Posts Tagged ‘ Hiking ’

Dragonfly

20130714 Dragonfly

Last Saturday, we drove with Scott’s Indian colleague Aditya and his wife Kamakshi from Berkeley to Bolinas for lunch at Coast Café and a hike along part of the Point Reyes National Seashore.  We had plans to hike between the Palomarin Trailhead and Bass Lake.  But first, we took a quick detour down to the beach.  I’m glad we did; I found this lovely dragonfly sitting on the rocks.  He and his stained glass wings were ready for their close-up, and I was happy to oblige!

Schlumpfdorf

Yesterday, I had lunch with two German colleagues and the conversation shifted to the topic of fungus as Christopher described his brother’s research to me and Eva.  At one point, Christopher couldn’t find the word he wanted to say in English, so Eva prompted him in German and he responded in kind.  All I heard was “German German German FUNGUS German German”.  This happens to me quite often, and not only at work.  Earlier this week, I accepted an invitation to Skype with my German friends Julia and Eberhard tomorrow morning.  They seem to forget sometimes that I’m not German as I had to run part of their email through Google Translate to understand it.

I took this photo of fungus growing along the Santa Ynez Canyon Trail in Topanga State Park a week before last Christmas.  My Canadian friend Lisa inspired the shot as she had once told me that she wanted to capture a wild mushroom’s point of view in a photo.  To me, this juicy cluster of Armillaria solidipes resembles a Smurf village, or Schlumpfdorf as my German friends would say!

Mike’s Cafe

This week, we enjoyed a brief visit from my Australian friend Penny and her younger brother Ian.  Ian had backpacked his way around the world for several months before he visited Penny and her “registered partner NOT husband” Chris in the Bay AreaLos Angeles was Ian’s final pit stop before he flew back to Australia on Wednesday night.

Penny had chauffeured Ian from the Bay Area to Las Vegas for two days of gambling before they arrived on our doorstep Tuesday evening, bearing gifts of 99 Ranch Chinese roast duck, Sun Tropics mango passionfruit juice, and a Cuisinart immersion blender!  Penny and I used to shop at the 99 Ranch in Mountain View on Thursdays after volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Silicon Valley.  Chinese roast duck was and remains a treat, but cartons of Sun Tropics juice were staples in our fridge back then!  We inherited the blender from our German friends Julia and Eberhard, who are moving from Menlo Park to Hamburg next month.  To repay Julia and Eberhard’s kindness, I sent Penny home with a small framed print of Death Valley Desert Gold for them, as they had visited Death Valley over Christmas.  To repay Penny’s kindness, we enjoyed comfort food together at the Nickel Diner in downtown L.A. and Tender Greens in Santa Monica.

Penny’s kindness manifests itself in countless ways.  She pours love into the meals she cooks for her friends and family.  She makes my long commute bearable by Skyping with me once a week as I inch along the freeway.  And despite her occasional tantrums when I’ve taken “too many” photos during a hike or party, she encourages my photography.  She arranged for Ellen and Mike, the proprietors of Mike’s Cafes, to display my work at their Palo Alto restaurant for three months this past summer.  This is a photo of my prints on display at the restaurant.  Scott hung the frames; he did an excellent job.  If you scan the mirrored wall closely, you will see the reflection of Penny chatting with Mike.

Mount Wilson

Last night, we watched the moonrise over Los Angeles from Mount Wilson with our friends Orison and Maria.  During the day, we had toured the Mount Wilson Observatory and hiked part of the Rim Trail together.  It had been a clear day, so we could see the ocean from our perch 5,700 ft (1,737 m) above sea level.  Acclimating to high altitudes is good practice for Orison and Maria, as they are getting married in Lima (elevation:  5,079 ft = 1,548 m) over the new year – congratulations and best wishes!

Malibu Freestyle Sun Salutation

On Saturday, I was going blind taking photos of the sunset in Malibu when this man suddenly appeared and started meditating beside me.  I took a couple steps back and snuck a snapshot of him as I knew no one would believe this story unless I had photographic proof.

Earlier in the afternoon, Scott and I had gone hiking along the Stunt High Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains.  It had rained all morning, so we waded through the muck for four miles (6 km) before we decided to sully our car and drive to Real Food Daily (our favourite organic vegan restaurant in Santa Monica) for some surprisingly tasty meatless enchiladas and dairy-free fettucine alfredo.  We drove along Saddle Peak Road until we reached Tuna Canyon Road, where Scott pulled over to make sure we were headed in the right direction.  I could see in the rear view mirror that the sunset was going to be stunning so I grabbed my camera and ran out of our car.  I stood on the shoulder between a barbed wire fence and a telephone pole, looked straight into the sun (don’t try this at home, kids – it’s bad for your eyes), and took pictures until I heard a car pull up, a door slam, some rapid footsteps, and then some loud beeping.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man fiddling with his beeping iPad:  the time was flashing on the screen in large red numbers like a digital alarm clock.  He dropped his iPad on the ground and started gesturing methodically at the sun.  Although it was 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius) at sunset, there was a strong humid wind blowing up from the ocean.  I regretted that I had left my toque and mittens at home.  I couldn’t believe that the mysterious meditator was wearing only a t-shirt and white linen pants (after Labour Day).  He must have been chilled to the bone.  It wasn’t long before he picked up his iPad, ran back to his car, and sped away.

Runyon Canyon

Last weekend, we went hiking in Runyon Canyon. We had been looking forward to a quiet nature walk so we were reluctant to share the concrete “trail” with what appeared to be a casting couch mash-up of aspiring actresses, their pampered dogs, and chubby screenwriters. Pneumatic girls bounced along the pavement as their off-leash dogs sniffed our bottoms. Paunchy middle-aged men shouted into their bluetooth headsets as they brushed past us. Scott and I decided to cut our hike short. As we left the park, I took this photo of a billboard rising out of the urban forest like a gorilla in the mist. The billboard is a promotion for Spa Luce in Hollywood. The model resembles Lindsay Lohan. She’s definitely not Dian Fossey!

The following Monday, I asked co-workers about what they thought of the concrete jungle within Runyon Canyon. They laughed when our Norwegian colleague Ingvald informed me that the park is known for its pick-up scene. That explains why everyone around us seemed single and ready to mingle!

Big Sur: Overcast

 

It was cloudy last weekend when we camped in a Sibley Tent at Treebones Resort in Big Sur, a resort known for its oceanside yurts, off-grid power system, and delicious lamb tajines

I had forgotten how grey the sky can be in Northern California during the summer.  On our previous trips to Big Sur, the blue of the sky was rivaled only by the blue of the ocean.  At first, I was disappointed that the sun was smothered under a thick pillow of clouds and that there was nearly no horizon to separate sea from sky.  But then I realized that not everything was greyscale:  the hills were green and lush in a way they never are in Southern California, where the chaparral seems withered year round.  The overcast sky and cool weather were a welcome respite from the heat that can spoil afternoon hikes.  In Big Sur, it’s pretty easy to find silver linings in grey clouds.

Santa Catalina Island: “The Vanishing Canadian”

“I found my love in Avalon beside the bay / I left my love in Avalon and sailed away…”  Unlike Nat King Cole, I lost my love near Avalon this past weekend. 

On Sunday, I took a wrong turn near the end of our hike on Catalina Island.  That morning, we had taken a bus from Avalon up to the Airport in the Sky which is located 1,602 ft (488 m) above sea level.  After a delicious picnic with our French friends Aude and Adrien, we hiked five miles before hopping on a bus headed towards Avalon.  Along the way, we saw several bison.  Bison aren’t endemic to the area:  fourteen bison were brought to Catalina in 1924 during the filming of Zane Grey’s “The Vanishing American” (1925).  After shooting wrapped, the bison were set free to roam and propagate on the island.  Before the Catalina Island Conservancy thinned the herd to its current count of 150 to 200 animals, there were as many as 600 big brown beasts dotting the island’s grassy hills.  

Two miles from Avalon, we got off the bus so that we could walk under the eucalyptus trees which line Stagecoach Road.  We were on the outskirts of town when I lagged behind (again) to take photos.  Scott, Aude and Adrien kept walking as they assumed that I would eventually catch up with them.  This had been our routine all afternoon.  Unfortunately, I assumed that Scott had taken a staircase carved into the hill between two houses, which was a more adventurous path than sticking to the main road.  After I descended the staircase and walked for a bit, I realized that my party was nowhere in sight.  By then, I couldn’t find the staircase again, so the best thing I could do was walk through Avalon back to our campsite at Hermit Gulch.  Fortunately, Scott and our friends returned to our campsite as well once they realized I had taken a wrong turn and wandered away.  I’m sorry my stupidity caused them to worry and I’m happy we weren’t apart for long.  We cleaned up and went for a satisfying dinner at The Lobster Trap in Avalon:  the cioppino is excellent. 

Ironically, I was in a similar situation two years ago when I hiked the Manly to Spit Bridge Scenic Walkway near Sydney, Australia with Mama Chow.  During that hike, I was the one who had walked ahead on the trail and she was the one who had lagged behind to take photos.  Neither of us realized that there was a fork in the trail (it wasn’t on the map).  We took different paths and because hers turned out to be a shortcut, she ended up a mile ahead of me:  hikers I met on the trail told me that they had seen a small Asian woman with a big hat and that I needed to run if I was to catch up to her!  We were very relieved to find each other.  We finished the hike, took a taxi back to Sydney, and celebrated our final night in Australia by going out for sushi.

Bronson Caves a.k.a. The Bat Cave

The Bronson Caves in Griffith Park are best known as the Bat Cave where Batman and Robin parked the Batmobile in the 1960s when they weren’t busy saving the day in Gotham City.  The Caves were once part of a quarry which produced crushed rock used to pave streets in nearby Hollywood a century ago.  If you drive north on N. Bronson Avenue into Griffith Park, the road will lead you to a parking lot near the Caves.  If you drive south on N. Bronson Avenue to Melrose Avenue, it will lead you to the Bronson Gate of Paramount Pictures.  In 1954, an actor named Charles Buchinsky took his stage name from this Gate.  You might know and love him as “classic tough guy” Charles Bronson, star of “The Magnificent Seven” (1960), “The Great Escape” (1963), and “The Dirty Dozen” (1967).      

Last weekend, we explored the Bronson Caves with our Austrian friends Eleonore and Florian.  We found ourselves in the middle of an indie Sci-Fi Fantasy film set.  Cars parked on the dirt road leading up to the Caves displayed dashboard permits with the word “Hirokin” on them, so watch out for “Hirokin“:  it’s coming soon to a theatre near you.  We walked into a cave and found a giant plaster obelisk, fake boulders, and a member of the crew moving lights and cables around in the dark.  Beyond this cave, there was a tent village.  Actors dressed in linen tunics walked past a green screen to buy lunch at a snack truck parked in a makeshift lot.  On Mt. Lee a mile (1.6 km) away, the Hollywood Sign shone like a beacon over the set, a silent reminder to those toiling in the heat of what dreams may come:  fame, fortune, a percentage of the box-office…

Mulholland Dam

William Mulholland (1855 – 1935) was Chief Engineer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power when he designed the Mulholland Dam.  The Dam was constructed in 1923 as part of the controversial Hollywood Reservoir and Owens River Aqueduct System used to supply Los Angeles with most of its drinking water.  Frederick Eaton, the Mayor of Los Angeles from 1898 to 1900 and Mulholland’s political crony, blocked the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from irrigating the Owens Valley and paved the way for water to be diverted south to Los Angeles from Owens Lake via an aqueduct system designed by Mulholland. 

The south-facing facade of the Dam is decorated with arches and a sleuth of California Grizzly Bears.  The Grizzly Bear is California’s State Animal, despite its extinction at the hands of settlers who colonized the state.  Bears that have been hunted to extinction guarding the ill-gotten drinking water of a sprawling car-dependent city in the desert:  which karmic debt will demand repayment first?

What goes around comes around:  Eaton’s fortune was wiped out in August 1927 when the Owens Valley Bank collapsed; Mulholland’s career came to an abrupt end when the St. Francis Dam failed in 1928.  Mulholland had supervised the St. Francis Dam’s construction and had pronounced it safe less than 24 hours before it collapsed and killed more than 500 people.  The Mulholland Dam was fortified after this disaster:  mounds of dirt were deposited against the south-facing facade of the Dam, underneath the concrete Grizzly Bears.

FUN FACTS:  

  • When viewed from the top of Mulholland Dam, the bas-relief grizzly bears look like a pack of golden retrievers. 
  • William Mulholland’s Metropolitan Water District offices were located on the top floor of the Million Dollar Theater in downtown L.A. 
  • The Oscar®-winning classic “Chinatown” (1974) was inspired by the Owens Valley – Los Angeles water controversy.

The Station Fire

The Angeles National Forest is located in the San Gabriel Mountains north of L.A.  Arsonists started The Station Fire in the Angeles National Forest three days after we had gone hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains for the first time.  We had just moved to L.A., so hiking in the mountains was a welcome diversion from unpacking the mountain of boxes in our flat.  We enjoyed exploring a trail that led to the Vetter Mountain Fire Lookout.  The 75-year-old Lookout burned to the ground less than a week after our hike.  It became impossible for us to look at the San Gabriel Mountains without feeling a sense of loss after the fire destroyed over 160,000 acres of terrain.

A week after our hike, I was on the roof of our building in downtown L.A. when I saw a huge plume of smoke rise from the San Gabriel Mountains.  Although I was busy painting shelves (which I later installed in our kitchen), I ran downstairs between coats to grab my camera.  I took several photos of this giant pyrocumulus cloud as I thought it would dissipate quickly, but it hovered over the city for days.  The air felt very hot and dry.  Ash rained onto our car which was parked in the lot next to our building.

Welcome to “OHLLYWODO”

Hiking the Hollyridge Trail is a nice way to see the Hollywood Sign on Mt. Lee.  Hikers share the dusty trail with tour groups on horseback from Sunset Ranch so watch out for road apples – you’ll smell them before you see them!  Along the trail, there’s a point where the sign reads “OHLLYWODO” instead of “HOLLYWOOD” – neat, eh?  The letters hug the curvature of the hillside; they aren’t aligned along a plane.

The summit of Mt. Lee affords a great view of the city.  The enormous Hollywood Sign is literally at your feet and the Hollywood Reservoir is a mirror reflecting the sky.  In the middle distance is downtown L.A.’s skyline.  On a clear day, you can see Palos Verdes, Catalina Island, and the Pacific Ocean.

Estate Sale

 

On Sunday, we went hiking in the hills above Los Angeles with our Swedish friends Anna, Mikael, and Saga.  We wandered into this private residence after we saw an “Estate Sale” sign leaning against a chair on the driveway.  The house looked forlorn and the garden was unkempt in contrast to its manicured neighbours.  The door was open so we walked inside.  We stepped into a large drawing room replete with wood-beamed ceilings, elaborate tilework, a mezzanine and a huge stone fireplace.  Where the pale blue plaster had fallen off the walls, we could see dark wood laths.   

We were admiring the home’s Spanish Colonial Revival architecture when we were greeted by an old man.  He explained that his mother had passed away recently and that he was selling her things to finance some much-needed home repairs.  His family had built the home in the 1920s and had lived in it since then so it is filled with over 80 years of happy memories.  When the man told us he lived in a suite of rooms upstairs, I was embarrassed that I had taken pictures of his home without asking his permission.  I realized he didn’t mind when he winked at me as he welcomed us to take a closer look.  We thanked the man for opening his home to us and continued on our hike.

Portuguese Point, Abalone Cove

The beach along Abalone Cove in Palos Verdes is covered in large smooth stones.  When the tide rolls out, the ocean rakes away the top layer of stones.  The sound of the stones scraping against each other is very similar to ice cubes rattling in a cocktail shaker.   During low tide before sunrise and around noon, starfish and sea anemones are visible in the tide pools that form along the coast.  Abalones were once abundant in this area before over-fishing drove the population to extinction.  It was late afternoon and the tide was rolling in as I took this photo of Portuguese Point.

Skull Cave, Uluru / Ayers Rock

In Central Australia lies Uluru / Ayers Rock, a massive sandstone formation surrounded by miles of desert. At 348 m (1,142 feet) high and 9.4 km (5.8 miles) in circumference Uluru is best seen from afar, where it’s easy to imagine that a giant once smashed his enemy’s skull into the stone’s eroded surface.

My mom and I hiked around the base of Uluru in July 2008. It was winter and our first time in the desert. For most of the day, we were the only two people on the trail. It was mind-blowing to stare at the horizon and see nothing but desert and sky in all directions.  I remember the silence.

Vernazza, Italy

At brunch today with our friends Mariana and Michael, we traded stories about travel plans gone awry.  Our tale of sleeping in a tiny rental car at Milan’s Malpensa airport on the final night of our honeymoon was totally eclipsed by their account of lurching through the Andes on an all-night bus ride prior to hiking Machu Picchu.  All this reminiscing led me to look through our honeymoon photos tonight.   

We had received our first digital camera as a wedding present from my mom, so it’s evident in the photos that I was learning how to use the Canon S2IS as we traveled through Italy.  I hadn’t been bitten by the photography bug yet, so I didn’t take as many shots per day as I do now.  Still, I did take some nice pictures such as this one of Vernazza in Cinque Terre.

Chino Hills, San Bernadino Mountains

I took this snapshot of Chino Hills in the foreground and the San Bernadino Mountains in the background as we hiked the Telegraph Canyon Trail in Chino Hills State Park yesterday.  I didn’t think my camera would do justice to the snowy peaks so I took only one photo and kept walking.  It was a hot and sunny afternoon so I didn’t linger in any one spot too long.  On the trail was a large sign warning us of mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes that kept me on track as well.

Scott packed a lovely lunch for us to eat before we hit the trail:  a baguette, prosciutto, avocadoes, hummus, Greaves raspberry jam, Lindt Gaufrette, strawberries, and mango smoothies.  It was a parade of my favourite foods marching across the picnic table straight into my stomach!  I now realize that we fine-tuned our al fresco dining skills in Palo Alto last year, where we made regular use of our Coleman cooler chilly bin for potluck birthdays, weddings, and weekends.  In Canada, eating outside is a rare treat; in California, it’s an everyday pleasure.

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