Hike & Picnic

One of the (many) great things about Los Angeles is that you can go from downtown to the mountains in 20 minutes.
When my mother was here visiting last week, we stopped by a book store so she could look at LA books. I saw one that sounded fun — “60 Hikes within 60 Miles.” I bought it, picked out a fun hike near us, and yesterday, AEJ and I went on a little adventure.

First, we stopped at Trader Joe’s, the best store ever, to get some sandwiches. Some time I’ll write an entry just about the joys of Trader Joe’s — the amazing frozen chocolate chip cookie dough (already formed into perfect-size scoops for baking), the frozen pizzas, the Indian simmer sauces, the soda (sweetened with sugar, not high-fructose corn syrup), the grass-fed beef (which we’ll be using for burgers on the grill tonight), the fresh tamales, and our most recent discovery, fresh pizza dough and sauce — both absolutely amazing, and possibly even tastier than Pizza Hut (I know, I know – it’s heresy), ready to be baked. They also have prepared sandwiches and bags of pre-sliced apples (which, I swear to you, taste better — and are juicier — than a fresh non-sliced apple), and that’s what AEJ and I picked up on our way to our hike.

It was another hot day here, so we chose a hike that the book claimed would be “shady.” (A lot of it wasn’t, as I’ll show in a bit.) At the head of the trail was this sign, showing the danger of forest fires to be “Extreme.”

Oh — before I continue, I’ll mention (ie, vent) that my fancy camera that I bought in February — the Sony DSC-T9 — broke a few weeks ago, and that’s why I haven’t been taking many photos. Yep, 90 days into its life, it stopped syncing with the computer. I contacted Sony, who told me where to send it for repair, and it’s been sitting there for almost three weeks, awaiting parts. Why doesn’t Sony just replace it? It was 90 days old! But no, they insist on repairing it, even though it means waiting for parts. Sony sucks, and so does this place, where the repair is supposedly happening. Fortunately, AEJ and I still have two of our old cameras, the Canon PowerShot S400. (We each bought one before we lived together.) Although it’s only 4 megapixel, and it lacks the Sony’s ability to take extremely close shots like I use when I photograph food, the Canon does take lovely outdoor shots.

Back to the walk. Here’s the start of the trail. For a half-mile, it was basically this: sun-exposed pavement. It was hot and a little unpleasant. (It would get a lot better.)

One fun thing about this hike was its proximity to the Nasa Jet Propulsion Lab. That’s their high-security research complex, about 200 yards in the distance. You could hear their generators whirring away.

It got shadier and prettier after that first half-mile, but I was already hot and sweaty. I headed down this hill to a stream to soak my hat in the water.

AEJ was jealous when we saw somebody riding a pony.

We finally reached the official border of the 650,000 acre Angeles National Forest.

Shortly, we reached a fork in the trail. To the right, 8 miles away, was the Millard Campground. We opted for the left trail, as a 19-mile total hike was a little much. (Our hike would total about 6 miles.) Note the yellow post sign: “No Shooting.” I felt much safer.

Things really got pretty after that, with lots of shade and beautiful trees and streams.

At the turn-around point — a little under three miles in — we sat atop a tall retaining wall with the stream below us.

That’s where we had lunch: ham, salami, and provolone on focaccia with a little salad; turkey and swiss on pretzel bread (delicious) with grapes; and a bag of those sliced apples.

The walk back was even nicer, as we now knew how far we were going. Along the way, we took a picture of this odd bridge to nowhere.

Here’s the entrance to the bridge, although it’s not very inviting.

No bugs bothered us on the walk. There were also no bugs in this spider web. All the spider could catch was this leaf.

Another pretty stream.

A funky tree.

Another fun bridge. (This was was crossable.)

Out of the forest, we were back in the hot sun.

But don’t be fooled. The trees are less dense, but this is still Bear Country.

We’re still unclear about the meaning of this sign. “Floating Dog Walker Zone” was my best guess.

Look out for the crazy lizard! Oh, that’s just a piece of wood. But it really does look like a crazy lizard.

That was the walk! It took about two hours to hike those six miles. It was fun, and we felt very healthy when we finished (it was one of those “good for us!” feelings), but it would be a lot more pleasant any time other than summer. It was 90 degrees on the whole walk, and it wasn’t quite as shady as the book had promised. Still, it was a great July 4th. And to show our patriotism to the fullest, we spent the evening eating Pizza Hut and watching “Terminator 2.” Go, USA. (And to provide full disclosure, I’ll mention that Terminator 2 and AEJ’s movie share the same casting director, the same editor, and one of the same actors. Sadly, that actor is not The Governator.)


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