Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Beacon, Glendale, Bee in Griffith Park - November 21, 2012

View east toward Bee Rock from Vista Del Valle Drive
Griffith Icon Very uncharacteristic for me, it’s been nearly seven weeks since I’ve been hiking. So I was eager to hit the trail, and a half day off work before Thanksgiving offered an ideal opportunity to hike in Griffith Park. For my many hikes in the park over the years, I’ve not repeated one yet. I’ve used many of the same trail sections, but combined them for different hikes. For today’s hike I tried out a use path to Beacon Hill, a use path to Glendale Peak (which I’ve been down but not up), a section of Vista Del Valle Drive (which I’ve not been on before), and descended Bee Rock Trail (which I’ve climbed but not descended).

I leave my office in Echo Park at 1:43 and navigate to the merry-go-round parking lot off Crystal Springs Drive on the east end of Griffith Park. I walk back to the parking lot entrance and walk across the street to the trailhead.

Lower Beacon Trail
2:15 PM – Begin hike on Lower Beacon Trail (#2) heading southeast. Within 3 minutes I reach an outward bend and am pleased to find my path heading up the ridge. I pre-scouted the route on Google maps aerial and it showed a clear, distinct trail. I turn right and begin to climb the narrow path up the broad ridge. The temperature is pleasant and the sunshine feels good. There’s a gentle breeze. Haze obscures the views today. The din of traffic on the I-5 provides an ever-present soundtrack. The route is somewhat steep but not bad. It feels good to be hiking. The yellowing leaves of black walnut add a splash of fall color. Soon Bee Rock to the northwest comes into view over my shoulder. As the trail mellows out, Beacon Hill comes into view up ahead. The 2007 fire incinerated this area, but vegetation is coming back well. It seems like the climb went quickly as I reach Upper Beacon Trail in 20 minutes. I turn left (east) on the dirt road and make the final steep climb to the summit.

View north from Beacon Hill, Griffith Park
2:35 - Beacon Hill (1001’). This isn’t a grand summit, but it stands as the eastern most point of the 40-mile-long Santa Monica Mountains. Glendale spreads out below me. The San Gabriel Mountains, dominating the skyline from the North to East, are virtually invisible today, as is downtown L.A. to the south. A man arrives and keeps going. I’m bummed that my camera lens cover is not retracting all the way.

I leave the summit at 2:55 and head west along the eucalyptus-lined road. Six minutes delivers me to 5-Points junction. I continue straight on the middle fork. There is nothing in bloom. Winter grass begins to push its way through the soil dampened by recent rain. A young couple passes walking some dogs. I pass below a water tank, round the bend to the south, and arrive at Vista View Point and the paved Vista Del Valle Drive.

View north toward Glendale Peak and the 4-point junction
I turn right (north) on the paved road and in about 100 yards reach a 4-point junction at 3:16. Folks are coming up Riverside Trail from the west. The grand observatory sits as a hazy silhouette to the west. I turn left, pass the green shed, and head west on Hogback Trail, signed “Bridle Trail.” In a few minutes I reach an outward bend and my short-cut route. I’ve been down this way but not up. I turn north and am thankful for long legs as I negotiate several big steps cut out of the steep granite to begin the climb. The use path is steep and the footing is comfortable in the soft dirt until near the top where the footing gets dicey on the exposed rock.

View south from Glendale Peak toward downtown L.A.
3:25 - Glendale Peak (1184’). The breeze is cool and the views are obliterated with haze. Ant-like humans dot the summit of Mt. Hollywood to the west. I post a picture to Facebook. It’s peaceful here. I consider heading north on Henry’s Trail to the bridge and seeing if there is a route down to the road. But I don’t have enough daylight to be taking chances on possible alternate routes.

I leave the summit at 3:40 heading down the same path. It’s a little more precarious descending. Back at the road I retrace my steps to the 4-point junction. There’s a fair amount of foot traffic here. For several years following the 2007 fire, this portion of Vista Del Valle Drive had been closed due to fire damage, thus I’ve not yet hike it.

View of Hogback bridge from Vista Del Valle Drive
I turn north on the paved road. I’m in total shade now and it’s cool. My pace is brisk. Shortly I arrive at the ravine with the footbridge above and discover that there is indeed and well-beaten route down the steep slope from the south end of the bridge. I can’t resist trying it out, so up I climb. It’s a little precarious and not for the faint of heart, but careful steps deliver me to the beginning of Henry’s Trail and the bridge. Three walkers pass. I take a few pictures and climb back down to the road. The side trip took 10 minutes.

View north on Vista Del Valle Drive
I continue north as the road gently ascends contouring along the mountainside. The sun still rests on Beacon Hill to the east. I can see the merry-go-round parking lot below. As I round a bend at the power tower, “Baby Bell” comes into view to the northwest with the sun still resting on it. The sun sets in about 35 minutes so I press the pace. Across Spring Canyon, tiny figures stand on Bee Rock. I’m enjoying the views of the various features at east of the park from a different perspective, but I wish I had better lighting. After what seemed like a long walk, I finally reach the bend and transition unto the trail descending east along the ridge for a 3-minute walk to the rock.

View east from Bee Rock, Griffith Park
4:33 - Bee Rock (1056’). The mountain casts shade on the west portion of Glendale while dim rays of sun rest on highpoints on the east side. The San Gabriels are but a faint outline through the thick, orange haze. It’s breezy and quite cool now. I briefly take in the views, snap a few pics, put on a long-sleeved shirt, and leave at 4:37.

It’s only 10 minutes till sunset but I know I’ll have plenty of light to navigate the narrow trail down. This is the first time I’ve descended Bee Rock Trail. My other visits to Bee Rock were the first stage of loop hikes that took other routes down. My camera doesn’t really capture the beauty of dusk. The yellow leaves of black walnut almost glow. My pace is relaxed now. It takes me 15 minutes to the dirt road where I turn east. In a few minutes I reach the junction of Old Zoo Trail.

En route from Old Zoo Park to Merry-go-round Parking lot
I pass through the fence and saunter through Old Zoo Park. Western sycamores display beautiful fall colors but the lighting is too dim now to capture it. A family strolls across the grass with their dogs. Some young men are exploring old animal cages. The walk is peaceful as I head southeast to complete the loop. Glendale is now a blanket of twinkling lights seen through the trees. I have happy memories of other hikes in Griffith Park that ended in nightfall.

5:15 - End Hike.

California black walnut at dusk, Bee Rock Trail
Epilog - A very pleasant outing. I love Griffith Park and enjoy exploring new routes and experiencing the nuances of this wonderful place. I am pleased and somewhat surprised that all the dog walkers I encountered today were using leashes…that may be a first for me! I look forward to the green of spring when the flowers begin to add color to the hillside and the daylight lingers. icon

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

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(Detailed trail guide including driving directions, recommended season, map, notes, links, and photos)
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