Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Visiting Griffith Park During Spring Break - Informational

If you happen to be visiting Griffith Park between now and April 12, 2015, there are a few things the City and the Department of Recreation and Parks have started to try to ease possible traffic congestion, particularly around he Observatory:

• Spring Break Traffic Initiatives Underway. To help deal with the surge of spring break visitors and cars, our Department is instituting a number of temporary initiatives to keep traffic moving during the spring break period (from March 21-April 12):
o Inbound (northbound) Western Canyon Road is being closed each day at 10:00 a.m. Cars are being turned around at the Section 9 parking lot.
o A portion of Mt. Hollywood Drive has been opened to provide additional parking.
o The Department and DOT are offering a dedicated DASH shuttle bus running between the Greek Theatre and the Observatory from 1:00-10:00 p.m. EVERY day (including Mondays) through Sunday, April 12. The fee to ride the bus will be the same as for the normal DASH Weekend Observatory Shuttle (which will run as usual on the weekends).

As a reminder, Griffith Observatory itself is always closed on Mondays, so if you're planning to visit the *inside* of the Observatory, don't go on a Monday! Otherwise, it's open weekdays, noon - 10pm, and weekends, 10am - 10pm.

The "portion of Mt. Hollywood Drive" that is open will take you to the big turn in that road, which gets you a little closer to the Hollywood sign than normal, if that's your goal.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hike 2015.016A -- California Citrus Historic State Park


Hiked Sunday, March 16. Well, not really a "hike," so I'm not counting it as a full-fledged hike. I doubt I covered more than a mile. But it was a nice trip, since I was able to spend the afternoon with my wife, visiting a state park and learning about the state's citrus history.

I visited this park on my own last summer. Had fun, and figured it might be something my wife (who doesn't enjoy hiking like I do) might also be able to enjoy. So when we had a Sunday together and were already going to be driving down to Chino Hills for something else, well, why not continue on south on CA-71, and on to CA-91 and Riverside County?

To get to California Citrus State Historic Park, take the Riverside Freeway (CA-91) to Van Buren Blvd. Turn left at the end of the ramp, but turn from the right lane, because you'll have to make an almost-immediate right turn to get on to Van Buren. After a bit over a mile, a sign will direct you to turn left at Dufferin Avenue. The park entrance will be on your right.

As noted on my previous write-up, they do free (for now) guided tours of the very large citrus grove, where you'll learn a lot about the fruits and the history. You'll also get to taste a number of different varieties of citrus, and usually get to take at least a few home, with you. Of course, you need to let the volunteer docent cut and pick the fruit for you--Plants, animals, and structures in state parks are all protected, so picking on your own could get you a huge fine.
You are free to wander on your own, however, so if you want to get in several miles of walking and you're willing to zig-zag somewhat, it can be done. Also, the last tour I went on was somewhat longer in distance. Still, a mile or two is typical. It's over uneven ground, and there's not a lot of shade in the groves, so be sure to come dressed for the uneven surface and the heat. Bring a hat, and some water. Other than that, do come to enjoy your visit to Riverside County!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Hike 2015.014 -- Griffith Park; Greek Theater to Observatory, then on up the Charlie Turner and Mt. Hollywood Drive Trails, to Ridge Overlooking Bronson Caves

Hiked Thursday, March 5. This may be the longest hike title I've ever written. ;D

This was also my first, "off at my regular time, but hiked after work" hike of the year. Sunset just prior to the shift to daylight savings time was not until almost 6pm. For hikes where I knew I'd be fine even in the hour after sunset, this is plenty of time for an after-work hike.

Now that we've shifted to daylight savings time, this'll be even more true.

One odd thing I have slowly come to realize is that, from my current work location (Monterey Park), Griffith Park is actually the hiking destination I can get to most quickly and easily. It always seemed "across town" for me, yet it's really just 30 minutes or so from my work parking lot to the base of the road up to the Observatory.

On this afternoon (March 5), this was also supposed to be the 'mini-moon" day. This was Griffith Observatory's answer to the silly "Super Moon" thing that's been going on the past few years, where somehow it has been determined that if a moon occurs near the moon's perigee (closest point to earth in the moon's elliptical (non-circular) path around the earth. When that happens, the moon is slightly closer and appears slightly larger than when it's further away at full moon. By "slightly closer," we mean about five percent closer.

These events also coincide with the also-recently invented "King Tide," when high tides are slightly higher than normal (because the moon is slightly closer to the earth than normal.

So, by contrast, a "mini-moon" would be when the moon is full as it nears apogee, when the moon is slightly further away than it is on average. Then, the moon appears slightly smaller than "normal."

I parked on Vermont Avenue, across the street from the Greek Theater. From there, I headed south a bit, then headed very briefly up the paved stub of a road that heads west from just south of the Greek Theater.

From there, there's a broad, bulldozed dirt road or dirt path that begins on the paved stub and heads north, towards Griffith Observatory.

It climbs steeply but briefly. After probably 1/4 mile, the dirt road intersects a paved road. Head up hill about 40 yards, then turn left, up the dirt road that continues on the "left" side of the paved road. (The aved road heads to a water tank).

After another 1/5 mile or so, this dirt path reaches a junction. Straight or left would send you down towards Ferndell. Right takes you up to just east of the Observatory.

After maybe 1/10th of a mile, there's another split. Stay to the right; the left path dead ends just ahead, and strands you at a place that you can not access the Observatory.
It's about 6/10ths of am mile total from the start of the trail until you've reached the Observatory area.

From there, I headed north, crossing the lawn, then crossing the parking lot and reaching the Charlie Turner Trailhead. A tree in George Harrison's memory once again graces this trailhead. Perhaps more about that on a future post.

I followed this trail about 1/2 mile, up to where it makes the hairpin turn from west to east. An informal trail (that you probably should not normally use, but was the easiest way for me to get to where I wanted to get to) connects the Charlie Turner with the Mount Hollywood Road paths. Somewhere around here, I passed a large paw print, which I have since determined to be canine rather than feline.

Once on Mount Hollywood Drive, I continued very briefly to the east, before going off the road and along a ridge that trended to the south.

As noted earlier, this was the night of the mini-moon, so I wanted to get a shot of the rising moon above the Observatory, which was to the east. Ideally, I'd have liked a spot where I was exactly due west of the Observatory. But my ridge route would drop altitude rapidly before it reached such a point.

I could just fit both Observatory and moon at 70mm, but the contrast in brightness made a decent picture impossible. In real-life, you'd want to try for this shot when the moon rises maybe 20-40 minutes before sunset, so the Observatory would still be somewhat bright as the moon rises above the domes. I may try to take such a shot in the future.
I waited on my lonely ridge for about 15 minutes, as I was now a little below the Observa-tory's elevation, and it took longer for the moon to rise above the domes. Stayed and took my shots even after it became obvious the moon wasn't going rise relative to the Observatory where I wanted it to rise (it was too far to the north), and that the contrast would make taking a good picture impossible. Then returned to the Observatory via Mount Hollywood Drive, then walked up the sidewalk along West Observatory Drive. Somewhere around 5 miles for the afternoon.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Hike 2015.013 -- Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, Baldwin Hills, CA

Hiked Saturday, February 28. Returned on Wednes-day, March 4.

I guess it's been about 2 1/2 years since my first and only previous visit to Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area.

It's not really what you'd expect a state park to look like. I mean, it's nice and all, and there is some historical significance to the location. But, for the most part, it's just a park with a nice view.

In fact, the view was what brought me here this time. I have seen photos with the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop to the Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) skyscrapers for years, but it never occurred to me exactly where those photos were taken. But, finally, curiosity got the better of me, and I finally tracked the location down on the Internet.

Then, of course, even knowing *where* the shots were taken, there was still the matter of *when*. It had to be done shortly after a heavy snow in the local mountains, and with the air relatively clear. Neither of those things necessarily happen very often, particularly in recent years.
On the first day I went, I was pretty sure it was snowing during the day, but I was not expecting the sky to be very clear. I was, however, hoping to get confirmation of where in the park I would want to be to get the right backdrop.

Unfortunately, the clouds were so thick that I had no real clue as to exactly where I would need to go to get Mt. Baldy (Mount San Antonio) behind the DTLA skyline.

Still, I knew even without being able to get or perfectly scout my shot, I was going to have plenty of space to walk. I knew trails went around the park and across several section so of the park, so I'd have no shortage of options. So I drove to the park on a weekend afternoon, even knowing there'd be an entrance fee. And I parked at the first lot I came to, because I was here mainly to walk, anyway.

There's a couple of ponds near this first lot, and a "stream" that flows down the hill and into the upper of the two lakes, and another "stream" that connects the two lakes. Several people fishing in the lakes, while others walked around the perimeter. Waterfowl enjoyed the actual ponds.

From the ponds, I headed south and southwest, paralleling the road and passing by the Sheriff's Depart-ment substation. I crossed the road here and continued up the walk. Along the this hill, I passed my first set of wildflowers. There were quite a bit in bloom, though mostly wild radish and wild mustard.

During my first visit to this park, I walked around much of the park. I knew there were trails that headed down and paralleled La Brea, at the east end of the park. I didn't feel like hiking down there today, so, when I reached the top of the hill, I stayed at this "upper deck" altitude, and made my way over to the overlooks that allowed me views to the east and north.

As expected, the mountains themselves were invisible, hidden behind storm clouds. But the DTLA skyline looked rather nice. I could also see clearly across the basin, to Griffith Park, to the north. The Observatory building and the Hollywood sign were both easy. Lots of wild mustard and wild radish in bloom at the overlook. I took plenty of pictures here, too.

After the overlook, I continued counter-clockwise around the bowl of the old reservoir. The bowl encloses an area of manicured lawn and trees (great for a picnic).

Near the north-western end of this "upper deck" of park, several trails wind their way down towards the entry road level. I stayed on the widest one, which I assumed to be the "main" trail, though several others criss-crossed it on the way to that lower level. Once at that lower level, I stood along the road and parking area, and tried to figure out where the Japanese garden had gone. I determined that the wide path I had taken lands at this lower level somewhat to the south of the trail I had taken on my previous visit here. So I knew if I headed back to the north, I'd reach the garden pond, and that, a bit north of that, there would be a waterfall.
Last time I was here, the pond had numerous lotus in bloom; today, the lily pads and lotus were all in hibernation. But there was still the stone temple in the pond, which was crossed by brightly-painted wooden bridges that could not be crossed, because fences blocked either end. Permanently.
I played with composi-tion a great deal here, trying to take photos that masked the presence of the fence, and of the very intrusive signage near either bridge.

I also took several pictures of the weird-looking torii (arches). They just seem shaped wrong compared to actual Japanese torii.
In this case, I also needed to work with composition a bit, because there was a trash bag right near one leg of the torii. So that's why I'm shooting low, and why you can't quite see the legs of the torii.

From the Japanese garden, I continued north, to the waterfall. At the waterfall, I took a slightly steeper trail that headed back to the "upper deck," past those verandas Then I walked the rest of the way around the bowl, back towards the upper parking lot. Along this section of the bowl, there were views to the west, to the ocean, with sunflowers in the park and oil fields in the near distance.

Once back near the lot at the top of the park, I initially planned to just head back to my car. But I wasn't feeling tired, yet, so I decided to to continue to the south. This brought me across a crushed granite-covered trail, edged in places by a wooden fence. This was not here the last time I visited, nor were the exercise machines and exercise stations. A lot of work had been done over the past few years, that's for sure.

This trail was called the "East Ridge Trail," and continued all the way to Stocker Blvd, at the south end of the park.

This Ridge Trail area seemed like a great place for a workout, what with the city sprawling out on either side of your workout room. Indeed, one guy who was exercising there asked me to use a phone to take a picture of him on the pull-up bar, with DTLA in the background.

I took his picture, then continued to Stocker Blvd. Took a picture of the sign for the park that was there (at the corner of Stocker and La Brea), and observed (but did not walk) a trail that continued on the kitty-corner from where I stood. Then, returned the way I came.

When I got back to the pull-up bars, i decided I should stage a few shot of myself, doing a pull up on one set of pull-up bars, with DTLA in the background. So I set my camera on a nearby piece of exercise equipment, placed my backpack atop that to balance my camera, then composed my shot. Used the self-timer and snapped a few shots. On the first one, my face was obscured by my arms. In the second, I had my face back a bit so I could be recognized.

Composition-wise, the picture came out fine. But, (A), the pull up was a lot harder than it used to be when I weighed 50 pounds less than I do today, and (2) Either the angle of the shot or the way the sweater I was wearing bunched up around my stomach, or simply the fact that I'm really fat, now, this picture made my stomach look HUGE. I really need to lose weight. Anyway those shots didn't make the cut to be posted either here, or my personal facebook account. ;D

[The A and 2 thing is a joke; I forget where I got that from].
Once back at the upper parking lot, I retraced my steps back to my car. About five miles for the day.

About four days later, on a weekday afternoon, when the skies were finally mostly clear, I returned to get the shot I wanted. There's a bit of haze, but I'm temporarily satisfied with the shot. If there's a clearer afternoon when I don't have other commitments, I may try for this shot, again.

I also observed that planes in a holding pattern for LAX pass around the Baldwin Hills, and that, if there's a rising near-full moon in the late afternoon, with enough patience, you could get a shot of the moon and a jet in one frame.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Hike 2015.012 -- Anthony C. Beilenson Park, Van Nuys, CA

Hiked Sunday, February 22. Short "hike," twice around the lake, then a short detour along the wash that flows into the river. Probably less than three miles total, even with the two laps, but it started raining hard enough that I had to call it a day.

Forgot to reinsert an SD card into my camera, so all I had on this day was my recently-purchased smartphone (a Samsung S5, in case anyone's curious).

Very few cherry blossoms in bloom, and not even as many cherry trees not yet in bloom as I recalled from my last visit (several years ago). There is an area on what seems to be the north end of the lake, where many new trees have been planted.

I'll try to get back to this area within a week or two, to see if I can catch the bloom.

The odd seen with the shows and the shawl were just on a park bench. I sort of assume the owner was part of a photo shoot, and they moved on long before I arrived.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Hike 2015.011a -- Perris Hill Park, San Bernardino, CA

Extremely short hike out of San Bernardino on Saturday, February 14. I was at Perris Hill Park (1135 E.Highland Avenue, San Bernardino, CA 92408) to watch a baseball game; Cal State San Bernardino was hosting Point Loma Nazarene University. My nephew plays for PLNU, so I drove out here with my parents to meet my sister and brother-in-law and watch some baseball.


Well, we also made a pre-game detour to the casino of San Manuel nation (3.5 miles away, according to Google maps), as well--that detour cost me a mere ten dollars. :D

Apparently, college teams tend to play double headers (often, double headers on back-to-back days!). So after the first game, and after having stared at the hill that overlooks the stadium for several hours, I went on a little hike.
I didn't know for sure how long the hike would be, or what I'd see, but there was a hill, and there was a trail, and I saw people walking up there. So, off I went.

Perris Hill Park, then, is right adjacent to Highland and near San Bernardino. Not sure about city limits. Just west of the ball field, at the south end of the lot, was a paved road that appeared to climb the hill. I walked up that hill, as a mountain biker also peddled up.


As I gained altitude, I saw what appears to be the San Bernardino Sheriff Depart-ment's shooting range, just a bit northeast of the park. It's in a bit of a depression, with very thick wood and earthen bunkers to contain the projectiles.

There was also a parking lot and a structure overlooking the shooting area, though I did not go to investigate.
Instead, my road curved back to the west. Once at the top, I saw a high school and a high school track. The letter "P" was on the south-facing hill. Google maps says this is Pacific High School.

Across the street from the high school was something that looked exactly like a jail: Squat, institutional, windowless buildings, high walls, tall chain-link fences, topped with razor wire. But no jail is listed there on google maps, so maybe it's been closed.
Further to the was a building with a large cross on it, which turned out to be St. Bernadine Medical Center (hospital).
The park's very small, and it's surrounded by city. But it's not far from the San Bernardino Mountains, and several red-tailed hawks visited the ball field during the game.

The hill is also not very tall, but it rises well above the surrounding plain. Surprisingly nice view from the top.

There's a water tank to the west, where I headed, and another water tank to the east, where I did not head.
There's also a short, rocky structure that was covered in graffiti.

I headed down the road that popped back in to the park a bit west of where I started. Several small wall structures on this side. Then I walked back to the ball park. Maybe 1/2 mile, in total. Not really a hike by itself, which is why it's got a letter here. I combined this short hike with a slightly longer but still short hike the next day as my hike 11 for the year. Falling somewhat behind my hoped-for pace, but I still am optimistic I'll be able to pick up the pace once we shift to daylight savings.

Definitely not someplace to make a special trip to see. But if you're already here and want to stretch your legs, it's something to do.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Hike 2015.010 -- Rubio Canyon

Hiked Sunday, February 8. 3 miles. Yeah, I'm still falling behind on my posts. I was hoping to do better, this year.

This day was a short hike, just trying to squeeze a little walking into the weekend. With the not-so-distant rains, I thought maybe Rubio Canyon would be interesting.
Instead, the lowest of the falls was essentially dry, which meant there was no need to continue to the upper falls. Instead, I turned around, and returned almost back to the trailhead (on this day, I hiked from the lowest access point, where Rubio Canyon Road transitions to Loma Alta Road.
The small cabin near the start appears to have crumbled a bit more. I've seen this cabin for years, but don't know if it has any historical significance. It would appear not, as there have been no attempts to arrest its decay.

From the cabin, I continued along the road, around the gate, and came to where a much larger water structure used to be. Now, it's a smaller structure with a pipe coming out of it, and the bridge that links it to the road is in danger of collapsing.

Continuing upstream from there, in maybe 1/10th of a mile, there are soon three splits: Right heads up the hill, on what soon becomes a very narrow climb up the ridge. Left heads up to join the "main" Rubio Canyon trail, that started at the "corner" of Pleasant Ridge and Rubio Vista Drive. I took that direction first, walked along that trail for about 1/2 mile, crossed the pavilion area, and continued to the aforementioned dry waterfall.
Then I returned back to this split area, and headed up the river bottom, which is the third option. It continues for maybe 1/5 of a mile before reaching a place where a rope hung down, to assist a climb out of the ravine and to the right. I climbed up the rope, but this trail seemed to lead nowhere. So I descended and returned the way I came.

As I descended, I noticed that the rope was laying in a bush of poison oak. I rinsed my hands as soon as I got to the bottom, and washed it with soap and water numerous times when I got home. No ill effects in the days since then, so, "Yay!" ;D

Somewhat photogenic collection of live oak along and around the canyon; took several photos here. And that was it. I sort of wanted to hike more, but with the poison oak exposure, I also wanted to get home to wash off any resin I might have picked up, so that was my day: A short three miles. I hope to get more hiking in this weekend, though the weather is iffy.

Two more short hikes to blog, still, as well.