Sunday, December 8, 2013

Hike 2013.055 -- Monrovia Canyon -- 935 Lemon Avenue to Monrovia Falls

Hiked Saturday, December 7. The day started with rain, which I didn't mind. I brought rain pants in case the rain was heavy, though, by the time I got to the "trailhead," the rain was mostly over.

I started the hike at 935 East Lemon Avenue, in Monrovia, CA. This is the southern terminus of the Sawpit Wash trail, which parallels the concrete drainage ditch that is Sawpit Wash as it passes through Monrovia. It's roughly six miles, roundtrip.

There's a pretty Craftsman house at this address, with a cute mailbox.

To get to the trailhead, take the Foothill Freeway (I-210) and exit at Mountain Avenue (just west of the San Gabriel River Freeway, I-605). Either direction you're coming from, you'll first exit on to a frontage road before running into Mountain Avenue. Turn north (towards the mountains) at Mountain Avenue. After passing Huntington Drive, Lemon will be the second traffic light. Some day in the future, you'll also have the option of taking the Gold Line to Mountain Avenue Station, then either walking north from there, or possibly catching a local bus.

Your trail will start on the north side of Lemon, on the east side of the wash. Your first mile and a half or so will be along this wash, and is less than scenic. Still, there are mature oaks along the trail, and some nice farm buildings and open fields to admire along the way. This approach also extends your hike a bit, to make the walking distance more worthwhile, and eliminates the 1/4 mile of non-shoulder road walking you need to make if you park near North Canyon and Ridgeside.

If you wish to avoid this additional walking distance, you can drive right into the park for $5 and have a short, 1 mile roundtrip hike from the Cabin Trailhead, or a three-mile roundtrip hike from the entrance station trailhead. Or you can save $5 and park near the intersection of North Canyon Blvd and Ridgeside Drive, for a four-mile roundtrip.

Low clouds and cool tempera-tures were my companion on this hike, and that created some nice, ghostly views of the trees and hilltops up the canyon.

At the entrance station (which also has a nearby flush toilet, the only facilities you will walk by on this hike--although there are other benches, a small museum, and another toilet if you leave the trail and head out of the canyon at the final trailhead). Bright red berries were common here.

The main color on this hike was the sycamore trees that are common in the moister ravines along the way. I took well over 50 shots of just the leaves along the way. A particularly scenic spot was just before I joined the main trail that runs up the canyon from the in-park trailheads. Those pictures are further down in this post.

Although it had rained earlier that morning, the water was not running especially high. It was above average in flow, but not roaring. It was definitely pretty, however.

Not only was the view nice, but I had it to myself, at least for a period of time. On many weekends, there'll be dozens of people packed along this little falls. Today, I ran into exactly one couple coming back from the falls, and I knew I had one pair of hikers not far behind me. But while taking well over 200 photos on this hike (and so, moving very slowly), no one had yet passed me. That's how empty it was.

It almost seems like a crime that so few were here to enjoy these beautiful sights. However, the rain and atypically cool (for the L.A. area) temperatures clearly kept most people out of the canyon. Or maybe Christmas sales was the attraction that held them in town?

What ever the reason, I had time to take about a dozen shots, with various framing and shutter speeds. Knowing there were people coming soon, I still did rush myself a little. But it was still probably the most time I've had alone at these falls.
Plenty of grey squirrels in this canyon. They've got really bushy tails. They've also been largely displaced in much of southern California by brown squirrels from the East. Yet, here, they seem to be doing well.

I hiked the return somewhat quicker than the way out, at least for the most part. I still stuck around the colorful leaf areas, and also shot a number of down-canyon photos.

Unlike on the way up, I did pass a number of people heading down. It was still a relatively small number, though. Might even have stayed in single digits within the park.

One half of a couple asked me some questions about my blog (because she was wondering what I was going to do with the estimated 300 photos I shot this day). It got me to thinking a little bit about my past three years of hiking.

This blog was born back in early 2010. Officially un-employed at the end of the previous Septem-ber, I had already spent over a year looking for new employment, without success. I had come across a local newspaper article about a local guy who was wrapping up his 100 hikes before the end of the year (he had started about 1/3 of the way into the year), and it got me to thinking about setting a goal to achieve during what was starting to look like an extended period of unemployment.

In fact, I had the "good fortune" to be unem-ployed at the start of "The Great Reces-sion." The recession was particularly tough for people in my line of work, so remained unemployed for much longer than I thought I would be. Yet, because so many people were in the same boat as me, unemployment and health insurance benefits had been extended repeatedly, allowing me to stay in my house.

That first year was mostly hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains and the Puente Hills. I started in the low country, then slowly went to higher altitudes as the weather warmed. All told, I managed 109 hikes that year, as well as a good number of job interviews that, unfortunately, nearly all ended with the hiring officials deciding that I was "overqualified."

In 2011, while still unemploy-ed, I expanded both my hiking territory and my job search. I did a number of hikes in the Santa Monica Mountains, and applied for a number of one-year positions out of state. I wound up accepting a temporary position at Murray State University.

That turned out to be both a good and a bad four months far from home. Good colleagues, lots of hiking opportunities, and an outstanding astronomy club, but a tough year. That's the last year I actually managed 100 hikes. About a half-dozen of those were on the drive coming and going to Kentucky.

In 2012, I managed just 79 clubs. I started and ended that year working two jobs, and that just made fitting in the hikes unfeasible. Not enough days in a week.

This year has been even worse, from a hiking perspective. I'll barely break 60. I started this year working two jobs, and picked up a second part-time job (well, thanks to an improved budgetary picture, got to teach some classes at the same local college I taught at back in January 2012). Three jobs don't leave much time for hiking.
Other personal develop-ments have made this a tough year. And I'm trying to figure out what I can do to make it better. On the one hand, the current money's great. Thanks to low interest rates on my refinanced mortgage, it's better than it's ever been. And, while none of the jobs I have are intrinsically stressful, the combination of jobs is wearing me thin (figuratively, unfortunately, not literally!--I've also gained 20 pounds in the past six months. That's unacceptable.

At any rate, next semester's schedule is mostly set, and I'm going to do my best to improve my eating habits. Then, come summertime, I'll have time to maybe figure out what, next.


  1. Well, whatever you decide to do this next year, I'm looking forward to more posts. Hard to believe it's been three years!

  2. Time really does fly. It's hard to believe it's been two years since Kentucky!