Friday, October 22, 2010

Henninger Flats Hike - October 22, 2010

Eddie and John at the entrance to Henninger Flats See Henninger Flats Hike Description on Dan's Hiking Pages

Got an email from my friend, John, inviting some of his friends to celebrate his birthday with him on a night hike to Henninger Flats. Sounded fun. I’ve not done much hiking at night so welcomed the new experience. We’ve been having rain throughout the week, so that was my main concern. But what hay, if we get stuck in a rain storm, we’ll have a memorable story. I have hiked to Henninger Flats several times, so I look forward to climbing it at night.

Leave my office in Los Angeles and ride the Metro Gold Line train to Sierra Madre Villa Station where John picks me up a little after 7:00 p.m. We park at the intersection of Altadena Drive, Roosevelt Avenue and Midwick Drive in Altadena. His friend, Eddie, meets us here. We get acquainted and find that we share similarities in our life journeys and passions. We linger at the trailhead for a few minutes to see if any others of the invitees would show up. Turns out we will be a threesome.

7:43 - Begin hike. We descend the narrow "Midway" trail, as I call it, into the Eaton Canyon wash. A full moon is slatted for this evening but it is hiding behind the clouds at this point. I love the aromas of the chaparral after a rain. The air is cool and there is a slight breeze. We cross the wash and have no problems fording the stream...except for me...I step on a rock without realizing it is underwater! Things look differently at night!

Arriving at the north side of the wash at the main Eaton Canyon Trail, we decide to turn right (east) to ascend the Walnut Canyon trail to reach Mt. Wilson Toll Road (rather than walking the 0.4 mile west to the bridge at beginning of the road). Our only concern with this route is that it might be muddy and slippery from the rain today. Start our ascent at 7:51 and find the trail to be fine. We enjoy good conversation as we navigate the 12 switchbacks. The full moon reveals itself through the patchy clouds. There is quite a bit of light but we continue to use our lights on this section of the hike to avoid footing mishaps. At 8:15 we arrive at the Toll Road. It's interesting how one can work up a sweat on a cool evening. I shed my long-sleeved shirt.

View south toward the San Gabriel ValleyWe amble along the wide dirt road with a southern panorama of twinkly lights of human sprawl. The moon fades in and out but the light is sufficient to guide our steps. Stop at one of the conveniently placed benches while John fixes his sock. Our conversation bounces around a range of topics from hiking, politics, spiritual life, wildlife, and life experiences. Time seems to fly and I'm a little surprised when we arrive at the Henninger Flats sign, about 2.5 miles and 1,300 feet in elevation gain.

9:19 - Henninger Flats (2550). We turn right (east) and climb the trail to the upper campsites to get a good vantage point. We are hoping to be able to see the Disneyland fireworks, which happen about 9:30. We greet some campers who are spending the night. Find a good spot on the road and sure enough, the visibility is sufficient to see the pyrotechnic display many miles south in Orange County. We linger quite awhile enjoying each other's company and the special atmosphere of nighttime in the forest.

Dan, Eddie and John the birthday boyAt 10:30 we finally leave, following the road back down through the flats. As we stroll along we reflect on Psalm 19: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard." And we appreciate that God not only reveals his existence through his creation, but also he reveals himself personally through his Word: "The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statues of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple…sweeter than honey from the comb."

We arrive at the top of the Walnut Canyon trail at 11:30. Linger for a while then begin our descent, headlamps lighting the way. Reach the main trail at 12:28 a.m. Hmmm, this may be the first time in my life that a single hike (besides backpacking) has spanned two calendar days. Wander back across the wash, up the final pitch, and arrive at the trailhead at 12:44.

Epilog - What a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend a Friday night! Great company, beautiful nighttime surroundings, pleasant temperatures, full moon, freshness of recent rains, fireworks, a new friend, and the celebration of a birthday. Happy birthday, John! Thanks for including me on this special day! icon

See my Henninger Flats Hike Description on Dan's Hiking Pages

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Mt. Hollywood, Mt. Bell Hike - 10-10-10

View south from Mt. Hollywood
Griffith Icon It’s 10-10-10, how cool! I had to do something to commemorate the a hike was it. My plan was to drive into my office on Saturday in LA to get some work done in preparation for a full week, then do a late afternoon hike in Griffith Park. As I drove the 210 and 134, the beauty of the day grabbed me. Instead of transitioning to the 2, I couldn’t resist the gravitational pull of Griffith Park. I ended up at the observatory and got a great parking place on the road just a few steps below the Charlie Turner Trailhead.

11:00 - Start hike at the Charlie Turner Trailhead on Mt. Hollywood Trail heading north. The weather is warm and sunny but not too hot. I am vitally aware of the fact that I have never hiked in Griffith Park in the morning. All my hikes have been in the late afternoon after work. So my pace is brisk with the intent of standing on Mt. Hollywood in the morning. I’ve hiked this trail a number of times but I’m busy snapping pictures because I have never experienced it in this light.

Looking north toward Mt. Hollywood
11:04 - Transition to the ridge trail just past the bridge. I figure I’ll take the most direct route. The trail is somewhat steep but certainly more like real hiking than a stroll on a wide dirt road. The views are quite striking today.

11:11 - Reach the junction south of Mt. Hollywood. Veering left would take me past Captain’s Roost; veering right would take me past Dante’s View. But I head straight up the ridge, continuing on the most direct route. The sun is warm.

View west toward Mt. Lee from Mt. Hollywood
11:16 - Mt. Hollywood (1625'). That was fast! To my surprise there are only two people here. On every previous visit, there has always been a small crowd. Great views today. I look north and see Mt. Bell and figure I can reach it while it is still morning.

11:20 - Leave Mt. Hollywood and head northeast. I love the scenery in Griffith Park and the panoramas beyond. In minutes I reach the major junction and continue straight along the ridge. I am aware that this is the first time I have hiked this section of trail going this direction.

11:28 - Transition to the narrow trail climbing the north ridge of “Baby Bell” (the unnamed summit to the southeast of Mt. Bell). I am really enjoying the midday light…I can take pictures in all directions without the deep, late afternoon shadows that I am used to. Virtually nothing in bloom right now. Curve around the east hip of Baby Bell and now enjoy the views north with Mt. Bell in my sights to the west.

11:33 - Saddle east of Mt. Bell. I start ascending the east ridge, the shortest route to the top. I notice that someone has cleared a lot of brush from along the trail, making the climb easier.

View south from Mt. Bell toward Mt. Hollywood, Griffith Park
11:37 - Mt. Bell (1582')…my fifth time here this year, and each time has been from a different route. I really enjoy the views from this summit. I especially like being able to look west toward Mt. Lee (Hollywood Sign) and Cahuenga Peak without squinting from the setting sun. View west from Mt. Bell toward Mt. Lee and Cahuenga Peak The brush trimming efforts came all the way to the summit and several prominent bushes have been removed. I don’t know what the purpose was; it decreases some of the shade, but does increase the views. See a line of equestrians on the dirt road below.

11:50 - Leave Mt. Bell heading southwest. The brush clearing makes this route easier, but it’s still steep in places with loose footing. I take careful steps.

Horseback riders on Mt. Hollywood Drive
11:55 - Arrive at main trail. Count 109 paces from there west to the saddle junction. I continue west, then cut left down to paved Mt. Hollywood Drive heading south. Lots of people using the main trails today. Some on horses. Some with dogs. I pass by Mulholland Trail junction (#43) and continue south. I’m now on a portion of trail (paved road) which I’ve never been on.

12:14 - 3 Mile Trail junction (#37). This will be my route, but I continue on another 100 yards to check out the large rock outcropping that predominately sits high on the eastern slopes of Brush Canyon. It’s quite impressive. I scamper around and explore it. There is still water pooled in some of the recesses left over from the rains earlier in the week.

12:34 - Back at 3-Mile Trail junction. Begin my ascent. I’ve not been on this trail before so I’m enjoying some different perspective on the scenery. I’m loving the clear skies and great views of the surrounding hills and human sprawl beyond. Soon reach a hairpin turn that cuts back east and now briefly have views south. Pass below water tank 151.

Dante's View, Griffith Park
12:49 - Junction north of Mt. Hollywood. I continue straight (east) and arrive at Dante’s View in about three minutes. Refresh my water bottle at the water fountain. Wander around Dante’s View—a sprawling hillside garden—and enjoy snapping some pics in the midday light. The benches, picnic tables, and serenity of the garden are most inviting, but no one is here but me. After 10 minutes, I continue southwest.

1:06 - Junction south of Mt. Hollywood (my 11:11 location). I retrace my steps south along the path that drops to the west of the ridge and soon meet another multi-route junction. I continue down to find myself in a web of trails that end up dropping steeply to the road below. I think I took a wrong turn! I climb back to the multi-route junction and realize I should have turned right (west) rather than going straight south. Chat with a family visiting from Germany. Follow them down the correct path.

1:29 - Arrive at the bridge. Those last few steps are really dicey. Continue south across the bridge. At the Berlin Forest I note the sign that the points in the direction of Berlin—5,795 miles away. Wow, that German family is far from home! Soon my car comes into view parked along the road below.

Griffith Observatory
1:35 - End of hike, back at the Charlie Turner Trailhead. I wash up at the restroom and pay a short visit to the observatory. I love this amazing landmark. The air conditioning inside feels good. Lots of people. As I head back to the car I see a helicopter approaching the summit of Mt. Hollywood. It looks like it's going to land. It does land, kicking up a huge plumb of dust. Wonder what that’s about. View north toward Mt. Hollywood

Epilog - Really an enjoyable hike on 10-10-10. Warm and sunny, but not unbearable. Great views. This year has been the year of hiking Griffith Park for me. This special place has really become a dear friend. With the seasons changing and daylight getting less, it may not be until next spring before I do another after-work hike in Griffith Park, so I will have to savor this one. 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 IconSee Mt. Hollywood via Griffith Observatory hike description at Dan's Hiking Pages (Detailed trail guide with options to Mt. Bell, Mt. Chapel, Mt. Lee, and more)

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