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Don’t Diddle with Our Peace Cairn

Near the trail junction in upper Marshall Canyon, someone (or someones) has been busy creating peace sculptures in the woods.

And somebody or somebodies has been systematically taking them down.

But new sculptures keep appearing, sometimes in  a different medium.

Marshall Canyon is an LA County park, infrequently overseen by county employees, who most recently have installed a puzzling but colorful series of trail signs and maps.  (It is still possible to get lost in the Canyon even though a hiker will never be more than 2 1/2 miles from the parking lot.)

We appreciate the county’s attentiveness to Marshall Canyon, especially when there is storm or wind damage to the trails.  But we also enjoy the creativity that the human critters (we think) add to our hiking experience.

We hope they persist, pile on more rocks.   Maybe we should think about an opening reception for the next artwork that (hopefully) will appear…

ps.  The top photo was taken by Carrie.

pps. If you are the sculptor, leave a comment below!


Cairn-ly Diorama at Big Bear Lake

A drive of an hour and a half will get you from the border of LA County into the San Bernardino Mountain resort community of Big Bear.  From there you can follow a number of trails to the heights above the lake, where you will be surrounded by the sounds and scents of the pine and cedar forest.  We bypassed the gentle Grey’s Peak Trail and drove to Couger Crest Trail because it connects to the legendary PCT.

We hiked and what do you know, we once again stumbled on forest art.  What at first looked like a random collection of rock piles became a sort of campfire diorama created from stones and sticks.  As we got closer, we could make out a “cabin,” a circle of baby cairns, seemingly led by a big adult cairn.  Even a fire pit.

So we continued climbing, goofing off, chatting and taking many, many pictures. Along the way we met through hikers from France and from Wisconsin, even a couple who brought their 5 month old in a front pack!  (They turned around at the PCT.)



Uncrowded beach, are we really at Newport?


Saturday at Newport Beach, the week before Labor Day.

We arrived early, anticipating crowds and parking difficulties. Headed toward the waves.  Splashed, examined seashells, and people-watched.  But where was the crowd?

Got some exercise on the three sandy miles between the Newport and Balboa Piers.  Found a black shell (which I regret NOT collecting), observed what martial arts students do at the beach, then strolled along the boardwalk (where the return was only two miles long.)

Most of the beachfront houses sported pristine porches, tiny back yards and occasionally,  contemporary (and wonderfully minimal) design.  We took a few group pictures.

p.s. George took the last picture.

Stumbling and bumbling into contemporary art in LA

Last Saturday, we were killing time, waiting for the JANM to open at 11 for George Takei’s exhibit.  We wandered south on Central, looking for Groundworks Coffee on Traction Avenue, an obscure slanting street connecting 3rd street and 4th Street Place, when ohhh myyyy!  We stumbled into the Arts District with buildings and walls covered with images, portraits, color.

Then on Thursday, we drove to the old Masonic Temple on Wilshire Boulevard, now rehabilitated as the Marciano Art Foundation Museum.  Although admission is free, we did have to make reservations and get “tickets” … that were very carefully examined before we were allowed to enter the nearly empty parking lot.

I was gently surprised to find a museum staff tolerant of photographers and questions and a ten page guide to the exhibits.   It was an entertaining visit, replete with political and classical references, familiar pop culture themes, humor.

Curator Philip Kaiser and artist Jim Shaw fully exploited the spacious rooms, creating a cartoon world for wandering and wondering.

Koalas, rainbows and wild orchids (catching up)

Trekkers love to wander the length and height of LA County…often in the same week.  Recently, we found ourselves in Silverlake hunting for the Music Box Stairs where Laurel and Hardy carried a piano up a narrow staircase in the academy award winning film, “The Music Box.”   And on the following Saturday, we headed for Mt. Baldy in eastern LA county.

The Music Box staircase consists of a whopping 708 steps in an eclectic neighborhood where we discovered riddles, colorful signs and rainbows.

On the following two Saturdays, we headed for the slopes of Mt. Baldy, at 10,064 feet, the highest peak in Southern California’s San Gabriel  Range.  We found wild orchids along San Antonio Creek at the Sierra Ski Hut and wonderful views on the Devil’s Backbone trail leading to the summit.  A word to the wise:  bring a portable battery charger or a spare battery for your phone camera!  (Mine was out of juice well before the summit.)


Conditioning for Mt. Baldy

From San Antonio Falls to Baldy Notch: monkey flowers, matilija poppies, art and our new friend, Rocky.

Wrights…Frank Lloyd, that is

One of the absolute pleasures of urban adventures is the friendliness of Angelenos.   Time and time again, we have been greeted by residents of historic communities, regaled with stories and memories,  treated with kindness and even generosity.

The l50th anniversary of Frank Lloyd Wright was no exception.  We set out with an ambitious itinerary of five Wright designed houses:  the Millard House, Barnsdall House, Ennis House, Storer House and Freeman House.  Our plan was to drive by each one (with the exception of Barnsdall House) and stop for a few snapshots.  It almost worked out.

Our first stop was the Barnsdall House, or Hollyhock House.  Leaving our car in the city park below, we climbed three long flights of stairs to the beautifully restored house on the hill.  For a small fee ($3), we were treated to gossipy stories about Frank’s relationship to his son Lloyd, his client Aline Barnsdall and the work involved in the restoration.

We stopped at Millard House, or La Miniatura, got out of the car and started snapping.  This was the first of four houses Wright built of textile blocks, concrete blocks cast with geometric designs.  Continuing on the crooked and narrow streets of the Hollywood Hills, we drove up to the Storer and Freeman houses.

It may be that the architect knew little about the ancient script but we still enjoyed the thematic consistency of Wright’s “Mayan Revival.”

Finally, we crawled up the lanes of East Hollywood again, searching for Ennis House which has been under repair for some time.  To our surprise, there was no activity

at the house, so we took the opportunity to photograph the exterior of the house without the distraction of construction activity.  As we gathered for one last group photo in front of the beautiful gate, a cheerful head popped up asking, “Why don’t you take your picture here,” gesturing inside the locked gate!

We were invited in for a tour of the grounds by a kindly friend of the home owner (who happens to be Ron Burkle, the owner of the Stanley Cup winning Pittsburg Penguins.)  He proudly showed off the pristine condition of the renovated house and grounds, noting that a crew from BBC was working to film the interior and exterior of the house, was returning for some evening shots of the house  aglow with lights.

And then he invited us into the house for a very quick look.

“It’s because you were respectful,” he said “and didn’t try to climbover the chain or look over the walls.”  It was an incredible privilege!