Friday, October 30, 2009

Mount Hollywood

I went for an early morning hike to the top of Mount Hollywood on a cool, crisp day. Visibility was good this morning, as I could see all the way to the Pacific Ocean from the Observatory. There was a film crew at the summit, getting ready to tape some kid sitting in a chair, overlooking the Hollywood sign. An interesting place to film a morning show.


Amazing pictures of the Sierra and the Cascades.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

La Tuna/Verdugo Mountains

California Fuchsia (Epilobium canum)

I went for a hike today in the Verdugo Mountains not too far from Glendale. It was a nice, warm, sunny day in Southern California. A perfect day to go outside and get a little exercise.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Mike Pitt and Joe Ford: Part 2

After finishing dinner and setting up our tents, Zach and I retired to our sleeping bags and slept under the clear, star studded skies of the Rocky mountains, satisfied by the fortune of our first day wandering the west.

When we awoke, we were greeted by our kind host just before he drove off to work.
"Why don't you guys stay an extra day if you want. I've got free passes to the hot springs about a mile down the road. You can wash up and relax, and then be on your way tomorrow morning." It was another offer we could not refuse. I knew a shower was in order after traveling without one the last few days.

Zach and I hiked down to the hot springs after breakfast. It was to be my first natural hot springs experience. In my mind, I envisioned a river filled with warm volcanic water, flowing through a pine forested ravine. In actuality, it was much different. It was nothing more than a giant swimming pool fed by a nearby hot spring. Nevertheless, Zach and I were more than happy to go for a swim.

For the first half hour, we basically had the entire swimming pool to ourselves. While enjoying the peace and quiet, all of a sudden three bus loads of middle school aged children pulled up into the parking lot. Our relaxing environment was about to be infiltrated by sixty hormone enraged 12 and 13 year old boys and girls who were enjoying an end of the school year field trip to the local hot springs. Knowing that our swimming pool was about to filled to maximum capacity, Zach and I retreated to a separate corner hot tub that could comfortably sit about seven people.

As the rambunctious students gradually made their way into the main pool, I noticed on several occasions small groups of girls whispering and giggling and looking over towards us while we sat relaxing in the corner hot tub. "Oh no, here we go again." I told Zach.

One thing you should know about my old roommate, he had a knack of attracting women and girls everywhere we went. I would usually observe and study what kind of forces were at work in these situations. I was always left to "clean up" after Zach, after he had first pickin's of the women available. I always had to listen to girls fawning over how much he looked like Brad Pitt. Anyways, I knew things were about to get a little more interesting. Also in college, Zach and I had developed an obnoxious habit of getting "into character" before heading out to the parties on the weekends. Usually we would pick a subject or nationality, and remain in character for the duration of the evening, usually to the entertainment and sometimes disgust to the girls we'd meet. The hot springs in Durango were to be no different.

As we continued to observe the chaotic scene before us, I noticed a group of girls had mustered up the courage to come over to the hot tub where Zach and I were. As if on cue, one of the girls bashfully blurted out to Zach, "Are you Brad Pitt?!!"
"No, I'm Michael Pitt, Brad's brother" Zach replied.

That was a new one I hadn't heard before.
"And this is my friend..."
"Joe Ford." I responded. It was the first thing that came to mind. "I'm the son of Harrison."
The girls seemed less convinced with my persona and as usual, concentrated their attention on Michael Pitt.
"What's Brad like?" one of the girls giggled.
"Oh, he's nothing like you see in the movies." Zach responded.
"He used to cry and hide under the blankets every night."
"Really?" one of the girls asked intrigued.
"Yeah, he used to pick his nose and eat the boogers. In fact, it's a habit he still hasn't broken to this day."
"Ewww, that's gross!!" one of the girls exclaimed.
For the next fifteen minutes Zach told story after story to completely de-bunk the myth that Brad Pitt is worthy of the title: Sexiest Man Alive.

Just before Zach wrapped up his montage of Brad Pitt childhood stories, one of the girls asked for pictures and autographs. Our last twenty minutes at the hot springs consisted of Zach and I posing for pictures and autographing scraps of paper, notebooks and diaries as Michael Pitt and Joe Ford. Sometimes I wonder where those pictures and autographs are today. Nevertheless, it was a memorable way to start the beginning of our travels in the west.

Mike Pitt and Joe Ford: Part 1

Back in 1997, my old college roommate Zach and I decided to travel cross country for about a month after successfully completing our sophomore year in college. Neither one of us had a vehicle that could handle the wear and tear of a cross country trip, but we were offered a ride with some friends who took us as far as Durango Colorado. We gladly accepted. It was the first time I had ever layed eyes on the Rockies, and I immediately fell in love with the landscape. In fact, Colorado was, and still is in my mind, my adopted home.

I will never forget the feeling of our friends leaving us in Durango. Here we were, Zach and I both 19 years old, in a strange land, left with nothing except for the camping gear we carried on our backpacks and the youthful optimism and excitement of a couple of college students ready for a summer of adventure.

As the sun was a couple of hours from setting, our first priority was finding a place to sleep. As Zach and I examined the map, we decided to try our thumbs at hitchhiking for the first time. It seemed outside of town was our best option at finding a wooded area to crash for the night. As we hiked through town with our backpacks, we were treated by the locals as celebrities. It seemed everyone was honking and waving at us, sending us positive energy for our journey.

Within a couple of minutes of bearing our thumbs, our first ride came from a couple of beautiful girls driving a red corvette convertible blasting Skid Roe from the car stereo. Zach and I looked at each other and said, "This is going to be the best trip ever!!" The omens were looking good.

The girls sped us through the outskirts of Durango and into the countryside, dominated by evergreen covered mountains, blue skies, and rocky outposts. I watched the green and yellow Durango train chug along through the valley from the back seat of the convertible.

Our ride ended sooner than we would have wanted, but Zach and I got back to the business of finding a place to sleep. Once we sadly said goodbye to our beautiful chauffeurs, Zach and I resumed our hike down the road outside of town. We hiked no more than five minutes when all of a sudden we heard, "Hey! Where are you guys heading?"

"We're looking for a place to crash for the night." Zach replied.
"Why don't you camp in my yard?" asked the man standing in the doorway of his mobile home.
We gladly accepted the man's offer. After a few minutes of small talk, Zach and I set up camp in the front yard, just at the base of a small mountain, as the sun was already setting behind the hills to the west.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Escondido Falls

Escondido Falls is described as a "wow" waterfall hike. Unfortunately, since we've had about an inch of rain in the last ten months, the falls were little more than a trickle.

The trail is located in Malibu and the first mile runs through an extremely affluent neighborhood. This is where some of the "richest 1%" live, and they make sure hikers know their place with plenty of "Stay on the Trail" and "No Trespassing" signs. The day was unusually warm and humid next to the coast. Seems every time I hike in this area, there is a thick marine layer that coats the mountains for about a mile inland.

The trail had plenty of visitors today. When driving home, I decided to take Sunset Blvd. from the coast. It passes many wealthy neighborhoods, including Beverly Hills. It also passes many trendy restaurants, stores, and cafes. Once I entered the "Sunset Strip," I was bombarded with signs and advertisements. For some reason, it seemed so strange to notice everywhere I looked, someone was trying to sell something, or grab the consumer's attention. In that moment, it all seemed completely ridiculous. Can there be a better way?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Mt. Baldy 10,064 ft.

I hiked Mt. Baldy today, the highest peak in the San Gabriels. It's described as a "must do" for anyone living in Southern California.

Today's hike can best be compared to trying to have a conversation with someone who is just not interested. First of all, it was much colder than I thought possible judging by the weather outside my apartment.

Second, there was a thick cloud cover most of the day that obstructed most of the views.

Third, there were forest fires still burning not too far from the trail (fourth photo).

Fourth, it was so freakin' windy (wind is probably my least favorite weather element) that my face and lips were completely chapped within the first half hour.

Despite Mt. Baldy's unfriendly demeanor, I continued my attempts at conversation until I reached the summit. She was so annoyed with me at this point, she seemed to scream in my face, "Leave me alone!!!"

The winds at the summit were probably at least 60mph. Thankfully, there were rock walls constructed where hikers could hide from the hurricane force winds. I ducked behind one and only managed to get a couple of summit photos. In fact, I can barely remember being up there at all. Finally, I got the hint and began my long descent back to my car.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Water: The lifeblood of the Sierra. Water was everywhere along the JMT. Cascading down the sides of large granite cliffs in majestic waterfalls, quietly meandering through alpine meadows bursting with vitality, flowing from ice cold glacial pools, tumbling down rivers through the high country, through the glacier carved valleys, on its way to the lowlands.

Fresh water seems to energize the soul. Not just the refreshing replenishment of a dehydrated physical body, but water also helps rejuvenate the spirit as well.

Water can be a feast for the senses. The exhilaration of a cold glacial bath, the soothing water music of a waterfall splashing amongst the rocks, the reflection of the high Sierra sun beams scattered in thousands of directions off an alpine tarn, the earthy smell of moist plants and soil dampened by a passing stream, and the delicious taste of clean, mountain spring water recharging a hot and tired hiker's body.

How blessed are we, who can experience such an over-abundance of life giving nourishment! How easily can we take for granted one of life's most basic gifts, and treat it like some indispensable resource!