Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Hike 2012.074 -- Griffith Park -- Old Zoo Trail, Mineral Wells Trail, Condor Trail, Skyline Trail, and Crystal Springs Drive

Been over a week since this hike, from back on November 12.

I considered several possible hikes on this Veteran's Day holiday, but settled on something close and easy. My initial plan was to park near the zoo, pop in there for a little while, then take a hike towards the old zoo. Old zoo and new zoo. Seemed like it would be fun.

To get to the current Los Angeles Zoo, I normally take the Golden State Freeway (I-5) north to Zoo Drive. That exit is right at the interchange with the Ventura Freeway (CA-134). In fact, you actually have to exit the Golden State to the 134 before the Zoo exit appears, on your right.

However, as I pulled off the freeway and on to the exit lane, I saw the traffic in front of me at a dead stop. I could also see the traffic on the bridge I would need to cross to get over the 5 and to the zoo was at a standstill. I waited a moment or two, then lost patience. Clearly, this would take me 15 minutes or so just to go the 1/4 mile from the exit to the zoo parking lot.

Instead, I decided to go east on the 134, towards Glendale. I have a Groupon for a baklava place, which I was sure was also in my car. However, after I got on surface streets and near where I figured the place was supposed to be, I could not find the coupon. I stopped the car at the curb and checked both seats and the trunk. Quite a mystery. I'll have to print out another copy and try to get my baklava some other day.

So, foiled in my backup plan, I decided to head south until I hit Los Feliz, which I knew would take me over the Golden State Freeway, and, hopefully, do so much more quickly than Zoo Drive was going to take.

Indeed, the drive was pretty quick and easy. Crossed over the freeway and then turned right on Griffith Park Drive. I decided I would also take this opportunity to see the official park visitor center, which I had never yet seen.

It's a good mile north on Griffith Park Blvd to the Ranger Station. Eventually, it appears on your right, just about where Griffith Park Blvd splits, with one part remaining Griffith Park Blvd and the other becoming Crystal Springs Drive. Both are paved routes that normally pass through the park. Both are posted at 25 mph, which is somewhat slower than the flow of traffic. However, I have been told there are times when speed limit enforcement is strict, so if you're driving here, take care.

Despite a large sign for the visitor center, the parking area was much more prominent than the visitor center, itself. It's mixed among several other buildings, all of which have bigger exposure to the main thoroughfares than the actual visitor center.

Standing near the street, I saw an American flag on a pole behind the more obvious buildings, and I deduced this was a signal that the visitor center was in there. And it was.

The visitor center is normally closed on Mondays, and I'm not sure if it was officially open today. It was unstaffed, at any rate. I think it was left unlocked so that folks attending some private event in the nearby auditorium would have a place to use the rest room.

On the way to the visitor center, there are what I assume to be life-sized representations of various large birds you might see in the park.

Inside the visitor center, there's a nice topographical relief map of the park, with little light-up indicators for a variety of attractions that have associated buttons to push along the perimeter of the map. They also had taxidermic examples of various local wildlife: cottontail rabbit, fox, coyote, bobcat, raccoon, and opossum.

Along the walls were numerous photos, and one section had a video display with a series of viewing choices.

I was most amused by the little blurb next to the section on Griffith J. Griffith, who donated the land and a chunk of money for the park and observatory that bears his name. There's a paragraph in there noting that "Colonel Griffith was a Park Commissioner for a brief period of time in 1903. He later survived a brief period of scandal in his life."

Compare that treatment with what you'll read on findagrave.com's website, and you'll almost think you're reading about two entirely different people!

After getting my fill of the visitor center, I hopped back in the car and parked in the lot that's just south of the Merry-Go-Ground. This is the same place I started my hike to Bee Rock, just a few weeks previous. The trees in the lot were beginning to turn color.

Leaving the parking lot and heading west, I got on what is labeled "The Old Zoo Trail." Again, I was somewhat surprised to discover that this trail stays on the perimeter of the Old Zoo, and does not bring you down to the actual cages. I'll have to return to this area yet again to actually experience the Old Zoo, itself.

I also observed that the weird Christmas decorations and singing elves I saw on my pre-Halloween hike were gone. Turns out they were part of the Haunted Hayride, which one reviewer, at least, said was worth it. I didn't go, myself.

As for my hike, I continued on the Old Zoo Trail, crossed the Bee Rock trail, then, almost immediately after that, the Bill Eckert Trail. I continued on along what was now the Mineral Wells trail. This one more or less parallels the base of the hill, so you're always overlooking the floodplain to your right. You also parallel the driving range for a bit, and you are close enough (and the landing area for driven balls is narrow enough, and the fence low enough) that you really do need to keep an eye out for errant golf balls. One landed about 20 yards in front of me at one point.

Along the way I saw some woodpeckers. They were checking out the acorns they had "planted" for grubs to eat. I also saw Amir's Garden from the other side. There's a steep trail that heads on up there from the north, but I wasn't in the mood for the challenge.

I continued on the Mineral Wells Trail until I reached the Mineral Wells Picnic area. Once there, I made several false starts before finally getting on the Condor Trail. This path then leads to the Skyline Trail, at which point I turned right. Most of those trails is spend overlooking the zoo, or even running right along the fence that marks the boundary of the zoo.

As I began my descent towards the west, I got some nice views of the Los Angeles River and downtown Glendale. I also saw that the zoo lot was more crowded than I had ever seen it before, which would explain the traffic at a standstill that I encountered as I approached Griffith Park that morning.

My initial plan was to either head into the zoo or go to the Autry National Center for lunch. Yet the trails don't actually take you to those places. Instead, on the trail took me below Zoo Drive and on to a trail that paralleled the Golden State Freeway.

It went behind the Autry, from which I could not tell if the museum was open or not. And I was getting too tired to want to go tromping across a large parking lot. So, instead, I continued along Crystal Springs Drive, heading south on the flat and not especially scenic route to nearly the Ranger Station, before dashing across Crystal Springs Drive and making my way to the parking lot south of the merry-go-round.

I'm going to roughly estimate my entire hike for the day at 6 1/2 miles. It was plenty long enough to feel like a hike, particularly without a lunch break. The last two miles were level, but even running along the base of the hills, there were some substantial gains, especially near the start of the Old Zoo Trail, and when I headed out of Mineral Springs Picnic Area and up on the Condor Trail.

I ended the day tired, but happy at having covered quite a bit of new trail for the day.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Hike 2012.073 -- Mt Hollywood, again

Hiked Saturday, November 3. This was my third day of hiking in a row, and my last before the end of Daylight Savings Time. Time'll be tight after work now. I might be able to fit a short hike or two down in the Puente Hills after work, but even that will be short and likely finished in the dark.

I've written this hike a lot recently, because the trailhead is right were I work. I was trying to get some night skyline pictures, again. What I have learned is that my cheap tripod is not steady enough--every shot has a blur as the camera shakes from the shutter being triggered. It's not *too* obvious with small pictures sizes, but it looks terrible at full-screen size.

I probably need to just kick the ISO all the way up to limit the exposure time, and either use the self-timer or put consistent downward pressure on the camera body to minimize shake.

So, one shot of downtown on the way up, and one on the way down.

Maybe three miles roundtrip. I walked around the summit on the way up, to try to get that magic distance. Not sure if I made it. I also had to contact the rangers after I got to the bottom. Just before crossing over the Vermont tunnel, I ran across a mother who's grown daughter left the trail and was no longer visible. Not sure of all the details, but I talked to a couple of rangers the next day and they confirmed that all ended well. The young woman was waiting by the car. I sorta figured that was going to be the story, so I was not nearly as distraught as the mother was.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Hike 2012.072 -- Peppergrass Trail, Puente Hills Landfill Native Habitat Authority

Hiked Friday, November 2. Friday was my second consecu-tive day of hiking. Both were real short ones, but that's all I had time for, now that the sun is setting so early.

Been out this way a number of times, usually when time is short. I had a great hike here in February, even as I was coming down with my last cold (the one before the latest bout).

The trailhead is near the north end of Greenleaf Avenue in Whittier. That's the same road that runs through the heart of Old Town Whittier, which means that's a pretty slow drive if you go that way. I've made that mistake more than a few times, including on Friday.

The map of the trailhead of this trail is here. Once you walk off the right end of that map, you'd enter this one.

From the trailhead, I headed up the Pepper-grass trail, which is the one that heads to the east-northeast. It's a somewhat steep trail. Ignore the unsigned leg of the trail that cuts low and to the right.

When you reach a fork in the trial (4/10ths of a mile up), the Peppergrass is the steeper one, to the right. I also went over a few hills along the way, just for the fun of it.

After about 1/2 mile, the two trails merge, and continue climbing to the northeast. after 3/10ths of a mile, you run into the Rattlesnake Ridge trail. Rose Hills Memorial Park will now be visible, across the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail (which is a dirt road).

I made a right turn here. After 1/5 of a mile, the Rattlesnake Ridge Trail runs into the Sumac trail, which I had taken just a month ago.

Once I passed the Sumac trail, the path I took last month to the multi-colored watertank was in front of me. However, as change of pace, I walked down the lower (left) road, to see where it would take me.

It eventually did take me around to the other side of the watertank, but it's probably 3 or 4 times further that way than just heading up the steep trail.

I looped the long way around the watertank, then returned to the Rattle-snake-Pepper-grass junction. From there, I went briefly along the Rattlesnake, on up to the top of the rise near that junction. I took some more pictures there, and chatted briefly with a young man who was up there.

He had hiked in from the Turnbull Canyon road, and asked about where the trail to the south came from. I told him I had come from the Greenleaf access (Hellman Wilderness Park), and that there was also access to these hills from Seventh Avenue in Hacienda Heights. I like to think this means he'll be able to make a few more trips up this way in the future.

From here, it was on back to my car. I'd estimate 3.5 miles for the day.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Hike 2012.071 -- Sturtevant Falls

Hiked Thursday, November 1. It's been several weeks since my last hike. Between work and other obliga-tions, I haven't had the time. So, today, I was happy to be able to get off work about 30 minutes early. Still, the 605 was already congested, so I wound up taking surface streets a good chunk of the way.

Once there, I observed a fire truck, a paramedic truck, and saw a helicopter fly out from the canyon. I assume a hiker fell, though I did not stop to ask. Instead, I parked, rummaged around my passenger compartment (looking for my Adventure Pass), then dug through my trunk and backpack, looking for my change of clothes, socks, and boots.

As I dug through my trunk, I noticed a tall, slim, dark-haired woman heading down the trail, towards the falls.

In the meantime, I finally located and hung the Adventure Pass, then carried my change of clothes towards the restroom to change. As I approached the vault toilets of the lower parking lot, I noticed some Stellar's Jays, drinking water from the dog fountain and sitting on the bench near the fountain. I fired off about a half-dozens shots before putting the camera away and changing.

After changing, I tossed the work clothes into the truck, laced up my boots.

There was a bit of a bite in the air (at least by southern California standards), so I pulled on my sweater over my shorts and t-shirt before moseying on down the trail. Having eaten an excessively large lunch, I had to take it slow, to prevent from upsetting my stomach. I should know better by now.

The air was hazy, and there wasn't much of a view to the south. The leaves I saw were mostly dried and on the ground, so clearly I have missed the peak of fall color in southern California.

When I got to the end of the pavement, I noticed for the first time that there are stairs that climb the hill behind the pit toilet near the bridge. I'll have to head up those stair some day and see where they go.

Continued on down the trail, still taking it easy, and enjoying my first recreational hike since the Mojave, over two weeks ago. Yeah, I guess I'm spoiled by the past few years of multi-hike weeks.

Still pools sat behind the check dams, largely covered with leaves. I kept snapping pictures, and continued my slow walk.

After about 1/2 mile, the woman that had left only moments ahead of me was heading back. I was a little surprised, and figured she must have really been hauling it to be coming back already.

However, it turns out she had not reached the falls. Instead, she told me she had gotten creeped out by a man further up the trail, who had stood astride the trail and did she did not want to approach, so she turned around. She asked if she could tag along with me, and of course I agreed.

It bothers me that women have to live like this, because obviously I'm always hiking all over the place on my own, and I only get nervous when I'm thinking about mountain lions.

The plus side for me is that I got to feel chivalrous just by walking to a waterfall. I also got to enjoy some company on my walk. Although I usually enjoy the solitude of the "wilderness," I also find I enjoy a good chat on the trail, as well.

Fortunately, we did not run across the person she had encountered earlier on her hike, and we had an uneventful walk both to and from the waterfall.

I learned my hiking companion was trying to get a short tune-up hike in before she continued to join a friend for a hike into the Grand Canyon. I also learned she was in town for her brother's wedding, which was at the Pasadena City Hall. I've seen their city hall in the day light, but it looked really photogenic at night. I'll have to try to make it up there some evening.

I'll have to check my older pictures to see, but I think the water was slightly higher on this day than it was the last time I was at Sturtevant.

There were a few flashes of color amongst the falls, as the last of the sycamore leaves hung on to their homes. Red rose petals were also there, making a ring along the edge of the pool. It seems likely someone took pre-wedding photos or something of that sort earlier today.

After about fifteen minutes at the falls, we headed back. Uneventful on the way back, to. So, back in the parking lot, I bade farewell to my hiking companion for the day and wished her luck on her trip to the Grand Canyon.