Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Griffith Observatory to Mt. Hollywood & Baby Bell - June 22, 2016

Southern panorama as seen from Mt. Hollywood, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, June 22, 2016

Griffith Icon I love it when by job intersects with hiking. This week at work I was responsible for helping facilitate meetings with leaders from around the country. Several of them enjoy hiking so it’s always on our radar to see if we can take a hike on one of the evenings. It worked out for Wednesday evening. The only one who is able to hike this time was Jeff. Griffith Park, as always, is our venue of choice, and we decide on the classic hike from the Observatory to Mt. Hollywood and beyond.

We leave the office in Echo Park at 6:21 and drive the five miles to Griffith Park. We are thankful to find a parking place on West Observatory Road just short of the Charlie Turner Trailhead. I’m pleased that a beautiful sign and map has been erected at the trailhead. Good job, parks people! Signage in Griffith Park has been horribly deficient for years. It’s labeled as Sign No. 19, so that suggests that there are more!

6:49 PM - Begin hike heading north on Mt. Hollywood Trail from the Charlie Turner Trailhead. The temperature is pleasant and haze mutes the views. There are lots of people on the trail. We stroll along and enjoy good conservation and the rugged scenery lit with the warm glow of the late afternoon sun. We cross the bridge spanning the Vermont Canyon Road tunnel and veer left following the main route. Soon I realize I neglected to turn onto the shortcut trail that climbs straight up the ridge. Oh well, I guess we’ll walk the long switchback. Views of the grand observatory open up.

As we approach the end of switchback leg, we hear wheels screeching below on Mt. Hollywood Drive. There is a strong smell of rubber. We go to the edge of the trail and notice it’s a yellow Hummer. It backs up and repeats the maneuver. We realize it’s a film shoot as we spot a camera truck. Griffith Park is used a lot for filming (and Mt. Hollywood Drive is normally closed to vehicular traffic).

At the switchback there are stone benches and a monument marker. It reads, “The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Overlook.” I’ve not been here since September 2013, so these are new to me (since I usually take the shortcut, the last time I was here was with Jeff and Loren coming back down in the dark; on that hike we hit Mt. Hollywood and Mt. Bell).

The Tiffany & Co. Foundation Overlook
With visionary support from The Tiffany & Co. Foundation
and contributions from people worldwide,
Cahuenga Peak, the backdrop of Hollywood,
is preserved for generations to come.
Enjoy the view!

We switchback heading east. It’s always sad to see rocks defaced with graffiti. The parks department works hard at covering it, but one tag—painted over at least two previous cover-overs—begs to be abated. The horrific scourge of graffiti in our population centers in “modern” society is compelling evidence that humankind is not evolving. Homo sapiens are de-evolving into Neanderthals and there is seemingly nothing that science and modernity can do to stop it (perhaps a theological explanation should be considered).

We are enjoying good conversation as our view over the vast L.A. sprawl to the south expands. Above us, Mt. Hollywood is accented with tiny figures.

We reach the six-point junction south of Mt. Hollywood at 7:20. A new sign has been posted here as well: Sign No. 13. It points left and right to either main route to Mt. Hollywood at .4 mi (to the left through Captain’s Roost [.1 mi.], and to the right through Dante’s View [.2 mi.]). And it points left (west), back to where we came up (.7 mi to Berlin Forest; 1 mi. to the Griffith Observatory). What the sign doesn’t mention is the two routes heading south down the ridge (the shortcut to the bridge and to Bird Sanctuary, although one is shown on the new map). And it doesn’t show the steep route that heads directly up the ridge to Mt. Hollywood. The small print at the bottom of the sign reads, “You are in an urban wilderness. For you safety and to protect the habitat, please stay on designated trails.” I guess that means they would prefer we don’t use the popular shortcut. We’ll, that’s going to be our route, so sorry, sign.

We turn north and begin to climb the well-worn path straight up. A guy is playing with a remote control car. Lots of California buckwheat is in bloom, about the only thing I’ve seen blooming today. The route is really steep, but always a fun way to go.

Atop Mt. Hollywood (1625’), Griffith Park, Los Angeles, June 22, 2016
7:34 - Mt. Hollywood (1625’). I love this place. There are always people here; 13 right now. The massive human sprawl to the south is muted by haze. The grand observatory sits impressively on the mountain below. The soon-setting sun silhouettes Mt. Lee and the Hollywood sign to the west. To the northeast the majestic San Gabriels span the horizon with their sun-draped peaks. To the north Baby Bell calls to us. We linger for a few minutes and soak in the splendid location.

We leave the summit at 7:45 and head northeast on the wide dirt road. I’m hoping to get sunset shots from Baby Bell. That is about as far as we’ll get today. At the Captain’s Roost junction another new sign has been erected: Sign No. 11. And at the four-point junction north of Mt. Hollywood is new Sign No. 10. These are nice! The sun is nearing its disappearing point behind the peaks to the west. We continue straight along the ridge-divide and head north toward the Bells. The sun casts a warm glow over Glendale to our northeast. We’ve lost the sun behind Mt. Chapel but I’m calculating we’ll see it again once on top of Baby Bell. Our pace is deliberate now. We transition left unto the rutted path that skirts Baby Bell, then turn left to follow the ridge to the summit.

View of sunset from atop Baby Bell, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, June 22, 2016
8:01 - Baby Bell (1570’). We’re just in time to photograph the setting sun as it dips below the distant horizon to the right of Mt. Chapel. There are two guys here and they snap our picture. Sometime I’d like to learn the story behind the hexagon-shaped foundation. This is Jeff’s first time on this peaklet (on our hike in September 2013 with Loren, we skirted Baby Bell so that we could have enough time to peak out at Mt. Bell with adequate light). We enjoy our 360-degree view over the rugged parkland and the vast megalopolis beyond. There is peacefulness as night falls on L.A. Looking north to the site of the long-gone Grand Central Airport in Glendale, and looking northeast to the zoo parking lot and the former of site of the Griffith Aviation Park, I share a little history with Jeff. Such aviation luminaries as Martin, Boeing, and Douglas had their roots here (see my Beacon Hill hike description for more).

We leave the summit at 8:13 and head down the northwest ridge route. At the dirt road we turn right and traverse along the north flank of Baby Bell. At the site of the short-lived Griffith Park Teahouse, I reminisce about its clandestine appearance on June 30, 2015. We continue around the peaklet then retrace our steps along the ridge-divide heading south. Lights twinkle in Glendale. Nightfall displays its beauty. I’m really enjoying Jeff’s enthralling story about a recent adventure he had on the Appalachian Trail…oh the lessons we learn while hiking!

At the four-point junction north of Mt. Hollywood (Sign No. 10), we opt to turn left (east). At Dante’s View there’s another new sign (Hogback Trail at Dante’s View, Sign No. 12). I encourage Jeff to drink from the fountain. He declines by saying he has water. I tell him he has to drink from the drinking fountain…because it’s here, and L.A. tap water is so robust. We take a short walk through Dante’s View before continuing on. It’s nearly dark now.

We reach the five-point junction at 8:52 and decide to go straight down the ridge shortcut. The ambient light is sufficient for our steps. I don’t recall if I have been down this route at night, but I failed to anticipate how tedious and precarious it is in the dark (I attempt to use my headlamp but I prefer the ambient light). A sea of lights covers our southern panorama. We safely negotiate the steep, slippery route and at the junction to Bird Sanctuary are rewarded with a reasonable path. Headlights stream up Western Canyon Drive. The observatory is bustling. Back at the bridge we retrace our steps past the Belin Forest and to the Charlie Turner Trailhead.

9:22 - End hike. The place is teeming with visitors. Back at the car we navigate to Sunset and Orange in Hollywood and cap off the evening at In-N-Out. It doesn’t get better than this!

Jeff and Dan atop Baby Bell, Griffith Park, Los Angeles, June 22, 2016
Epilog - What an enjoyable hike. I never get tired of this amazing urban wild place with its endless possibilities. In the nine years I’ve been hiking in Griffith Park, I’ve not repeated a hike. With the vast web of trails, I’ve been able to cobble together various trail sections and destinations to create a different hike each time. This hike was similar to previous hikes but distinctly different. Jeff was great company and it’s always a privilege to host our out-of-down guests. icon

Griffith Icon  See Hiking Griffith Park at Dan's Hiking Pages
 (includes links to my other blog posts for hiking in Griffith Park)

Boot IconRelevant trail descriptions for this hike at Dan's Hiking Pages:

PREVIOUS > Beacon Hill and Glendale Peak in Griffith Park - Feb. 15, 2016

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - May 7, 2016

Dan Simpson at Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, May 7, 2016
The day after a rain in the spring is the absolute best time to visit Fish Canyon Falls. I was looking at Saturday as my only sure widow to hike Fish Canyon in May, so I was elated when water began to pour from the sky on Friday. The forecast is for scattered showers on Saturday, so I’m taking my chances. It’s been an amazing ride hiking Fish Canyon every month for a year to experience the changes through the seasons. With spring upon me, I couldn’t stop at 12 months, so today’s hike is month 15. And I’m happy that my buddy Tom is able join me.

I arrive at the trailhead at about 7:25. It’s cloudy and 55 degrees. The sun struggles to peek through the clouds to the east. There are only about 11 cars in the lot, which is sparse for a weekend in spring. I chat with a couple guys who are waiting for their hiking group scheduled to meet at 8. Tom pulls up and we’re ready to go.

7:45 - Begin hike. I enjoy the 10-minute walk through the quarry as a time to catch up with my hiking buddy before engaging nature. The quarry walls tower above us. There are fresh deer tracks in the wet sand. I’m eager to see what’s in bloom today and I so set out from the start to photograph a sample of every species in bloom. The ubiquitous mustard is the first flower to greet us, then tree tobacco, laurel sumac, yellow thistle weed thing, California buckwheat, and deer weed (the first I’ve seen in bloom this season).

We pass the big rock into the riparian section. Last mouth the brittlebush was quite showy with its daisy-like yellow flowers; now it’s near the end of its bloom. Today, bush monkeyflower, Canterbury bells, and golden yarrow dominate this section, accented by mule fat. The yellow flowers of golden currant, which I first saw blooming on February 20, have now transformed into translucent gold berries. The number of creamy-white flower clusters of Mexican elderberry has thinned out since last month. The lovely yellow flowers of Spanish broom greet us as we near the bridge. We are loving the robust aroma and the freshness that rain brings.

We cross the bridge into the Angeles National Forest at 8:14 and begin our walk on the historic trail. More flowers greet us: a weedy yellow thing, narrow-leaf bedstraw, western thistle, common sunflower, elegant clarkia, Indian milkweed, mystery mustard, phacelia, and prickly pear cactus, which is really blooming well.

Van Tassel Ridge Trail, Fish Canyon, Angeles National Forest, May 7, 2016
At the junction to Van Tassel Ridge, the interpretive sign talks about the “new” trail built in 1997 over the ridge to bypass the quarry. Today, the only section of that trail still usable is from here to the ridge...a challenging but rewarding climb of 1.1 miles with 1,100 feet gain (be sure to wear long pants and shirt, and maybe trekking poles, gloves and a pair of clippers would be good. And watch out for rattlesnakes). See my Van Tassel Ridge trail guide. See my hike from one year ago for narrative of my last adventure: Van Tassel Ridge Hike - March 15, 2015.

Common sunflower (Helianthus annuus) is the dominate flower today with its cheery countenance. We saunter along and enjoy good conversation and the amazing springtime beauty after the rain. Tom is engaged in recalling the names of various plants. More plants in bloom include white sage, chamise, western wallflower, phacelia, and blue dicks (sparse compared to last month). Resurrection plant (aka spikemoss) is alive and thriving. Poison oaks sports its shiny leaves. The tree of heaven jungle has returned from its winter hiatus. At the old cabin site, oleander, jade, cape ivy, and periwinkle (Vinca), are reminders that early cabin dwellers preferred alien plants over native habit.

As we climb down the steps leaving the jungle, I look up to see if the pipestems (Clematis lasiantha) are in bloom yet. They’re least no longer above me! The large pine tree that hosted the pipestems vine has fallen. Perhaps nature’s cycle of life. Or perhaps it is destruction from invasive plants that man introduced such as the tree of heaven and/or the nearby cape ivy. But this pine in not native here either, so maybe the whole drama is just a battle of the weeds. We’ll see if the native pipestems hold their ground.

At 8:40 we step into a patch of sun peeking through the clouds. The streamside setting in wonderful. Other hikers are coming and going. As we pass Old Cheezer’s Mine, a group of more than 25 pass us heading to the falls. I’ve never understood the appeal of mass hiking. The figs are growing well. A humming bird evades being photographed. I’m pleased to see an abundance of matilija poppy in bloom. More flowers include California everlasting, western thistle, common yarrow, phacelia, golden stars, and heartleaf penstemon (the first I’ve seen these latter two in bloom this season). I’m delighted to find a tiny purple flower I don’t recall encountering before. Later I found it to be peninsular onion (Allium peninsulare var. peninsulare). I’m bummed that my nice iPhone6 often leaves me with out-of-focus flower pics. Thankfully, Michael Charter has a nice picture of peninsular onion on his Flowering Plants of Fish Canyon gallery. Attempts to photograph common eucrypta and fairy lantern also produced blurry pics. Tom and I stop to admire the colors and variety of moss and lichen. Toyon is starting to bloom and lemonade berry is hosting new fruit.

We meet several guys who tell us that they witnessed a huge rock fall from the wall next to the falls. One hiker said it fell about 50 feet and was the size of a VW bug. It sounded like thunder and created a huge splash drenching the surrounding rocks. They say it turned the water murky brown. Unfortunately we found no one who got it on video. We are eager to see what happened.

Past the spiral stair steps I'm eager to see if the Humboldt lily is in bloom. It's not...I'm sad. We take the side jaunt to Darlin’ Donna Falls and it is flowing nicely. Back on the main trial we meet Richard and Cathy Deem. I first met Rich during a Vulcan Fish Canyon access day on April 25, 2009. I've met lots of people on this trail over the years. Tom and I continue on our way.

10:27 - Main creek crossing. It’s flowing modestly, bolstered by yesterday’s rain. The air is heavy with moister as it threatens to rain more. We’re loving the beauty of the rugged canyon, the freshness of spring after a nice rain, cool temps, and good conversation. Another large group passes us. Canyon dudleya is blooming. A couple ladies carefully negotiate the notorious slopped rock. No matter how many times I’ve been here (today is my 49th), I always feel a certain excitement as I approach the iconic 80-foot waterfall.

10:48 - Fish Canyon Falls. What a splendid setting. With yesterday's rain, the falls are flowing a little better than when I was here on April 16. There are a couple dozen people here. An inconsiderate dog owner lets his pet run free and splash innocent bystanders with its wet fur.

I had expected to see the rock that was reported to be the size of VW bug dominating the pool, but there is nothing. Perhaps it busted up. The water is murky brown with plant debris floating. We’ll have to wait until the pool is empty in the summer to see what new rocks are below the waterline. The surrounding rocks are mostly dry now. And we can’t really tell for sure where the rock fell from.

We sit and snack, chat, and soak in the beauty of this special place. Hikers come and go. The clouds provide great lighting for photographing the falls.

We leave the falls at 11:56 and meander down the well-beaten path. I love the springtime beauty of this canyon. Hiking it monthly since February 2015 and experiencing the later summer months—with stifling heat, dead weeds, parched vegetation, dry creek and falls—has given me a renewed appreciation for how truly wonderful the spring is in Fish Canyon.

Happy hikers are coming and going. It’s always nice to see such diversity of people enjoying the canyon. We stop and photograph flowers that we missed earlier: California chicory, Indian pink, honeysuckle, and dodder (yes, the witches hair has tiny white blossoms). The morning glory is now showing its glory. Fish Canyon in May the day after a rain is as good as it gets. I love the vibrant vegetation, colorful flowers, rich aroma, and the soothing sound of flowing water.

We cross the bridge at 1:16 onto Vulcan’s access trail and continue to enjoy natural bouquets of wildflowers. Our conversation winds down as we stroll through the massive quarry to our waiting cars.

1:34 - End hike. The lot is pretty full with about 41 cars (including mine and Tom’s). It’s a pleasant 69 degrees under cloudy skies and we didn’t have to don raingear. My Fitbit recorded 13,820 steps for the hike.

Epilog - What a delightful hike! I never tire of this amazing canyon, and springtime after a rain is as good as it gets. I love the abundant wildflowers, the lush vegetation, and the amazing aromas. After years of hiking here, many individual plants and trees have become old friends. What a joy to anticipant rounding a bend to greet a friend like Indian milkweed, sacapellote, and Dudleya densiflora...faithfully growing in the same place year after year. And it’s always a treat to discover new plants I’ve never met before. And having a good buddy to share the experience with is a gift. I am so thankful for this natural treasure in my backyard. icon

Facebook icon Like Fish Canyon Falls Facebook Page
Facebook Banner

See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages (including a link list for my other blog posts for Fish Canyon)

Plants See Plants in Fish Canyon at Dan's Hiking Pages
(including links to various plant resources)

icon  See Waterfalls of The San Gabriels at Dan's Hiking Pages

PREVIOUS > Fish Canyon Falls Hike - April 16, 2016