Sunday, March 31, 2013

Photo Essay: Flying High at Skull Canyon



When I got to Skull Canyon - in Riverside County's Corona, an hour an a half drive from LA's Westside in late morning traffic - they asked me if I'd ever gone ziplining before. I rattled off Catalina, Wrightwood, Bootleg Canyon, and they looked at me and said, "You should be doing the Extreme Course."

But Skull Canyon itself was new to me, and I wanted to try the Original Course before I got to...advanced. After all, with an imposing name and some scary warnings on their website, I wasn't sure I was actually ready to go to the extreme. With my vertigo, I can be a scaredy fraidy cat plenty of times.



The equipment at Skull Canyon was easy enough - a simple trolley, no handlebars or hand brakes...



...and the Original Course is designed to be easy enough for kids and seniors alike.



Like Bootleg Canyon, they truck you up a rock desert hill...



...past some manmade scenery like their "jungle"...



...up to a landing which houses a reservoir-cum-fish pond, filled with water from a nearby natural spring, and some koi.



After giving a rub to their lucky bear...



...they lead you up a vertical climb...



...through the property that used to house a chicken farm.



You can find plenty of boulders there, where lizards unique to the Temescal Canyon area of the Inland Empire call home.



Their Indian Head bears a white cap of bird poop.



And then there are the familiar tattered awnings of the zipline launch...



...where a fake electrical switch reminds us not to touch the wire (thankfully not how they brake, unlike Navitat in Angeles National Forest).



No matter how many times I go ziplining, I always get a little afraid to take a running leap off that first cliff.



I always seem to be flying into the Great Unknown.



But from my first crash landing at the next platform - my landings always seem to crash - my anxiety settles, and I just enjoy the flight.



Skull Canyon uses a patented counterweight system to brake you rather than using hand brakes or blocks at the end. What look like flattened out coffee cans at the end of the zipline don't actually do much to stop you.



Because the Original Course is easier and requires less participation from those who fly, you don't have to hold onto your lanyard strap, freeing your hands to take photos during flight...



...zooming into the crash...



...which you will successfully survive pretty much regardless of what you do.



There are six total runs, giving you plenty of opportunity to try various tricks, choreography, or, in my case...



...take an entire run of selfies.



Since I did find the Original Course easy, I opted to add on one more flight for the day: the final run of the Extreme Course, the "Speed Run," a tandem (side by side) zipline 1600 feet in length.



We had to change out our trolleys and lanyards for this one, and use handlebars to brake.



But who wants to brake?

Who wants to stop, ever?

I'll be back soon for the Extreme Course.

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Friday, March 29, 2013

Photo Essay: Up the Creek at Caballero Canyon

Caballero Canyon seems like one of those parks that only locals use. Situated across the street from a country club, the trailhead can be found right off of Reseda Boulevard, one of the Valley's main thoroughfares.



Of course, I drove an hour to get there. I heard there were wildflowers.



It also seems like it's going to be a straight shot up a giant hill, but when I got there, I realized there were a couple of choices of ways to go. Instead of rereading my hiking guidebook, I followed the crowd.



I realized later that while the actual trail follows and sometimes crosses a creek which often has water running in it (making the adjacent trail muddy), we were walking straight up the creek.



The proximity to water - though the creek was dry - explains the proliferation of wildflowers...



...even at the lower elevations.





They became more bountiful as I hiked farther up.







But boy, is that creek hard to hike up.



It's shady enough, and at times, it levels out...



...giving you a breather to enjoy the flowers...



...and then it kicks back up again, more vertical and rugged than ever.



There are huge, winding ruts carved into the earth...



...forcing you to decide whether to hike alongside them...



...or right inside them.



It's an uneven, ankle-twisting hike, with not a lot of branches to hold onto for support.



The wildflowers are just starting to bloom.



Up at the top, the creek reaches Old Dirt Mulholland Highway...



...this stretch of which is closed to motorized traffic.



Somewhere up there, there's supposed to be a turnoff for a fire road that leads back to Reseda...



...but as I wandered back and forth...



...all I could find was the trail I suspected I should have climbed up (instead of the creek).



So, making a loop out of it, I went back down what I thought would be an easier way...



...past the Encino Reservoir...



...and a big boulder.



I wasn't sure exactly where I was going, but I could keep Reseda Boulevard in view...



...past more flowers...



...until I made a steep descent along the chainlinked eastern boundary of the park...



...down into a grassy meadow.



I think that was the trail I was supposed to take up to the top, but then I realized it probably didn't matter, as long as I got to the top, and made it back down in one piece.

The trail was so gravelly and slippery, I was lucky to have fallen only once.

And although it may have been a short hike in terms of distance and duration, it was surely an accomplishment, and a sight to be seen.

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