Friday, February 24, 2012

Chapel, Bell, Hollywood, Bronson in Griffith Park - Feb. 24, 2012

Approaching Mt. Hollywood from the north Around the Rim

Griffith Icon What a most excellent adventure in Griffith Park! Since I’ve been hiking in the park these past 5 years, I’ve never repeated a hike. I’ve used many of the same trail sections, but combined them for different hikes. Since I’ve hiked all the main trails, I’m now focusing on various use paths and alternate routes. Today’s adventure was mostly on narrow use paths, which felt great, like real hiking in contrast to the wide dirt roads which dominate the park.

I started the hike at Hollyridge Trail, walked on the dirt road briefly, then climbed north up the ridge to Mulholland Ridge, east to Mt. Chapel, Bell Knoll, Mt. Bell, and Baby Bell. I finally had to use a section of dirt road south to Mt. Hollywood. Then back on a use path straight down the west ridge, past Captain’s Roost and continue down the ridge over a couple prominent high points, and then all the way to Bronson Cave by sunset. A short walk on the road north took me to a use path that climbs west straight up the mountainside to a ridge and then the final pitch to return to Hollyridge Trail. What an enjoying trek!

Route MapHike Description - If you’re looking for something different in Griffith Park, this loop is a winner. It would be good to have some familiarity with the park trails and competency in navigation, and some skill in negotiating dicey sections of trail. If you’re up to the challenge, you’ll find this hike to be rewarding. The whole loop is 4.1 miles (2.8 on trails and 1.2 on roads) with about 1900 feet in total evaluation gain. I’ve included enough detail in this blog narrative to give the specifics of how to do the hike. My Mt. Lee hike description will give you directions to the trailhead and the beginning of the hike. My Brush Canyon hike description fills in various details of hiking around the rim.

Hollyridge Trail trailheadI leave my office in Echo Park at 1:50, take the 101 north to the Gower exit, and drive north on Beachwood Canyon Drive 1.9 miles to Hollyridge Trail trailhead. There are lots of cars but I find a place to park. Every time I’ve hiked from here my destination was Mt. Lee, but today I’ll go the opposite direction.

2:10 PM - Begin hike climbing Hollyridge Trail, a wide dirt road. It starts heading south and shortly cuts back north. Just past the junction where the road comes up from the horse stables, there is a path that veers left and heads up the ridge. This will be my route. I had scouted it out using the aerial view in Google maps. It showed a clear route. Up I climb. The foot traffic and erosion has created a trench. I’m literally climbing up a rut that’s 3 to 4 feet deep. But it works. After a few minutes I pass over Mulholland Trail (a wide dirt road) and continue up the ridge. This is a section Jerry Schad describes in his “Trip 4, Mulholland Ridge,” which helped inspire this hike. It’s pretty warm and I’m working up a sweat. Shortly a spur trail cuts left about 100 feet to Mt. Lee Drive. This makes a great alternative route to hiking to Mt. Lee. I continue up the ridge.

View East from Mulholland Ridge toward Mt. Chapel, Mt. Bell, and Baby Bell2:31 - Mulholland Ridge. This highpoint offers a nice panorama, but the thick marine haze, particularly to the south, makes for poor visibility today. I see horseback riders on Mulholland Trail far below. I turn right (east) and stroll along the ridge trail with nice views north and south with Mt. Chapel up ahead. As I approach the flank of Mt. Chapel the trail splits. The right path traverses the south face of Mt. Chapel. I veer left and in a couple more minutes is another trail junction. The path straight proceeds northeast to the summit. It’s a good route, but for today, I turn left (north) and follow the trail along the west flank of Mt. Chapel heading toward the water tank. I’ve not walked the route before. It’s not bad but there are some dicey spots. I arrive at the water tank and walk past it on the right. Great view toward Burbank and Glendale. I turn right and climb the path south to the summit.

View west from Mt. Chapel2:54 - Mt. Chapel (1614’). This peak offers a splendid panorama of the park’s interior and the human sprawl beyond. The marine haze renders downtown virtually invisible today. The cool breeze feels good. Mt. Bell, Baby Bell, and Mt. Hollywood dominate the horizon to the east. Keeping with my plan to use narrow trails today, I head down the path due east. It’s pretty step and slippery, but I’ve climbed down it once before so I know what I’m getting into. Soon it mellows out and it’s a nice walk to meet the road that heads to the water tank on the north ridge of Mt. Chapel (the easiest route). I turn right (east) and walk on the dirt road 150 feet to Mt. Hollywood Drive. Now for another path I’ve not used before. Walk 100 feet north on the paved road to the use path that climbs east up the ridge (just short of the intersection of Vista Del Valle Drive). It’s a good path and a 3-minute walk to the summit.

View east from Bell Knoll toward Mt. Bell3:14 - “Bell Knoll” (as I call it). This is a little hill west of Mt. Bell. I continue on the path and in 3 minutes reach the saddle and junction west of Mt. Bell. I bear left (northeast) and in 50 feet turn right on the use path that heads up the slope (the northwest approach). There’s a web of paths but since I’ve been up this way a few times before, I choose well and have a nice climb.

View south toward Mt. Hollywood from Mt. Bell3:26 - Mt. Bell (1582’). This is my most visited peak in Griffith Park, so I guess that makes it my favorite. It’s in the heart of the park and can be approached from all directions. Its pointed summit offers great views. Across the canyon south, Mt. Hollywood calls to me. I leave the summit at 3:30 and take the path that heads southeast. It’s rocky and steep to start but then gets decent. A man passes me on his way first use-path human encounter since passing a young couple on Mulholland Ridge. There is really quite a bit of solitude when one sticks to the narrow trails. A 4-minute descent delivers me to the road at the saddle between Mt. Bell and Baby Bell. Walk east on the road about 130 feet to the use path that bears right heading southeast. Another 4-minute climb gets me to the summit.

View northeast from Baby Bell3:39 - “Baby Bell” (1570’). I’m still trying to find the story behind the hexagon shaped concrete structure that appears like it used to be the foundation of some type of gazebo or pergola. To the west, the haze backed up against the south side of Mount Lee gives a strong visual indication of how this range blocks much of the marine layer from the San Fernando Valley. I leave the summit at 3:45 and head down the ridge south. Partly down the ridge a spur path heads to the left meeting the trail coming around Baby Bell, but I continue straight. It gets pretty steep and slippery. I reach the dirt road at 3:49. This will be the first extended section of road since the beginning of the hike. I ascend the broad dirt road along the ridge, now sharing the park with other foot traffic. I soak in the beauty of the scenery. The sun still lights up Bee Rock below me to the east. When I get to the junction I turn left and walk toward Dante’s View to check out a use trail that comes up a ridge from Vista Del Valle Drive. Back to the junction I turn left (south) and finish my climb to the summit.

View west from Mt. Hollywood4:07 - Mt. Hollywood (1625’). There’s about a dozen people and a few dogs here. The iconic peak offers great views, but today everything to the south is choked with a blanket of haze. The Hollywood sign stands silhouetted to the west. To the east, Hogback Peak and Glendale Peak, where I was last week, bask in the late after noon sun. My camera battery dies (I realized at the office today that I had neglected to pack my charger and backup battery), so now I’ve got to shoot with my iPhone. I’d like to linger longer but I still have a lot of cross country ground to cover before a 5:44 sunset.

View south from Captain's RoostLeave summit at 4:20 and head down the steep path west toward Captain’s Roost. It’s really slippery and I fall on my butt. I carefully work my way down and reach the road in 5 minutes. Captain’s Roost was incinerated with the May 2007 fire. It’s now been rebuilt but it will take years to revegetate. Stately palms with blackened trunks rise into the sky. The gentle path continuing west down the ridge is quite nice. There are some century plants, ice plants, and other domestic vegetation along the way. This trail makes a much nicer route to Mt. Hollywood than walking up a dirt road. After 7 minutes I reach the road about 300 feet east of the hairpin turn. I walk to the turn and continue west on the path down the ridge. It’s only about 360 feet from this point to Mt. Hollywood Drive but the hillside drops much fast then the ridge, leaving a steep climb down the road cut at the end.

Bronson CaveCross the street and start walking down the dirt road southwest. In about 275 feet I bear right onto a use path roughly paralleling the road. After a few minutes of climbing I arrive at a prominent outcropping. Then down to a saddle and up to another outcropping. I see hikers on the trail in Brush Canyon far below to north. The scenery is splendid and worth a return visit when the visibility is clean and there’s more daylight. I leave the ridge and a steep descent delivers me to the ridge route that is about 240 feet west of the big green water tank (#116) at 5:09. I’m getting a little nervous about the waning daylight and know I don’t have time to lollygag. I head down the ridge, a route I’ve hiked before. In a few minutes I reach the crest of the east quarry wall and get my first view down toward Bronson Caves. A film crew is wrapping up for the day. Down the ridge I climb, reach a saddle, then climb to a high point on the south crest of the quarry. The path bends north and requires some route choices as I negotiate my way west down the brushy hillside and reach the road culminating at the Bronson Cave site at 5:36. I snap a picture of the famous “Batcave.”

Dusk on Hollyridge TrailI walk from the caves down the dirt road north to Canyon Drive in Brush Canyon. When I reach the road I bear right and continue north past the parking lot and park gate. My task now is to find the use path that climbs 460 vertical feet west to Hollyridge Trail. I get out my aerials to confirm the route. The sun is down now so I have no margin of navigational error in the diminishing light of dusk. I walk just short of 0.2 mile and locate the rough path on the left, adjacent to the concrete check dam. I begin my final climb at 5:49. It’s steep and loose but I manage to achieve a ridge in 7 minutes. I turn right (north) and ascend the ridge bending northwest, climb a final steep pitch, and arrive at Hollyridge Trail at 6:04. I’m feeling a sense of relief that I’ve made it successfully. Across the road is a large flat spot. A photographer and his friend have set up a pinhole box camera to capture the Hollywood sign in the twilight. I stop and chat and savor the beauty of the lingering sunset colors. The lights of Hollywood twinkle as crews work to get set for Oscar Sunday. My pace is relaxed as I walk the final 200 yards down the dirt road to the Hollyridge Trail trailhead.

6:17 - Done and fulfilled. I’m so ready for a warm shower and a good meal.

Epilog - What a thoroughly enjoyable adventure in Griffith Park. To complete a hike with about 70 percent of the route on narrow trails in a park dominated by dirt and paved roads is most satisfying. icon

Griffith Icon  See Hiking Griffith Park at Dan's Hiking Pages
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Friday, February 17, 2012

Hogback, Glendale, Beacon in Griffith Park - Feb. 17, 2012

Hogback Peak Griffith Icon This month has been lean on hiking for me, so I had to hit the trail. My employer graciously gave us a half day off on Friday, so an after-work hike in Griffith Park seemed ideal. Normally a car is my mode to get to a trailhead, but this time I needed to use buses, which added to the adventure. Long story short, between delays in getting out of the office and poor transit decisions, I had to put together a different hike on the fly. A Metro 181 finally delivered me to the corner of Los Feliz and Hillhurst at 3:30 and I was ready to start walking.

3:30 PM - Begin walking north on Hillhurst through a residential neighborhood. I’m still not sure what hike I am going to do but I have a little bit of a walk to think about it. After 18 minutes I arrive in Griffith Park at the intersection of Vermont Canyon Road and Boy Scout Road. I decided to hike the ridge route north to “Hogback Peak” (as I call it). I’ve looked at that route from various perspectives and have been eager to try it out. I’m not sure what I’ll do after that but I’ll make it up as I go.

Riverside TrailI walk up the road past the Greek Theatre to the trailhead for Riverside Trail on the east side of the road about half way between the theater and the Bird Sanctuary. It always amazes and maddens me that in the largest city-owned park in the country, they can’t scrape enough money together for trail signs. How hard would it be for them to put up a sign saying, “Riverside Trail?!”

3:55 - Begin heading east on Riverside Trail, which is actually a wide dirt road. It’s steep. Views soon open up. The air is cool and sun feels good. Shortly the trail rounds a hip of a ridge and heads into the next canyon. But my route is to cut north and climb the ridge on a narrow use path. I’ve seen people on this route so I know it’s doable.

View south en route to Hogback Peak4:00 - Begin ridge climb heading north. This area was burned in the May 2007 fire but the vegetation is coming back well and some healthy pine trees grace the landscape. The well beaten path climbs moderately up the gentle ridge offering views into the canyons on the east and west. It’s still winter, so there is not much in bloom...just a few occurrences of everlasting, mustard, Canterbury bells, deerweed. There’s a cool breeze. The clear sky affords a nice view of downtown L.A. to the south. I upload a couple photos to Facebook. As the route approaches the upper ridge, it get’s crazy steep. Thankfully footsteps have been hewn out of the crumbling granite making the climb doable.

View south from Hogback Peak4:28 - Hogback Peak (1480’). This summit is not officially named, but since it is such a dominate highpoint on Hogback Ridge, the name Hogback Peak seems appropriate. I’m treated with splendid views of Burbank to the north, Glendale to the east, and the Los Angeles sprawl to south. Mt. Hollywood dominates the view west and the grand Griffith Observatory stands majestically to the southwest. The Pacific Ocean is as a sheet of glass reflecting the setting sun. I am not alone for long as a couple young ladies arrive, and then a couple men with dogs off leash. I estimate that about 20% of those who walk their dogs in the park don’t use a leash, a flagrant violation of a city ordnance (LAMC 63.44-B,2.C), which is clearly communicated throughout the park. I don’t know why these people think they are above the law and don’t extend the most basic courtesy to other trail users. Well, in spite of that, I’m enjoying an absolutely beautiful day.

View northeast toward Glendale4:35 - Leave the summit and head east down Hogback Ridge Trail (aka East Ridge Trail). The San Gabriel Mountains dominate the horizon to the north and northeast. The afternoon sun casts a warm light on Glendale. Bee Rock, Old Zoo Park, and the other features of the northeast section of the park are in deep shade now. Other trial users are enjoying the beauty of the day. Parts of this ridge route, which is a wide dirt road, are quite steep and I take careful steps so as to not slip on the decomposing granite.

View toward Glendale PeakSeeing the huge road cuts throughout the park prompts me to reflect on the environmental naiveté of past generations who horribly carved up such a wonderful open space. Likewise, the abandoned irrigation pipes running throughout the park testify to a mentality that didn’t appreciate the beauty and self-sufficiency of native plant communities.

Up ahead and below me I can see Glendale Peak basking in the warm sun. I cross the bridge and arrive at Henry’s Trail at 4:52. A trail sign (which is rare in Griffith Park) commemorates the trail to Henry Shamma, who maintained this trail for years. I head up the narrow path that follows the board ridge. My pace is brisk as the sun threatens to set.

View northeast from Glendale Peak toward Beacon Hill, Glendale, Verdugo Hills, and San Gabriel Mountains4:55 - Glendale Peak (1184’). Nice panorama! The breeze is cool and I put on long sleeves. I take a moment to soak in the scenery but don’t linger long. The last time I was here I attempted a shortcut heading east which ended short of the road forcing me to turn back. This time I decide to try the path that heads south.

Leave the summit at 5:02. The path is pretty steep with loose footing but it is clearly used. To my relief the route works and I arrive at the main trail at 5:07. It didn’t save me much of time, but it’s fun to explore different routes. In another couple minutes I arrive at the junction of Riverside Trail and Vista Del Valle Drive. Now I have an option. I can take Riverside Trail southwest and reconnect with Hillhurst to Los Feliz. But I decide to continue east to Beacon Hill. I love the warm light of the “golden hour” nice for photos. I’m walking now on the paved road lined with eucalyptus. I pass Joe Klass Water Stop, a nice roadside picnic area. After a few more minutes down the dirt road I arrive at Five-Points junction. I continue straight ahead east at a brisk pace hoping to summit Beacon Hill before the sun dips out of sight.

View south from Beacon Hill5:26 - Beacon Hill (1001’). Vast human habitation sprawls out before me as night approaches. The downtown skyscrapers to the south glisten with the last rays of sun. The I-5 freeway below me is packed with traffic and creates an ever-present drone. I want to linger but need to keep going. The sun sets at 5:38 today. I decided to take another shortcut and follow the ridge to the south. I’ve not hiked it before but I know it goes through.

5:31 - Leave Beacon Hill and head south down the ridge. The use path is somewhat steep with loose footing in places, but not bad. I can see Lower Beacon Trail below me. The path mellows out and at 5:43 I arrive at Lower Beacon Trail. I decide to continue on the use path south down the ridge as a further shortcut. I’ve not hiked this route but the evidence of foot traffic suggests that it goes though. Soon the topography suggests that the final pitch will be really steep. Yup, it gets really steep, but branches of laurel sumac provide handles to help lower me down.

Coolidge Trail at Crystal Springs Drive5:51 - Reach the intersection of Coolidge Trail and Crystal Springs Drive, 13 minutes after sunset. I’m done. Coyotes begin to howl. A short walk south takes me to Los Feliz Blvd. where I sprint across the street to jump on a Metro 181 for the ride home.

Epilog - Very enjoyable outing in spite of the delays and a circuitous transit trip getting there. Clear skies, great views, warm sun, cool breeze, good exercise, pleasing scenery, and exploring new routes, made for a splendid hike. Griffith Park is a real treasure for Angelinos. icon

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