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.
We 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.
At 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!
See my Henninger Flats Hike Description on Dan's Hiking Pages