Tuesday, July 20, 2010

+ Temescal Canyon Loop

I realised I never got around to posting pictures from my very first hike in LA. Whoops. We're lucky to live so close to many hikes within the Santa Monica Mountains, a range which encompasses various state parks and reaches from the Hollywood Hills to Point Mugu (pronounced 'magoo' not 'moogoo' like I have a tendency to do).

Our trusty guide is an easy to navigate book I picked up at REI - Day Hikes Around Los Angeles by Robert Stone.

Our first adventure was to a popular trail in Topanga State Park, no more than 15 minutes drive north. Just off the PCH in Pacific Palisades, the trail is actually two - the Temescal Ridge Trail and the Canyon Trail - and is a great showcase for SoCal hiking with its ocean and city views.

At 4.2 miles with a 1,000 feet elevation (about 300 metres), it's a pretty good workout for a couple hours, especially if you go up the steeper ridge trail first as the book suggests, before returning through the shadier canyon floor.

(looking back on the ridge)

Whilst steep, there are a few points of rest for lovely views of both downtown and the Santa Monica bay, as well as into neighbouring houses (oh to have one those mansions!)

We also brought along a fellow Sydmeysider with us. My friend Maha's boyfriend was in town and was totally keen for the walk. The fact that he was here for a Brazilian jujitsu competition is a good indication of his fitness level relative to ours... it goes without saying he led the way most of the time.

The densely wooded canyon is supposed to run alongside the Temescal Creek, but even calling it a creek is a stretch... a trickle at best! The grotto of rocks at the junction between the trails finds the creek at its most bountiful, though commonsense would advise against drinking anything from the waterfall (unlike the lady we spied trying to fill up her water bottle).

The fragrant groves of sycamore, coastal oak and gum trees (a little bit of home!) make for a relaxing return, and a change from the desert scrubs of the ridgetop.

Just before finishing in the carpark, there is a little picnic area where we saw people setting up for a wedding ceremony, and a seemingly abandoned old hut (a nice little fixer upper?)

We also stopped in at the rather sad visitors centre which was lacking electricity from a recent fire, and offered not much more than a few ancient maps and drinks in a non-working fridge. It was a wonderfully kitsch at least.

Temescal Canyon Loop hike
Hike LA guide
Local Hikes guide
Temescal Gateway Park page

Friday, July 16, 2010

+ Vegas baby!

To celebrate Memorial Day last month, Ben and I drove out past the wonderful Zzyxz Rd exit and spent a week in Las Vegas visiting friends Rob and Mary.

Yes, a lot of time was spent in casinos but I think you'd be fooling yourself if you didn't have a go at the slots at least once. Plus I played roulette for the first time! (I didn't win but the stream of free strawberry daiquiries helped ease the suffering somewhat).

First night in, we went to see ostensibly George Clinton and the Parliament-Funkadelic at Red Rock Casino. I say ostensibly because George never appeared! (though the P-Funk kept the lie alive the whole night, promising an appearance at each break). Nevertheless a good time was had in the blistering cold desert night winds as boogies were shaken and feet splashed (not mine!) in the many pools around the stage.

We also spent the tail-end of one night (post-karaoke) downtown which had changed signficantly since the last time I was there (aged 9). Chiefly, it now has a giant LCD ceiling covering most of the drag, including the iconic cowboy sign. I can only wonder about the electricity bill for such a thing, which was supposed to have been erected to generate more tourists to the area (luring them from the more popular Strip establishments). I'm not sure if it's been successful, but it certainly promotes that aspect of 'timelessness' that pervades the atmosphere of all the casinos. Is it midday or midnight? Who cares, let's gamble!

Despite the hours of fun derived from neon lights and the jingle of a thousand poker machines, the highlight of the trip was our hike in Red Rock Canyon.

Driving along big red mountains, few people and a nice sunny day made for a brilliant start.

A pre-hike Benj.

We were very fortunate to have geologist friends of Rob and Mary, and Rob's energetic puppies, lead the way on an unmarked trail used mostly by rock climbers and boulder hoppers.

Up a very steep mountain, and down gently through a dry canyon that during colder, wetter months becomes quite an impressive river.

Vibrant desert blooms dot the rocks,

as do striking wave patterns.

It was thirsty work for everyone but well worth the effort.

Eventually the rocks give way to a gentle, but still rigorous, march back to the cars. Funnily enough the dogs were absolute troopers until this last stretch... something to do with the sand under paw apparently!