Take a Hike

After five years and $1.48 million in repairs, the  historic Mount Wilson Toll Road is nearly rebuilt and rangers hope to open the  3.75 mile route to hikers in a few weeks.

Crews excavated 12 feet below the historic road -- originally a track  widened to get the 100-inch Mount Wilson telescope up to the observatory -- and  built it back up in compacted layers using wire-mesh baskets especially  designed to hold the soil, the Pasadena Star-News reported.

The toll road was opened to hikers and horses in 1891, and served as the  only route to Mt. Wilson until the current road via Altadena and Red Box was  built in 1936. But thousands of tons of rock and dirt came down on it during  the record rains of 2004-05, and other parts of the road slid down the  mountain.

"They've done a tremendous job, it looks fantastic," Kevin Johnson,  assistant chief of the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Forestry Division,  told the Star-News. "It looks as though it's going to last another 100 years. It wasn't a Band Aid-type fix.

"Many times in the past they've had little landslides here and there  and used a tractor to clear them up. This is the full effort to make sure it stays in shape a long  time."

The project was funded by a $1.48-million Federal Emergency Management  Agency grant to the city of Pasadena, with the agreement that the Los Angeles  County Consolidated Fire Protection Agency would do the work. The department  uses the toll road as an access road to the Henniger Flats ranger station.

Helen Wong, superintendent for Eaton Canyon Nature Center and Natural  Area, told the Star-News that "every single" weekend people come in and ask  when the trail will be open.

"Lots of folks like that hike. It's a nice uphill -- three and three- quarter-miles from the parking lot to the top," Wong said. "If you look at  the Thomas Guide, you see we're surrounded by cities you can get here from in  twenty minutes. It's convenient, it has the right elements, and there's a  beautiful view when you get up there."

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