Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mojave National Preserve Spring 2017 Star Party, Memorial Day Weekend 2017

Although I was already off Xeloda (I'm a middle-aged male, so if you're curious, you can do a google search and get a pretty good idea of what I was being treated for) for several weeks when I took this trip, the side effects have not yet worn off. After going off, I am still very sensitive to sunlight. I also got a blister on each of my big toes (like an ingrown toenail). After brief search of side effects for that drug, I found it was also a common side effect.
I started this post to talk about the side effects, but decided against delving into so much detail. Suffice to say at this point that I still have not been able to do much hiking, but I remain confident that I'll be able to start that up later in the summer. For now, this is just about the night sky landscapes I shot, while at the Spring 2017 Mojave National Preserve star party. The Mojave National Preserve Conservancy and the Preserve administration co-sponsor these twice a year at the Black Canyon Group and Equestrian campground, near the Hole in the Wall visitor center and campground. Telescopes are provided by Old Town Sidewalk Astronomers.
All the Milky Way shots here are with my Tokina AT-X Pro DX, 11-20mm f2.8 lens, attached to my Nikon D3200. The camera is probably about four years old. Since it came out, Nikon has rolled out a D3300 and D3400, among others. So it's by far NOT the latest in dslr technology. It's possible newer cameras would have higher iso capabilities and better noise reduction technology applied. The lens, however, is relatively new, and brand new to me.
For those of you who aren't dslr shooters, the f2.8 means it's a pretty fast lens. the 11mm at the lower end means it's an extremely wide angle lens. It's not as wide a few as if I was shooting the FX format, but my camera is DX, meaning it's a smaller sensor that detects the picture. It would be about the equivalent of a 16mm lens on an old 35mm film camera.
I shot wide open, at f2.8, and 11mm to get the full breadth of the Milky Way. The first two shots were at ISO 1600 and 25 seconds. The latter two were at ISO 3200 and at 20 seconds, or less. These were shot as .jpegs, with the only processing being the resizing to smaller sized files, for faster loading. I'm using a relatively stable tripod, with no clock drive. The camera's just sitting on the tripod. If the shot were blown up enough, you'd see some star trailing. However, at reasonable computer sizes, the shot looks pretty clear. I could probably have exposed for nearly a minute with relatively minimal trailing. Definitely could have shot 30 seconds.
The point of this is, with this lens and not the latest camera set up, anyone can get some pretty interesting astrophotographs. Cameras are sensitive enough to get Milky Way shots that would have taken real practice and processing, not so long ago. Play around with different foreground lighting and framing, different exposure lengths, etc., and you can definitely get shots worth sharing.

The first two shots are of the central Milky Way, near Scorpios and Sagittarius. The third is of the northern Milky Way, near Cygnus and Lyra. The fourth was to the northwest. The Las Vegas light dome is incredibly obvious in that direction.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Hike 2017.015 -- Antelope Valley California Poppy State Reserve

A combination of my medical condition and the various family obligations I have had over the past few months have essentially eliminated my hiking opportunities. I'm figuring maybe in late-May, I'll be starting a more regular regimen of hiking.

Other than the occasional walk around developed parks or Griffith Park, this was my last adventure. It was late March, and the poppies were blooming nicely. They were extremely thick in some areas of the Reserve, but spotty or non-existent in others. For this shot, I used my phone's camera. I had recently read an article in Outdoor Photographer about how ultra wide lenses were best for immersing yourself into the scene: Get low and right into the action. So this, I did. I was very happy with the result.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Hike 2017.008 -- Lower Rubio Canyon and Lower Little Santa Anita Canyon

Hike Monday, February 20. As I type this, I'm sitting at a PC in the waiting area of Toyota of Pasadena. Basically, the only time I both have a plethora of free time and access to my blog is when I'm waiting for my car to be serviced. Unfortunately, I had not yet uploaded any other hike photos besides this one, so this is the only one I can write about, today.
It's basically the same hike as the last one I posted, except cloudier. On that day, in fact, it was so cloudy that I decided it would not be worth it to continue to the Thalehaha Falls overlook, because I wasn't sure if the visibility would extend even from the overlook to the falls.

The shot below, of Ribbon Rock and Moss Grotto falls, shows that idea. No, I'm not using a fog filter. Yes, it was that foggy. So I turned around, there.

Ironically, by the time I got back to the trailhead, the fog was already lifting. Likely, I would have been able to see Thalehaha. Nonetheless, I turned around that day, and returned a bit later, as the previous post shows.
I like foggy days. It makes even familiar things look different, and the clouds just seem to absorb the sound, so it's quiet. This hike was no exception.

Yet, the hike was over, too soon. It's less than two miles, roundtrip. I wanted to do another hike. I'm not sure why, but, apparently (as I look over these pictures), I settled on Little Santa Anita Canyon. That's the trail that heads up to Mount Wilson. The whole thing is about eight miles each way. Haven't walked the length of that in a couple of years, now. Maybe this summer, again.
Of course, I had no intention of going that far, today. I was mostly just thinking of going to First Water. That's a roughly three mile roundtrip. There's a pretty good climb in altitude involved in that, because they had to reroute the trail a number of years ago. It goes high around a slide area, then descends back down, again.

On this day, they prospect of the gain just didn't appeal to me. Also, I got diverted by a thought.
I've probably hiked this trail dozens of time. On days when the water is running high, you can see several waterfalls down in Little Santa Anita Canyon. I wondered if there was a reasonable way down there.

I also noticed that there's a little bit of a "peninsula" that drops down from the main trail, shortly after passing the dam. There's a use trail that follows down there, but I had never walked it, before. On this day, I finally did.

I followed the trail along the ridge of the peninsula, to its end. By the time I got to what seemed to be the last dropoff, I was only about fifty feet above the canyon, maybe less. But, from there, the drop looked steep. I didn't have the motivation to try to make it down there, concerned about maybe slipping and not being able to get back up. But it was a fun diversion.
Obviously, I was not the first person to come this way. In fact, there's actually a little memorial plaque along the way.

After I got back home (following my hike), I goggled the name on the plaque, and got a hit on "Find a Grave." The description of the plaque's location didn't really align with reality, but perhaps that was their intent.
The rest of these shots are from that hike, on the way out to the end of the point, and back to the trailhead. Roughly five miles for the entire day's hiking. About three miles for my Little Santa Anita Canyon section.

One of these days, I may try going further down, but probably not. As I get older, I get less willing to take actual risks on my hikes. I know I'm not going to get a life-changing photo out of the effort, so I don't want to risk a life changing fall!
I would also like to be able to walk upstream from canyon-bottom level, from the dam on up. But I don't think that's possible.

I've got a disturbing number of hikes I haven't blogged this year. I thought, given my slower hiking pace, I'd be doing better. But my work schedule and other obligations are keeping me from having the time to resize and upload photos, then actually do the write-ups.

I do have a picture from the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve, one of my more recent hikes. It was a pretty good year out there this year, but the bloom is now largely over. Still, I hope to be able to share some of those hikes, with you. Hopefully, soon.
Overall, the last few months have been inconvenient, but not as bad as feared. The oral chemo I've been on has made me ridiculously sensitive to sunlight, so I am really leery about hiking in the sun. Even with a floppy hat and long sleeved shirts, my skin can get "burned" and "splotched," right through the shirt. The skin peels around my nose and forehead, despite spf 30 and the floppy hat. So as the days get longer and the sun gets higher during the day, I've been hiking less and less.

The pills also have an unpredictable effect on my bowel movements, which makes me reluctant to hike where I don't have a good alternative for relieving myself. That's limited my hiking a great deal. Nonetheless, the side effects overall have not been too bad. I still have plenty of hair on my head, and I haven't vomited even once. I did experience nausea and stomach discomfort a few times, but, compared to what others experience, especially those on intravenous, I have nothing to complain about.
I start my final round next Thursday. A few weeks after that is the Mojave National Preserve Star Party. Not sure if I'll try hiking or not on that trip, but I certainly do hope so.

June is the Grand Canyon Star Party. I hope to spend the first few days of that on the North Rim. I went last year (just for one night), and had a blast. But it was a heck of a long drive home. So, this year, I'm hoping to enjoy two nights on the Rim, and stop in Las Vegas on the way home. That'll break the drive up, nicely. Anyway, that's my late spring plan. We'll see how this plays out.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hike 2017.009 -- Rubio Canyon to Leotine Falls

Hiked Saturday, February 25. Apparently, it's been a week since my last post. That doesn't seem possible, yet, there, the evidence is. This hike was some three weeks before that last hike. It was after a wetter period than the last few weeks had been (although it's drizzling as I speak). Also, it was February, so my Federal Recreation Pass was still valid. It expired last month. I'm debating if I will renew it this month or wait until next month. Most likely that latter, since I probably won't have time to hike anywhere with a federal land fee for a while, maybe not even in April. Also, I have some state park passes that I will need to try to use by the end of next month, too.
With all that recent rain, the local waterfalls were running well. I'd visited those I could visit. Unfortunately, Fish Canyon falls is in a fire closure area. But I made many trips to Rubio Canyon this winter. Having posted those earlier shots, here, I just posted those from Thalehaha, and beyond.

This was after one of the first dry weeks in a while, so while the water was still flowing fine, I figured the land itself would have dried out enough to be more easily passable beyond Thalehaha.

It had been a while since I walked past this falls, and my memory of how to get beyond was murky.
Also, Rubio Canyon is very crumbly and I'm pretty sure the way beyond has shifted, somewhat. After all, I had previously determined that the trail to Grand Chasm falls was no longer safely passable. So I did eventually find the way to the drop down into what I call the middle falls area of Rubio Canyon, but it seemed harder to get to than I recalled.

BTW, it's always been a little crazy to get there. All that scrambling around among the brush had gotten several ticks attached to me, in the past. Fortunately, no ticks found me, today.
Because of the difficult path finding beyond the Thalehaha overlook, I don't generally recommend going beyond there. I, myself, also usually do not go beyond, in part, because there is rarely enough water flowing to make visiting these waterfalls worth the trip.

But, from Thalehaha, I continued to the northeast, eventually reaching the point with an overlook, down a steep ravine. You can walk part of the way down the ravine, at which point you will hopefully encounter ropes, tied to tree trunks and tree roots. The descent then becomes messier, especially if it's wet, as it often is, down here, even when water is not flowing.

At the bottom, I was in a narrow-bottom canyon, with cascades upstream, a generally unpassable way downstream, and a short but steep cliff across the narrow stream. I snapped some shots of the small waterfall or cascade here, then scrambled up to the trunk of a downed tree, which I used to help make my way partially up the cliff. Then I traversed to the top of the first cascade, and scambled up the next few cascades by climbing among the rocks and water. It's definitely class 3.

From the top of the last cascade, there's a small meadow, with trees in front of you, and a huge cliff beyond. The last of the "easily" accessible Rubio Canyon Falls, Leontine, comes down that cliff.

Probably four miles, roundtrip. A more detailed discussion of this area is provided on Dan's Hiking Page.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Hike 2017.012 -- Griffith Observatory to Mount Hollywood

Hiked Monday, March 13. After work, on the first full day of Daylight Saving Time, I had a couple of peculiar reasons to head to the Observatory. Arrived there around 5:40pm. Sunset is currently just around 7pm, and I knew I had until 7:30pm to get back down to the Observatory, so I could see a speaker.
That's plenty of time for this hike, even at a relatively leisurely pace. I wanted to do that, because I was in my work clothes (minus only my tie). It was still somewhat warm, so I intended to take the eastern approach to the top (shaded from the setting sun), and try not to sweat too much.

There are lots of wonderful views back to the south over almost this entire hike. The Observatory, with the DTLA skyline, looks impressive, day or night.

A fair wildflower bloom is on going. The most common flower is wild mustard, followed by phacelia and Canterbury bell. Lupine are a distant fifth. I think fillaree are probably fourth, but not very interesting to me, since they're such a common yard weed.
Also, at the last turn before heading to the summit, there's a nice little tree, covered in tiny flowers. I'm assuming it's a wild lilac: very fragrant.
With my very leisurely pace (but not all that much time at the summit), I got back down just around 7:30pm, which was in time to listen to a very entertaining and informative talk on observing solar eclipses. The speaker was Mike Simmons, who founded "Astronomers Without Borders," and has observed numerous eclipses from all over the world. He was the guest speaker at the monthly Los Angeles Astronomical Society Meeting, which was held in Griffith Observatory. Since I am planning to see the August 21, 2017 total solar eclipse, the talk seemed like something worth catching.
Interestingly (to me, since I was not driving at this time), there was a double-row of cars, gridlocked, on the way up to the Observatory as I returned from my hike. No, they were not coming for the speaker. They probably thought they were coming to visit the Observatory, except the Observatory is closed every Monday. As I joked to my wife, "If only there were some sort of Interconnected network, or web, of informational pages that could be accessed from anywhere in the world, making that information widely available to all who are able to connect to this network."
So, partially, it's because of the stupid visitors not knowing they were driving up there for nothing. And partly, it was because the main lot was being reserved for LAAS meeting attendees. And, partly, it's the new traffic layout they're working on.

Last week, they restriped the roads, so that West Observatory Road is a one-way road up to the Observatory, and East Observatory Road is one way, down. Employee parking remains on East Observatory Road, albeit only on one side, now. Parking on West Observatory Road is also largely limited to one side. That means much less parking spaces. In theory, however, traffic should move more smoothly, since no one needs to make a turn back down the hill, in search of parking. In practice, it seems to mean cars just stop and wait for an open space, bringing the flow of traffic to a halt.
Starting next week, parking along West Observatory Road or the upper parking lot will cost $4/hour. Alternatively, parking down by the Greek, or possibly on Western Canyon, will be free. Also, there will be seven-day-a-week (or maybe six day a week?) shuttle service. I think it's going to be the regular DASH bus, from the Sunset and Vermont Red Line Station, with stops at the Greek and at the Observatory. They may also add a circulator bus, just between the Greek and the Observatory. It's still a work in progress.

The first few days with the new traffic pattern has been a pretty big disaster, I think. We'll see if things run smoother after the fees and buses start.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Hike 2017.007 -- Millard Canyon, Sunset Ridge Trail

Hiked Saturday, February 18. Given the heavy rains of the previous days, I intended to try to return to the base of Millard Canyon Falls. I had hiked there just over a month previously. However, the water was running too high for me to feel confident of being able to make the return on the first crossing. And, that being just the first crossing, I was not sure if I would be able to make all the other crossings I had to make last time, either. So I scrubbed the original plan, and decided to hike the Sunset Ridge Trail, instead.
From the Millard Canyon campground (where I started this hike), it's a steep 8/10ths of a mile from a paved but non-public road. Then it's about 1/5 of a mile on that, until a dirt trail begins, again, on the left side of the pavement. About 1/3 of a mile on the dirt trail, there's a pretty direct view to Millard Canyon Falls. I shot both a wide and a zoomed shot of the waterfall. I like the zoomed shot because there's a guy who was either braver or wetter than me, standing by the base of the falls.
I continued on the Sunset Ridge Trail to the cabin, then dropped down to the water level. I could go no more than 50 yards upstream or downstream from there without risking a soaking, so I turned around at this point. Here's a look upstream from my turnaround. I'm calling it three miles, roundtrip, but I'm not entirely sure of the distance covered.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Hike 2017.006 -- Sturtevant Falls from Chantry Flat, Big Santa Anita Canyon, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Friday, January 27. Four miles. This was two weeks ago last Friday. Took advantage of an off-work Friday to hike what is usually an unparkable trailhead on weekends. Water was much higher than my last few visits, but still not that high, by historical standards.

My waterfall shots are mostly longer exposures -- about f/16, ISO 100, and 1/4 of a second or so. That's why I get the soft, veil-like texture in the water. But this also makes the waterflow appear greater, because the water moves quite a bit during my exposures.
The trailhead is at Chantry Flat, which is at the top of Santa Anita Avenue. That's accessible right off the Foothill Freeway (I-210). Head north, through Sierra Madre, and on to the end of the road.

Parking requires an Adventure Pass or federal lands recreation pass. On weekends, the lot fills early. On Friday, I thought things would be easier, although the lot was basically at capacity when I got there (around 9am I think). I had to wait to park for a while because some dingus was digging around in his car for who knows what, and had his door blocking the only remaining spot in the lot.
To get to Sturtevant Falls, you head down to the east from the lots, down a paved road that is not usable by the public. At the bottom of the hill, Winter Creek comes in from the west. The last few times here, no water at all was coming down Winter Creek. This time, there was actual water, and one might actually want to use the wooden bridge to stay dry, and not just take the more direct route.

Water was also coming down Big Santa Anita Canyon quite swiftly, as well.
There are a couple of stream crossings on this hike. On the day I went, I had no problem keeping my socks dry. The water was actually lower than I expected, given how much recent rains had fallen. It was still pretty, of course. And the sound of falling water is always relaxing. Additionally, the crowds were pretty manageable.

Got some nice shots on my final approach, as well as at the base of the falls.

Too tired to take the route to the top of the falls, so I just headed back.
Roundtrip is about 4 miles. The final climb back up is a good climb, of course. Incidentally, at the first major turn to the right (heading down from the top) is a concrete spillway. If water is running high, there'd be water crossing the road here. If you look up that canyon, you'll see a small waterfall 100 yards or so off that way, too. But, again, I was too tired to want to make that detour, too. Just headed back to my car.
No hikes since, due to various conflicting demands and medical conditions. May try to squeeze a hike in next weekend, tough it's looking pretty busy, family-wise.

Rain is in the forecast for Friday and probably Saturday. I may try to hike on Sunday, visiting some waterfalls, again.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Hike 2016.005 -- Little Santa Anita Canyon, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Sunday, January 15. Short, three-mile roundtrip hike. Trailhead is at Mount Wilson Trail, which is adjacent to Mount Wilson Trail Park, on Mira Monte Drive, in Sierra Madre. From I-210 (the Foothill Freeway), exit at Baldwin and head north, through Old Town Sierra Madre, and to pretty much the end of the road. Turn right on Mira Monte and park near the Mount Wilson Park. Walk up the paved segment of Mount Wilson Trail, until the unpaved trail drops off on the left. Continue up a nice incline to First Water. Good short hike, because the climb will get your heart pumping, despite the short distance.

At First Water, a spur trail drops to the right from the main Mount Wilson trail. Anything from a trickle to a healthy flow will be coming down the canyon. As of this hike, it was an easily-hoppable, but still nice, babbling brook.

Were you to return to the main trail, you could either continue another 6.5 miles to the top of Mount Wilson, or, among other things, take a very steep trail up to near Jones Saddle. Meanwhile, on the main trail, Orchard Camp is the other major turnaround point. The trail, already steep, begins an even steep ascent up towards Mount Wilson after Orchard Camp.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Hike 2017.003B -- Rubio Canyon Waterfalls

Hiked Friday, December 13. 2 miles. After getting back to my car at the trailhead for Millard Canyon falls, I drove back down Chaney Trail, headed east on Loma Alta Drive, then south on Lake, to Mount Curve. Left on Mount Curve Avenue, Left on Maiden Lane, then left on Rubio Canyon Road, left Rubio Crest Drive, and right on Rubio Vista Drive. I parked at the curve where Rubio Vista Drive turns into Pleasant Ridge Drive. The trailhead for this Rubio Canyon hike is at the corner. Google Maps labels this trail as Mount Lowe Railroad trail.

Not shown on Google Maps is that, at the site of where the pavilion for the incline trains would take up to Echo Mountain, a trail also continues upstream (and downstream) along the canyon floor. Most of the time, this canyon floor is dry. But on occasion, the sound of running water can be heard in this canyon.
Such was the case on Friday the 13th, when the sound was unusually loud. Heavy and extended rainfall had occurred several times during the month already. So, even though I had just headed up this canyon a few weeks previously, I was eager to check out this canyon, again (especially after having seen how high the water was in Millard Canyon).

So, happily, as I made my way upstream, I had to take some care on my many stream crossings. The water wasn't objectively high, but it was higher than it had been in years (at least not this high when rain was not actively falling).
The first waterfalls you hit are Ribbon Rock and Moss Grotto Falls. Moss Grotto is originally above Ribbon Rock. On most trips over the past few years, the falls were a dribble, at best. On this day, both were flowing, nicely. They were't roaring, by any means, but they were actually flowing, and describing both as "waterfalls" required no qualification. They looked great.

Both falls are somewhat overgrown from what they looked like when I first visited these falls (nor on my second visit), particularly Ribbon Rock.
Heading up the ravine to the east of these falls, I stayed to the right of the willow tree that grew a 150 or so yards up, then looped around it to take the easiest route up towards the overlook for Thalehaha Falls. It was not running quite as high as the first time I saw it, but it still left a nice bridal veil, falling towards the canyon bottom.

Thalehaha is a startlingly high waterfall. It's a really unexpected site, particularly when the water is flowing nicely. But its dimensions do not always translate well in photos. It's only when people are rappelling down the face of the falls that you really get a human dimension to the place.

BTW, my last link below also mentions Fish Canyon Falls. Sadly, Fish Canyon Falls is currently under a closure order, due to the Fish Complex fires of early last year.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Hike 2017.003A -- Millard Canyon Waterfall, Angeles National Forest

Hiked Friday, January 13. 1.2 miles. On my previous hike to this recently-reopened trail, the water flow was almost non-existent. However, a series of storms, including one that was probably still dropping some water higher up in the watershed, had changed things, dramatically. Once at the waterfall, there was no doubt that the trip had been worth it. In the waterfall's alcove, the water roared.

The two large boulders at the top of the falls makes the view from below unique--quite different from any of the other San Gabriel Mountain waterfalls I've visited.
Getting there was a bit tricky. With the water high, you have two choices: Get wet early and often, and just walk through the water where the river is wide and slow, or pick a route that keeps your feet dry, but with the need for more careful route selection, and the exercise of balance and discretion. I chose the latter route.
With my hiking boots, I have about five inches of leeway--I can stand in water that deep and my socks stay dry. Much higher, and the water flows into my boots, and the way becomes less pleasant. This did require some walking among the weeds, so my pants got pretty dirty. Also, because of one miscalculation, one of my socks got wet.

Three hikers were returning while I went out. I passed about the same number coming back. Relatively light visitation, probably because a lot of people don't know the trail's been reopened, yet. Or it may be people are too cheap to pay for a day pass. It's five dollars for a one day Adventure Pass, $30 for a one year pass, or $80 for an all-federal fee area annual pass to park here (at the end of Chaney Trail Road, in Altadena).

Just over one mile, roundtrip. After this, I headed over to Rubio Canyon, for part II of my day's hiking.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Hike 2017.002 -- Griffith Park, Observatory to Mount Hollywood

Hiked Sunday, January 8. Although the second hike of the year, I thought doing this write-up would be quicker and easier. Yet, it has actually come to be quite long!

Mostly overcast day, and relatively cool. Because this place gets crazy busy in the evening, especially around holidays, I headed up to the Observatory to arrive before 5pm for my 6:30pm shift. That left me time to do a little hike before work.

The early sunset meant I could get some nice city lights/skyline shots. I figured they would complement the DTLA shots I took from Kenneth Hahn State Park (at the end of this post).
The Charlie Turner Trail starts at the north end of the parking lot in front of the Observatory. For most, hoping to park there on a weekend night is an exercise in futility. So, alternatively, you can either park down near the Greek Theater (if there's no concert) and walk up, or take the Observatory shuttle up, for fifty cents (35 cents, with a TAP card, and currently free if you have a Metro weekly or monthly pass loaded on your card). For the same price, shuttles also run between the Sunset and Vermont Red Line Station and the Observatory.
Charlie Turner's a wide dirt road, easily 30-45 feet wide, with a modest grade. It's smooth enough that, with only illumination from the city, you can safely navigate the route after twilight, even without a flashlight. A little under halfway up is a hairpin turn, where I usually stop for the view of the Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) skyline, behind the Observatory. It's also where I set up for the Endeavour flyover.
So the second shot is from the hairpin turn, while the first was from the top of Mount Hollywood. By comparison, these other DTLA were taken from Kenny Hahn State Recreation Area. Those shots aren't really related to this particular hike, other than that I took them recently and wanted to post them.
Kenneth Hahn SRA is in the Baldwin Hills, about 12 miles southwest of Griffith Park. I've been here before, to hike. That first time was part of a County healthy activity thing. I then returned a few years later, both to hike and scout, then to take pictures on post-snow day.

Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area is the best place to get a shot of the DTLA skyline with a snowy mountain backdrop. A moderate telephoto lens (about 300mm in full frame, or 200mm in CMOS) frames both nicely.
My latest returns were after work. I had no time to take an actual hike, and just came to try to take some pictures. The clouds were too heavy to give me any soft lighting, but the post-sunset nightscape of DTLA looked nice.

3 miles plus for Griffith Park. Only about 1/2 mile on the Kenneth Hahn trips, so I didn't count them as hikes.