Friday, November 14, 2008

Have You Hiked Mt. Hollywood Trail Lately?

Mt. Hollywood is just fifteen minutes drive away from where I live and yet the last time I hiked this peak was some five years ago. On November 13, egged on by my photo buddy Vics, and his friend who was visiting from Montana, I agreed to join them in a hike on this urban mountain. I packed some twenty pounds of photo gear and provisions in my camera bag and we met at the newly-refurbished Griffith Observatory located on the foothills of Mt. Hollywood.

My daughter, Justine, whose most strenuous form of exercise is lounging on the couch watching her favorite television shows, came along to cheer me on. This 2500-foot peak has been razed by wildfires during the last decade, the last one was particularly devastating and lasted for days. It burned almost three-quarters of the mountain. The signs of that most recent fire are still evident and I noted them as we hiked along the fire road that leads to the summit known here as "Adam's Peak". The ground is mostly bare of ground cover; green grass is still very scarce, and native vegetation that have sprouted are few and far between.

Surprisingly enough, the decades-old pine and palm trees that line the roads leading to the Observatory have not been touched by the fires. But the the ground brush and native vegetation on the mountainsides bore the brunt of the conflagrations. There were painted signs warning of rattlesnakes and mountain lions, but we did not see any of those critters. The approximately 1.5 to 2-mile trail took me and Justine some fifty minutes to negotiate. That was not so bad since the last time we hiked on this trail was some five years ago, just before that last big fire.

Three-quarters of the way, and about ten minutes to the summit, we encountered a moderate grade and had to stop to rest and to take swigs from the water bottle. I also used my monopod as a cane to help me walk to the summit. We got there at quarter to five, just in time to capture the magnificent sunset that was made redder by the thick LA smog. Vics and his friend filed in five minutes later. I had a blast taking photos of the sunset's afterglow on our way down. We met some more hardy joggers and some young family members on their way up to the summit. I was also amazed to see that there were a number of young and unescorted women joggers who ran up and down the trail even at the twilight hour, an indication that the public park is indeed safe even at this time.

Back home, that hike gave my legs a severe beating and they felt like melting butter. But the one-hour hike gave us the feeling of having put in a week's worth of cardiovascular workout. So we promised to do it on a regular basis, with my wife in tow the next time.

I always prepare on the side of caution whenever I go on outdoor trips like this one. I lugged more than enough provisions than needed for the reason that if we got lost or stranded, we would have enough food and water to survive longer. On this hike, I brought several breakfast cereal bars, a box of raisins, fig newtons, cookies, and more than enough water, being a member of the media (Me diabetes) there's a need to eat often. It weighed me down, but I was content in the knowledge that we would not get hungry for several hours. Next time, I will also carry a small flashlight.

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