Friday, July 24, 2015

Griffith Park Teahouse, Mt. Bell, Mt. Hollywood - July 24, 2015

Griffith Park Teahouse near Mount Bell, July 24, 2015

Griffith Icon On Tuesday morning, June 30, the dawn was met by a handcrafted wooden tea house which was constructed overnight on the northeast flank of Baby Bell (aka Taco Peak) in Griffith Park. The 80-square-foot Japanese style structure was built anonymously by local artisans using wood reclaimed from redwood trees burned in the devastating 2007 Griffith Park fire. Because the teahouse was erected illegally, the city is planning to remove it (one report says on or by July 27). Griffith Park is a historical landmark and it takes a long process for a piece of art to be approved.

This fascinating story grabbed my attention so I just had to visit the teahouse for myself. A Friday afternoon hike after work was the plan.

Fern Dell Drive entrance at Griffith Park
I leave my office in Echo Park and catch a Metro 2 at 4:00 heading west. I get off at Sunset and Western at 4:24 and begin my walk. I had looked at several bus options but a single bus ride to this location and a 0.8 walk to Griffith Park was the most efficient way to go. I arrive at Los Feliz Blvd. and Fern Dell Drive at 4:41. One more block up Fern Dell delivers me to the entrance to beautiful Ferndell gardens.

Entrance to Ferndell gardens, Griffith Park
4:50 PM - Begin Hike. A causal walk through the exotic gardens of Ferndell is always a delight. Heading north in Ferndell gardens, Griffith Park Upon emerging from the gardens I walk north through the picnic area shaded by sycamores, oaks, and redwoods. Walking north through Ferndell picnic area, Griffith Park I’ve had some good hikes begin from here. Park personnel have the northbound lane of Western Canyon Road blocked to traffic. I pick up a park map from the attendant and I’m glad to see that they revised it in 2014.

Heading north in Western Canyon, Griffith Park
I arrive at the beginning of Western Canyon Trail at 5:17 and begin my climb. Soon I emerge from the shade. Thankfully it’s not too hot today. Mount Hollywood comes into view, regally standing at the north end of the canyon. The vegetation is thirsty. There is virtually nothing in bloom aside from some trees and shrubs such as elderberry, toyon, sugar bush, laurel sumac, fennel, California buckwheat, and a single bush sunflower. The wide dirt road gets pretty steep in its final section, but my pace is relaxed. Nearing the head of Western Canyon, Griffith Park

Trail crossing at Western Canyon Road, Griffith Park
5:38 - Western Canyon Road. Lots of traffic. I ask an attendant directions to the teahouse, just to test him. I’m glad I knew the way because his directions would have gotten me lost for sure. I continue east on the steep dirt road to the Vermont Canyon bridge. Striking views open up to the east and southeast toward downtown. There is lots of parking activity down by the Greek Theatre and a band is warming up for a concert.

Heading north on Vermont Canyon bridge, Griffith Park
I cross the bridge and transition to the shortcut trail heading north to Mt. Hollywood. I virtually always take this route rather the long switchback on the road. I’m enjoying the expanding views and rugged surroundings. View south en route to Mt. Hollywood, Griffith Park The vegetation alongside the trails is covered with dust from all the foot traffic with no hint that it rained last weekend. There is a fair amount of foot traffic on the trails today. The Hollywood sign stands silhouetted against the late afternoon sun. I reflect on my rewarding hike there a month ago. Mount Hollywood looms above me. View north toward Mt. Hollywood, Griffith Park I stop to photograph the tiny white flowers of dodder (witch’s hair). Dodder in bloom en route to Mt. Hollywood, Griffith Park

View north at 6-point junction and Mt. Hollywood, Griffith Park
6:07 - Six point junction south of Mt. Hollywood. I double back out onto the point for the panorama south. Normally I would climb straight up the ridge north to Mt. Hollywood, but because my destination is the teahouse, I turn right and take the dirt road northeast . I’m now appreciating the shade as I traverse along the east flank of Mt. Hollywood. As I arrive at Hogback Trail and Dante’s View, Dante’s View, on the east flank Mt. Hollywood, Griffith Park I’m treated with great views north and northeast. Downtown Glendale basks in the sun. View northeast toward Glendale from Dante’s View, Griffith Park

Zoomed-in view north from Dante’s View toward Baby Bell and the Griffith Park Teahouse
And across the canyon…eureka…the teahouse! I didn’t recall if I’d have direct line of sight from here, but I do and I’m excited. It’s in the sun, which I’m happy about. I had thought that it would be in the shadow of Baby Bell. Several tiny figures stand next to the covertly built structure, standing 0.3 mile from here as the crow flies. I turn left and continue my pilgrimage. My pace is earnest now with my eyes on the prize.

6:23 - Four-point Junction north of Mt. Hollywood. I turn right and walk due north along the watershed divide toward Baby Bell. View north from the 4-point junction toward Mt. Bell (left) and Baby Bell, Griffith Park My pace is brisk. At the junction I veer left unto the narrow rutted path that will skirt the east flank of Baby Bell. Approaching Baby Bell and the Griffith Park Teahouse, July 24, 2015 I’m eager. Griffith Park Teahouse near Mount Bell, July 24, 2015

Griffith Park Teahouse near Mount Bell, July 24, 2015
6:29 - Griffith Park Teahouse. What a charming structure! About 10 people are here admiring the novelty and snapping pics. The dark brown timbers and nature wood panels of the open-air edifice are illuminated by the late afternoon sun. I endeavor to capture a thorough photographic record of the scene. The teahouse was beautifully constructed has the feel of quality craftsmanship. The old concrete foundation upon which it sits seems to fulfill its destiny. The location with its grand views is perfect for such a place of peace and well wishes. The inscription carved out of wood reads: Griffith Park Teahouse plaque

Griffith Park Griffin, Teahouse emblem, half puma/half hawk

An empty and irresistible concrete foundation, fallen redwoods, local decomposed granite, bell, wishes

Built from redwoods killed in the 2007 Griffith Park Fire, the teahouse is a love letter to Los Angeles and a quit perch for urban reflection. In homage to the fire, the timbers were lightly charred before assembly.

What wishes will swirl up into the city?

The Griffith Park Griffin is a rare puma/red-tailed hawk hybrid.
GPTHP.001.2015; @gparkteahouse; #gparkteahouse

Griffith Park Teahouse interior, July 24, 2015
Guests to the teahouse have written hundreds of messages on small tiles of wood. Many hang on wooden pegs around the interior walls, and many are on the decomposed granite floor (I presume they have been blown off by the wind as several have blown off since I have been here). Messages on the Griffith Park Teahouse floor, July 24, 2015 Upon making a wish, a guest seals it by ringing the red bell that hangs in a window. It has a pleasing tone. Bell at the Griffith Park Teahouse floor, July 24, 2015

I am usually a law and order kind of person, and know that clandestinely building things on public property sets bad precedent, however, I for one would like to see the charming teahouse remain.

After lingering sufficiently, I leave at 6:46 and head toward Mount Bell. How can I come this far without climbing my favorite peak in Griffith Park!? Eight minutes deliver me to the summit.

View north from Mount Bell, Griffith Park
6:56 - Mount Bell (1582). I love this peak. I’ve climbed it more than any other peak in the park. I almost always have the summit to myself, but today I share it with two young men. The vast metropolis beyond the rugged parkland seems serene from this peaceful perch. Haze mutes the views. A cool breeze feels good. The peaks to the east are silhouetted by the setting sun. Ant-like people dot the dusty paths and peaks. Back from where I came, I can see the teahouse sitting on the northeast ridge of Baby Bell. View southeast from Mount Bell toward the Griffith Park Teahouse

I leave the peak, retrace my steps, and arrive back at the teahouse at 7:10. It’s mostly in the shade now and other guests are visiting. Griffith Park Teahouse near Mount Bell, July 24, 2015 I take a few more pictures and say good-bye to the Griffith Park Teahouse. Dan Simpson leaving the Griffith Park Teahouse, July 24, 2015 I have a little remorse knowing it probably won’t be here for long. I trace my steps toward Mt. Hollywood. There’s still foot traffic coming and going in the setting sun. View south from Mt. Bell toward Mt. Hollywood, Griffith Park After the four-point junction I keep going straight and am rewarded with a splendid view south. The bull-dozed summit of iconic Mt. Hollywood calls me hither. Approaching Mt. Hollywood from the northeast, Griffith Park

View northeast from Mt. Hollywood, Griffith Park
7:23 - Mount Hollywood (1625’). I love this peak too. There are always people here…eight right now. The human sprawl of Los Angeles and Hollywood fills the southern panorama. View south from Mt. Hollywood toward downtown Los Angeles The grand observatory stands regally on its perch below. The sun is directly above Mt. Lee (the Hollywood sign) and not long till disappearing. View west from Mt. Hollywood toward Mt. Lee, Griffith Park There is a pleasant breeze. My plan is to catch the Metro 181 at Los Feliz and Vermont at 8:15, so I can’t linger long.

I leave the summit at 7:31 and head directly south down the steep use path. Down and down I go. I’m enjoying the golden light and picturesque scenery. View south from the from near the summit Mt. Hollywood toward Los Angeles The famed observatory basks in the fleeting rays of sun. View south toward Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park I get shots of our solar orb setting behind Burbank Peak as I near the Vermont bridge. View west from near the Vermont bridge toward Mt. Lee and the Hollywood sign I cross the bridge and get a final chance to shoot the sunset from the Berlin Forest.

Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park
Griffith Observatory - I arrive at the Charlie Turner Trailhead at 8:57. Someplace along the way from Mt. Hollywood, I had realized that I have misestimated the timing, so I gave myself permission to move my bus time to 8:45. The observatory parking lot is jammed full. Long lines wait to view through telescopes on the lawn and roof. People line the railings and watch dusk turn to night over the expansive metropolis. I wander around the observatory and soak in the sights of this amazing place and reflect on the special times I’ve had here.

View north toward Griffith Observatory, Griffith Park
I leave the observatory at 8:23 and begin to descend East Observatory Trial. I soon realize I have again misestimated the timing. So I give myself permission to push my bus time to 9:15 and enjoy a leisurely stroll. I’m entertained by the concert at the Greek Theatre and the beauty of nightfall over the park and city. I meander down the trail and along Vermont Drive to catch my Metro bus at Los Feliz Blvd.

Wishes at the Griffith Park Teahouse, July 24, 2015
Epilog - What a fun adventure! I love Griffith Park. And in all my hikes there over the years, I’ve never repeated one. With the vast web of trails, I’ve been able to cobble together various trail sections and destinations to create a different hike each time. It was real a treat to visit the teahouse! It is a remarkable gift to the people of Los Angeles. icon

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NEXT > Beacon Hill and Glendale Peak in Griffith Park - Feb. 15, 2016
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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fish Canyon Falls Hike - July 18, 2015

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, July 18, 2015
July is not the season to be hiking to Fish Canyon Falls. But my plan is to hike to Fish Canyon each month for a year to experience the seasons and document the blooming plants and environmental transitions. A month ago, the vegetation was beginning to wither, there was not much in bloom, the weedy plants and grasses were dead, and the water flow was meager. So I don’t have high expectations for today’s outing.

The weather is forecast for a summer storm over the weekend, but I don’t think it will affect my hike. As usual, I arrive at the trailhead at opening time to get an early start.

On Fish Canyon access trail in Vulcan Materials’ Azusa Rock quarry
7:07 - Begin hike. It’s cloudy and a little humid, but the temperature is pleasant. I get a few light sprinkles but I dismiss them as nothing. I walk through the quite quarry and I reflect on the history of the mining operation and the journey which resulted in this fine access trail, which has now been open for one year and one month. Vulcan is making good progress grinding down the Mayan benches to restore the mountainside. As I suspected, there is not much in bloom aside from a lot of California buckwheat. The giant blazing star is gone. I transition to the riparian section, and aside from buckwheat and one loan sticky monkeyflower, there is nothing blooming...quite a contrast to one month ago.

Traveling north on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
7:26 - Cross the bridge into the national forest. The creek is dry and weedy grasses and plants are yellow and dead. The difference is amazing between the verdant springtime and parched summer. My pace is casual as I meander along photographing plants and appreciating the rich fabric of nature. The Indian milkweed is past its bloom but I stop and photograph a large milkweed bug (Oncopeltus fasciatus). Others pass me en route to the falls as I saunter along.

Holly-leaf cheery on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest Hollyleaf redberry on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Wild cucumber on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest Micro photograph on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Blooming plants include scarlet monkey, common sunflower, dudleya, chicory-leaved stephanomeria, tree tobacco, oleander, yucca, cape ivy, feltleaf everlasting, agave, heartleaf penstemon, western thistle, and scarlet larkspur. This might seem like there is a lot in bloom, but most of these are single or limited occurrences. Flowers are very sparse today. The holly-leaf cherry and hollyleaf redberry are sporting their red fruit. Some poison oak is turning red adding a splash of color.

On Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
As I linger at Old Cheezer Mine (the location of the matilija/dudleya interpretive sign), a group of five hikers arrive and begin to read the sign. I tell them about the matilija poppy and that it’s not likely any are in bloom today, and I explain where they will be able to find the rare Dudleya densiflora. One gal asks if I am Dan. Guilty as charged. I find out that they are fans of Dan’s Hiking Pages. It’s always a treat to meet fans and to know my efforts are appreciated. Summer is the time to drive to the high country and hike Cooper Canyon Falls or Lewis Falls (see Seasons of the San Gabriels at Dan's Hiking Pages).

Dudleya densiflora on Fish Canyon Trail
When I arrive at the site of the rare Dudleya densiflora, I find that it is past its blooming and the only thing left is the dried inflorescence (the dense cluster of flowers, thus the name densiflora). Adjacent to the dudleya is a large clearing where someone has recently chopped away the vegetation. This is puzzling to me. I’ve contact the forest service to see who is responsible for this destruction, but they are silent. On Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest

I start to feel some light sprinkles so I pick up my pace. Elderberry (tree), phacelia, chemise, California fuchsia, and Leafy daisy are added to our blooming list. As I approach the falls, the only sound is the voices of the crowd.

Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, July 18, 2015
9:43 - Fish Canyon Falls. As I arrive, Mother Nature decides to join the fun with lightning and loud claps of thunder. And the downpour begins. I take refuge under the bay tree but it doesn’t help much. I rummage through my pack and I’m puzzled that my emergency poncho isn’t there. Meanwhile the large group scurries around and quickly leaves. Wow, that’s nice…now there are only four of us here. The rain lasts only seven or eight minutes and leaves me pretty wet. But it’s not cold and my synthetic clothing dries quickly.

The falls are merely a trickle wetting the rock face. The pool is mostly dry with only a few inches of water in the deeper section. Dan Simpson at Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest, July 18, 2015 Tadpoles swim around the pool and tiny frogs jump around the rocks. The criminal vandalism blights the setting.

Gooseberry at Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest
Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest Dan Simpson at Fish Canyon Falls, Angeles National Forest
Others arrive. Patches of blue sky peer through the clouds. I love the aromas after a rain. I watch a little black bird perched on the rocks in the pool and skimming the water for insects. I later learn it is a black phoebe (Sayornis nigricans). I am sad that the stately white alder that has stood to right of the falls has died this year. It really added a touch of beauty to the setting.

11:25 - Leave falls. My pace is causal as I continue to enjoy the plants and scenery. Occasionally I am passed by other hikers coming and going. The cloud cover keeps the temperature down but it’s quite humid. But I’ll take humidity that comes with the fresh aromas following a rain (later I learned that there is a word for that smell: petrichor. Here is a link that describes the fascinating science behind it). I eat a lone ripe blackberry. I love Fish Canyon. Summer is not an ideal time to be here, but there is still a beauty, and the clouds and rain have made it pleasant today.

1:30 - End hike. There are lots of cars in the parking lot.

Himalayan blackberry on Fish Canyon Trail, Angeles National Forest
Epilog - Another thoroughly enjoyable hike in my beloved Fish Canyon. Beautiful scenery, wildlife, a splendid trail, rain, healthy exercise, and good company. I’m enjoying my monthly hikes as I watch the canyon progress through the seasons. Many of the hikers I talked to today said this was their first hiking in Fish Canyon. I encouraged them to come back in the spring when the canyon is absolutely at its best. icon

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