Castle Canyon Mines

An unnamed mine, dubbed the Inspiration Mine is located high on a hillside on the way to Inspiration Point.

Castle Canyon Mines

Newspaper articles from the late 1800’s mention gold mines above Rubio Canyon, but not specifically in Castle Canyon. There are only two canyons that I’m aware of above Rubio. The main one would be Castle Canyon, which is about two miles long and stretches between Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point. The other is a small one called Lost Canyon, which I have yet to explore. Castle Canyon is forked with two branches. Some of it is difficult terrain, and as of yet I have only explored about 40% of the area. None of the mines found to date have any recorded names or claims, nor are they significantly deep. I have heard there are other shallow ones high up in the crags of the Castle Rocks. As of yet I haven't found them.

Because of its high location on a slope and shallow depth, this was most likely an exploratory gold mine.

Unnamed Mine #1 - Dubbed the "Inspiration Mine"

The mine you see above and below is only about eight feet deep, located high on the mountainside next the the Castle Canyon Trail. This one was almost certainly an exploratory gold mine. Hard rock mining was an expensive endeavor, and miners were quick to move on to other locations if no significant quartz vein was discovered. This mine does not have a name, but I dubbed it the Inspiration Mine for identification purposes.

The "Inspiration Mine" is only about eight feet deep, but was almost certainly a gold mine in the late 1800's.

Unnamed Mines #2 & #3 - Dubbed the "Twin Castle Mines" 

The mines below were discovered by a friend of Bryant Bohorquez of Brother B Videos. He dubbed them the “Twin Castle Mines”. They are located at the bottom of a dry waterfall, and may or may not have been water tunnels. These appear to be more recent mines than the Inspiration Mine. An inscription in the cement above the left twin reads 11-22-34, with the initials H.P. Neither are deep mines, but deeper than the others I have found. The right mine is about 25 feet deep, the left one is slightly shorter, but probably went much deeper at one time.

These two unnamed mines have been dubbed the Twin Castle Mines. They lie beneath a dry waterfall.

The Right Twin 

Of the two mines, the one on the right has fared better than the left one. There are no cave-ins on the inside, although the mine has filled with dirt over the decades. The portal is filled with leaves, and the mine has narrowed to a knee crawl, but I found this one to be quite comfortable inside. In fact, were it not for a bear that was running around in the canyon on the day I located these mines, I might have spent the night inside. If this was indeed a water tunnel it appears to have been an unsuccessful one. Neither of these mines has water pipes protruding from them, but I have a feeling that that’s what they both were.

The right twin has a leaf filled entry, but is quite comfortable and flat on the inside This mine has no cave-ins.

The photo below is an interior shot of the right twin mine. I didn't measure it, but I would estimate it’s about 25 feet deep. Because of the leaf insulation on the outside, it was actually warm and comfortable within. I make it a point to approach these mines with caution, making a lot of noise, because this would make an excellent den for a bear. There are no cave-ins or spiders in the right twin, just soft dirt and good ventilation. The metal door that once covered the portal is long gone.

The right twin mine is about 25 feet deep. Sediment has narrowed it to about three feet in height.

The Left Twin 

The left twin, pictured below is a bit of a mystery. It appears to have been much deeper at one time, but has filled in with rocks and soil from the inside, probably by an underground water source. There is a mountain of debris inside, but the ceiling looks intact, with no cave-ins. Whatever forced this rock pile into the mine came from the inside, with enough power to tear the locked heavy metal door open.

It appears that the left twin was filled sediment and rocks from within, crushing the door from the inside out.

I climbed up to the top of the rock pile on the inside (seen below) to see if the mine kept going. It did not, but I could clearly see that it had once been much deeper at one time. What happened here is unclear, but unlike most mines I’ve entered this dirt and rock came from inside and was pushed out. The only similar mine I’ve come across to date was the lower level of the Kelsey Mine, near Morris Dam.

The left twin is about 20 feet deep, filled with rocks, but almost certainly went in deeper at one time.

Pictured below is an old, peg style lock that once held the door in place. The peg was dangling when I found it. Apparently if was not strong enough to keep the door from being bent and ripped open from the inside. The power and force of water can be absolutely amazing. At the top of the rock pile I crawled back a few more feet and took a photo of the squared off ceiling, where the mine had continued at one time. You can see this photo at the bottom of this page, under additional photos.

Even this ancient peg lock was not enough to hold back he force of water and rocks within the mine.

Unnamed Mine #4 - Dubbed the "Junction Mine"

I spotted the mine below from the Castle Canyon Trail, just east of Echo Mountain. I dubbed it the Junction Mine, because of its location near the junction of the two branches of Castle Canyon. Castle Canyon is named for its impressive rock formations, reminiscent of old stone castles in Ireland. It took quite a while to get down to this one, and I was a little disappointed when I finally got there. From a distance it looked deep, but it was actually just a shallow indent. There are other mines in this canyon I have yet to find, so you may be seeing some new ones in the future.

I dubbed this the Junction Mine, for its location near the merge of the two branches of Castle Canyon.

Echo Mountain - Ruins of the White City

Echo Mountain is located between Rubio and Las Flores Canyons, above Altadena. It was once the home of the legendary White City in the Sky, and the beginning of a three mile Alpine Line of the Mt. Lowe Railway. Conceived by Professor Thaddeus Lowe and his partner, David J. Macpheron, a civil engineer, the railway was built in the 19th century as an elaborate tourist attraction in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains. Originally incorporated as the Pasadena & Mt. Wilson Railroad Company, it existed from 1893 until its abandonment in 1938. In total there were nearly seven miles of tracks, which started in Altadena at a station called Mountain Junction.

The White City in the 1890's. The Chalet on the left, Echo Mountain House is center, power plant on the right.

The railway ran through Rubio Canyon, where passengers would disembark at the Rubio Pavilion, where a 12 room hotel was located. Staircases allowed tourists to walk up to 11 waterfalls.  From the Pavilion, White Chariots of the Great Incline, designed by inventor Andrew Smith Hallidie would take passengers up the east side of Echo Mountain. Atop the mountain stood a magnificent 70 room Victorian hotel, called the Echo Mountain House. A few hundred feet away was the 40 room Echo Chalet. There was also an astronomical observatory, car barns, dormitories, stables, a repair building, observation decks, a casino and dance hall as well as tennis courts, a zoo and the beginning of a three mile railway wound through the San Gabriel foothills, ending at the Alpine Tavern, near Mt. Lowe, originally called Oak Mountain. This railway was so popular it became the top honeymoon destination in America for its day.

Grip wheel, 9 feet in diameter, once used to pull cable cars up the incline portion of the Mt. Lowe Railway.

The Alpine Division consisted of 3.5 miles of narrow gauge track with 127 curves and 18 bridges and trestles. There were three cars available, but only one ever operated at a time. This train spanned the face of Las Flores Canyon, rounded a promontory called the Cape of Good Hope, traveled deep into Millard Canyon above Dawn Mine, and eventually disappeared into Grand Canyon where it terminated at the foot of Mt. Lowe. This location was called Crystal Springs, for a stream of water that poured down from the hillside. At that point was the last of the hotels, a 12 room Swiss-style chalet called “Ye Alpine Tavern” Professor Lowe’s original dream was to build the rail system all the way to the top of Mt. Wilson, along with additional hotels and facilities at the top.

Cable remnants in the ruins of the power plant. This was a part of the pulley system for the Incline.

Originally hydrogen gas was pumped from Pasadena eight miles to the top of Echo Mountain, to light and heat the Echo Mountain House. This was soon replaced by electricity. Next to the hotel was a menagerie (zoo), which housed lynxes, raccoons, snakes, squirrel and even a black bear. Alongside the zoo was a dormitory and a shop for train maintenance. Professor Lowe purchased a three million candlepower searchlight from the Colombian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. This light was so bright that a man named George Wharton James stated he could read a newspaper by the light of the beam coming through his hotel window on Catalina Island. Residents in the valley below could have the light shone on their homes in the evening to announce birthdays. Not everyone was happy about the light, and by the 1930’s it was considered a public nuisance and shut off permanently.

The Echo Phone was used to project voices into Castle Canyon from behind the Echo Mountain House.

At the ridge that separates Las Flores Canyon from Millard Canyon, a right of way was cut around a bluff named the Cape of Good Hope for the Alpine Line. It was near this point that the longest straight track (225 feet) was located. Alongside the track was a small kiosk called the Dawn Mine Station, where passengers could disembark. They were told about the gold mine n Millard Canyon and were allowed to walk down a trail to a false mine adit just 100 feet below the track, built to make them believe they had visited the real one. To walk down into the canyon where the real mine was located would have taken an exorbitant amount of time. Dawn Mine used this same trail to haul ore up by burro, which was transported down to Los Angeles for processing.

The powerhouse that once stood next to the hikers on the wall housed the 1893 World's Fair Searchlight.

One of the most amazing features of the rail was an area called the Circular Bridge. This trestle was 500 feet long, at a 4% grade with a 340 degree turn. It resembled a roller coaster, offering a spectacular view above a 100 foot drop. At the transition point between Millard and Grand Canyons there was a large granite crag, which required eight months of dynamiting to allow just enough passage for the train to get through. This famous site became known as Granite Gate. The final length of the journey reached deep into Grand Canyon on a gentle grade which ended at the foot of Mt. Lowe. Professor Lowe built a 12 room, Swiss chalet style hotel there, named “Ye Alpine Tavern”. The hotel was flanked by cottages and tent cabins to augment its occupancy. The Tavern boasted several amenities, including a wading pool, tennis courts, mule rides, ad gift shop, a restaurant and a silver fox farm.

In 1928 a windstorm tore the roof off the observatory. Fortunately the Swift telescope inside was rescued.

Echo Mountain - What Used To Be Here

The video below will give you some idea of what once existed on Echo Mountain and in the surrounding foothills. Although the Mt. Lowe Railway mainly catered to wealthy tourists, it also hauled ore from the Dawn Mine in Millard Canyon and possible others. Virtually every building on the Echo Mountain and in Rubio Canyon were wiped out by natural disasters, wind, fire and floods and landslides. Today only fragments of the original foundations remain. The video below includes great photos and narrative of what once was.

Inspiration Point

In 1924-1925 the Pacific Electric railway built an open-air shelter with locating tubes scanning points of interest from nearby locations to as far off as Catalina Island. The locating tubes were not telescopes, but pieces of pipe oriented to view the different locations. There are five officially named Inspiration Points in Los Angeles County alone. The Pacific Electric Railway was also the owner of the Mt. Lowe Railway. That railway ended at the Alpine Tavern aka the Mt. Lowe Tavern, just 0.5 miles from Inspiration Point. Sadly, the tavern burned to the ground in 1936. The site is now known as the Mt. Lowe Trail Camp. Over the years the original shelters disappeared, but volunteers from the Scenic Mt. Lowe Historical Committee rebuilt them. The official dedication was on 11/16/1996.

Originally there were only sighting tubes and benches here. In 1925, two shelters were built.

Some locating tubes seen in the photo below are original. The rest were replaced when the shelters were rebuilt. Picnic tables and an original section of the OM & M Railway were added beneath the shelters. Just a short distance from Inspiration Point is Muir Peak aka John Muir’s Peak, the highest point on Inspiration Point Ridge. This peak was named after the famous conservationist John Muir, who first climbed it in 1877.

These sighting tubes point at various landmarks in the Los Angeles Basin, including the old Ostrich Farm.

The OM & M Railway 
The road connecting Muir Peak to Inspiration Point was built for the OM & M Railway (One Man & Mule). Somewhere along that road was Panorama Point, but its exact location is still unknown. Most sources will tell you that the OM & M Railway was built and owned by Ed Zetterwall, but actually a man named Ed Tobin was the owner, at least initially. A small open-bench car was pushed (not pulled) by a cantankerous mule named Herbert. This was thought to have kept dust off the passengers, however some reports say that Herbert ate leftover garbage from the Alpine Tavern and had a horrific flatulence problem. Herbert ran away several times, and in his place a cut down Model T Ford was sometimes used to power the train. This railway operated until 1935. Half of the wheels and a small section of track can still be found beneath the Inspiration Point shelter. The other half can be found at the Henninger Flats campground, above Eaton Canyon.

The One Man & Mule Railway was built in 1914 and operated until 1935. Herbert the mule pushed the rail.

There’s more to the story of the OM & M railway. Although Ed Zetterwall took most of the credit for the idea, the rail was actually built by Ed Tobin. Tobin was the son of an inventor and Irish immigrant, who came up with a vulcanized rubber horseshoe that kept the clatter down in the days of milk trucks that delivered goods on the cobblestone streets of Ireland. In 1917 Tobin left his father’s horseshoe business and enlisted in the Army, where he served for two years. Unfortunately he contracted tuberculosis, which led to an honorable discharge. Upon his return, Tobin made his way west, searching for better climates and opportunities. Tobin visited the Alpine Tavern for his health, where he became friends with Wallace Meador, editor of the Mount Lowe Daily News, who was suffering from the same ailment. Through Meador, Tobin met Ed Zetterwall, believed to be the man who came up with the idea for the OM & M Railway.

This is one set of wheels from the original OM & M Railway. The other set is located at Henninger Flats.

Ed Tobin soon found that his government pension would not pay the cost of the Alpine Tavern’s luxury, By this time he was in such poor health he could barely walk 150 feet without having to stop to catch his breath. With his remaining savings he built a cabin on the outskirts of the Tavern, just past Inspiration Point. But in his weak state of health he could not haul the materials to that location. So he had a light rail line built, that reached as far as Morning Glory Point, overlooking Eaton Canyon. When the cabin was finished, the thought of converting the transport car to a scenic railway came to mind. Tobin applied for and was granted a franchise from the Federal Government to build his horse car line, then called Tobin’s One Man & Mule Railway. But when the Pacific Electric Railway (who owned the Mt. Lowe Railway) found out what Tobin was doing they refused to deliver materials for his train to the Tavern. 

 This 1927 ticket recently sold at auction for $250. Notice the Vice President listed was Herbert the mule.

Tobin’s friend Ed Zetterwall was put in charge of getting the project completed. Tobin soon ran out of money, but his father supplied enough funds to finish the project. When Tobin’s father died one year later, he inherited a large sum of money, and decided to sell the railway to F.A. Clegg, who continued to operate it until 1935. Tobin went on to build one more railway, the Ocean Park Scenic Railroad in Long Beach, which was a financial disaster. However, before he died at the age of 37 he was able to successfully complete one final invention, a water filter, appropriately called the Tobin Filter to cleanse city water of impurities. This invention undoubtedly saved many lives.

 Interior shot of the Alpine Tavern. The quote above the fireplace was borrowed from Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Mueller Tunnel 

There is a back way to reach Inspiration Point that I sometimes use as an alternative to walking up from Cobb Estate in Altadena. Near Mt. Wilson there is a dirt road called the Mount Lowe Fire Road, which begins near Eaton Saddle, allowing access to several mountain peaks along the way, including San Gabriel Peak (6,161 ft), Mt. Disappointment (5,963 ft), Mt. Deception (5,796 ft), Mt. Markham (5,728 ft) and Mt. Lowe (5,574 ft). Near the Angeles Crest Highway, where the road begins, you will find the old Mueller Tunnel, seen below. Built in 1942 by the U.S. Forest Service, it is still used as a fire road today.

The west side of Mueller Tunnel was nearly sealed by a rock slide in 2009. Damage to the arch is still visible.

The cliffs around the tunnel are treacherous, and have seen many landslides. In 2009 a major slide nearly sealed the western side of the tunnel, blocking access for some time to bikers and hikers. To this day, the area remains unstable and unsafe, but I still use it now and then. This road also gives access to a mine I have yet to visit, in upper Saucer Branch Canyon. This virtually unknown mine has no name, and requires some steep off trail hiking, but has in interesting history that I’ll discuss if I ever reach it.

I often take long side hikes when visiting Inspiration Point. This day had a particularly beautiful sunset.

Additional Photos - Castle Canyon, Inspiration Point & Echo Mountain

All watermarked photos are copyrighted and cannot be used without my consent.