March 28, 2012

Photo Essay: Mt. Lowe Railway's Rubio Canyon

After all of my skulking around the site of the former Mt. Lowe Railway, there was one area I hadn't dared to venture into by myself: Rubio Canyon. It looks innocuous enough, its trailhead situated between two houses on a residential street in Altadena.

The Mt. Lowe Railway actually originated in Pasadena, but the first stop was Rubio Canyon, just beyond the town of Altadena and just into the mountains...

...on a trolley that took locals and affluent tourists alike through a wild canyon.

You can now hike along the railway's original path...

...crossing old railroad ties...

...and planks...

...past a number of old metal pipes, many of which still carry the sound of rushing water.

I'd been daunted by reports of narrow ridges and steep boulder scrambles, but thanks to a docent-led hike this weekend, I didn't have to tackle it alone. And fortunately, all those water pipes provide a nice handrail for leverage along harrowing climbs.

The Rubio Canyon hike takes you past the ruins of the old Rubio Pavilion...

courtesy of

...the lower terminal for the incline railway and the departure point for the famous "White Chariots" that took the affluent passengers who could afford the trip up to Echo Mountain's White City.

Most of the local residents, if they could afford the trip at all, only went as far as Rubio Pavilion and returned home. Others walked.

The canyon itself was once quite a tourist attraction even aside from the railway.

There were several waterfalls in the area at the time, with a number of catwalks, stairways and walkways that led pedestrians past the sites, lit by Japanese lanterns at night.

Though now, only small clues of its original splendor remain...

In fact, there was so much water in Rubio Canyon at one time that the Mt. Lowe Railway was actually partially powered by water...

...and the area is still a source of local water supply with a nearby reservoir.

The hike normally ends at the Pavilion site, but we kept going, off-trail...

...along what looked like a stream bed... the upper Moss Grotto Falls and the lower Ribbon Rock Falls.

You can keep going from there, but as spry as we were, we stopped under threat of rain, turned around, and went back.

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Mt. Lowe's Inspiration Point to Altadena
Photo Essay: Pasadena to the Mt. Lowe Alpine Tavern
Photo Essay: Heart-Pounding Hike to a Lost City

To become a fan on Facebook, click here.

March 26, 2012

Photo Essay: California Dream Homes, Part 2

Being the looky-loo that I am, I love to see how the other half lives.

Pretty much anyone can lure me back to their place by just asking if I want to see their apartment or house. As much as I love my own Art Deco apartment, I am a voyeur to others' homes. I have an insatiable curiosity as to how others live.

And in Los Angeles, you don't have to be part of the 1% to live well. For a fraction of the cost of a Manhattan apartment, you can have a whole house here.

And in LA, modern architecture is not relegated to historical modern - streamline moderne, mid-century modern and such - but is still alive and well and thriving throughout the city, not only in Venice, Culver City, and along Mulholland Drive, but also in Echo Park.

This weekend, de LaB hosted a walking tour of four of those modern residences, varying in size from small to extra large. Although their architects each took unique approaches to the space at hand, they all shared a common sparseness, an openness and light, embracing the outside - and the surrounding neighborhood - as much as the residential quarters inside.

SMALL: Good Idea Studio on Clinton St.

MEDIUM: Anonymous Architects' Eel's Nest on Fairbanks Place

See the property before it became the Eel's Nest here

LARGE: Heyday Partnership's Dick + Jane on Echo Park Avenue

X-LARGE: Sunia Homes on Rosemont Avenue

It's nice to think that you can build your dreams from scratch out here. You can turn a weird little concrete box into a three story gem with an amazing roof deck. You can build the life that surrounds you, wherever you decide to situate yourself.

And if it turns out it's not your dream after all (or not anymore), it's surely someone's dream...

Related Post:
Photo Essay: California Dream Homes

To become a fan on Facebook, click here.

March 24, 2012

Dying for It

One of the things I've learned from Weight Watchers* is to not eat something that's unhealthy (or, in my case, not "on the list") unless you're dying for it.

If you're dying for the peanut butter fudge brownie, eat it. Don't eat five of them, but allow yourself to have one. (Just not every day.)

But don't eat the dried-out, crumbly cookies that have been sitting out for hours in the office just because they're there and they're free. Don't drink the God-awful vodka sodas at the open bar, even if they do the job just as well as something delicious. Don't eat your burned dinner. Throw it out and start over again.

The same can be said for many other aspects of life besides food and drink. If you're not dying to watch a show or hear a song, change the channel. If you're not dying to have sex with a person, kick them out before they take it out.

The thing is, sometimes you have to eat, and there's nothing good to eat around. You're relegated to the mall food court or a freeway rest stop, with no healthy options at hand. But you have to eat something.

In this instance, you have two choices: try to select the healthiest unhealthy thing you can (e.g. a chicken soft taco from Del Taco), or chalk the meal up to an exception, a one-time desperation, and get the burger, onion rings, apple pie, the whole shabang. Because they offered no kale. Because maybe you weren't dying for it, but you were dying for something.

And so you settle for what you can get.

*I am a Weight Watchers employee but I am writing about my own personal experiences and views. The opinions expressed here are my own and do not reflect those of Weight Watchers.

To become a fan on Facebook, click here.

Photo Essay: Rattlesnake Canyon, Santa Barbara

When we got to Santa Barbara, we were under threat of rain, but we figured we had just enough time to get a hike in. I hadn't been so fortunate on my last trip to the area, dodging the pouring rain for tacos and wine, so I was eager to explore some of the foothills of Los Padres National Forest.

We went to Rattlesnake Canyon without aid of a map, something with which I normally arm myself when I go out hiking alone. Edith had a list of milestones along the trail - hollow tree, creek crossing, etc. - but when I asked, "How long is the hike?", Edith said she didn't know.

"But how will we know when we've gotten there?" I asked. Edith shrugged, and I recalled Red Rock Canyon when a fellow hiker told me the trail went on infinitely.

"I guess we'll just go as far as we want to go and then we'll turn around..." I offered, and we agreed, and set off.

We wandered past wildflowers...

...burned-out trees...

...into the mist that hung low.

We climbed through terrain that went from sandy to rocky to crossings of creek and clay...

...past huge boulders...

...and emptied out into a hazy meadow...

...which led us 2.5 miles in to the intersection with the Tunnel Trail, our impromptu, designated endpoint.

On our return trip along the same trail, visibility reduced to barely nothing...

...a glimpse into what our drive through Los Padres to Solvang would be like later that day...

...and the rain we would eventually encounter the next day.

To become a fan on Facebook, click here.