Sunday, May 1, 2011

Photo Essay: Henninger Flats Hike

One of the great things about LA is that, if the weather is good, you can plan your hikes around your day, rather than planning your day around your hikes.

When I was visiting LA so often last year, I would sometimes have a gap in between meetings, and so I would make sure I had a change of clothes, deodorant, sneakers and baby wipes in my rental car, and then take a hike on whatever trail was nearby either meeting. There are so many wide open spaces in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, pretty much wherever life takes you, you can take a hike.

On Saturday I was invited to the grand opening celebration of a children's clothing boutique in San Gabriel, an hour away from my current apartment but back near my old stomping grounds when I was house-sitting in Mt. Washington last summer. I was eager to return to the San Gabriel mountains, the site of one of my favorite hikes ever.

Not only that, but I also returned to the site of a rattling, bruise-inducing, confidence-shaking fall (actually, two of them): Eaton Canyon.



The Henninger Flats area overlaps and intersects with the Eaton Canyon trails, but it's an interesting and historic hike in its own right. Instead of a waterfall, it features a bridge, various wildflowers, and historic relics and vestiges of the Mt. Lowe Incline Railway.



The hike is steep and relentless...







...but rewarding along the way as well as at the end.









It's shady enough in spots...



...with hints of the Los Angeles National Forest...



...and, of course, reminders of the city.



I kept seeing people coming down the path, but never anyone climbing up alongside me.







I wasn't sure I could even make it to the top, until I finally saw the two-mile marker that promised that Henninger Flats was only another 0.7 miles away.





Once I got there, I was greeted by more shade on various picnic grounds and a visitor's center along the old Mount Wilson Toll Road...





...and the historic Castro Peak fire lookout tower, in use from 1925-1971.





Up at Henninger Flats, I got a phone call that reminded me that I was still very much in LA: an invitation to hang out at the pool of a rock star's house off Mulholland Drive. "I'm on a mountain right now," I said, "But I've got a bikini in my car, and I'll be right there."