Thursday, September 20, 2012

Hike 2012.066 -- Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area

Hiked Saturday, September 15. This was supposed to be my morning hike, followed by a drive to the desert and some dark sky observing. Instead, I got tired from the hiking, and slept for a few hours after I got home. That was the end of my Saturday.

Kenneth Hahn State Park (Recreation Area) is located in the Baldwin Hills. It is bounded by La Cienega on the west, La Brea on the east, and (roughly) Rodeo Road on the north and Fairfax/Stocker on the south (it actually doesn't quite reach those roads, but that's the vicinity). To get there, take I-10 (the Santa Monica Freeway). If coming from Downtown, exit at Washington/Fairfax, turn left at the light (Washington), another left almost immediately after that (Fairfax), then another left after about 1/4 mile (La Cienega Blvd).

You'll soon cross Jefferson, then under the Expo Line (light rail), past the See's Candy factor on your right, then Rodeo Road. From there, La Cienega opens up into a quasi-freeway, with 3 six lanes of traffic, three lanes going slow. (That's from Telegraph Road, by the way. on a divided road flying through the Baldwin Hills. Then, the unexpected happens. On your right, there's an offramp that is signed for Kenneth Hahn State Park. That one totally caught me by surprise, because my directions gave an even-numbered La There's also a line about birds up on a wire, and up on the poles," which I also thought about when I took a picture of the birds on the powerline, a little later in this post).

Meanwhile, last Saturday, my three lanes of traffic were moving fast as I climbed up along La Cienga, into the hills, expecting to reach a left turn pocket to turn into the park. Instead, an offramp suddenly materialized on the right, with a sign indicating that was the way to Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area.

After exiting La Cienega, follow the road across and over La Cienga up 1/4 mile or so to an entrance station ($5 entry fee on weekends, free on most weekdays).

I followed the road all the way to the end, on up a hill, because that's where the signs for the event I was attending pointed. This was a "Fitness Challenge" event for the entity that employs me, which meant free entry for me (even though it was a weekend), plus the promise of free giveaways and a little Saturday morning hiking. I'm not sure if this road is normally open or not.

Once in the top parking lot, I checked in, got my freebies (moist towelette sunblock containers, hooks to hold your water bottle, a portable mister, and a banana.

The pre-hike warmup was something with very funky music. However, me being me, I did not participate in that part of the festivities. To me, the hike was going to be the warmup. Besides which, the musically assisted stretching would have required that I have a minimal sense of rhythm. I made about three half-hearted steps in time to the music, then gave up. Instead, I enjoyed the view from this hilltop location. The downtown skyline was off to the northeast. This is the opposite direction from what I normally see it.

I also saw a trail that headed down one of the side canyons. I thought that might be the trail we'd follow, but it was not.

Instead, when the hike began, we headed due south. A dirt road left from the gathering spot, past a water tower, and pass some powerlines that were very popular with the doves.

Some 20 hikers were part of the "advanced" group that set out on what was billed as a 2 1/2 mile hike around Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area.

Kenny, by the way, was a long-time LA County Supervisor. His son was once mayor of Los Angeles, and his daughter is now a member of Congress, after previously serving on the Los Angeles City Council.

The hike on the dirt road was not the most scenic. Not all that different from Griffith Park, except that it's much smaller and there are a lot of oil derricks to the southwest.

The park is located at the top of Baldwin Hills, which was also once a reservoir. The dam burst in 1963, and the former reservoir was later largely filled in. "The Bowl" is still visible as the outlines of the reservoir, however.

Our hike continued south, almost to the practical end of the park. Then we turned east, and descended to La Brea. There, we were greeted by a chain link fence. At the fence, we turned north.

After about 1/2 mile of rolling towards the south, we reached a paved road with a locked gate against La Brea. We then headed up this long (not all that steep, but pretty long) incline. At a level area just over 1/2 way up, we reached an LADWP structure. I guess there's still some groundwater pumping going on in the area, despite the reservoir no longer being there.

Once at the top of the hill, the music from our starting area was quite close to the left. However, near as I could tell, the main body of hikers turned right here, waling what must be 3/4 of a mile around The Bowl. At the far northern end of The Bowl, I saw a sign that described the collapse of the Baldwin Hills Dam.

Once all the way around The Bowl, another sign was on the south end of the depression. It read, "Janice's Green Valley." I assumed a young Janice Hahn used to enjoy this view.


Finally straggled back to the staging area for the event. It's not that I'm a slow hiker--I was just taking a lot of pictures.

I took even more pictures on the second "advanced" hike. This one seemed perhaps a bit longer than the last one. We started out heading north, around "The Bowl," again. But, at the northwest end of the the depression, a trail peeled off to the right. We continued travelling to the northwest, first near the ridge. There were several pavilions for people to enjoy the view in the shade. I took LOTS of pictures. In particular, I noted that I could see both the Hollywood Sign and Griffith Park, well off to the north-northeast. The whole ridge I had hiked on the previous hike was laid out in the distance.

Closer, to the northwest, was Culver City. On views back to the southwest, I could see the control tower for LAX. This struck me as not a bad place to watch a space shuttle make final approach. Not worth a trip for me, since I feel I have a better viewpoint closer to home. But for folks living out this way, it's a possibility.

After about 1/2 mile, the trail started descending the ridge as it approached another fence. At the fence, we turned left, then eventually completed a U-turn. Now heading south, I could soon hear voices.

The voices were gathered around a waterfall. Yes, clearly not a natural falls. Still, the sound of cascading waters is always soothing.

We posed for a group picture in front of the falls, and then started heading back.

Just south of us was Doris' Japanese Garden. The garden itself is fenced off, but there are pretty views of the small red bridge, the lotus-filled pond, and the smattering of other Japanese influences. Not what you would expect in the Baldwin Hills. I took 18 shots just of the lotus, trying to get it just right. Used the old trick of long zoom and wide aperture to minimize depth of field.

From there, we had at least a long mile, treking across the park, then up the road, back to our starting point.

I'll call it five miles for the day, though both walks seemed longer than 2 1/2 miles. Trail junctions tend not to be signed, though the park is small enough that even a wrong turn should mean nothing more than an extra 1/2 mile or so of walking. Dogs on a leash are permitted.

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