Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Non-Hike: The Butterfly Pavilion at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum

I've been spending most weekdays the past few weeks on jury duty. While some people dread the idea of jury duty, I'm alright with it. After all, I have taught American government at the college and university level for over twenty years. As such, I almost felt an obligation to serve on a jury, just to get a better idea of how life in the Third Branch of government might be.

Also, unlike many other potential jurors, I get paid my regular salary while on jury duty. All government employees and many larger and more enlightened private corporations pay their employees their regular salary during jury duty.

Having such an employer minimizes the financial hardship. I still take a bit of a hit, since I get no compensation for any shifts on my part-time job I might have to give up. And, because of the shifts they schedule for my part-time job and how long court is in session, I did have to give up a lot of those shifts.

This will probably wind up costing me about $600 in part-time shifts, plus some amount of goodwill that could cost me shifts in the future.

On the plus side, jury duty can mean a free bus pass. While I don't get the $15/day normal jurors are getting, I do have the option of either taking money for mileage or taking a bus pass.

Because of the geography between my home and the court-house, and the existing MTA routes, it's an easy bus commute for me--one bus, no transfers, and relatively frequent buses on my route during the morning and afternoon rush hours (but not much service during the middle of the day, so if we get out early, the commute home takes longer). I spend about 20 or 25 minutes on a bus, and have about an eight minute walk to the stop from home, and get off literally right next to the courthouse.

I've been using our lunch break and some post-jury duty hours to walk around downtown Los Angeles. It's possible I'll be posting some pictures from those walks, later. And, last week, I used my bus pass to ride the Red Line and Expo lines to get myself to Exposition Park.

The Butterfly Pavilion is an annual thing at the Natural History Museum. Tickets are required. If you're not a member, you need to buy a package that includes both entry to the museum and entry to the pavilion. If you're a member, you just need to reserve timed-tickets to guarantee entry. I think if you're an higher-level member, you can also enter at anytime.

Jury duty normally ends at 4pm, so I reserved tickets for the Butterfly Pavilion for 4:30pm last Wednesday. Turned out just about right: I think I got to the Pavilion entry by about 4:35pm. That gave me 25 minutes to enjoy the butterflies.

The Pavilion is relatively small, but there's enough fluttering color to keep someone like me occupied for easily over 30 minutes just shooting pictures.

Here's just a fraction of the pictures I took.

Obviously, kids love the butterflies. Adults, too.

Entry to the Pavilion can be scheduled to start at between 11am and 4:30pm (the last entry). I'm not sure if they chase you out at the end of the 30 minutes or not (except for the 4:30pm half-hour, of course) I suspect not. I assume it's timed entry and not timed enjoyment.
The Natural History Museum normally closes at 5pm; however, on the First Friday of every month, they're open late. Not sure about the Pavilion, though.

The Butterfly Pavilion remains until September 1. I assume as the end approaches, the number of butterflies still flying around shrinks. The Monarchs seem already to have passed on or been released or otherwise left the Pavilion.

Obviously, right next door is the California Science Center, which is home to the space shuttle Endeavour, which flew into town back in September 2012. The California African American Museum is also nearby, as is the University of Southern California. Definitely lots of places you can occupy yourself around or in Exposition Park.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Hike 2014.034 -- Mt. Pinos from Ski Hut, Los Padres National Forest, CA

Hiked Thursday, June 26. This is one of many long-past hikes that I need to catch up on the blogging.

A number of years ago, I wandered up to the parking area near the top of Mt. Pinos and saw the most amazing sight: A field, covered in iris. That was in mid-July, four years ago. So I got to thinking that maybe it might be time for irises, again. So, the next change I got, I returned to Mt. Pinos.
Directions to that trailhead are included here, in this older post of a hike to Mt. Pinos and Mt. Abel.

Feeling in much worse shape than when last I hiked this area, I was pretty sure I was only going to go to the Mt. Pinos viewpoint, and not continue on to Mt. Abel.

It's just about a 99 mile drive from my San Gabriel Valley home to the Nordic Ski Hut parking area on Mt. Pinos. Long drive, which usually means you want to have some time for a hike, or for after-hike activities. For me, that usually meant setting up a telescope and observing from the closest seriously dark-sky location to my home.
Besides the dark skies, what makes Mt. Pinos such a great location for doing astronomy is that it's on a paved surface, so the place doesn't get to dusty. Also, it's only about 30 minutes from the Interstate (I-5), so you can get there without much mountain driving. Also, there's a truck stop at the freeway, so you can stock up on food, drinks, or what ever.

The final thing that (usually) makes this a great location for night sky observing is the portapotties. No, that's not quite civilization, but it sure makes life easier when the toilets are just across the parking lot. Then you don't have to worry much about being figuratively in the middle of nowhere.

So I was a little surprised to discover that, on this trip, the porta-potties were nowhere to be found.


There are pit toilets not too far from the parking lot, but the point of having them in the parking lot is that this is where the telescopes are going to set up. Having to walk in the dark even a few hundred feet off the parking lot and to the camp area is a hassle, and one that seems crazy to me, given what a popular dark sky location Mt. Pinos is for the entire southern California astronomy community.
On the positive side, there were, at least, some iris blooming in the filed just north of the parking area.

It wasn't the dense field of blooms I saw four years ago, but there were a goodly number of individual blooms, all nicely formed and colorful.

In addition to the iris, western wallflower were common under various trees, both here and further along, when I got on the regular trail.

After finishing my walk around the meadow, I returned to the parking lot, then got on the regular trail to Mount Pinos. This trail starts at the southwest end of the lot. A sign pointing to the trail is visible as you exit the parking lot.

This "trail" is actually a dirt road. Apparently, it was paved not all that long ago, and you could just drive on over to the viewpoint that is at the end of this trail. Now, generally, the gate is locked, and it's a hiking trail.
This makes it an easy trail to follow, as long as you keep in mind that your destination is generally to the west. You do *not* want to head immediately north, as that does not lead to Mount Pinos. You do not want to take any of the many turnoffs. Just stay on the main road as it trends to the west.
Along the way, flowers were blooming nicely. It wasn't rolling hills covered in flowers, but there were plenty of flowers. In particular, mariposa lily were very common, once I got about 1/2 mile away from the parking lot. There were also plenty of Indian paintbrush, and a fair amount of penstemon. Finally, there were some really tiny flowers that looked like lupine. Much larger lupine plants were in the area, but were either not in bloom or very pale in color.

Interest-ingly, I did see some very purple lupine on the drive up, but none on the trail I walked.

At the end of this trail is an overview. If you're interested, the trail continues from the lookout towards the north, dropping into a valley, then continuing on to Mt. Abel.

Oddly enough, if you were to head south from near the overlook, you'll come across a couple of pit toilets. The funny part is that one of them is just a metal seat, upon concrete. The surrounding wooden structure is completely gone.

The other outhouse still has three of its walls, but not the door. When I was there, a black cloth covered the top half of the door opening, which means it sorta covers the wrong half. But that's the way gravity works, right?
Since I haven't been hiking that much and didn't feel up for a longer hike, I just turned around at this overlook. Probably most day hikers turn around here, anyway.

On the way back, I took a detour to the solar panel / antenna array that's on top of the actual summit of Mount Pinos.
Mileage for the hike would be approximately 4.5 miles. I'm not sure how precise the mileage given on the sign is, but obviously it's in the ballpark. It's an easy, relatively short day hike with relatively minor altitude gain. So even with the high altitude, it's a pretty easy hike. The high altitude makes it cooler here than in surrounding areas, but it'll still get pretty warm in the summer.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Hike 2014.040 -- Mill Creek Canyon to Morton Peak Fire Lookout, San Bernardino National Forest

Hiked Sunday, July 20. I celebrated the anni-versary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with a hike. Well, okay, I would have hiked even if it wasn't July 20.

I came across this hike by accident. I was looking at my San Bernardino National Forest recreation map, looking for a hike I had done before. Came across the red line of a trail that I had NOT done before, instead. I googled the name of the peak, and came across several hits, which I read, and found promising.

Here's the Summit Post entry.

And here's Nobody Hikes in LA's entry. In terms of directions to the trailhead, this one is more accurate. I didn't reset my odometer, but 2.3 miles from the Mill Creek ranger station to the turn for this trailhead is definitely a more correct distance than the "about 1.5 miles" on Summit Post.

At a mere three miles each way, it would be an easy half-day hike. Also, the unseasonably cool weather meant I could do this hike even though it is basically unshaded and at relatively low altitude.

As noted above, the trailhead is off of CA-38, about 2.3 miles past the Mill Creek ranger station. It's on the left, and it's the only road-looking left turn you'll come to once you're within the canyon.

You drive up the road maybe 100 yards, and there's a small parking area. There's a metal gate beyond, though it is my impression this gate is usually not locked. So, if you have a high-clearance vehicle, you might be able to drive the first bit of the trail. If you're a fire lookout volunteer, of course, you'd have the key and would just drive right up to the lookout.

The small purple flowers pictured above were growing on a bush right around the parking area. I did not see this plant any where else along the hike.

BTW, you may note my trailhead picture no longer includes a red car. I traded in my Saturn L200 for a Toyota Prius. Not sure if I've mentioned that, yet. I'm not sure if this car will prove as well-traveled as my old car. Only time will tell.

The first maybe 1/4 mile of this hike takes you under some live oak, but, after that, you're walking among chaparral, and there is essentially no other shade until you get to the lookout.

It being well into summer, there weren't a lot of flowers blooming. Even most of the California buckwheat I saw had already gone to seed, as had the daisies, here.

Because of the atypical marine influence today, when the wind blew, it was a cool and moist breeze. It felt great.

Yet, there was also quite a bit of clouds. Indeed, on my return leg, after noon, it looked like thunderclouds were building pretty strongly above the mountains to the north.

You'll see that most in my first picture of this post, with clouds that, in this case, either looked like an elephant or a cat, playing with a toy.

In the previous shot, however, I caught a cloud drifting behind San Bernardino Peak. I thought it made it look a little volcanic.

After about 1.25 mile, I came to another, open gate. I'm told that this gate is normally locked, unless there are firespotters up on the peak. A sign here pointed the way to the lookout, again.

It was quite a distance further along before I got my first view of the lookout. It revealed itself suddenly, as I looked up after rounding a turn. I also crossed the Santa Ana River trail, which came in from the left. You'd figure it must also continue somewhere on the right, but I did not reach it. Perhaps you needed to take one of the fire roads further up in the mountains?

From that first view, I'd estimate it's still another 1/2 mile, at least, on the dirt road, before it loops back around and to the summit of Morton Peak.

The lookout is not too far off the ground, although the steps are narrow and steep, so, if you do walk up the actual lookout, be extremely careful, and use your hands.

Whether from the look out or not, there's a great panorama of mountains and urbanization around you. However, because of the marine influence, my view was a little hazy. It was still a nice view, but not as distant and expansive as I've seen in other pictures.

The volunteer lookouts invited me up, so went up, and accepted their offer of a bottle of water. I had tap water with me, but the bottled stuff looked better. I should probably have tossed a dollar bill into their donation glass, but, being somewhat dimwitted, it did not occur to me until later.

After about ten minutes of chatting and walking around the perimeter of the lookout, I made my way carefully down the stairs, then to my car.

On the drive back, I stopped in Mentone. There's a produce market / fruitstand thing in town that I often stop at. I bought some avocado, strawberries, and oranges. The avocado wasn't ripe, so I haven't eaten that. But the strawberry and oranges were both crazy-sweet.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Hike 2014.037 -- California Citrus State Historic Park

"Hiked" July 4, 2014. Short post, so I'll do this one now, as I try to catch up on the blogs.

California Citrus State Historic Park is in Riverside, off the 91 (Riverside) Freeway. Exit at Van Buren and follow the signs. I've got very few pictures from this hike, because my camera battery died shortly after my arrival. This was one of several incidents that has me thinking about getting a spare battery to carry.
If you visit, definitely visit on a Friday, Saturday or Sunday, when guided tours are available (edit--as of March 2015, tours are only held on Saturdays and Sundays; Friday tours have been cancelled due to a lack of docents--so, if you live in the area, here's a great volunteer opportunity for you! Probably best to come in winter, although some citrus are edible almost year 'round.

And that's what you get with the guided tour: A chance to eat some citrus. Well, that's just a bonus. Your volunteer docent will take you for a nice walk among a LARGE variety of citrus, where you'll learn about a variety of trees, and some history of the area and of the citrus industry in southern California. As you walk among the trees, the docent will cut fruit off the tree and let you sample. You'll also usually get a few extra fruit to take home.

But don't try cutting your own--the trees, like the structures and historical artifacts in any state park, are protected. I hear it's a $1000 fine for picking on your own, so don't do it!
There was an entry fee, although I used one of my California State Parks Foundation vouchers (which also got me into Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve). Twice, this year.

There is no additional charge for the tour, however (though there's some talk of that changing, in the future).

The walk around the citrus grove is over generally smooth, but uneven (sloped) ground, so wear shoes and walk carefully. It's not a long walk, but it can get hot out there. Dress accordingly.

There's an actual hike that would take you out of the developed park area, but it's still pretty short. I didn't have time for that because of when I arrived. So I just walked the mostly-developed walking path around the gazebo, up to a viewpoint, and around the groves, before joining the tour that walked amongst the citrus groves. Not what I expected, but in a good way. Of course, I'm a big fan of anything "free," including fresh fruit.

The last picture in this post is my fruit drawer, after I got home. As I said, with a dead battery, I couldn't take many pictures of the park. So here's one of my refrigerator!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Hike 2014.039 -- Lowe Observatory from Lake Avenue

Hiked Friday, July 18. I really should be more caught up on my blogging, given that I'm not hiking that much. This'll be a short-ish one.

Obviously, I've hiked to Echo Mountain and "The White City" many, many times over the years (most recently a few months ago). Usually, the White City is the goal; today, the Lowe Observatory pillar was the goal.
A friend had posted to facebook a picture of another friend standing atop the pillar. It had never occurred to me to try to stand on the pillar, but I decided I would have to return and see if it was feasible. The answer was, "Not for you, fatso!"

The pillar has plenty of grips (although climbing up there undoubtedly speeds erosion), but it would require a level of strength, dexterity, and fearlessness that I do not possess. So I satisfied myself with more pictures of the object, from afar.

Lowe Observatory was part of Dr. Thaddeus Lowe's mountain development from back near the turn of the 20th Century. To put this in context, after some massive forest wildfires of the 1870s and on forward, and after the Census Bureau announced the closure of the frontier with the 1890 Census, there was an upsurge in hiking and the seeking of things wild by Americas. This would be the time following the creation of our nation's first national parks, and of "progressive conservation" promoted by the likes of Theodore Roosevelt, the fears of a "timber famine," the passage of the Forest Reserve Act of 1891, and of Thoreau's Walden Pond.

Folks were convinced that America was losing something, and we had to return to "nature" to get that back. Anyway, a whole series of mountain resorts above and around Los Angeles sprang up, and this was one of them. You rode a cable car right out of Rubio Canyon and to the White City, and maybe then continued up a bit to visit the Lowe Observatory, which housed a 16" refracting telescope. By contrast, the Griffith Observatory's dome houses a 12" refracting telescope.

All of this burned in a series of fires, then The Great Depression drove the final nail in the coffin. Today, only concrete foundations, walls, stairs, and pillars remain of the first time America tried to "get back to nature."

The clouds were pretty nifty last night, and the sunset would have been great. However, I was too hungry to stick around, and, as if to completely eliminate the temptation, my camera battery died. So no spectacular sunset pictures with this post!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hike 2014.032 -- Griffith Observatory to Burbank Peak

Hiked Wednes-day, June 18. I'll probably skip blogging the last Eaton Canyon to Henninger Flats hike (2014.033, Sunday, June 22), just because there's not much to add to a hike I've done so many times before.

Of course, this one, I've done many times, too. But not as frequently as Henninger Flats.

First thing to note is that the George Harrison Tree that used to be at the north end of the Observatory lot is no more. It became diseased and was cut down over the past month or so. The picture at the top of this post shows the stone marker and the stump where the tree once grew.

And it seems like only yesterday I even learned it existed. :(
I took the Charlie Turner trail on up around Mt. Hollywood, then continued to the north. My goal was to follow the series of trails that take you up and along the series of ridges and peaks that separate Los Angeles from Burbank, eventually making my way up to near the back of Mt. Lee (with the Hollywood sign), then on to the west, over Cahuenga Peak, then Burbank Peak.
This is by far my favorite hike in the park, simply because you spend so much of it straddling the various divides, and looking across an awful lot of southern California.

I also like it because of some memorable pictures I got on a hike here last year.

Quite simply, it's the perfect summer hike from the Obser-vatory (for me). If I leave after a morning shift (finish at 5pm), there's just enough time for me to make it to Burbank Peak and back to the Observatory. The sun may even have set by the time I get back, but the trail the last two miles or so is wide and smooth. And the city lights are beautiful on the return from Mt. Hollywood.

One annoying incident on this hike was some stupid pinheads were tossing rocks over the back of Mt. Lee as I made my way on the road. I warned them people were walking below, but they laughed and kept tossing more, so it was obviously intentional. And did I mention stupid? Irresponsible and stupid.

Not too many flowers for me to photograph on this trip. The yucca were the most impressive bloom, as they have been at several local hikes over the past few weeks. There were also plenty of buckwheat, which I did not photograph. Quite a lot of Indian pink, as well, but those did not photograph well.
Finally, there was this blue flower that I did not recognize, but did photograph.

Other than the pinheaded buttheads on the top of Mt. Lee, the hike was fine. Despite some uncertainty as to if I really did have time to make to Burbank Peak and back, I eventually went ahead. Stayed on the actual peak for about twelve seconds, of course, because I had some distance to make it back.
In fact, I probably had more time than I thought. The sun was only just setting as I was already back on the relatively flat dirt road that would eventually loop back around Mt. Hollywood.

Meanwhile, atop Mt. Hollywood, a whole lot of folks where there. Councilman Tom LaBonge was doing a near-summer solstice hike, and several "classic" cars were also up there, presumably part of his entourage.

As I made my way around Mt. Hollywood, I decided to return via the east end of the loop. No particular reason why. Just hadn't gone this way in a while.
The east route takes you closer to Glendale, and also lets you look down upon Glendale Peak and an extended section of Vista del Valle Road, a paved road that is closed to private vehicular traffic. It's a hiking and biking path.

About 7-8 miles roundtrip. As I said, a nice post-work hike