Bloomin’ mustard

Chino Hills State Park is covered with yellow mustard, wild radish and poppies.  Trailheads seem to have disappeared in the mustard…we couldn’t locate Raptor Ridge, for example, nor the Hills for People trail.

Return to Retro…the Astro Loop

It is always a pleasure to return to a section of Los Angeles that sports a busy urban corridor rising to mansions on the hills, all replete with history and (more importantly) good eating.

This Thursday we returned to Silver Lake with hillside homes sometimes owned by  celebrities, crumbling staircases that once provided shady routes to the Red Car electric rail line that connected the city.

We started at the Astro Family Restaurant with its goofy star and retro dining room.  It offered excellent coffee and gigantic servings of eggs, potatoes, and French Toast.  Nothing to do afterwards but walk it off climbing those stairs … first 56 then 156…to a view of the LA basin and a house once owned by Judy Garland.

One of the great pleasures of these Secret Stairs walks comes when meeting residents who love to share stories about their celebrities.  This time, we heard about Tom Mix and the studio he built so he could film in the woodsy trees that are still home to grey herons and red-tail hawks that soar above the neighborhood.

We bypassed the Home Cafe and headed to Los Felix for lunch at Alcove.  No pictures…too eager to dive into my grilled vegetable salad…

On the way back to the car, we passed a beautiful Spanish style church with an appealing red door and a sign inviting passersby to visit.  There we were greeted by Sexton of  St. Mary of the Angels Church, Bruce, who happily shared the turbulent story of the small congregation that now calls it home.  Founded in l908,  St. Mary of the Angels was home to celebrities like Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.  The current building was completed in l930 but is an on-going project, as is the desired reunion with the Roman Catholic Church, the issue that caused the 4 1/2 year fissure that divided the original congregation of about 60.

A NEW Marshall Creek Trail…A Wash in Concrete

I was introduced to Marshall Canyon more than 20 years ago when this emerald beauty became the home base for the La Verne Trail Trekkers.  We know it as a complex of paths stretching some five miles north of Baseline Road.  Sometimes called Sherwood Forest, this hidden gem  includes two streams, Marshall Creek and Live Oak Creek, and steep cliffs with views of  Pomona Valley and beyond.

Imagine my surprise when, after 21 years of hiking these hills, a series of puzzling trail signs appeared at the same  time that  park rangers erected a  bench in honor of retiring county supervisor Mike Antonovich.  (Who also happened to be running for a seat in the State Senate.)

One day we found, less than half a mile from the trail head, a brand new six mile trail marker.    There are three entry points to the canyon’s trail system…and none of them are six miles apart.  An almost nonsensical one mile marker stood nearby and further uphill, markers indicating seven and more miles sprouted.

Ah, but we’re a resourceful bunch of hikers.  And thanks to the Carters, we were led to the very beginning…mile marker zero…at the northern end of Bonelli Park.  It starts at the point where Marshall Creek flows into the park, almost four miles from the actual canyon.  (The Carters did some serious online research, looking at Los Angeles County’s park and trail system maps, using their own maps and gps to locate this trailhead.) (And no, at this point in time, there is no map of this new and puzzling trail system anywhere in Marshall Canyon.)

It is nevertheless an interesting walk between Bonelli and Marshall Canyon.  Yes, it follows Marshall Creek, which is sadly channeled in concrete and dressed in chain link.

We started early in the morning, located the first mileage sign and headed down into the wash.

We trudged in the early morning light, either in the wash with a  sparsely running creek or alongside at street level.  We emerged from underground to cross Wheeler Avenue, then headed down into the wash again, through miles one, two and three.  At one point, the path and the creek cross over the 210 freeway before heading into the neighborhoods between Foothill Boulevard and Baseline Road.

After four miles or so, we entered the walkway that would take us to the debris dam that serves as boundary for Marshall Canyon.  We were again in the cool, green forest walking along a wild creek, unchanneled and running with spring rains.  One mile from the debris dam, we crossed under Esperanza Drive and less than two miles later, arrived at the six mile marker.

We ended our trek from mile marker zero to mile marker six on the sunny trail that heads north and east towards Claremont and Mount Baldy.  According to the county trail map, this system ends at 7.8 miles in that direction.  But that (and the puzzle of the one and two mile markers nearby) is for another day.

Ooh! It’s cold!

When local streams run fast and cold, it’s hard to resist dipping our toes into the sparkling water.  We visited the Hahamonga stream near JPL and the Etiwanda Preserve in Rancho Cucamonga.

Creek Crossings and Western Peonies

The rains have turned Marshall Canyon emerald green and on the upper hillside,  round red buds open slowly into gentle western peonies.

Women’s March Los Angeles: January 20, 2017

On an unexpectedly sunny and bright day, more than 500,000 angelenos of all sexes, races, ages, genders and religions poured into DTLA for an old fashioned demonstration.

The planners, we heard, first thought they might draw 2000 or so women for a sister march, to coincide with the Women’s March in Washington DC.  But then their facebook page garnered first 50,000 then 60,000 then 90,000 responses.  Estimates ranged from half to three quarters of a million marchers and did not count many who could not get to the march in time because the metro transit system was simply overwhelmed.


There were bottlenecks when marchers were packed tightly and unable to advance but with  good humor and chants of  “March!  march!” the logjams dissolved into comfortable strolls past information booths, food trucks and porta potties.

The chant of the day:  “Tell me what democracy looks like…this is what democracy looks like…”

The color of the day:  pink.  The theme of the day:  pussies.

The crowd streamed from Pershing Square to City Hall, where political orators like Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Senate leader  Kevin deLeon fired up the  crowd.  Turning the corner at lst Street and heading south on Broadway to a second stage at 6th Street, an astonishing number of celebrity activists gave fiery speeches, bands performed and Helen Reddy reprized the feminist anthem,”I am Woman.”

‘Nuther Rainy Day ‘Venture: Orange Empire Railway Museum

On the only dry day between the first and second of three fierce rainstorms,  we headed to the 210 freeway, just as the last drops of rain hit our windshield.  From the 210, we headed for the 15 then drove east on the 60, going until it turned into the 215 to Perris and the Orange Empire Railway Museum.  We arrived at an absolutely empty parking lot.

By then the sun was shining, the sky was blue and we ended up having a delightful tour for just four of us.  We saw beautiful engines, a postal car with a pock marked door that made us think of the great train robberies of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  Large, small and medium gauge engines and cars, all beautifully restored, many open for public inspection.