Wet and Wild On Mt Lowe
Photos and words by Sean Talkington
There is indeed a stigma attached to Southern California’s weather. Outsiders envision year round palm trees, 80’s style picturesque sunsets, flip-flop sandles, tank tops and oceans of suntan oil being slathered on daily. For the most part that assumption is absolutely true. We have it pretty good! So good in fact that this place will make you soft. Send me your toughest east coast transplant wearing his/her shorts in negative degree weather and put them in a LA’s treacherous “low 50’s” for a few years and I’ll send that person back to you in some Ugg Boots, “Juicy” sweatpants, Dior sunglasses, a fashionable parka and a tiny chihuahua that fits in a purse…because that’s how we do in this city!
Just North of Los Angeles sits the Angeles National Forest. Anyone that reads this site is most likely familiar with it in some way. (If not, check a few of my favorite Radavist Posts HERE HERE HERE & HERE).
These are “real deal” mountains in the sense that they offer riding up to 8,000ft (and beyond) in parts. You can leave LA’s sweet and sensual 70º embrace on any given morning, and a few hours later find yourself buried in these mountains in temps ranging from 35-90F. The huge jump from sea level to high elevation in such a short distance is pretty wild. I guess what I’m trying to say is, if you go into these mountains late day in mid-winter with nothing but arm warmers and a wind jacket and it starts raining, you will get bit! The mountains do not care if it was 68 degrees when you left your house. It is also true that if you were to head up into these same mountains in September without enough water and no food you can easily find yourself fucked. These mountains (unlike the noses, boobies and hairlines of Los Angeles) are real!
A few weeks ago my buddy Hans and I went out for a ride up Mt Lowe, a dirt road that lets up a few miles south of Mt Wilson in the Angeles National Forest. The ride started out sunny and awesome (like most rides do here in LA). A few small clouds turned into a lot of big clouds. Those big clouds turned to fog. Fog turned to mist. Mist turned to rain. Then, that rain turned to serious fucking rain! The “2 inches of water on the ground no matter where you look” kind of rain. The kind of rain that kills our lights and my camera…and Hans’ phone.
When we got to the tunnel at the top of Lowe we heard giant landslides (one of which was on top of the very tunnel we were hiding in!). We were ill prepared, it was pitch black and it was now really cold. Neither of us a had a single piece of water resistant..anything. We rung out our wet clothes and started descending down the wet n wild, wild water slide also known as Highway 2. The amount of water on the road was insane. I would love to show you a photo but the water had already hindered both of my cameras useless and with Hans’ phone broken I wasn’t about to risk our only remaining electronic device!
The amount of water on the road made descending much slower and because I run my canti brakes loose, I literally couldn’t stop. It felt like forever. We were both shivering (and laughing). Hans pulled off the road about halfway down the descent and started puking. He looked horrible… he was suffering but not the cool kind of suffering! When I looked at his lips they were bright purple. We eventually got to a 7-11 at the bottom of Highway 2 and cowered inside. We were both cold, soaked and happy to have made it down but baffled at the same time. Neither of us had working rear lights (luckily Hans still had a working front light) and Hans’ phone was now officially toast.
Giant puddles had formed under our feet and within a few minutes, we had flooded the coffee aisle. People shopping in the 7-11 were pretty weirded out by the two guys hiding/shivering in the corner who looked like scuba diving cyclist hybrids and the clerk was super bummed on the huge mess we were making on his floor, then Hans puked again. Once we had some hot chocolate and our brains started working again we talked it over for a minute and did what most guys do in these situations…we called our ladies and begged for a ride (shout out to all you girlfriends, wives, sisters, single ladies/booty calls and even the dudes that get these calls too)!
My girlfriend arrived 10 minutes later (I only live a few miles from this point but thought it dumb to ride in the rain with no lights). I threw my bike in the back of her car and she jumped out to help. Her first words were “your lips are bright purple”….I went home and took the best bubble bath ever.