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NateKat · Los Angeles

Los Angeles

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The first real hike that we ever did together was about 4 years ago, in May 2009. Based on Katharine’s research on Modern Hiker, we did the 7 mile loop to Sandstone Peak in the Santa Monica Mountains during a hot May day.  Like many beginner hikers, we didn’t bring quite enough water for the hot day and found ourselves exhausted at the end, but that didn’t stop us from falling in love with hiking.

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Photos from our 2009 hike

Video from our 2009 Hike

Now, 4 years later, we consider ourselves avid hikers and backpackers and have bagged many of the highest peaks in southern California.

Since we are planning to move to the East Coast at the end of the summer, we thought we should hike Sandstone Peak one last time.  This time we were in better hiking condition and the weather was much cooler.  4 years ago it was a challenging hike to reach the top and return, but this time it was just a stroll in the park.

2009 (I sense a little more enthusiasm)

2013

While eating a snack at the top we were entertained by a small mouse gathering grass, so of course now we have 84 photos of a mouse thanks to Nathan!

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A couple weeks after our hike, the Springs Fire swept through just northwest of the trail, charing all the chaparral. Luckily this section of trail was apparently not affected, but we expect the views of the surrounding hills may be quite altered.

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It was fun to return to where all our hiking began and see how far we’ve come!

Our friend and coworker, Jim celebrated his 60th birthday with a day full of outdoor sports.  Since he’s Irish, it was only fitting the celebration was on St. Patrick’s Day.  The day was perfectly planned and scheduled chock full of various outdoor activities, one right after another. Jim outdid everyone, completing each event with energy to spare while the rest of us played tag team trying to keep up with him.

The morning started with open ocean swimming, surfing, and paddle boarding in Malibu.

Followed by kayaking with friends.

Although some gave it their best shot, no one capsized

Slightly more dramatic than in real life

It’s good to have friends that enjoy the same hobbies you do

We then drove ahead of the group and hiked a little ways down a nice trail and played on a rope swing waiting for the rest to bike by.

It’s amazing how just a simple rope swing can keep you entertained for hours…it’s fun to be a kid again

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The final activity was a 4 mile hike in Temescal Canyon ending at Jim’s house for drinks, food, and storytelling.

Coming down the final switchbacks of Temescal Canyon

We thought it was a great way to celebrate a birthday, we only hope we will be as fit and energetic when we turn 60! Happy Birthday to Jim!

 

By Nathan

I had never heard of cyclocross until my friend Paul mentioned he was competing in a cyclocross race at the Fairplex.  It’s an interesting concept – racing “road bikes” (not quite the same, but they are much closer to road bikes than mountain bikes) on a course with different terrain and various obstacles.

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Paul, who is a professional photographer, also let me use his 300mm 2.8 L lens, which alone made the trip worth it.  It’s an amazingly sharp lens that I will probably never be able to afford, so this was a unique opportunity.
 
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It took some getting used to since I own and use mainly zoom lens allowing me to be more flexible on my shooting location.  I spent the first hour before the race scouting out different positions around the track.  These races are also very impromptu and at first glace the track is complicated and confusing as there isn’t an official/ accurate map.  I tried to focus on the obstacles since I felt that would make the most interesting shots and easiest to visually identify as I ran from location to location.
 
The Stairs
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The second complication was there were so many cyclist and race classes that there was always a race in progress mixed with people just practicing for their up-coming race.  You had to be careful as you ducked under multiple tape lines asking yourself, “am I on or off the track now?”… then a brightly colored spandex blur would race past… “yep I’m on the track.”
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Keeping it Interesting
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The races have a set time of ~30 minutes and the cyclists try to complete as many laps of the course as they can in the allotted time. After the racer in first place finishes, everyone else just finishes the lap they are on. Since everyone was making about 3-4 laps per race, I had the chance to maneuver and re-position myself to capture multiple obstacles that were close together.
 
Brutal Sand
 
The Hurdles
 
Banked Dirt S Turn
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These races are also quite informal, and since the sport is looking to expand, they welcome photographers.  It’s always nice when you can have free rein of the course and take unique positions.
 
The Start
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It’s so informal that there were a couple kids taking advantage of the empty BMX dirt ramps between racers.
 
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There was also an interesting bike polo gaming going on, which was another first for me.
 
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Overall cyclocross was a pretty fun activity to photograph so a few weeks later I joined Paul at another race in Glendale’s Verdugo Park.  This was a more difficult venue to race and photograph since the area was much smaller and it weaved around trees and playground equipment.  It was also sunny, which was nice but created awkward shady areas or blown out backgrounds.
 
Push to the Finish
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Luckily shooting in RAW and using Lightroom allows me to lighten the dark areas without blowing out the entire photo.
 
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This time Paul wore yellow which was easy to spot among the other spandex billboards.
The track also didn’t have as many obstacles as the previous since it was in a city park and not a rented arena.
 
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For instance a swing set sandbox was flanked on both sides with the cyclocross sand pits.  So there were lots of kids playing on the swings while packs of cyclists whizzed past.  I was surprised there weren’t any playground collisions.
 
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Cyclocross is very interesting for photographers, but I’m also interested in competing someday…but I should get a bike first.  Although it’s another expensive hobby at least I would get some good exercise. Speaking of expensive, the 300mm 2.8L is incredible and was good practice using a fixed lens.  I still like my zooms though…  I actually just bought the 70-300mm L lens and hope to use it on an upcoming whale watching trip.
Thanks again, Paul!
 
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Check out the other photos from these two events.

San Bernardino Peak was number 5 on the list of training hikes for Mt. Whitney.

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Since the round trip distance is over 16 miles, we decided to do it as weekend backpacking trip. We got a relatively late start on Saturday, but only had to hike 6 miles to our campsite at Limber Pines.  The trail was well maintained with a nice manageable slope, although we had 3200 feet to climb.  The first half of the trail was soft dirt shaded by large trees, the second half was lined with boulders and manzanita.

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After 5.5 hours we made it to the empty campground and chose the most remote site off the trail and overlooking the valley (Inland Empire).  As the sunset behind Mt. Baldy, we climbed up on the boulders and enjoyed a dessert of freeze dried chocolate cheesecake!

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Sadly the city lights below washed out most of the stars, so we took photos of our glowing tent.

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The next morning we prepared for the 2.1 mile hike to the peak (and the hike down) with a mocha made with filtered mountain water.

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The hike to the peak was easy in the cool morning we even stopped to take some photos on the way up.

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San Bernardino Peak is at 10,650 feet and has an incredible views of mountains we’ve bagged and planned to summit this summer.

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Since we reached the summit of San Bernardino Peak pretty early in the morning and we were feeling good, we looked east to East San Bernardino Peak. The East Peak is actually slightly higher (10,690′) and is also on the “100 peaks” list… and it was only a mile away with a couple hundred feet of gain. So we checked our water and headed to East San Bernardino.

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After bagging both peaks we headed back to camp, enjoyed a hot lunch, and hiked back to the car completing 14.5 miles for the day. This was one of our favorite hikes so far because the views were beautiful, the trail was well maintained with a gentle grade, and we had perfect weather.

 

Every time we go on a day hike, we always try to get an early start. Katharine can be particularly slow in the morning, but for our hike to Cucamonga Peak (11.5 miles, 4,300 ft gain) we managed to get out the door almost on time. Unfortunately we didn’t check the local news so we had no idea that we were headed up the route of the “King of the Mountain” stage of the Amgen Bicycle Tour. Apparently amateurs like to ride the route earlier in the day so the road up to the trailhead was crowded with cyclists weaving up the hill. So in the end, we had a late start as usual.

The hike starts with a 3.5 mile climb up Icehouse Canyon, one we were familiar with from our first solo backpacking trip 2 years ago. That trip the climb seemed never ending, but this time our packs were slightly lighter, we were better conditioned, and it wasn’t as hot.  We quickly reached the saddle and headed another 2 miles toward Cucamonga Peak.

Katharine taking a break on the steep climb – July 2010

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We tried to count the switch backs to the top and debated whether some counted or not depending on their angle or length.  When we reached the peak we had it all to ourselves so we had a snack and took pictures of the sun bleached trees.

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As you can see we were in good spirits.  Usually if there isn’t pictures of us at the top it’s because it was too crowded or we were too exhausted.

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To the west we could see 2 of 5 peaks we bagged during our backpacking trip; Bighorn and Ontario Peak.  The saddle between the mountains was just above our campsite, Kelly Camp.  Mount Baldy’s bowl can be seen behind the mountains.

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We headed back down through Icehouse Canyon at a pretty brisk pace.

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By the time we got back to the car, the Amgen Tour fans had left and only the race banners remained. We were relieved to drive down the empty mountain road!

 

This hike was mainly a training and conditioning hike to prepare for Mt. Whitney later in the summer.  Although the mileage and elevation weren’t as severe as Mt. Wilson, the altitude played a larger role in our endurance.  Mt. Wilson was a painful and tiring hike, but was at the very start of our serious hiking training season.  Since Wilson we had hiked 41 miles, so it was definitely starting to pay off. The trail up Baden-Powell was consistently uphill with switchback after switchback, but it wasn’t too steep so we were able to keep a decent pace.

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We did run into some large snow drifts on the north side near the top, which we easily traversed using our micro spikes.  It was clear and sunny at the 9,407′ peak.

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Near the summit we passed the “Wally” Waldron Tree, a limber pine that is believed to be over 1500 years old.

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On the way down the 2,800 foot climb we tried to keep a brisk 3 mph pace down the switchbacks, which felt more like trail running.  We finished the hike in 5 hours without feeling too tired, but we were definitely hungry. The hike gave a good sense of accomplishment and it was the first time we could tell all the training was paying off.

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We ended up going down the mountain to the local ski resort to grab some pizza.  It was weird to drive down the mountain to get to the ski resort, which was deserted without any snow.

 

 

At the very end of April our friends Aidan and Aditya joined us for a hike to bag 4 peaks in 7.5 miles in the Angeles National Forest: San Gabriel Peak (6161′), Mount Disappointment (5960′), Mount Markhan (5742′), and Mount Lowe (5603′). This trail was recently reopened due to a rockslide near the tunnel.

Mueller Tunnel Constructed in 1942

Each peak was somewhat unique; San Gabriel Peak is the highest of the 4 and has old concrete foundations from a fire lookout post, Mount Disappointment is covered in humming radio towers, Mount Markhan is narrow and less traveled, and Mount Lowe has a few welded pipes for viewing other peaks in the area.

Mt. Baldy (future day hike)

Mount Markhan’s trail is narrow and is more of a boulder scramble to the top.

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On the way up an unusual creature crossed our path.  Although they are hard to see these horned lizards (Phrynosoma) aka horny toads are found throughout the southwest.

Can you spot the extremely camouflaged young lizard?! (HINT: In focus just to the left of the stick)

Prehistoric looking creatures

To my surprise we saw two in one day even though we’ve been hiking all over Southern California for years now without ever seeing one.

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Many times when we reach a peak on our hikes we are greeted by these pale yellow butterflies that  fly circles around us.  I’ve tried many times to catch them in flight, but settled for this one resting on a plant, you can actually see the hairs on its back!

Female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus)

Last weekend Katharine and several friends competed in the Merrell Down & Dirty Mud Run at Castaic Lake. The race was a 5k course with about 15 military-inspired obstacles along the way culminating with a giant mud pit just before the finish line.

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Nathan designed the Tshirts for team “CGM”

We had all done a little training for the race to get in shape, but we didn’t really run it to finish with a fast time, mostly we just wanted to have fun and enjoy the obstacles.

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The race actually was a lot of fun. The first half had a lot of uphill and a steep climb, but the obstacles helped to break it up. And once we got to the downhill section it was smooth sailing.

Nathan and Aditya stayed near the finish line where there were a bunch of final obstacles and took pictures. We had to climb some walls and wade through waist-deep water in the lake.

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But by far the toughest obstacle was the “slippery mountain” – they coated the incline with soap and you weren’t allowed to use your legs to help you up it at all, only upper body strength.

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The mud pit at the end felt like a rite of passage… There was definitely no way to get through it without getting soaked with mud. Felt like being a kid again!

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At the finish line we all got dog tag medals and celebrated by hosing each other down to rinse off the mud.

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We’re already looking forward to doing the race again next year!

We’ve hiked in Santa Anita Canyon starting at Chantry Flats a few times in the past.  One time we went fishing with Rick and another we did a short weekend backpacking trip camping at Spruce Grove.  This time we had a much longer hike ahead of us, so we didn’t have any extra time for fishing or much photography.  It had rained a couple days earlier so the streams were full of water and there weren’t as many people on the trail.

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The canyon is really beautiful and the first part of the trail goes by a number of private cabins. Most of the trail is pretty shaded by the trees, but occasionally there were some spring flowers.

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Our goal for the day was to summit Mt. Wilson. Although it’s only at 5710 ft, it required 4,000 ft of gain to get there over 7.5 miles. We started around 10 am and after 3 miles of gentle grade began the tough climb to the peak.

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It took about 3.5 hours to get to the top and we were exhausted.  The weird part was reaching the top, which has an observatory accessible by car with 50 or so visitors. Since you can drive to the top we found ourselves surrounded by energetic kids and people in suits and dresses probably after church.  We grabbed a cup of hot cider and a crappy cup of hot chocolate and ate lunch in the parking lot.  After resting we were tempted to hitch hike down, but left civilization once again for a grueling 7.5 mile hike back to our car.

On the way back we passed a lot of casual day hikers enjoying the streams and cool shade.

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We can generally tell how tough a hike was and how tired we were feeling based on the amount of photos we took.  This hike was 15 miles, 4,000 feet of gain, 8.5 hours and we took only 28 photos.  The next weekend we hiked up Smith Mountain which was only 7 miles, 1,500 feet of gain, 4 hours and we took over 100 photos.

The tough climb to Mt. Wilson definitely exhausted us, but it was a good experience for training for Mt. Whitney and showed us where we still need to gain some strength.

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.

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

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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.

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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.

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