Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Hike 2012.068 -- East Ridge (Hogback) Trail, Griffith Park

Hiked Sunday, September 30. Another post-work hike. I started around 5:15pm, though the temperatures were still very high and dry.

From the Observatory, I elected to head down East Observatory Road. That's where employees park, and the route that is suggested for hikers and bikers coming up or down along the road between Vermont and the Observatory. Of course, this doesn't stop slightly insane people from walking or biking through the narrow tunnel that leads to West Observatory Road, but there's no way I'd go through that tunnel if I didn't have to.

If traffic, time, or your own inclina-tions prevent you from parking up near the Observatory lot, you could start this lot down on Vermont, just north of, and across the street from, the Greek Theater. Roundtrip mileage and net altitude gain would be the same.

From the top, it's just about one mile of walking along the road (mostly, there's room off the pavement, along a narrow dirt strip beyond a curb). First, you head down and to the north-northeast. When you reach Vermont, you make a sharp right. That road loops up to the mouth of Vermont Canyon before sweeping to the south. Just north of the Greek Theater, a path heads east, into the hills.

It's a brisk climb that soon rewards you with a view on to the seats of the Greek (the stage faces away from you, of course). As you reach a crest, tennis courts that are just north of Commonwealth Avenue, and the Roosevelt golf course are to your south. If the skies are clear, you've got a wonderful view of the downtown Los Angeles skyscrapers for nearly the entire length of this trail.

This trail is labeled "Riverside Trail," although no river was apparent to me. You do approach a canyon bottom. A trail crosses your way here, heading both south, towards the tennis courts, and north, into the canyon. It seems to be one of three ways to get up to the Hogsback Ridge.

Even from down here, you can occasionally see people making their way along the Hogsback, far above.

Meanwhile, your hike still has miles to go before you sleep.

Your path now heads back towards Commonwealth, before turning east just before reaching the street. Trail access would be possible from here, though I'm not sure about the parking situation on Commonwealth.

I noticed a large number of "cedar" here. Some were burned, and most looked ragged and aged. There's no doubt that this local is drier than their native habitat.

About 1.25 mile from Vermont, the trail rises to what looks like some sort of utility housing. Not far ahead is a mostly-paved road (no public car access, though plenty of hikers). Meanwhile, about a 270 degree turn to your left puts you on the East Ridge (Hogback) trail.

This trail takes you higher, and gives you a return view of the Observatory (my first from the east). After a turn to the north, most of the rest of the Hogsback is now visible to you. Yeah, it looks steep, and it is.

There's also a small metal bridge ahead, which crosses a ravine.

Just before crossing the bridge, "Henry's Trail" is on your right. It's a short, roughly 1/5th of a mile trail to the top of Glendale Peak. The first 20 yards or so are steep, up eroded dirt steps.

A small snake, only a foot or so long and 1/2 inch in diameter, somehow found itself among these steps as I headed up the trail. It tried to get out of my way quickly, but the steepness and dusty sand made that impossible. Once it determined no quick getaway was possible, it adopted the opposite tack--it stopped, then slowly slide it's way off the path.

I continued to the "summit," where a concrete-embedded surveyor's monument has seen about a foot of erosion come off the top. As with much of this hike, there are nice views from there towards downtown Los Angeles and Downtown Glendale.

By the time I was finished taking in the view (and a few phone calls--another story), the sun was nearly setting. I returned to the East Ridge Trail, crossed the bridge, and headed up towards Mt. Hollywood.

I soon discovered that this segment was longer than it appeared. It looks to be very nearly 1 mile from Glendale Peak to Dante's View.

Once there, I determin-ed there was no need to actually head up Mt. Hollywood, again. So I continued from Dante's View to the west, taking the Charlie Turner trail back to the Observatory.

Along the way, I stopped at the turn where I observed the shuttle flyby just over a week before. Tried taking some skyline at night shots. I had no tripod, so I just set the camera on my backpack, and tried both shooting regularly and using the self-timer. In theory, the self-timer would allow for picture taking without the risk of my hand triggering the shutter inducing vibrations. On the other hand, just tripping the shutter of a camera on a backpack probably induces some vibrations.

Not entirely pleased with any of the shots, though I'm not sure if my future efforts at getting this shot will be any better. Perhaps I'll switch to full manual to try to expose more for the lighted areas, and reduced the noise you get from long exposures at high ISO.

After about 20 minutes of trying for that skyline shot, I continued down the trail. It was now fully dark. The Harvest Moon was supposed to be rising, but a ridge would block my view of the moon until I was quite near the end of my hike.

Once in the parking lot, I tried a few shots of the moon. The first were heavily overexposed, as expected. Auto-exposure cameras try to balance the light with the dark, and that means a picture that is well-exposed "on average" results in a black sky and a completely washed out moon.

After a few of those shots, I switched to manual. I also needed to figure out how to make adjustments. It would appear that I could set camera to "A" (aperture-priority), use the dial on the back of the camera to dial in my desired lens aperture, then switch to "M" (manual), and use that same dial to set the shutter speed.

I eventually determined that, at ISO 400, f 5.6 and 1/400th of a second worked pretty well.

The results are still not super-sharp. But the ISO is 400, and I'm not sure how precise the autofocus is (or if I could have done better in manual focus mode). The picture looks okay at snap-shot size, but I can't blow it up much more than this without the edges getting ragged and the sharpness getting worse.

I'll have to try again when the moon's a crescent. I think then, the shadows would give the camera something more distinct to focus on. I can also try some manual focus shots. I may also have to think about getting a t-adapter, so I can try to take some shots through one or more of my telescopes. I don't want to get serious into astrophotography, but maybe a few moon pictures, and maybe some Milky Way shots, with high ISO and exposures of about 30 seconds.

I'll call it 4.5 miles for the day. Felt good to stretch my legs, which I hadn't been able to do in over a week. I've fallen a bit behind on my target of ten hikes per month, but the unofficial goal of 100 hikes for the year is still attainable.

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