On The Trail to New Discoveries
As I mentioned last week, one of the blessings of living in the Crescenta Valley is our close proximity and easy access to a seemingly endless network of hiking and biking trails.
Since the beginning of this year, my wife and I have enjoyed a newfound focus on better health and wellness. (I hesitate to use the word “fitness” because it conjures up images of either hyperactive old men in one-piece jumpsuits and bad hairpieces doing calisthenics on a black & white TV show, or frighteningly ripped and oiled women on Sunday morning infomercials who could break me in half over a spray-tanned knee and never miss a beat of their adrenaline-fueled sales pitch.)
Where was I? Oh, right. One result of my wife’s and my passionate pursuit of physical perfection (just go with me on this, okay?) has been our diligence in seeking out new hiking trails. Although our big goal hike next month is the 14,505-foot summit of Mt. Whitney, for the past several months we’ve primarily done hikes much closer to home.
Some of our recent favorites, in fact, are only minutes from our driveway. I’m embarrassed to admit that, even having lived in this area almost all of our lives, we’ve recently discovered many trails that we had no idea existed, let alone that we have ever hiked before.
For example, the trailhead to one of our favorite after-work escapes these days is as close as the San Rafael hills above Descanso Gardens. Granted, the trails collectively called “Cherry Canyon” are relatively short. But what they lack in distance, they more than make up for in intensity. One route in particular, the Owl Trail, climbs straight up the mountain – sans switchbacks – until you reach the top and are rewarded with spectacular views of downtown L.A., Glendale and Griffith Park looking south, Pasadena to the east and the entire sweep of the Crescenta Valley foothills looking to the north.
Whenever my wife and I hike these trails, whatever the weather, we always are entertained by the variety of wildlife we see as the ecology around us changes from shaded canopies of oak trees, to bone dry chaparral, to crumbled granite rock fall and dusty, rutted fire roads. We’ve been quite literally stopped in our tracks watching the silent drama of a hawk searching the ground below for field mice. We can’t hike more than a hundred yards without hearing the rustle of a wild rabbit in the undergrowth alongside the trail. If we pause long enough, the bunny is sure to show its furry self – along with some of the most unusual and colorful creepy crawly bugs and bird life I’ve ever seen. All in all, it makes for quite an entertaining way to exercise both your muscles and appreciation of the Crescenta Valley.
Although we don’t hike them nearly as often, we also enjoy the trails through the Deukmejian Wilderness Park above Markridge Road. Former turn-of-the-century owner George LeMesnager would no doubt be amazed at what has been done to the land surrounding his old stone barn. We have hiked these trails both before and after the terrain-changing Station Fire and are always amazed at the views they afford of our hometown.
Another particularly challenging favorite is the trail that begins at the top of Lake Avenue in Pasadena and switchbacks relentlessly up to the top of Echo Mountain. Once on top, we like to wander through the eerie (to me, at least) ruins of Professor Thaddeus S.C. Lowe’s “White City” and the long-abandoned Mount Lowe Railway. At 3,207 feet elevation, the trail climbs dramatically high above Altadena and rewards sweaty visitors with views to the ocean and beyond – air quality permitting, of course.
I’ll wrap up for this week due to a sudden urge to lace up my Vasques, top off the CamelBak and head for the hills.
If I don’t see you on the trail, I’ll see you ’round town.