Trail Marker: Paul Ayers Knows His Way Around Them Hills

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By EDDIE RIVERA, Community Editor | With great thanks to PAUL AYERS for the slideshow images

5:49 am | October 5, 2017


Think you know all the trails up and around Altadena, in the wilderness north of Pasadena, around and through to Echo Mountain? Well, you don’t, and attorney and local trail historian Paul Ayers would be the first to tell you so.

“I don’t know every trail,” he said at Wednesdays’ “Lost Trails of the Altadena Foothills” presentation at the Pasadena Group of the Sierra Club’s meeting, “but I know more than anyone else.”

There have been trails carved out of the local canyons and at least documented, since the late 1800s, explained Ayers. “Back then (in the 1800s), there really wasn’t much else to do.” So men, women, families and children hiked the length and breadth of the local trails, abandoning some and creating others.

From the mid-19th Century up until the ‘20s and ‘30s or so, many of the trails were built for horses, the primary means of transportation back then.

Then came internal combustion. Horses, like trails, were no longer the only way to get around, and many of the trails simply became grown over and forgotten.

With internal combustion came tractors and bulldozers, and with those, the first power lines began to dot the local mountaintops, courtesy of Southern California Edison. As power companies built the lines, residents found other things to do, other than hiking.

But in Ayers’ mind, trails are like pages in a book, as important as documents, so over the last twenty years or so, he has documented nearly all of them, and if he has not walked them himself, he has probably mapped them.

As Ayers described the history, those forgotten trails came alive again, as LA County began to build and rebuild hiking and riding trails in the mid-to-late 50s, and people rediscovered hiking in the early 1960s. President John Kennedy was pushing physical fitness and “50-mile hikes,” and the hill trails became populated once again.

But the forgotten trails—The CCC Trail, The two versions of the Camp Sierra Trail, the three byways of the The Old Echo Trail, the Gooseberry Motorway, and the long Lone Tree Trail, rising up from Altadena to Echo Mountain—were rediscovered, beginning in 2007, following the Kinaloa fire of 1993, which, by burning the shrubbery to the ground, revealed dozens of trails winding throughout Eaton Canyon and beyond. An exposed wall of Rubio Canyon in 2007, revealed “more and more trails,’ said Ayers.

Ayers and his interested hiking friends began mapping the newly-emerged trails, comparing them with early Forest Service and utility company maps. It was like discovering new highways.

They hiked, they mapped, they sought out old trail markers, and they hiked and mapped some more. By the time they were through, and they still might not be, Ayers had charted nine trails east to west through the mountains of Altadena, and another 18 Mount Lowe trails. Ayers noted Wednesday that since recording the 27 trails, he has since discovered ten more.

These days, says Ayers, he is concentrating on paths and trails in the north end of the Arroyo Seco, where the City has developed its “One Arroyo” plan to preserve the park.

If there are new old trails to be found there, Paul Ayers will walk them and map them.