Photographs by Michael Charters

The Brown Mountain Fire Road begins at the parking lot of the Millard Canyon Campground which is reached via Chaney Trail off of West Loma Alta Drive in Altadena, and winds back into the hills of El Prieto and Fern Canyons below the ridge of Brown Mountain, named by Jason and Owen Brown after their father, the notorious Civil War era abolitionist John Brown who was hanged after the raid on Harper's Ferry. Living at their mountain homestead called Little Round Top, they christened nearby Brown Mountain in 1887 in honor of their father, and the name has survived to this day. Owen Brown was with his father when they raided Harpers Ferry in 1859. He served as an officer in the Union Army during the War, moved at some point to California with his brother Jason and sister Ruth, and died in 1889. He was buried near the homestead, and Jason returned to Ohio and died in 1912. The pictures in this photo gallery were taken on 5/5/14. On this hike I walked 2.3 miles to the junction of the 2N66 which goes downhill 2.6 miles to the Arroyo Seco near JPL (called the Lower Brown Mountain Fire Road) and uphill an additional 2.7 miles to the junction of the Ken Burton Trail at a saddle on Brown Mountain Ridge. From that junction, it is another 3 miles to Oak Wilde Campground. I have always referred to this road as the Brown Mountain Fire Road but I see that on Google maps it is called the Brown Mountain Truck Trail and further west the Fern Truck Trail. An asterisk next to the common name is for a non-native species of which there are quite a few in this area as it is fairly heavily used and close to residential areas. Information about Owen Brown and his grave here.

Mexican pink
Silene laciniata ssp. laciniata

Bush senecio
Senecio flaccidus var. douglasii

White nightshade
Solanum douglasii
Blue-witch nightshade ~
Solanum umbelliferum

Annual bedstraw
Galium aparine

White sage
Salvia apiana

[apiana = pertaining to bees which this plant attracts in great numbers]

Stinging lupine
Lupinus hirsutissimus

Canterbury bells, California bluebell
Phacelia minor

I include these pictures and this information because of the historical nature of this area, even though one must take a detour down the El Prieto Fire Road to get to this site. The marker disappeared in 2002 but was found in 2012. Meanwhile a court case affirmed the public's right to access the site even though it is on private property. The marker has not been restored to its original location because it is not clear to whom it belongs or whether it can be replaced with certainty that it will not be tampered with again. All that is there now is the sign which my dog Charles is sitting in front of. Photo on left courtesy, and at top right courtesy of

Black sage
Salvia mellifera

[mellifera = honey-bearing]


Copyright © 2014 by Michael L. Charters.
The photographs contained on these web pages may not be reproduced without the express consent of the author.

Comments and/or questions may be addressed to: mmlcharters[at]