kinds of plants grow.

Be that as it may, now that the repairs are completed and the Toll Road is passable and safe it seems reasonable that some kind of rational approach to access through the Pinecrest gate be established. In my opinion this would involve some accountable governmental entity controlling and scheduling gate openings, not the “neighbors”.

85 thoughts on “Who holds the key to hiking Eaton Canyon?

  1. I agree totally – the gate should be opened and shut at predictable and reasonable times, like the barrier on Chaney Trail road that’s controlled by the Altadena sheriff.

  2. How can anyone argue with Larry’s assertion to make the government the final arbiter in this situation ?

    After all, the government is so effective in everything else it does. From getting the H1N1 flu vaccinations to all of us in a timely manner, to facillitating those short lines at the DMV, to balancing the state budget, to…oh, wait.

    This is not a winning hand.

    Never mind.

    I nominate Larry Wilson to be the final arbiter in this situation. Let’s make him the gate keeper—literally.

    And as Larry wrote recently, he’s for good stuff, and he opposes bad stuff.

    That’s the kind of guy I want to be the gate keeper.

    Give. Larry. The. Keys.

    Besides, if there’s anyone who knows how to deal with “the great unwashed,” it’s Larry Wilson.
    After all, he wouldn’t even allow his child to attend any of the Pasadena public schools, and certainly not Muir High School.
    Instead, Larry sent his child to expensive private schools.

    You tell ’em, Larry !

  3. The Mt Wilson Toll Road is a public trail, and it seems out of place that a property owner at the trailhead should be acting as a gatekeeper. I’ve been trapped by that gate upon returning down the trail after work, and all I can say about that is that I wasn’t happy. Trails ought to be a right of way, and if you buy a house at a trailhead you should expect to have to put up with the inevitable rif-raf that goes with it. Otherwise, every trailhead would be closed… with razor wire and security cams. I’d like to see that gate stay open.

  4. I, my sister, and two other unrelated hikers got stranded there tonight just after it got dark. If the skinniest one of us hadn’t been able to squeeze under the gate and go to someones home to call the police to come open it, we would have had to hike in the DARK to the nature center to get out. Hike in the dark??? That’s the reason we there at the gate at dark. We didn’t want to hike in the dark. It’s dangerous. If it had been a moonless night it would have been pitch black. I don’t care what reasons somebody has for not wanting people entering after dark. Preventing people from exiting is just downright wrong. I can’t believe this is legal to do this. There is a huge potential liability issue here. Until a one-way gate that allows people to exit can be installed this gate needs to stay open. Does somebody need to get injured trying to hike to the Nature Center in the dark or get frost bite sleeping by the gate till morning before it’s understood why this is just so wrong. Who on earth signed off on this? And who is doing the actual locking and not even caring if they’re trapping people.

  5. I was there with my mom. And the gate closed many many hours before sunset. Closer to 4 hours before sunset. We were trapped. We had to walk to the Nature Center, at which point I ran back to the gate to get the car. What the hell?

  6. Me and my Father got stuck there one evening and it wasn’t even dark yet. Fortunately we knew that the old man who closes the gate is always hiding back down his driveway in his yard. If you bang on the gate really hard, he will eventually walk out from his yard (while taking his time) and then lecture you about coming out before sunset. When my Father asked the man his name, the old man was about to walk away because he felt threatened. Then my Father threatened to call the Sheriff and the old man decided to open the gate for us. There really needs something to be done about this because I often volunteer at the nature center and there have been several mountain lion sightings since the fires and packs of coyotes. I have an African American friend who came out well before sunset once, and the gate was locked and the man was sitting outside of it in a lawn chair and he refused to let him out and forced him to go all the way around through the rest of the park. Also, what are you going to do once you’re at the nature center? Walk back up Altadena drive with speeding cars grazing your side? I mean come on. The residents are racisist, snooty, and selfish. They don’t own the mountains and the gate should stay open. It’s the only gate in the whole forest with RAZOR WIRE and CAMERAS. We really need to do something about this because they’re our mountains too and we should have equal access to them.

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