Thursday, April 18, 2013

Chapel, Lee, Cahuenga via Brush in Griffith Park - April 18, 2013

View south from Mt. Lee and the Hollywood Sign
Griffith Icon I guess the Griffith Park hiking bug bit me. I really enjoyed my hike last week, yet was disappointed by the hazy visibility. So with the availability of the car, and beautiful, clear skies, I had to go back. And I decided to hit Brush Canyon again. Last week I headed to the peaks on the east: Mt. Hollywood, Baby Bell, and Mt. Bell. So this time I decided to hit the peaks to the west: Mt. Chapel, Mt. Lee, and Cahuenga Peak. And in keeping with my practice, this is not a route I’ve combined together before.

I leave my office in Echo Park and navigate the 101 to Frankin Avenue and head north on Bronson Avenue and Canyon Drive. Like last week, there is only one space left in the small parking lot that holds 14 cars.

Shortly on Brush Canyon Trail
3:15 PM - Begin hike (50 minutes earlier than last week). Pass the locked vehicle gate and begin walking north on the broad road. Soon I am stopped briefly by a small video crew shooting on the road in the shade of a majestic oak. I’m alert to things I missed last week. It’s much warmer today. As I pass the dam on the right, I plan to scout out a use path that heads northwest to the ridge. From the aerials, it appears that it might be a better route to access the west ridge than the steep path I came down last week, directly across from the dam. I stroll up the path a short distance but the route seems to deteriorate. I’ll have to check it out sometime (maybe on my return trip). Back on the road, I continue up canyon. There is a fair amount of foot traffic today.

View west from Brush Canyon Trail toward Mt. Lee
As the trail begins climbing the canyon’s east slope, the city below begins to emerge over my shoulder though the narrow canyon mouth. I’m a particularly keeping an eye on the canyon bottom and dense forest and the possibility of exploration in the further.

At about a half hour (0.8 mile), I pass the junction where the use path heads east up the ravine to the huge outcropping, the route I hiked last week. I continue along the road as it begins to contour west. I really enjoy the good visibility and the splendid scenery. I’ve not been concerned about capturing the plants in bloom. I reach an outward bend and am rewarded with a great view south into the canyon and beyond.

View north toward Burbank from the east ridge of Mt. Chapel
4:00 - Junction with Mulholland Trail. Now it’s time for a new route. From the aerials I noticed a route the seems pretty clear from this location up to the east ridge trail to Mt. Chapel. The path starts about 75 yards west from the junction of Mulholland Trail. I am pleasantly surprised how nice the route is. It’s a little brushy and steep in places, but not bad at all. In just six minutes I successful arrive at the trail junction, about 100 yards west of Mt. Hollywood Drive. That’s a good short-cut providing a more direct route to Mt. Chapel from Brush Canyon. I like it! I turn left (west) and begin to climb the ridge toward Mt. Chapel. Last week it was nearly sunset as I walked this trail, but today I have lots of sun and great visibility. In a few minutes I reach a split. To the left is the route I took last week that traverses the south flank of Mt. Chapel. I stay straight and head to the top. Soon it gets really steep and requires all fours. I’ve been down this route a couple times, but this is my first time up it. It’s a great climber’s path.

Northern panorama from Mt. Chapel

4:24 - Mt. Chapel (1614’). Wow, I love this peak! The views are so good today. Mt. Lee and Cahuenga Peak dominate the west. Mt. Bell, Baby Bell, and Mt. Hollywood dominate the east. The San Fernando Valley spreads out to the north. Beyond the expansive parklands to the south, downtown L.A., Hollywood, and a vast human sprawl lies before me. I can see all the way out to Catalina Island. The breeze is cool on my sweaty body. Others arrive at the summit and continue on their way. A father and son—David and Benjamin from Iowa—reach the top. I give them directions to Mt. Lee and point out some of the surrounding landmarks.

View southwest toward Griffith Observatory and Downtown L.A.
I leave Mt. Chapel at 5:03 and head down the southwest ridge. This is a good route but a couple steep, rocky sections require vigilance. Another hiker passes me on this way to the top. I think this is the busiest I’ve experienced it on Mt. Chapel. Typically I have it all to myself. In twelve minutes I reach the junction with the trail coming from the east across the south flank of Chapel. Now I’m retracing my steps from last week as I stroll along Mulholland Ridge with great views to the north and south. I’m enjoy and sun and excellent visibility. I pass the junction of the ridge route I took last week in my hurried decent to beat sunset. Another 100 yards delivers me to Mt. Lee Road at 5:25.

Cahuenga Peak Dedication plauque
The road has been recently repaved. There are a lot others enjoying the walk. Dave and Benjamin pass me heading down. It’s warm now as the road slices along the north side of the mountain which blocks the refreshing breeze. I reach the hairpin turn at 5:38 and get my first look at the monument that was dedicated on March 22, 2012. The bronze plaque celebrates the decade-long effort to purchase Cahuenga Peak to protect the land from development and add it to Griffith Park.

Atop Mt. Lee (1680')
5:42 - Mt. Lee (1680’). Wow, this is always a treat. Below me stands the iconic HOLLYWOOD sign and looking better than ever after its new paint job last year. I snap some pictures then climb to the very top for more scenery. Hiking here on a clear day is so much better than when haze chokes the visibility. There are others coming and going. I don’t linger because I decide I still have time to hit Cahuenga Peak. Leave peak at 5:56.

I retrace my steps back to the new Cahuenga Peak monument and head west on the narrow trail. In the photos for the dedication event, there is a nice sign for Aileen Getty Ridge Trail, but now the sign is gone. I follow the rustic path as it traverses the undulating ridgeline. There are places where Aileen needs to do some maintenance on her trail. As I cross the saddle, Cahuenga Peak stands as a towering mass before me. The route gets steep requiring hands and feet in some spots. Soon I pass to the north side of the mountain and enjoy some richer vegetation for the final pitch to the summit.

View east toward Mt. Chapel and Mt. Bell from Cahuenga Peak
6:14 - Cahuenga Peak (1820’). This peak dwarfs all else on the east end of the Santa Monicas. I wander around the summit to experience the sweeping views of the massive human sprawl. The rugged solitude of this lofty perch creates a sense of transcendence while the subtle din is an ever-present reminder of the vast metropolis that surrounds. I could spend a long time up here, but the dipping sun and the threat of a locked gate compel me down.

View east on Mt. Lee Road
I leave the summit at 6:25 and retrace my step east on Aileen Getty Ridge Trail. The warm light of the setting sun invites photography. Reach Mt. Lee Road at 5:43 and continue down. At the junction with Mulholland Ridge Trail (6:53), I continue south down the road rather than taking the ridge route I descended last week. I figure it would give me a chance to compare times. At 6:59 I transition unto Mulholland Trail heading east and at 7:07 turn hard right onto Hollyridge Trail. At 7:11 I reach the ridge route junction coming straight down from Mulholland Ridge. It took 18 minutes coming down the road. Last week it took 11 minutes coming down the ridge. So that shortcut saves 7 minutes.

View northwest toward the Hollywood Sign on Mt. Lee
I walk past Sunset Ranch stables and in a few minutes veer left unto the ridge to drop me back down into Brush Canyon. Shortly I decide to take the path that appears to be the upper end of the route I explored at the beginning of the hike. But quickly the route becomes steep and precarious with no sign of a clear route down. I abort that effort. It’s too close to sunset and a locked gate to be thrashing through brush on a steep mountainside. Back on the ridge, I continue down the beaten path. When I get to the junction last week’s return route, I decide to skip it and continue south down the ridge. Soon it gets steeper and just short of the campground, it bends east and drops steeply into the canyon, reaching the road at the location of the fenced utility bunker. Another minute delivers me to my car.

Brush Canyon Map
View Brush Canyon Trail Map
7:34 - End hike. It’s now 7 minutes past sunset, so I hope that they don’t lock the gate promptly at sunset. My car is the only one left in the lot. I jump into the car and race to the gate. I’m elated to find it still open.

Epilog - Another enjoyable adventure in my beloved Griffith Park! Warm sun, cool breeze, excellent visibility, pleasing scenery, three peaks, wildflowers, new routes, good exercise—what a splendid hike! 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 Icon Brush Canyon to Mt. Bell hike description at Dan's Hiking Pages
(Detailed trail guide with options to Mt. Hollywood, Mt. Chapel, Mt. Lee, and Bronson Caves)

blogspot See blog post: Chapel, Bell, Hollywood, and Bronson in Griffith Park - February 24, 2012 (via Hollyridge Trail trailhead)

NEXT > Griffith Park Hike: The Los Angeles Zoo - May 19, 2019
PREVIOUS > Mt. Hollywood and Mt. Bell - April 12, 2013

Friday, April 12, 2013

Hollywood and Bell via Brush in Griffith Park - April 12, 2013

Griffith Icon The availably of the car and a short day at work afforded me the opportunity for my first hike in Griffith Park for the year. And in keeping with my practice of not repeating hikes in the park, I chose a route starting in Brush Canyon then following some use paths I’ve not hiked before. My goal is to hit Mt. Bell and Mt. Chapel, and if time permits, Mt. Lee. My previous hike in Brush Canyon was to Mt. Bell and back, so this outing should offer a different experience.

I leave my office in Echo Park and navigate the 101 to Frankin Avenue and head north on Bronson and Canyon. There is one space left in the small parking lot that holds 14 cars. I’m running later than I had hoped so I might have to adjust my plans.

Heading north on Brush Canyon Trail
4:06 pm - Begin hike. Pass the locked vehicle gate and begin walking north on the broad road. The sun is warm. I awoke this morning to a thick marine layer, so I knew it would create less-than-ideal hiking continues with hazy views. We’ve not had much rain this season, so the hillsides are browning sooner than usual. Majestic sycamores and oaks grace the canyon bottom on the right. Soon Mt. Bell comes into view at the head of the canyon. At four minutes in, I pass a dam on the right and the junction for my return route on the left. I’ve climbed it once but have never come down it.

The trail (a wide dirt road) crosses the dry creek to the east side of the canyon. There are others on the trail but it doesn’t feel crowded. It doesn’t seem like there is much in bloom, with mustard as the dominate flower. As the trail bends north, the Hollywood sign begins to peak over the west ridge and is muted by haze. Soon Mt. Chapel dominates the ridge on the north at the head of the canyon. This area has not burned in many years, so the vegetation is mature, thick, and richly textured.

At 4:29 I reach a bend in the road that crosses a wide ravine from the east. This will be my route. Previously I’ve seen a path from the top heading down and in my studies of the aerials, there seems to be an established route, although much of it is not seen in the aerials. Now that I’ve hiked all of the major trail systems in the park, I’m starting to explore some of the informal use paths. I begin to climb up the dry creek bed through a tunnel of brush. It’s no wonder the route was hidden from the satellites. I encounter stinging nettle and poison oak and am thankful I’m wear long pants. Soon the path leaves the creek bed and climbs along the north bank. The massive outcropping comes into view up ahead. The trail gets dicey as it drops back toward the creek to put me at the base of the rock. As the route climbs around to left of the rock, it gets steep, slippery, and quite precarious. I would not recommend this route, particularly for the inexperienced and/or faint of heart. I reach the top of the giant granite outcrop at 5:02. I could have cut at least 10 minutes from this route if hadn’t been stopping to photograph plants.

View north toward Mt. Bell from use path approaching the ridge
Now I cross the paved Mt. Hollywood Drive to find my next use path as a short short-cut up to 3-Mile Trail. It’s crazy steep and loose. I use all fours to carefully scale the bank to 3-Mile Trail. Not a good route, and probably worse going down. Now I cross the dirt road to find my next use trail climbing east. The path is well beaten. Soon I climb a steep, slippery section using all fours in places. The route mellows and follows an ascending ridge. Portions of the path suggest that some formal trail construction in the past was used. After another steep, slipper section, the trail bends north and finally arrives at the ridge road that spans Mt. Hollywood and Baby Bell at 5:26. Wow, that was some kind of a climb! I don’t know if that is much of a short cut considering the labor and risk. Probably better to just use 3-Mile Trail.

View east en route to Mt. Hollywood
The view east toward Glendale and beyond elicits a Wow! There is a cool breeze. Below, Bee Rock and Beacon Hill stand in the late afternoon sun and remind me of my visit to them back in November. At this point the plan was to turn north and head toward Mt. Bell. But Mt. Hollywood calls to me from the south. I figure it won’t take long to visit the most popular peak in the park, and I’ll be able to chalk up climbing Mt. Hollywood from Brush Canyon. I turn south and follow the wide road at an earnest pace. As I approach the summit, a car drives by on its way to the top. That’s cheating! Who drives up here?! As the car passes I look inside and recognize that it is L.A. City Councilmember Tom LaBonge! There is also a yellow pick-up truck at the summit.

Dan on Mount Hollywood with Councilmember Tom LaBonge5:36 – Mt. Hollywood (1625’). I introduce myself to Mr. LaBonge and thank him for all his work on Griffith Park, which is the crown of his Fourth District. Two city workers are there getting ready to do some painting. Mr. LaBonge grabs a roller and begins to help repainting a steel poll to cover up graffiti. It’s good to see our city officials getting their hands dirty in the field. I learn that his office has a Community Beautification Team of three employees who do various tasks of physical labor around the district. I ask Mr. LaBonge about the lack of trail signs around the park and he says it’s primarily because of graffiti and vandalism. But he says they are looking at funding for signs.

I linger on the peak for a while. I love this place. There are several others here enjoying the destination as well. The view south over L.A. is muted with haze. The parking lot of the observatory below is full. The sun sits low on the western horizon.

5:50 - Leave the summit and retrace my steps. I pass the use path junction at 5:56, which means that the side jaunt to Mt. Hollywood cost me 30 minutes. I continue north and climb the south ridge to the next summit.

View east toward Glendale from Baby Bell
6:01 - Baby Bell. This is a well-placed little peak with a commanding view. It’s not formally named but I call it Baby Bell because of its close proximity to the taller Mt. Bell to its northwest. A young lady arrives at the peak. We chat as we walk down the northwest ridge to road. We part ways and I begin a quick scramble up Mt. Bell from its east approach. It takes only three minutes, which I suspect is a record for me.

View south from Mt. Bell toward Mt. Hollywood
6:16 - Mt. Bell (1582’). If number of visits is an indicator of favorites, this would be my favorite peak in Griffith Park. Its central location makes it accessible from any approach around the park. I post a picture to Facebook. I ponder the time with just about an hour till sunset (7:22). Since they lock the gate to the parking lot at sunset, it’s imperative that I manage my time.

6:23 - Leave Mt. Bell using the southwest approach. The trail is in good condition but is a little slippery in places. I reach Mt. Hollywood Drive at 6:34 and am confronted with a decision. Do I play it safe and return via Mulholland Trail and Brush Canyon, or continue the loop descending Hollyridge? Daring soul that I am, I opt to continue, but to skip summiting Mt. Chapel.

View southeast toward Griffith Observatory and downtown L.A from the flank of Mt. Chapel
I continue west on the dirt road that heads to the water tank on the north flank of Mt. Chapel, then soon cut left to the narrow trail that traverses the south flank of Chapel. It’s really quite a decent trail and deserves to be on Tom LaBonge’s map. But alas, it’s on mine! I move quickly. I have a splendid view down into the heart of Brush Canyon and the route I climbed. I pass Mt. Chapel and continue west along Mulholland Ridge with views both toward the San Fernando Valley on the north and the L.A. skyline on the south. It’s cool enough now to warrant putting on long sleeves, but I don’t want to take the time. I pass a monitoring station along the path that has a sensor and cameras. A flash goes off. Are they taking my picture?! There’s a tag that says “United States Department of the Interior.” I don’t take the time to read it but take a picture to read it later. It says “The National Park Service is conducting a study to better understand and project the wildlife community in the area.” Hmmm, I’d prefer the Feds not mess with our city park.

View south toward Mulholland and Hollyridge trails
6:52 - Junction to descend ridge (shy of Mt. Lee Road by about 100 yards). I have exactly 30 minutes to sunset. I’ve got to keep moving quickly. I really dislike forced time constraints. I turn south and begin descending the use path along the narrow ridge. I ascended this route for the first time in February 2012 and found it to be a nice alternate from the wide roads. This will be my first time to descend it. The trail is literally in a deep rut for most of the way…kind of strange. Mt. Lee to the west is now in silhouette as the late afternoon sun rests on the highpoints to the east. I see walkers on the trails below. I pass over Mulholland Trail and keep descending the ridge. I look at my watch often.

View west from Hollyridge Trail toward Mt. Lee
7:03 - Hollyridge Trail. I now have 19 minutes to sunset. Feels good to be on a graded road for couple minutes. Past the stables, I reach the junction for the route dropping into Brush Canyon. I turn east and begin descending the ridge. This section isn’t bad. I have to watch carefully for the spur trail junction so I don’t miss it and end up in unknown territory. I reach the junction at 7:10. Now the tough part! I am a little concerned because I know that the path drops straight down the mountainside and is steep and slippery. I juggle quickness and carefulness as I negotiate the steep path. I dislike racing the clock, but there is some excitement to it. Between my vigilance and God’s grace, I descend successfully.

7:16 - Brush Canon Trail. Wow, I made it! That was an adventure. My adrenaline is still pumping as I walk the final few minutes back to the car.

Exiting the park...This Gate Closes at Sunset
7:19 - End hike…3 minutes shy of sunset! I jump into the car and race to the gate. I exit the gate at 7:23 and take another pic of the sign that says gate closes at sunset. The park ranger is not here to lock the gate, so I guess I had more time. But there is no way of knowing! Once I saw a park ranger just waiting at the gate near sunset. So it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Brush Canyon Map
View Brush Canyon Map
Epilog - Another enjoyable adventure in my beloved Griffith Park! Springtime is the very best season to experience the natural beauty of this natural treasure. The web of trails—formal and informal—provide so many different options. It could be years before I have to repeat a hike. And it was a treat to run into Councilman LaBonge and to see his crew working to beautify our park. icon

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

NEXT > Mt. Chapel, Mt. Lee, and Cahuenga Peak - April 18, 2013
PREVIOUS > Beacon Hill, Glendale Peak and Bee Rock - Nov, 21, 2012

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - April 6, 2013

Fish Canyon Falls See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

It’s springtime and once again Vulcan Materials provides their free access days to hike to Fish Canyon Falls. Starting next Saturday, April 13 and continuing for most Saturdays through June. Vulcan will shuttle hikers through their quarry in Azusa to the beginning of the trail, making a very pleasant four-mile round trip hike to one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the San Gabriels.

For years volunteers from the City of Duarte maintained the trail. But two years ago Duarte got upset with Vulcan over the proposed mining changes, so Duarte threw a tantrum and stopped maintaining the trail. Of course, it doesn’t hurt Vulcan; it just impacts the thousands who will hike to the falls this season.

Beginning of Fish Canyon Trial
So the folks at Vulcan contacted me and asked if I could survey the trail and make sure it’s in adequate condition to host the crowds. And I am happy to help, making it my second annual pre-access day trail survey outing.

I awake to a cool, gloomy morning—perfect weather for such hike. I arrive at the gate of Vulcan’s Azusa Rock facility at about 8:45. The security guard is expecting me and drives me through the quarry to the start of the trail.

8:51 - Begin hike. Cross the bridge and entered the Angeles National Forest. The guard walks with me around the first bend to show me a rock slide that covers the trail. Thankfully there is access right through two large boulders. I continue up my beloved trail, eager to see what I find. It’s cool and the marine layer hides the upper hillsides and ridges of this rugged canyon. The flowing creek provides a soothing soundtrack.

Blue disks on Fish Canyon Trail
Things are green but not as much as in years where there is good rainfall. Grass hugs the trail. One goal for today is to photograph samples of every plant species in bloom. I’m a little surprised that there is not much in bloom yet. The most prominent flower of the day is blue dicks*. Other blooms include Bolander's woodland star, common sunflower*, western thistle, mustard*, wallflower*, holly-leaf cherry, elderberry, Pacific pea, spreading larkspur, vinca (periwinkle)*, clematis (vigin’s bower)*, eupatory, wishbone bush, common yarrow, everlasting*, agave, miner’s lettuce*, wild cucumber*, poison oak, purple nightshade, filaree, sugar bush, stinging lupine, tree tobacco*, California suncup (primrose), mule fat, morning glory*, and phacelia*. There will be many more in the months to come. (* plants with asterisks are featured in my Fish Canyon Trail Plant Guide.)

Fish Canyon Trail
I’m enjoying the solitude of having the canyon all to myself. The trail is in reasonable shape. There are a few places where rockslides have buried the trail, but climbing over them is doable. It really needs a trail crew to come in and do some heavy maintenance. The three deadfalls that block the trail are still there. I reported them to the Forest Service last year but for some reason they haven’t mobilize a sawyer crew. I don’t know why; it would seem that the thousands of hikers who will be on the trail would justify the Forest Service to give this trail some attention.

Dan at Darlin' Donna Falls in Fish Canyon
I take a side jaunt to Darlin’ Donna Falls. It’s flowing modestly. I continue down the trail. As I approach the creek crossing, I am surprised at how low the water is. I am able to just step across rather than negotiating a series of rocks. Now climbing the east canyon wall, I’m thankful that it’s still gloomy and cool. There are couple dense patches of poison oak intruding onto the trail which will require some major attention. My anticipation builds as I the near the 80-foot, three-tier waterfall.

Fish Canyon Falls with no one there
10:37 – Fish Canyon Falls. It’s a rare experience to be here by myself. A crowd usually dominates the scene. Today there is an eerie peacefulness. The flow of the falls is meager. Unless we get some good rain this season, this waterfall will be a mere trickle by summer. I enjoy the beauty and solitude of the setting. Across the stream in the clearing, someone had torn out a huge section of the poison oak vines and left it in a pile in the middle of the clearing. It also appears that they burned some of it in an illegal campfire! It certainly would be poetic justice if these vandals suffered ill effects from their stupid behavior. I spend a good chunk of time cleaning up the site and picking up a bag full of trash.

A young man and women arrive. They hiked in the long way over Van Tassel Ridge. As I have some lunch a man arrives, then a couple guys with a dog, then three more guys. All of them came the long way. The sun is starting to burn through the gloom.

Approaching the Vulcan quarry on Fish Canyon Trail
1:00 - Leave Falls with a big bag of trash in hand. Three more guys pass me heading to the falls. I enjoy the beauty of the canyon. It’s fun to be on this trail by myself. The sun is out now but it’s not too warm. Stop to photograph a couple blooms I didn’t see this morning. Hope we have some good rain in the weeks to come to water the plants and bolster the streams and falls.

4:40 - Arrive at the beginning of trail. I call the security guard and soon he arrives to drive me back through the quarry.

Stinging Lupine
Epilog - It was a long and productive day in my beloved Fish Canyon. I really enjoyed the solitude. Next week there will be hundreds tromping the trail to the falls and I wish them all a safe and enjoyable time. icon

See Fish Canyon Falls Hike Description at Dan's Hiking Pages

Plants See Fish Canyon Trail Plant Guide (April 2011) (PDF)

Plants See Plants and Wildflowers in the San Gabriel Mountains at Dan's Hiking Pages

NEXT > Fish Canyon Plants Hike - May 10, 2013
PREVIOUS > Fish Canyon Falls Hike - August 4, 2012