We did Huell Howser justice. We headed out to Carbon Canyon with two carloads of nosy hikers, no map, no itinerary, no pre-planned route. Just a few (mostly phone) cameras. Nobody got lost in the completion of this adventure, not a small feat when we were car caravaning into the unknown territory of SR142, Carbon Canyon Road.
Group leader Kiam drove the lead car, when along a wooded stretch, a mysterious structure beckoned from the trees. When he pulled into a parking lot, it became a temple set against the canyon walls. As we piled out of the cars, a family dressed in Indian Saris, white tunics and white dresses invited us to follow them into the temple.
Although the members of the temple were preparing for a memorial service, the head monk, Swami Purnatmanandaji Maharaj, graciously gave us a tour of the Bharat Sevashram Sangha temple and grounds. The interior rooms were lined with beautifully presented statues of Indian deities. As we admired and photographed the art, he was careful to point out that they were not worshiped as individual gods but as aspects of a single universal reality. In answer to a question, he allowed that these deities helped people to focus on individual concerns.
Set on 60 sylvan acres, the temple includes playgrounds for children, rooms for classes, retreat housing for visitors and a yoga room with classes open to the public where neighbors from an adjacent mobile home park often gather. For more information go to http://www.bsswest.org.
The kindly swami sent us on our way with snacks of dried fruit and puffed grains and we meandered into a neighborhood where an unexpected hiking trail beckoned. It led to majestic hilltop views that included Mt. Baldy to the east and the buildings of Fashion Island to the west. And cows on the hilly pasture who were moving as if on a mission.
We drove to a lonely restaurant, mysteriously closed, the only one on Carbon Canyon Road. And into the secluded mountain neighborhood of Sleepy Hollow. We found no headless horseman but Kiam offered tales of murderous gangsters, a now defunct mental institution and a puzzling ski school, where snow was made of teflon. (It closed very quickly.)
There is plenty of hiking in Carbon Canyon Regional Park and Chino Hills State Park where a new visitor center is open on weekends. The nearby Olinda Oil Museum is open on Sunday afternoons (and Wednesdays) but the trail that winds past numerous oil rigs is always open. It also provides stunning views.