Start your morning early, pack some snacks, gather a few friends, and hike to the ruins of Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe’s mountain railway and resort, Echo Mountain. From 1896 to 1936, it housed a chalet, hotel, and observatory. Now it is a five mile hike roundtrip with a 1400 feet gain. This moderate but steady hike will get your heart pumping, and if you leave too late in the afternoon, it will get you sweating pretty heavily as well since there’s not much in the way of shade along the path.
At the top you can check out what is left behind of the resort and railway and try out your best echo-voice on one of the megaphones. The views overlooking the city are quite lovely on a clear day, and along the way you’ll have the opportunity for viewing intricate flowers, buzzing bees, lizards, and more. Unpack snacks at the top, twirl the top off of your water bottle, and bask in the view of the world below.
To get to the trail head, use the 210 Foothill freeway in Pasadena and exit at Lake Avenue. (This hike is technically in Altadena.) Drive north for 3.4 miles to the end of Lake Avenue at the point where it intersects with Loma Alta Drive. Park along the street and look for the stone gateway on the east side of the street. That’s where the hike begins. From there, the trail is pretty clearly marked and well traveled but well kept. You’re guaranteed to meet some other knowledgeable hikers along the way if you happen to get turned around.
After you’ve taken in the views from a distance, go in up close and personal into the heart of Pasadena. If it’s a week day, use the opportunity to visit Alternative Outfitters. This vegan boutique and online store has a small showroom. Try on their fashionable shoes and peruse their collection of wallets, purses, and makeup. The staff is casual, helpful, and unobtrusive. If you live in the area, you can also call them with your order ahead of time and pick it up at the store. The showroom is open from 11:00-4:30, Monday through Friday at 408 S. Pasadena Ave., Suite 1.
No trip to Pasadena is complete without a toddle around Old Town. Visitors to LA on holiday and locals alike saunter down the sidewalks, bags swinging, as they cross the scramble-style crosswalks. There are a number of chain stores like Crate and Barrel, Barnes and Noble, and the Paper Source, but off the main strip you can also visit California-exclusive stores like Bird Pick Tea and Herb at 10 S. De Lacey Avenue.
The tea shop is filled with large apothecary jars on several tables. Open the jars and breathe in the deep smells of loose tea. Having troubles with insomnia? Their loose chamomile will cure what ails you. The staff is happy to brew samples of any you’d like to try. They also have a small bar for sitting and sharing a pot or cup with a friend. They have soy milk on hand for your tea drinking needs.
If after shopping and sightseeing you’ve worked up an appetite, you can find tasty vegan offerings at Father Nature Lavash Wraps at 17 N. De Lacey Avenue. Father Nature is of the very casual, order at the cash register variety. However, their food is fresh and delicious. It’s not always advertised, but they have whole wheat lavash available. Just ask for it.
Father Nature is not exclusively vegetarian, but they have a vegetarian section as part of their menu board. Many of those wraps are vegan by design or can easily be made vegan. My favorite is the double hummus wrap, which comes with chickpea and black bean hummus, stuffed with pickled turnips, romaine lettuce, and bulgur. You’re given a choice of spicy or regular tahini sauce to go with it, and those are both vegan. I always go with the spicy, which is not hot-spicy per say. It just has more spices in the sauce. (Live nowhere near Pasadena? Make my own version of their Double Hummus Wrap! You can check out that recipe here.)
With that said, if you should decide to “go, Granny, go” to Pasadena, give up and sing along. Be warned, you will walk away with the Beach Boys rooted into your brain. Resistance is futile, but at least it’s catchy.