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The urban buzz, unplugged

Outdoors rudely invites itself along on a reader's favorite hike. Times photographer Anne Cusack walks to Millard Falls with Paul Vandeventer, 51, of Eagle Rock.

September 16, 2003|Paul Vandeventer

My office is downtown, so I'm around 300-foot-tall things all the time. But to come to the canyon and have this be unbuilt, not hewn by hand but by force of water and quake and weather and root -- it's an "aha" moment. And every time I go in, I think of my kids. This is the first canyon I hiked in with them when they were little. I also see -- and feel -- the solitude and how the canyon is filled by light. It provides a kind of relief. At the falls, there's also the question: What makes that noise? It brings out the investigator in all of us. The sound really does ricochet. Just a normal voice bounces around like it's in a Gothic cathedral.

The particulars

Where: Millard Canyon Trail in the San Gabriel Mountains, above Altadena

What: Historic trail featuring 50-foot Millard Falls, a waterfall that's more of a respectable trickle this time of year. Hike is 1.5 miles round-trip.

How: From the Foothill Freeway in Pasadena, exit on Lake Avenue. Drive north four miles, at which point Lake Avenue veers left and becomes Loma Alta Drive. Continue a mile to Chaney Trail and turn right. Proceed another mile to a junction atop Sunset Ridge. Stay left at the junction and descend to a parking lot at the canyon bottom. From the parking area, walk 100 yards up a fire road to Millard Campground. Walk through the campground and pick up the signed trail leading to the falls.

Back story: Gold was discovered in the canyon in 1895, but no bonanza ever materialized. An electric "railway to the clouds," built in 1897, once took visitors up for high-flying views over the canyon en route to the summit of Mt. Lowe. A nonfatal mountain lion attack took place on the nearby Mt. Lowe Trail in 1995.

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