Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Hike 2013.002 -- Mt. Lukens via Rim of the Valley and Crescenta View Trails

(Picture 1: Looking up the wash from near the bottom of Crescenta View Trail).

Hiked Sunday, January 13. I'm getting off to a pretty slow hiking pace this year. Even my hike write-ups are falling behind. That's the downside of trying to work two jobs. I may need to cut back on the hours of my part-time one.

(Picture 2: Trailhead).

Today's hike was pretty much chosen because I just read about it here. Well, not *just* because I read it there, but because it was a pretty nearby place that I had never been to before. Yep, despite three years of serious hiking in southern California, I never made it to George Deukmejian Wilderness Park.

(Picture 3: Trail marker near base of Rim of the Valley Trail).

Partially, that's because it was closed after the Station Fire. Indeed, take a look at pictures 16, 18 and 21, below, to see some of the devastation that the Station Fire wrought on the forest to the north of the Duke. The Duke itself was not directly burned by the Station Fire, but by a backfire set to protect the residents below, should the Station Fire have spread this far.

(Picture 4: Freeman Oak).

The other reason is that this area was just never on my radar as I scouted out places to visit. Incidentally, another nearby place I haven't hiked yet is the Verdugo Hills, which are the hills between Deukmejian and Griffith Parks. I read a post on Dan's Hiking blog, overlooked the hills on my hike this day, and saw them on the map after I got home. So don't be surprised if my next local hike turns out to be in the Verdugo Hills.

(Picture 5: Looking down at trailhead area from Rim of the Valley Trail).

George Deukme-jian was Governor of California back in the early 1980s, after our current governor's first two terms in office. It also turns out he was the first in a series of California governors (he, Pete Wilson, Grey Davis) that could generously be described as "bland."

(Picture 6: Creek on Rim of the Valley Trail).

It's funny because every four years for about 20 years, someone would be running for President of the United States, looking for a running mate, and supposed experts who obviously did not live in California would mentioned whom ever was Governor of California at the time as a possible VP choice, completely ignoring how little any of them would have added to a national ticket in terms of coattails, personality, or electoral votes.

(Picture 7: Looking into the southern glare, with fall color in the canyon).

But I digress. "The Duke" (I don't know if anyone ever calls it that, but I will, just like I like to talk about Schabarum Park as "The Pete," which I know nobody else does) is north of La Crescenta, an unincorporated area in Los Angeles County. Somehow, Glendale owns this park, although the park sure seems not to be contiguous with the city. I'm assuming Glendale used some state bond dollars or dedicated development fees to acquire mandated open space outside their city limits as a tradeoff for allowing higher density developments within the city.

(Picture 8: Mt. Lukens view).

But, again, I digress. To get to the park, take the Foothill Freeway (I-210), exit at Penn-sylvania Avenue and head north. You then have several options. I'll suggest turning left at Foothill, just 1/2 mile north of the freeway. Then turn right at New York Avenue, after about 1/3 mile. Head north on New York until it ends, at Marksridge, just over a mile after you got on New York. Make a left at Marksridge (you have no other choice). After about 100 yards, the entrance to George Deukmejian Wilderness Park is on your right. The gate there is locked at dusk, so don't park in there if you think you might be getting back after dark.

(Picture 9: Downtown LA, over the Verdugo Hills).

It's a small park, just over one mile square, and, according to the Tom Harrison map, is within the statutory boundaries of the Angeles National Forest (but it is not part of the Angeles National Forest). It is thus surrounded on three sides by the Angeles, and obviously provides a developed access point to the forest around it.

(Picture 10: Mt Lukens, again).

At the top of the narrow road that skirts a detention basin are two parking lots. The one on the right is paved, and is probably the main lot, while the dirt one on the other side of the road is probably supposed to be overflow parking. Next to the paved parking lot are flush toilets, a large barn that looks like it serves as a community center, and what might be a community garden adjacent to the barn. There are also numerous picnic tables.

(Picture 11: Looking west on the way up).

Even from the developed area, you're well above the basin to your north, so it would be a nice picnic area even for those uninterested in hiking.

From the lot, there are several hiking options. Unfortunately, I didn't read the description of my hike for this day, so it was all a surprise, including the distance.

(Picture 12: Access trail, west of Dukeme-jian Park).

First task was to find the trail-head. I could see distant trails switch-backing up the hills above me, but could not immediately determine where they started. In retrospect (meaning, not until I got back), I think they intend for you to walk along the fence to the northeast side of the park. That way eventually leads you along a wash, and they have several trail signs along the way (none of which give you mileages, however).

(Picture 13: Mt. Lukens, again).

I wanted to take the Rim of the Valley trail, which I knew should head towards the northwest. So I started by heading up the pavement, then past the swinging gate (picture 2). A "trail" sign was there, though it did not give a name. I bore to the left at each turn, and eventually came to a marker pointing more directly north. I don't think I actually got confirmation that I was on the Rim of the Valley trail until I had been walking about 2/3 of a mile, however.

(Picture 14: Pacific Ocean in the distance).

The ultimate goal was Mt. Lukens. Well, actually, that would the the penult-imate goal, since the ultimate goal is always to return home safely.

Mt. Lukens, I could see from near the start, as I knew it was covered by antennas, and I could see an antenna-covered mountain above me. I did not know how long or high this walk would take me, but I knew it was a day hike and I was pretty sure that starting out at 11am would allow sufficient time.

(Picture 15: Downtown, from a higher perspec-tive).

I also knew there was supposed to be a loop, which one could make in a clockwise direction by taking the Rim of the Valley Trail, then coming back down on the Crescenta View trail.

(Picture 16: Stone Canyon Trail, and Tujunga Road).

Well, in bearing left at each turn, I did eventually reach some "Trail" signs (picture 3), but none that named the trail I was on. My at-this-point unnamed trail climbed the hills north of the park, and quickly rewarded me with an overview of the area. To my east, I could see what I later would learn is the Freeman Oak, saved by a former Glendale Assistant City Manager during the Station Fire (Picture 4).

(Picture 17: Patch of snow just below Mt. Lukens).

Climbing higher, I then had the view presented in picture 5. In that picture, the "correct" route would be to head from the left side of that picture (right, from the parking lot), along that wash and towards the Freeman Oak. Instead, by bearing left (towards the bottom of that picture, then back up to the center left of the picture), I wound up on the trail that heads off the middle left of the picture.

(Picture 18: More Fire Station damage).

The trail climbs and heads to the west. When it rounded the first major ridge, I encountered my first named-trail sign. From there, it provided more expansive views to the west, then rounded the ridge, then dropped down into a ravine. At the bottom of the ravine was s small creek. It cascaded across the trail (Picture 6).

(Picture 19: Hang glider above Mt. Lukens' antenna).

The trail then briefly paralleled the waterway. On the canyon wall to my left were the remains of a metal frame that held a bridge across a side canyon. The trail quickly climbed out of the ravine, wound around the former bridge point, and eventually began swish-swashing across the front range. Views of Mt. Lukens were alternately provided, then obscured. The approach towards the antennas was annoyingly slow.

(Picture 20: Mt Baldy, in the distance).

As the climbing and westward trend of the trail continued, I could see an additional trail access, coming up from someplace well west of the Duke. I also got some views of a bit of "fall" color mixed in along the canyon bottoms to my south (Picture 7).

Climbing also slowly let me see beyond the Verdugo Hills, also to my south. Eventually, downtown Los Angeles and Griffith Park's hills were visible in the distance.

(Picture 21: Dam and bridge, down in Tujunga Canyon).

Later, I could easily see the Pacific Ocean, further to the south, and the Sepulveda Basin, way off to my west.

By the time I finally got to the view of Picture 13, I was getting pooped. But the climbing continued, on, and on.

The day was relatively cool. As if to reinforce that point, as I finally neared the summit, I saw my first of several small patches of snow (Picture 17).

Finally being able to see to the north, I was struck again by how barren the Station Fire had left this area. How to know how long it will take before this starts to look "normal, again."

(Picture 22: Rocks, on the way down Crescenta Trail).

From the top, I admired the view in all directions. Several hang gliders shared my view.

Meanwhile, to the north and below, I could see the bridge and dam of Tujunga Canyon. Very nice.

For my return, I did come back by way of the Crescenta View Trail. It was well-defined at first (a dirt road), and the first sharp turn to the right (also a dirt road, but with no indication that this road would take you back to Deukmejian Park) was easy to follow. It sort of petered out for a while, however, becoming very narrow and less than obvious. I actually backtracked at one point, thinking I must have lost the trail somewhere. But I had not.

In contrast to the Rim of the Valley Trail, which is all about 3 feet or more wide (in the places where it is not a full, 45-foot wide dirt road!), once the Crescenta View Trail leaves the dirt road, it becomes extremely narrow single-track, tightly bordered by vegetation.

I think they're in the process of widening and renovating that trail, but it will be a while before they finish. So, if you do walk the Crescenta View Trail, I recommend long pants and possibly long sleeves.

Ten miles and about 2,800 feet for the day. It was a tough ten miles, either owing to the altitude gain or me being out of shape.


  1. Skyhiker, looks like in picture 20 you got a great shot of what I think is Strawberry peak in the foreground. That was one of my favorite hikes before the Station Fire. I can't believe how brown it still looks from a distance according to your pictures. I remember visiting the area when it first opened after the fire. One guy I met said he thought it would be 100 years before it looked the way it used to. Maybe that was an exaggeration, but I guess we'll still have to wait and see...

  2. Hi, Mark,

    Looking at my Tom Harrison Map, yeah, it probably is Strawberry Peak, flanked by Lawler Peak on the right and Josephine Peak in front and to the left of Strawberry.

    Some areas that the fire didn't burn too badly seemed to bounce back within a year, but that huge area in the heart of the burn area looks unchanged from a distance versus two years ago. Up close, I hope the mountains have recovered more than they look like from a distance.

    Working on my Turtlehead Peak (Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area) write-up, now. Hope I can finish in less than a week, which is what the first two posts of the year have taken!

  3. The park is part of Glendale because a large portion of La Crescenta is actually part of the City of Glendale. Essentially, everything north of the 210 freeway between Lowell and Pennsylvania is within the Glendale city limits. City limits actually extend 3/4 the way up Mt. Lukens, thus Mt. Lukens is actually the highest point in both the city of Glendale and the city of Los Angeles.

  4. Interesting. Thanks for the info. Obviously, when I think of Glendale, I always think of the part between the Los Angeles River and the Glendale Freeway.