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Monday, October 10, 2011

City Girl / Country Girl

A am a city girl. I love living in Los Angeles, one of the biggest cities in the United States. I love the culture, the music, the fantastic world famous restaurants, the art and the fact that EVERYTHING you could possibly want you can get in LA. Sure we deal with smog, traffic and everything smothered in concrete but generally the costs outweigh the benefits to my city girl heart.

However I am also a country girl. I like camping, riding horses, the simple pleasures of nature and hiking. Sure Los Angeles isn’t a place that a country heart can be free BUT there is a whole other side to Los Angeles if you dig a little. With the San Gabriel Mountains to the north, the ocean to the west and wide open stretches of desert to the east, if you are willing to treck a bit outside of the city you can find the nature side of LALA land.

Today Ms. Firecracker and I drove 30 minutes north of LA to what is now going to be my new favorite hike in Los Angeles! It is called the Santa Anita Canyon Loop (see the directions and map at the end of this post). Although the hike is long, and quite hilly, once you descend into the canyon I felt transported to nature, far away from any city.

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In 1970 when these trails were officiated the park stated

“This trail has been created for you – the city dweller – so that you might exchange, for a short time, the hectic scene of your urban life for the rugged beauty and freedom of adventure into the solitary wonderland of nature.”

So true, SO TRUE!

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Ms. Firecracker and I see eye to eye on time, itinerary and getting things done. GENEREALLY we are well oiled machines when it comes to an event however today our normal groove got a little off. We were confused by the directions, it took us a while to figure out where to pay the parking, then I had to go back down the hill to the car and get the proper change (which I didn’t have with me), only to realize I forgot to put on my hiking boots, and then back up the hill to the restroom. It was so not efficient and by the time we started our hike we were an hour off schedule. Really not like us.

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I thought about bringing Rogue, however with the hills and with him getting older I decided to not risk injuring his hips. Big dogs, old dogs = no 10 mile hikes over rough terrain. Ms. Firecracker however did decide to bring her sweet little four year old puppy Baby E. Although not much bigger than a little bunny I was surprised by how well this dog kept up. She was such a little trooper and when the hills got to be too much she got tucked into mamma’s little papoose. ADORABLE.

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One of my favorite things about this place is all the water. Water where I grew up in Michigan was ABUNDANT. Living in Los Angeles, basically in the desert, there are not really any flowing rivers and lakes, or at least not like back home. On this particular hike there was a ton of water, a good portion of the hike followed the river and every so often there were man made waterfalls. The look of these waterfalls reminded me a bit of Frank Loyd Wright.

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There were many places where Ms. Firecracker and I had to hop skip and jump to the other side of the river to continue on the path. One such instance we were working our way across and the group behind us went a bit further down the river, it was only then that we noticed that there were boards laid out to cross. Boards that would have made it much easier to cross especially carrying pooches and heavy camera equipment. We never learn, Ms. Firecracker and I, we just do things the hard way. It’s just our way.

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After about four miles we reached the Sturtevant Falls which is the whole reason I picked this hike when searching on the internet. For a while now I have wanted to try a slow shutter speed on a waterfall. I had seen this effect in one of my photography books, where fast moving water is blurred to the point that it looks like surreal mist. Although I didn’t shelp my tripod all the way down the canyon with me (which would have been better for more stability) I did manage to find a rock to prop my camera against. And as Ms. Firecracker patiently waited I proceeded to get a KILLER shot of the waterfall. HIP HIP HURAH!

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After I was done we sat on rocks and just drank in the beauty. It was so peaceful, the gentle fall of water on rock tinkling in the background. In that moment I was so happy. Happy to be outdoors, happy to be with my girl, happy to just sit and breathe.

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There is a pretty well defined path, and although some parts get a little treacherous, you just have to watch your footing on the cliffs, and some parts were a bit steep, you are hiking up and through a canyon after all, I adored this hike. We walked through forests of green trees and then through rocky outcrops of scrub. Most of the time we were in the shade, oh so important so I wouldn’t burn, and it helped the hike from getting too hot.

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Once we left the falls the hike takes you up and behind the waterfall. When we crested that hill my legs were SO happy, it was a steep hike. Then I lifted my head and my mouth dropped open… because the terrain was so beautiful. It reminded me a bit of Zion national park, all beautiful curving rock, running water, gorgeous green. I think this is the most green I have ever seen in LALA land!

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It was so beautiful we decided to sit down and have a snack. Since the path was a little narrow and since we spotted some nice size rocks in the middle of the stream we decided to eat in the middle of the river. Sure not the most conventional spot to eat, not the best place to balance dog, and supplies and camera; but hey we already decided we are a bit off the beaten track.

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This girl, I LOVE HER, even if she is a midget and I need to give my quads a workout every single time I take a photo with her. Well almost every single time.

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I did drag my medium lens with me on this hike. I debated about bringing the BIG lens but I was worried about carrying it all that way. In the end I made the right choice, although we did see birds, this was not the bird mecca I thought it would be. Generally where there is water there are birds in LA but other than Juncos and Bushtits there wasn’t much.

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BUSHTIT

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DARK EYED JUNCO

On yea and the place was filled with these butterflies, that I cannot identify… MOM? Do you know?

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In the end Ms. Firecracker, who is in so much better shape than me, let me set the pace for the hike and I reluctantly turned back near Spruce Grove Campground. I wasn’t feeling well and last week I had hurt my back, plus I was worried about getting back up that ¾ of a mile gigantic mountain on the way back to the car. By the time we got back up that hill my legs were hurting but I was happy with how far I did go, about 7 miles.

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I always feel so good after going out in the wilderness, probably because my country girl is tied up in city knots most of the time. When I dream, I dream of living in the country again, however I know that if I ever move to the country I will just miss the city. My lot in life is a dichotomy.

As we exited there was a sign “May your search through nature… lead you to yourself.” Maybe that is why I love the country so much, there is quite, so you can hear the voice within.

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    SANTA ANITA CANYON LOOP DIRECTIONS
Exit 210 freeway on Santa Anita Ave and drive six miles north to its end at Charity Flat. This road switches and turns something sharp but seriously just keep going it does end at a parking lot. The trail begins across the road from the parking lot.

From the Chantry Flats parking lot, head across the road where the trail starts, head down the paved road. The decent is not bad going down but just remember to leave enough energy in your hike to make it back up this ¾ mile hill.

At the bottom of the hill, cross the water by hoping the stones or cross the green bridge and continue to the broad center trail. Where the trail branches off to Hermit Falls and Winter Creek stay straight as if you were headed to Sturtevant Falls (there is a sign by the bathroom). Soon you will come to a split where the right trail leads to the waterfall (which is incredible). You are now at the four mile mark from the parking lot.

After checking out the waterfall backtrack to this point. The trail to the left (the right goes to the waterfall) is a horse trail. You have two options the left is easier but blander, the right is steep with some pretty close calls to the cliffs but the views are more beautiful. Both trails meet later so either route is ok.

The trail continues its climb, following Big Santa Anita Canyon. The two trails meet at Falling Sign Junction, head right where you will so arrive at the Cascade Picnic Area. Less than half a mile later you come to Spruce Grove Campground (3.5 miles from the start) and a nice spot for lunch in the shade of some gigantic Douglas Fir trees.

Shortly after Spruce Grove, the Gabrielino Trail splits to the right and heads up to Newcomb Pass, your route heads to the left. Take another quick left to Sturtevant Trail and a third left onto the Mt Zion Trail.

The Mt. Zion trial ascends steadily without being too steep and nice views of the canyon open as you climb. After a mile and a quarter the trail starts to dip and a short spur heads left toward the summit. If you decide to jaunt up to the summit, on a clear day, you can get nice views of the canyon below.

After the summit, the trail switchbacks steeply down to Hoegees Camp, losing 1,000 feet in a mile and a half. When you join the winter creek trail, head right and then take a left at the next junction on the upper winter creek trail. From here you follow the trail 2 ½ miles back to the parking lot (take a left when you get to the fire road a quarter mile from the end. If you want to make your trip even more challenging you can continue to add more mileage by heading up to Newcomb Pass on Gabrielino Trial or Mt Wilson on the Sturtevant trail. Most hikers will probably find this loop to be a more than adequate workout.
Makes 6 servings of 3 tablespoon each - 120 calories per serving


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2 comments:

paul peggy zeus said...

What a wonderful hike! I'm glad you are so two dimensional like that City vs Country. LOVE the waterfall picture! AND thanks for adding some of you and ms Firecracker too. Your gonna just adore the name of that butterfly and could have probably used it as your title. Its called a California Sister! which certainly applies to the two of you!!

lilmansworld said...

Amazing waterfall picture! Looks like such a magical day with a bestie :)

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