Distance: 6.5 miles round trip on trail
Summit Elevation: 4688'
Elevation Gain: 1750'
Elevation Gain (in Empire State Buildings): 1.4
Round trip time: 2 hours 10 minutes
Recommended water: 48 oz.
Parking/Fees: Adventure Pass
Note: distance and elevation gain estimated
Not to be confused with the 14000'+ Mount Muir near Trail Crest in the High Sierras, the San Gabriel Mount Muir is #8 on the Sierra Club Great Lower Peaks list. It sits between Echo Mountain and Mt. Lowe overlooking Castle Canyon. I chose to approach it from the north at Eaton Saddle so I could do a canyon style hike with the gain on return.
While driving the 90+ minutes through LA traffic, I wondered if this hike would be worth it. I just wasn't feeling it. The low hanging peaks were long gone, so bagging every new listed peak required a substantial drive. When I got to Eaton Saddle, I got out of the car, opened my back door and realized I had left my pack at home. It was Friday the 13th and this hike just got interesting. I pride myself on preparation and sometimes overpack. Now, I had none of the water I packed, no food, no GPS, no map, no first aid kit, no lighting, no sunscreen, no extra clothing, no compass, no knife, and no way to make fire. I also didn't have my driver's license, credit cards, or money. I did have my trekking pole and my phone so I could document whatever disaster might unfold. I usually have spare water in my trunk, so I opened the trunk and guzzled 16oz of water, then took two more 16oz water bottles to carry with me. The hike was less than 7 miles and now it was more of a challenge. I was energized.
I jogged up the road and passed through the Mueller Tunnel. My mind immediately started messing with me. My mouth was dry and I was thirsty already. I denied myself any water until I was past Mt. Markham, and then only sips. I felt light without the missing pack and moved quickly. I cruised past the junction to the Mt. Lowe summit and was on new trail for me. As I rounded Mt. Lowe, I could see Inspiration Point across the canyon. The final descent was somewhat steep and I knew it would be harder coming back. I paused a minute at the 4-way intersection of trails to check the signs, then made it to Inspiration Point in minutes. Four people were lounging there enjoying the views. I took a quick photo of the old time sighting tubes, then trotted down the road toward Mount Muir. Before long, I found the summit trail and was on top of Muir in one hour flat.
I found no benchmark or register, just a wooden stake at the summit and a round candle holder. There were great views of the urban sprawl, Verdugo Mountains, and the multi-peak Wilson area. With no food and no reason to linger, I turned back. I was still nursing my first bottle and only finished it when I started up the steep section of Mt. Lowe East trail. On the way up Mt. Lowe, I cracked open my second bottle of water and knew I would make it without any trouble. Why do I bother carrying a backpack again? I slowed my pace around Mt. Markham and noticed all the poodle dog bush I had rushed past before. Pretty and dangerous. I extended the last bottle of water to the car and wondered if I would have had as much fun if I hadn't forgotten my pack.