Wet and Wild On Mt Lowe – Sean Talkington

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.


Follow Sean on Instagram and Hans on Instagram.

  • Kyle Deven

    Holy shit. Fantastic story. Glad ya’ll made it out safe.

  • Good one, Sean! #8, the fogged lens, resonates with me – real shit there. And don’t leave moms off that list!

    • Sean Talkington

      Thanks you Morgan (and everyone else…except Ryan). I thought it was from flash fill & fog but the lens/camera was pretty soaked too.

      • I wouldn’t rule out that your lens wasn’t fogged… looked like fogged lens territory. But they don’t usually magically come unfogged in those situations so, you’re probably right!

  • Johnny

    Yeah, you SoCalers are soft but I can still identify with this story. I visited LA from PDX in January a couple years ago. We rode up Mt.Wilson; it was sunny and clear and in the 60s when we set out but as we got higher the road went to the dark side of the ridge and we came across ice and the temps were probably in the 20s. We made it to the top but the ride down was definitely the coldest i’ve been on a bike because I was so under dressed and without gloves. #LASUCKSFORCYCLING

    • hans

      i’m from Iowa! definitely soft though..

  • Justin Scoltock

    That photo of Hans in the tunnel is too good! And nice job with the words Sean, as usual!

  • So stoked for the Team Dream x Juicy x Ugg spring 2015 collection

    • hans

      excited for the product (puke) testing

  • nachoparty

    A good rule of thumb for altitude activities: Temperature usually drops 5 degrees for every 1,000 feet of elevation. Closer to 3 degrees with clouds or precipatation. obviously things can be much worse with wind, shade, precipatation etc. Always enjoy a good puke story.

  • Jonathan McCurdy

    I was hiking Mt Lowe the same day before it rained, but the fog was dense. My clothes were soaked, and it was rad.

  • I want to ride MT Lowe so bad… someday

    • Sean Talkington

      I want you to too

  • multisportscott

    Does anyone else think that, at a quick glance, in shot #1 it looks like he has his shorts pulled down or is just me being childish??

    • hans

      ha! i see that now too! probably because i too am childish!

      • Karl Groszkruger

        High cheek bones! Hah!

  • If Hans would have ridden his Rock N Roads he would have gotten out of there in an instant without even getting his tires wet. Great story, love it.

    • hans

      you might be right!

  • kasual

    haha for real big shout outs to the ppl who come thru when we’ve bitten off more than we can chew and it’s lookin’ grim!

  • Fritz Groszkruger

    We really regret not having Bud-Rud help ring sows in the mud during the blizzard of ’02. If we had not coddled him so, he woulda flown right by that 7-11 and gone home to a scotch and cigar. Oh well. Iowans can be soft. I’m so jealous.

  • Karl Groszkruger

    This was a great read! Glad you made it home safely. It sounds like those landslides should be avoided dude!

  • tony365

    yeah those f-ing mountains are for real

  • larman

    Great article. Glad you enjoyed your trip (I think) but, I will stick with my level Iowa! Larman

  • KT

    Sounds like a fun adventure. I’m itching for something like this. It’s things like this that make you stronger and smarter.

  • I think you should probably have not have risked further exposure by taking photos, but thank you, the tunnel shots are classic.

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