Stan’s Obligatory Blog

Happy Thanksgiving

10/16/2013

Mount Wilson

Filed under: — stan @ 3:43 pm

Last week, when Karina, Gary, and I were on the hike to the Bridge to Nowhere, we talked about doing Mount Wilson this week. Our original plan was to go up the trail that starts at Chantry Flat. Karina said that one is more scenic and not as difficult as the trail from Sierra Madre. But on the way home from Sunday’s bike ride, I’d gone by the bottom of the Chantry Flat road and found that it, too, was closed due to the government shutdown. So Sierra Madre it was.

I met Karina at the trailhead at 7AM. It was barely past sunrise when we started up the trail. The sign at the bottom said that the trail had been built in 1864 by Don Benito Wilson, and that it was originally intended for mule trains and horses. Which explains why the trail builders didn’t seem to care all that much about taking the most efficient path up the mountain. There were several places on the way up where the trail dropped into narrow canyons, only to climb back up and out of them on the other side. I hate it when that happens.

A good bit of the lower part of the trail is through actual forest. That’s nice, since forests are kind of rare in southern California. We came across a couple of deer on the trail at one point. They ran away when they saw us coming.

Karina woke up with a cold this morning, so she was sort of dragging. She said that if she could make it to the trail junction at the top of Manzanita Ridge, she thought she’d make it to the summit. When we got to the top of the ridge, we stopped for a few minutes, and then continued on to the junction with the old Mt. Wilson Toll Road. At that point, Karina said ‘uncle’ and decided to turn back. I kept going, since we were almost at the top, and I’d never done that trail before.

The rest of the walk to the top took about 1/2 hour. I stopped briefly at the top to refill my water bottles. Then I headed down. I wanted to see if I could catch up with Karina before she made it back to the bottom. I stopped to take some pictures on the way down, including the steps on the foundation of Orchard Camp. I figured that was the closest I’d be coming to stairs today. I managed to average almost 3 miles per hour on the way down. I reset my GPS at the top, and when I got to the bottom, it said it was just a bit over 7 miles, and it took me 2 1/2 hours to do. Karina’s car was gone, but I later heard from her that she’d only gotten to the bottom about 40 minutes before I did.

In the end, it was a fun hike. It was pretty hard. Probably harder than Mt. Baldy was, even though that’s a much higher mountain. Still, I didn’t feel too wiped out. And I started thinking about maybe doing downtown for stair practice in the evening. I thought that doing that might be a good capstone of insanity for the day.

14 miles, 4,700 feet of climbing

10/14/2013

Monday furlough-cation

Filed under: — stan @ 9:54 pm

It’s Monday, and the government shutdown continues. But today would have been a holiday if we weren’t shut down. And Kathleen had the day off, too. So we made plans to ride the train to the science museum to go see the space shuttle on display there. I’d taken the Sunday morning bike club to see it being moved last year, so now we could see it in its new, albeit temporary, display hall. And then, since we were going to be near downtown, we planned on stopping off at the Wilshire-Figueroa building for some stair-climbing on the way home.

The train ride down was easy. It’s just so convenient. I can hardly remember what it was like when we had to drive everywhere. And since it’s a minor holiday, the museum wasn’t terribly crowded, and we didn’t have to reserve tickets to see the shuttle.

The exhibit is in two parts. The first has some background information about space flight and the shuttle, including the tires it landed on on its last flight, and the control center from Rocketdyne where they monitored the performance of the main engines during every launch. Then there was a short film about how the moved the shuttle from LAX to the museum. And then we went out to the building where it’s housed. There was a display around the outside of the room with a summary of each of the 135 shuttle flights. The two flights that ended badly had plaques with a black background. It’s interesting to note that in his addendum to the report on the Challenger disaster, Feynman estimates the overall probability of failure of the space shuttle:

“If a reasonable launch schedule is to be maintained, engineering often cannot be done fast enough to keep up with the expectations of originally conservative certification criteria designed to guarantee a very safe vehicle. In these situations, subtly, and often with apparently logical arguments, the criteria are altered so that flights may still be certified in time. They therefore fly in a relatively unsafe condition, with a chance of failure of the order of a percent (it is difficult to be more accurate).”

And he concludes as any good physicist would:

“For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.”

In any event, looking back now at two failures in 135 launches, it seems Feynman was pretty much right on target.

Still, we don’t want to dwell on failure. The shuttle is still an amazing machine, and that it worked as well as it did is still pretty remarkable.

After leaving the museum, we took the train back to the 7th St Metro station and headed over to the building. We got changed and ready to climb. My plan was to go up several times, and I was going to try and do the first two in close to 10 minutes each time. Kathleen headed into the stairs just behind me. I caught up with her near the top on my second ascent. My times were all right, but not great. After that, I went up one more time, just because it was there. And then we went home.

It was a fun little adventure.

More government shutdown fun

Filed under: — stan @ 12:04 pm

I’ve been out of a job for the last two weeks due to the shutdown of the federal government, but today I got to enjoy a rare treat because of it. Turns out that the road up to Chantry Flat is closed to cars because of the shutdown, and so it’s become a 4-mile hike and bike trail for the last two weeks. So this morning, I went out to ride it.

I’ve ridden up this road many times before, but it’s rare to get to do it with no cars. And it was a perfect day for riding, so it was a winner all around.

16 miles.

10/13/2013

The Right Stuff

Filed under: — stan @ 5:38 pm

I’d read this week that Scott Carpenter had died. He was one of the original seven Mercury astronauts, and the second American to orbit the Earth. So in honor of this, this Sunday’s ride was out to the mobile home park in West Covina where the streets are named for the original astronauts. We’d gone there once before, back in 2009.

The route was the old ‘Bagelry’ route, just reversed. We rode out on Gladstone St, which is a long, straight, slightly uphill street. All the way to San Dimas. Then we stopped for bagels. Then, on the way back, we stopped in at Mobile Land.

The rest of the way home was down Cypress St, which is just like Gladstone, but going west, it’s slightly downhill. So that was nice. Then we came home by way of Santa Fe Dam and through Arcadia. It was a pleasant ride.

45 miles.

10/11/2013

The Bridge to Nowhere

Filed under: — stan @ 6:34 pm

For many years, I’ve wanted to do the hike up the East Fork of the San Gabriel River to see the Bridge to Nowhere. So today was a good day. I went with Gary and Karina from my office, since we’re all on furlough-cation.

We headed out and got on the trail at about 9. I’d brought along some hiking poles, since the guidebook mentioned having to cross the river several times along the way, and I thought they would help for balance while rock-hopping.

The trail pretty much follows what’s left of the former road. There are a few places where there’s still enough pavement that it almost looks like a road, but for the most part, it’s all gone. In many places, I looked at the canyon and wondered what they were thinking back then to think they could even build a road through there.

We saw the foundations of a couple of bridges across the river along the way. There were places where the trail was hard to follow. Then two women and a dog passed us. They had a definite air of we-know-where-we’re-going, so we followed them for a bit. When they stopped to take a break, I talked with them and got some hints about the rest of the trail. At that point, we were almost at the Bridge.

The last part of the trail is pretty high up on the side of the canyon, and it’s easy to follow. Then it came around a bend, and there was the Bridge. The river is going through a narrow gorge at that point, so the bridge is high, and it’s anchored in the rock walls of the gorge, which I guess is why it didn’t get washed away when all the rest of the road did. We stopped for a bit at the bridge and had lunch. Then Gary and I went on, following the trail for about another 1/4 mile of climbing around the bend in the gorge, and then down to the river. There is a camp there, and it’s really a nice setting.

The way back was better, since we had a much better idea what we were doing. It turned out that we’d crossed the river more times than we needed to on the way out. Coming back, we only crossed it about four times.

In the end, we did about 10 miles. The total climb was about 1,000 feet. It wasn’t a hard hike, but it was interesting and fun.

10/10/2013

Rubio Canyon

Filed under: — stan @ 4:34 pm

It rained all day Wednesday, and I’m still a bit sore from the hike up Baldy on Tuesday, so today was a day to do something easy. I rode my bike up to Rubio Canyon and walked up the trail to the site of the old Rubio Pavilion. I’d been up there before, but that was back in 1996. That time, I got a nice picture of one of the waterfalls up there. But since then, the waterfalls were buried by a rockslide in 1998, and subsequently uncovered by a flash flood in 2004. So I was curious to see what the place looked like now.

The ride up to the trailhead was up some steep hills. Oddly enough, when we’re looking down on that neighborhood from up on Echo Mountain, it looks pretty flat. But it’s all on a pretty steep slope. When I got to the trail, I found a post and locked my bike up. Then I headed up the canyon.

The walk up the canyon is pretty easy. It’s only about a mile or so to the foundations of the old pavilion at the base of the former funicular up to Echo Mountain. Not a lot remains. Continuing up the canyon, I climbed over the rocks that had come down a few years ago until I saw the waterfall that I’d photographed back in 1996. There was no water today, even though it rained all day yesterday.

This was a nice little walk, and now I’m ready for the hike to the Bridge to Nowhere tomorrow.

10/8/2013

On top of Old Baldy

Filed under: — stan @ 8:22 pm

Well, I’m still on furlough-cation this week. I’ve recovered from last Thursday’s hike, so it’s time for another. I wanted to go and climb Mt San Antonio, colloquially known as Baldy, since I haven’t been up there since 1996. I’d only been up there three times ever, so I figured it was time. So I made plans to do this with Karina from my office.

We got an early start, and hit the trail from Manker Flat up to San Antonio Falls at 8AM. After a short walk up the fire road, we turned off onto the trail up the Bowl on the south slope of Baldy. The sign at the bottom mentioned that there were Jeffrey Pines in the forest above, and those are the ones with the bark that smells like vanilla. So I had to stop and smell the trees on the way up. We stopped for a break at the Sierra Club Ski Hut.

From the hut, the trail turned and went across the slope for a bit before it started a very steep climb up to the top of the ridge that comes off the summit on the south side. When we got to the top of the ridge, we had to take a rest. I checked my GPS, and it said we were close to 9,000 feet, so that meant the summit wasn’t too far away.

The final climb up to the summit was hard. It was steep, and there wasn’t enough air to breathe. When the GPS said 9,800 feet, I knew it wasn’t far, and that and the magnificent scenery were the only things between me and the crushing wave of “What the HELL are you trying to prove here?!?” that I always get while doing stair-climbing races. So this wasn’t so bad. And of course, we made it to the summit all right.

We had lunch on the summit, while trying to get away from all the bees. (Why are there bees living on top of a 10,000 foot mountain, anyway?) Then we headed down by way of the Devil’s Backbone Trail. This trail is famous for the section where it’s on a knife-edge ridge, with steep drops on both sides of the trail. And yes, that kind of gave me the willies. But we made it down all right, walking down into the ski area, and then down the very long fire road from the ski area back to where we started. That fire road was a long walk, but at least it was something where we could pretty much walk normally, rather than having to climb over boulders or anything like that. So it was pleasant enough. In the end, we made it back to the start in just a bit more than 8 hours. Not bad for 11 miles and about 4,000 feet of climbing. So yes, this was a fun day.


10/6/2013

What ever happened to Moby Dick?

Filed under: — stan @ 4:58 pm

The Los Angeles Public Library has been having a month-long series of events to encourage people to revisit Herman Melville’s classic novel, Moby Dick. On Thursday night, Kathleen and I went downtown to one of the ALOUD events, Moby Dick: How Scientists Came to Love the Whale. In the introduction to that talk, they talked about how all the branches of the library were doing whale-themed events all month, and they mentioned that the Hollywood branch had held an Origami Whale Fold a Thon to make 162 little paper whales for the 162nd anniversary of the publication of Moby Dick. And the whales were on display in the front window the library. So that was our destination for today.

The ride to Hollywood is pretty straightforward, and we do it a lot. So there wasn’t much remarkable about it. The only thing that was difficult is that the library is on Ivar St, which is where they hold the Hollywood Farmer’s Market on Sunday mornings. So we had to wade through the crowds to see the whales.

After that, we headed north, and we noticed that Bela Lugosi’s star is right at the corner of Hollywood and Ivar. It’s October now, and almost time for our annual “Down for the Count” ride out to Culver City to visit Bela Lugosi’s grave.

We rode up to the Lake Hollywood dam, and then around the lake and over the hill to get to Burbank, where we stopped for snacks at Priscilla’s. Then we headed home by the usual direct route across Glendale and Eagle Rock. Overall, it was a pleasant ride.

40 miles.

10/3/2013

Furlough-cation

Filed under: — stan @ 5:42 pm

Today, I’d made plans to go hiking with my friend Karina from work. Since our office has turned into a pumpkin, we don’t have anything to do. She hikes a fair amount, but I haven’t been up in the mountains since 4th of July last year. So we arranged to meet up a the trailhead a the top of Lake Ave. We figured we’d start out by going up Echo Mountain, and then just see what we had time for after that.

The trail up to Echo Mountain is about 2 1/2 miles, and it’s not hard. At the top, we turned left and headed up the old Mt. Lowe Railway roadbed. Most of it is still passable. The bridges have all been taken out, and there are signs along the way, indicating points of interest, and with photos showing how it looked when it was still operating. We ended up walking the entire length of the former railroad, all the way to the Mt. Lowe Trail Camp, which is at the location for the former Alpine Tavern that was at the end of the line. We stopped there for lunch, since they have some picnic tables there.

After lunch, we continued on up the trail to Inspiration Point, which is on top of the ridge behind Echo Mountain. There is a little shelter built up there, along with a sign telling the story of the One Man and a Mule Railroad, which used to bring people up to Inspiration Point from the Alpine Tavern. After that, we headed back by way of the Upper Sam Merrill Trail, which took us back to Echo Mountain. Then we headed back down the way we’d started. All together, it was about 12 1/2 miles, which is easily the longest hike I’ve done in many years. But it was a good time, and a good thing to do on a day when we have nothing else useful to do.

10/2/2013

Furlough adventures

Filed under: — stan @ 10:16 pm

For the first full day of government furlough, Kathleen and I had planned on going to Disneyland. But first, I’d gotten a call last night from Rebecca, the organizer of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation’s charity stair-climb. She said that we had a chance to change the race this year and run it all the way to the helipad on the roof of the building, and she wanted to see if I could meet with her at the building in the morning to survey the final few floors up to the roof. And since I’m on indefinite furlough, of course I could do that.

I rode the train downtown with all the morning commuters, and when I got to the building, I went up to the main office so we could meet with the guy in charge of building security. I’d brought along a batch of my award-winning blueberry muffins. I asked them to give them to the evening shift guards, since they were very nice to us the last two months when we were training on the staircase there for the YMCA stair climb.

We took the freight elevator up to 51, which is where the race traditionally ended. After climbing that staircase 68 times over the last two months, there was no need to survey anything below 51. Then I got out my camera and notepad and we checked out the stairs up to the roof. The final count came to 1,245 steps from the ground-level door on 6th St up to the roof. That’s the equivalent of a bit over 54 normal floors in that building.

After surveying the stairs, I got back on the train, and I took Metro Rail to the Norwalk station on the Green Line. That’s right off the 605 freeway, which is how we get to Disneyland, so I met up with Kathleen there, and we headed on to Disneyland.

We did all the usual things there. We even rode the new Radiator Springs Racers ride for the first time. The line for that thing has been insanely long ever since it opened. But today, the line was only a bit over an hour, and the single-rider line was very short. So we went in as two single riders, and we were on it in under 10 minutes. It was entertaining, but I’m not sure it’s an-hour-in-line entertaining.

On the way over to Disneyland, I saw that there’s a commemorative paving stone with my name on it. Even spelled the ‘right’ way. I wonder who it is, since I’ve never met anyone with my same name, spelled the same way.

Disneyland was decorated for Halloween. And the Haunted Mansion was decorated for Christmas. Saves them a lot of work that way. I was able to pretty much forget about the government shutdown. And we ended with the traditional dinner at Ralph Brennan’s Jazz Kitchen in Downtown Disney. We had a nice day.

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