March 2012

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In our quest to hike Mount Whitney we hiked some local trails in Griffith Park to keep building up our endurance.  We took advantage of the park being close to our house and designed the hike as a point-to-point using a car at each end of the trail.  We started to the west of the Hollywood sign and hiked east to Burbank Peak overlooking both Hollywood and Burbank.


We continued east to Cahuenga Peak then to Mount Lee, where the Hollywood sign is.



We then headed further east to Mount Hollywood, the highest point in Griffith Park, looking down on the observatory.  It was interesting to see the famous landmarks from different vantage points.


Then we hiked down to the observatory and checked out some of the exhibits inside.

We finished by hiking down to the bottom of the park near Los Feliz Blvd.  The entire hike was 7 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain, not too strenuous but a decent work out since we had extra weight in our packs.

For the last weekend in February we wanted to get another hike in, so we decided to revisit an old favorite and invite some of Katharine’s coworkers along. We met 6 others at the trailhead in Ed Davis Park off I-5 and started on the Towsley Canyon Loop trail.


We did this hike a couple years ago when were just getting into hiking and really loved it for the nice mountain views, interesting rock cliffs, stream area, and the bubbling pits of tar!


On this trip we didn’t see as much tar as we remembered from before, but it was still a nice hike and a pretty good work out. We filled our packs with bottles of water (and camera equipment) to increase our pack weight to make it a bit more challenging. The group also went at a pretty quick pace, so that helped make it a good training hike.



We also saw an interesting red furry ant, which apparently is a type of wasp without wings!

Overall a fun hike and nice to share it with friends. Seems like we will have to make group hikes a more regular occurrence!

By Katharine

My cousins Tom and Amy had planned a desert trip to CA for a winter break trip in February and invited us to meet up with them at Joshua Tree National Park for the weekend. We were glad to see we had the weekend free and planned for a short trip (2 days, 1 night). Nathan and I have a lot of interests in common with Tom and Amy (hiking, backpacking, national parks, and photography to name a few) but we don’t often get to see each other besides for weddings and Christmas. So we were excited to finally do a camping trip together! And we hadn’t been to Joshua Tree since April 2009, which was actually my first camping trip with Nathan.

We drove out to Joshua Tree Saturday morning and headed into the park to try to snag a campsite. As we got about 15 min into the park, we were surprised to see snow!!

Patches of snow among the boulders

I think I seriously have some sort of snow curse… always plenty of snow when camping but never enough when we want to snowboard. Luckily in this case there were just small patches left, not enough to really affect campsites. Unfortunately we got there about 30 minutes too late to get a campsite, but it wasn’t a big deal though since there is plenty of BLM camping near the park (i.e. camping on a dry lake bed near a local airport runway).

We spent Saturday and Sunday doing a bunch of different hikes and exploring with Tom and Amy. We started with a short hike at Hidden Valley, which included many stops for photos of the joshua trees. We then went to see the chollo cactus and stopped at Jumbo Rocks to scramble on the boulders. We checked out Keys View around sunset and then set up camp and went to sleep pretty early.

Hidden Valley

Chollo Cactus

Nathan and Katharine at the Chollo Cactus Patch

Tom Bouldering

Katharine and Amy

Jumbo Rocks

Keys View

On Sunday we hiked out to 49 Palms Oasis (which seemed much easier than when Nathan and I hiked it 3 years ago) and did another short hike at Split Rock. Tom and Amy headed off to Death Valley and we stayed for sunset before heading back to LA.

Hike to 49 Palms Oasis (Oasis visible top left)

Red Barrel Cactus on the way to 49 Palms

Tom Climbing near Split Rock

Jack rabbit

Sunset in Joshua Tree National Park

It was a great trip and fun to return to Joshua Tree to take some better photos than last time. Tom and Amy also have Canon cameras, so Nathan got to try out a few of their lenses, including a macro one he really liked. Check out the rest of the photos:

By Katharine

When I was planning the trip to see the elephant seals, I discovered that nearby there is a grove of eucalyptus trees near Pismo beach that support thousands of wintering monarch butterflies. At the peak of the season there are over 20,000. Apparently we missed the peak by a couple weeks, so there were “only” ~5,000. It still was quite a sight to see them covering the tree branches


They tended to cluster in the sunshine to stay warm, but there were also many flying around from tree to tree. There also were some mating – they flit about in the air and then on the ground or in the air the male grabs the female and tows it up to the highest branches where they ‘hang out’ for a few hours.


The butterflies were beautiful and it was amazing to see so many at once. They were up pretty high in the trees though making photographs pretty challenging. It was worth it though!


By Nathan

After visiting the elephant seals we headed a little south for a short hike along Montana De Oro State Park’s coastline.


This part of the coast is the southern tip of the Big Sur region so it has some of the characteristic shear bluffs.  The trail had some narrow paths along the eroded cliffs.


We also did a little rock scrambling on the unusual layered rocks.


It was incredibly windy, which created a fun challenge to photograph the pelicans that were soaring past us.  I credit my bird hunting skills for my ability to frame the birds in flight.  I am also glad to have a camera that has an amazing auto focus tracking system and 8 fps that capture the birds so clearly.


(click to enlarge the photo, you can actually see the pelican’s eye)

I really wanted to get some coastal sunset shots, but it was getting cold and we had a 1.5 mile walk to the car.  Katharine volunteered to jog back to the car and drive closer while my dad and I waited for the sun to light up the cliffs.  I am lucky to have a wife that understands my obsessions.  It was cold and windy, but well worth the wait.


This part of the California coast is just amazing… I am sure we’ll be back.

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