Monday, March 9, 2015

Hike 2015.013 -- Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, Baldwin Hills, CA

Hiked Saturday, February 28. Returned on Wednes-day, March 4.

I guess it's been about 2 1/2 years since my first and only previous visit to Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area.

It's not really what you'd expect a state park to look like. I mean, it's nice and all, and there is some historical significance to the location. But, for the most part, it's just a park with a nice view.

In fact, the view was what brought me here this time. I have seen photos with the snow-capped mountains as a backdrop to the Downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) skyscrapers for years, but it never occurred to me exactly where those photos were taken. But, finally, curiosity got the better of me, and I finally tracked the location down on the Internet.

Then, of course, even knowing *where* the shots were taken, there was still the matter of *when*. It had to be done shortly after a heavy snow in the local mountains, and with the air relatively clear. Neither of those things necessarily happen very often, particularly in recent years.
On the first day I went, I was pretty sure it was snowing during the day, but I was not expecting the sky to be very clear. I was, however, hoping to get confirmation of where in the park I would want to be to get the right backdrop.

Unfortunately, the clouds were so thick that I had no real clue as to exactly where I would need to go to get Mt. Baldy (Mount San Antonio) behind the DTLA skyline.

Still, I knew even without being able to get or perfectly scout my shot, I was going to have plenty of space to walk. I knew trails went around the park and across several section so of the park, so I'd have no shortage of options. So I drove to the park on a weekend afternoon, even knowing there'd be an entrance fee. And I parked at the first lot I came to, because I was here mainly to walk, anyway.

There's a couple of ponds near this first lot, and a "stream" that flows down the hill and into the upper of the two lakes, and another "stream" that connects the two lakes. Several people fishing in the lakes, while others walked around the perimeter. Waterfowl enjoyed the actual ponds.

From the ponds, I headed south and southwest, paralleling the road and passing by the Sheriff's Depart-ment substation. I crossed the road here and continued up the walk. Along the this hill, I passed my first set of wildflowers. There were quite a bit in bloom, though mostly wild radish and wild mustard.

During my first visit to this park, I walked around much of the park. I knew there were trails that headed down and paralleled La Brea, at the east end of the park. I didn't feel like hiking down there today, so, when I reached the top of the hill, I stayed at this "upper deck" altitude, and made my way over to the overlooks that allowed me views to the east and north.

As expected, the mountains themselves were invisible, hidden behind storm clouds. But the DTLA skyline looked rather nice. I could also see clearly across the basin, to Griffith Park, to the north. The Observatory building and the Hollywood sign were both easy. Lots of wild mustard and wild radish in bloom at the overlook. I took plenty of pictures here, too.

After the overlook, I continued counter-clockwise around the bowl of the old reservoir. The bowl encloses an area of manicured lawn and trees (great for a picnic).

Near the north-western end of this "upper deck" of park, several trails wind their way down towards the entry road level. I stayed on the widest one, which I assumed to be the "main" trail, though several others criss-crossed it on the way to that lower level. Once at that lower level, I stood along the road and parking area, and tried to figure out where the Japanese garden had gone. I determined that the wide path I had taken lands at this lower level somewhat to the south of the trail I had taken on my previous visit here. So I knew if I headed back to the north, I'd reach the garden pond, and that, a bit north of that, there would be a waterfall.
Last time I was here, the pond had numerous lotus in bloom; today, the lily pads and lotus were all in hibernation. But there was still the stone temple in the pond, which was crossed by brightly-painted wooden bridges that could not be crossed, because fences blocked either end. Permanently.
I played with composi-tion a great deal here, trying to take photos that masked the presence of the fence, and of the very intrusive signage near either bridge.

I also took several pictures of the weird-looking torii (arches). They just seem shaped wrong compared to actual Japanese torii.
In this case, I also needed to work with composition a bit, because there was a trash bag right near one leg of the torii. So that's why I'm shooting low, and why you can't quite see the legs of the torii.

From the Japanese garden, I continued north, to the waterfall. At the waterfall, I took a slightly steeper trail that headed back to the "upper deck," past those verandas Then I walked the rest of the way around the bowl, back towards the upper parking lot. Along this section of the bowl, there were views to the west, to the ocean, with sunflowers in the park and oil fields in the near distance.

Once back near the lot at the top of the park, I initially planned to just head back to my car. But I wasn't feeling tired, yet, so I decided to to continue to the south. This brought me across a crushed granite-covered trail, edged in places by a wooden fence. This was not here the last time I visited, nor were the exercise machines and exercise stations. A lot of work had been done over the past few years, that's for sure.

This trail was called the "East Ridge Trail," and continued all the way to Stocker Blvd, at the south end of the park.

This Ridge Trail area seemed like a great place for a workout, what with the city sprawling out on either side of your workout room. Indeed, one guy who was exercising there asked me to use a phone to take a picture of him on the pull-up bar, with DTLA in the background.

I took his picture, then continued to Stocker Blvd. Took a picture of the sign for the park that was there (at the corner of Stocker and La Brea), and observed (but did not walk) a trail that continued on the kitty-corner from where I stood. Then, returned the way I came.

When I got back to the pull-up bars, i decided I should stage a few shot of myself, doing a pull up on one set of pull-up bars, with DTLA in the background. So I set my camera on a nearby piece of exercise equipment, placed my backpack atop that to balance my camera, then composed my shot. Used the self-timer and snapped a few shots. On the first one, my face was obscured by my arms. In the second, I had my face back a bit so I could be recognized.

Composition-wise, the picture came out fine. But, (A), the pull up was a lot harder than it used to be when I weighed 50 pounds less than I do today, and (2) Either the angle of the shot or the way the sweater I was wearing bunched up around my stomach, or simply the fact that I'm really fat, now, this picture made my stomach look HUGE. I really need to lose weight. Anyway those shots didn't make the cut to be posted either here, or my personal facebook account. ;D

[The A and 2 thing is a joke; I forget where I got that from].
Once back at the upper parking lot, I retraced my steps back to my car. About five miles for the day.

About four days later, on a weekday afternoon, when the skies were finally mostly clear, I returned to get the shot I wanted. There's a bit of haze, but I'm temporarily satisfied with the shot. If there's a clearer afternoon when I don't have other commitments, I may try for this shot, again.

I also observed that planes in a holding pattern for LAX pass around the Baldwin Hills, and that, if there's a rising near-full moon in the late afternoon, with enough patience, you could get a shot of the moon and a jet in one frame.

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