Urban Adventure: Train to Santa Barbara – Walk to Butterfly Beach – Coast Village Road

On August 2nd, 2014, my friend, Lori, and I went on another Urban Adventure with The Valencia Hiking Crew. This time our destination was Santa Barbara, which I had only passed through on my way to Solvang with my parents. I apologize in advance for my crappy photos. The marine layer was pretty thick and my phone camera doesn’t have a flash.

Since we had people boarding the train at practically every station on Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner route, the plan was for everyone to be in the last car. However, at our station there was a large group hanging out on the platform where we guessed the last car would stop so we were plotting and planning how to jump on ahead of them. Luckily, the conductor asked each of us if we were with the Senior Group or the Hiking Group and showed us which train car to get on.

I’m glad I didn’t have time to eat breakfast because Jackie had stopped at Porto’s and had pastries for everyone and John had made quiche!

Our first stop after arrival was the 1916 Allan Herschell 3-abreast carousel in Chase Palm Park. What a treat! If you bring kids, be sure to stop there. They have a playground that looked like a lot of fun.

Next, we walked a path that went around what I thought was the Zoo, but was actually the Andree Park Bird Refuge. A book has been written about the interesting recluse who donated the money to create the refuge and a movie about her is also in the works.Can’t wait to tour her 1930s estate one fine day!

The bicycle path turns by the Santa Barbara Cemetery. A short walk past that, we arrived at 1001 Fairway Road where we all ran up to the gates to see where Ty Warner (Beanie Babies) lives in a 18,000 square foot, $200 million, “palatial estate dominated by an Italianate mansion“.  All I could get a picture of was the beautiful entrance inside the gates.

We continued along Channel Drive and turned up Butterfly Lane, which should probably be renamed Pig Lane after seeing one particular yard. We crossed under the 101 freeway via an art tunnel to reach Coast Village Road where some of us branched off to have lunch at Cava.

On the way back to the train station, we passed two beautiful hotels, The Montecito Inn and the Biltmore (both of which, I believe, are now owned by Ty Warner!!!) before heading down to the sand.

Lori and I got in a couple extra hours and a few extra miles since we decided to take the later train back to Los Angeles. We walked up State Street, stopping for an iced coffee at The French Press and taking a tour of the amazing Arlington Theatre.

Back on the train, as we oooed and ahhhed over the gorgeous sunset, we couldn’t figure out why we were so exhausted. It turns out the original mileage calculation was off by about 3 miles so we ended up walking almost 11 miles!


Further Reading:
Empty Mansions: The Mysterious Life of Huguette Clark and the Spending of a Great American Fortune
The Best Last Place: a history of the Santa Barbara Cemetery

Categories: Adventures

Nothing Like Climbing Stairs In A Sauna

L.A. was like a sauna the day author Charles Fleming took us on a variation of one of his Secret Stairs walks in Echo Park. Luckily he went at a leisurely pace so no one died. I, however, almost died when one of these fig eater beetles


Fig Eater photo from fireflyforest.net

was flying around our table at breakfast! In the process of screeching and swatting at the beast with my menu, I bumped the table, splashing coffee everywhere.


Categories: Adventures

Temescal Canyon and Malibu

Temescal Canyon is one of my favorite hikes so when my friend Lori and I couldn’t find any organized hikes that interested us last weekend, I suggested Temescal.

If you go, make sure you take the trail to the right, unless you like steep hills with no shade. The one on the right is a nice, one-man trail that winds it’s way up the mountain more gradually and has more shade. On the way down we passed a lot of inexperienced hikers on their way up the Ridge trail who were sweaty, red-faced, and gasping for breath. I hope they made it to the top to experience the amazing views.

Just remember: Temescal Canyon Trail is to your right. Temescal Ridge Trail is to your left. Canyon Trail = shade. Ridge Trail = direct sun…hot…bad.

After a delicious lunch at Malibu Seafood, we strolled the beach, which was dotted with these, by-the-wind sailors, poor things,

By-The-Wind Sailor

By-The-Wind Sailor – Photo from realmonstrosities.com

and then drove down to check out the progress of Malibu Lagoon. Where are the pictures of the Lagoon? I didn’t take any so that should tell you just how impressed we were with the progress. We walked to the pier and then back to the car, planning to grab an iced coffee or some ice cream at Malibu Country Mart before heading home.

Unfortunately, Lori’s key fob malfunctioned and her car thought we were trying to steal it so it was honking and wouldn’t let her start the engine. Luckily, AAA showed up less than 10 minutes after she called them. The guy wasn’t in the best mood and got frustrated easily. When he finally stopped the horrible honking and got the engine started, he told Lori she should only use the key for the doors until she could have the alarm and key fob looked at.

I wish I had a picture of the look he gave her when she asked him if he thought we could stop to get a coffee! He advised us to go straight home and not stop anywhere, so that’s what we did.

Traffic was such a mess that it took us two hours to go the 12 miles over Kanan Dume Road, but we had had such a fun day that we didn’t mind.

Categories: Adventures

Santa Cruz Island

On March 29, 2014, I went with my friend, Lori, and The Valencia Hiking Crew to Santa Cruz Island for a day of hiking. Santa Cruz is the largest of the eight Channel Islands and one of five islands that make up Channel Islands National Park. Once privately owned, it is now 24% National Park and 76% Nature Conservancy.

We met up with our fellow VHC friends at Island Packers in Ventura, securing a spot on the upper deck, outside, for the one hour boat ride to the island. So far in my boating experience, I’ve never gotten seasick (knock on wood), but from what I gather, it’s something that can happen to you at any time, so I debated over whether or not I should take any preventive measures. Since I’ve never had a problem with boats, roller coasters, or other topsy-turvey, spinning carnival rides (knock on wood again), I decided I’d be ok. And I was, thank God. What I wish I had done was pack long pants and gloves. That wind was more bitter-cold than I had anticipated. On the return trip we warmed our hands with cups of hot chocolate, which you can buy onboard, as well as other food and beverages.

It was very warm on the inland trails. I wasn’t able to keep up with the pace of the group, so I ended up spending the day hiking alone on the cooler cliffside trails.  Normally I would never recommend hiking alone, but I had a trail map and too much plenty of water with me. I also knew my friend wouldn’t take off on the return boat without me (would she???), so it was really a wonderful experience, hiking in solitude.

If you’re not into hiking, sea kayaking, or camping, there is nothing for you here.


Cal-Earth Superadobes

(1) shelter is a basic human right, (2) every human being should be able to build a house for him or herself, and (3) the best way to provide shelter for the exponentially increasing human population is by building with earth. — The three principles in Cal-Earth’s mission.

This place was nothing like I imagined, thank God. It was amazing! I highly recommend checking out one of their open houses, especially if you have kids. They can climb all over the superadobes, even up onto the roofs. Yes, of course, I tried it out myself!

The open house is the first Saturday of the month (except August). You can either bring a pot luck item or a minimum donation of $7.00. While you’re exploring the superadobes and taking in a lecture, the Cal-Earth people are setting up the potluck.

The superadobes are made out of sandbags and barbed wire. The structures have passed California’s high-seismic building codes, making them resistant to earthquakes, fires, floods and hurricanes. But even more imporantly (ha ha) they are cuuuuuuuuuuuuute!

Read about the founder Nader Khalili here, and about his inspiration, the poet Rumi, here.

Thanks to The Valencia Hiking Crew for organizing another amazing event!





Angeleno Heights

Angeleno Heights is one of the oldest districts (1880s) in and contains the highest concentration of 19th century Victorian homes in Los Angeles. Although there are more than 50 Victorian houses in the neighborhood, the majority of the ones you’ll want to see are in the 1300 block of Carroll Avenue, between East Edgeware Road and Douglas Street.

You could have someone drive you around Angeleno Heights while you snap pictures out the window. Please don’t. Take my advice… park the car and walk down the block instead. These beautiful Victorian houses have so much detail and character you need to take the time to stand in front of them and really look.

For instance, try to count how many colors of paint have been used on just one house, or try to discover the differences between Eastlake style and Queen Anne. Or see if you recognize the house from Charmed or from Michael Jackson’s Thriller video. As you stroll along, don’t forget to keep an eye out for the gigantic Moreton Bay Fig tree and the charming street lamps, hitching posts, and carriage steps.

Since you’re already in the neighborhood, why not take the kids over to Echo Park Lake to ride the pedal boats? The lake was recently dredged, cleaned up, and restored with four acres of wetlands, courtesy of 2004’s Prop O water quality bond. Since you paid for the bonds via your L.A. City property taxes you might as well enjoy it, right?

All that walking and pedal boating make you hungry? Try some amazing homemade street tacos from Guisado’s on Sunset. You can watch them make the tortillas from scratch while waiting to place your order and they have a nice patio out back where you can sit down to enjoy them.

Tip: If you’re at all skittery about visiting unfamiliar neighborhoods on your own or would like a chance to go inside a couple of the houses, the Los Angeles Conservancy offers guided tours the first Saturday of every month. Make a reservation here.

Urban Hike: Highland Park to Old Pasadena

On February 16, 2014, my friend Lori and I went on an urban hike with the Los Angeles Hiking Group. Thanks to our decision to take an earlier train, we had time to walk around and look at the lovely old buildings on Route 66 (Figueroa) in Highland Park before meeting up with the group at Antigua Bread. Had we known about Antigua’s amazing-looking pastries we would’ve come even earlier to have breakfast, but this time we had to settle for iced Cafe Americanos to go.

This hike from Downtown Highland Park to Downtown Pasadena was approximately 8 miles and, as my photos show, the route was accurately described by leader, Tuck, as being “via obscure neighborhoods, unusual points of interest, and multiple public stairways.”

Johnston Lake aka Beaudry Lake aka Mirror Lake
In the 1950’s, this lake of many names disappeared from view into a gated community to be enjoyed by 18 lucky homeowners. On the day we visited, a guy opened the gates and some of us made a mad dash past him to take pictures of the lake. As the gates started to close, the rest of our group screamed frantically for us to “Get out! Get out!”

I made it out just before the gates locked behind me. Since the guy was in the process of pulling the trash cans in and needed to reopen the gates I’m sure he was wondering what the heck everyone was yelling about.

Castle Green
Take my advice and go on the holiday tour!!!!

Abbey San Encino
It is not an abbey. It’s a private residence. That’s just it’s name. Jackson Browne’s grandfather, Clyde, a printer & typographer, built the house. You can see Jackson sitting in a chair in the inner courtyard on the cover of his album “For Everyman.” If you’re too young to know who Jackson Browne is, yet the house looks vaguely familiar to you, it plays the abandoned church in episodes of Dexter where Professor Gellar  and Travis Marshall commit their crimes.

Arroyo Seco
That means dry stream, which it is right now, thanks to the drought. But it’s still lovely to hike along beside it.

Church of the Angels
This church is really cool! Looks like something you’d expect to see in England. It was built by Mrs. Alexander Robert Campbell Johnston in 1889 as a memorial to her husband, a British Colonial official. He also has a road named after him on a Hong Kong island.

Judson Studios
They have been designing and installing stained, leaded, and other architectural glass for over a century!

Pisgah Historic Home District
Interesting place. You should click on that link I provided and read about the history of this place, which is now a senior housing facility.

Our final destination before catching the Gold Line back to Highland Park was lunch at Lucky Baldwins Pub, which was celebrating their 15th Annual Belgian Beer Festival. The dark, foamy #13 & #18 were getting a lot of ooos & ahhhs, but ice cold lemonade sounded more refreshing with my Pub Burger.

Even though it wasn’t our stop, Lori & I got off at Highland Park station on the way back with two goals in mind: Get one of those pastries to take home & find the Victorian house on a hill that we could see from the train.

Unfortunately, all the pastries were long gone, but Lori got a Guatemalan cookie and we did find the Victorian house!

Smith Estate “El Mio
That house has an interesting history if you have time to click the link. It’s been in a lot of movies, too. This video shows the interior.

This hike gets 5 stars because it was a good distance for me, personally, and the hills & stairs got my heart rate up. Additionally, hike leader, Tuck, goes at a pace that is not the death march some leaders like to take us on. Even when I stopped to take a picture of something it was just a fast walk or short jog to catch back up with the group. And I like that Tuck made  periodic head counts and checked on our various tables at the end of lunch.

Nike+ Fuelband stats:

Fuel: 4,317
Calories: 938
Steps: 21,592
Hours Won: 7

Further Reading:
Highland Park by Charles Fisher
Within the Vale of Annandale by Donald W. Crocker


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