Monday, February 29, 2016

2/28/16 JPL Pasadena to the mountains and back


This ride began in Hahamonga Watershed Park, next to Jet Propulsion Laboratories, at the home of the Rose Bowl Riders, and tracked under the 210 Freeway, up through neighborhoods, up to the "Ultimate Destination" in the mountains and then back again.
9.4 miles in 3.5 hours
993ft ascent
Beautifully maintained trails, an experienced trail boss,and a sunny bright day made for a lovely ride attended by two dozen members of the Equestrian Trails group. A 10th annual event in commemoration of a beloved member who inspired many.
The day began with a bit of an error. The flyer gave an address that I loaded into my iPhone, but I had to get up at 4AM to be there on time so I was not at my best attentive navigational self. So I trusted the Siri directions and I went sailing right past the entrance to Hahamonga Watershed Park. The next thing on the road is JPL.
The ass on my SubUrban hood perked up his ears as we approached the NASA gateway. We knew we were not welcome. The guards were Not Amused. But they'd seen befuddled equestrians before, and in a moment we'd circled and reoriented.
Well no wonder. This is the sign at the entrance to the park. Who knew it was a park?
Not a worry, we actually got there in plenty of time and proceeded to search out the Rose Bowl Riders facility where we were to meet up with the rest of the attendees. If someone else wants to ride this track they should just park in the public parking lots in the park and the trail will be easy to pick up as it follows the arroyo.
Like all arroyos it looked fairly empty but capable of channeling vast amounts of water in times of rain. Nice for a group of horses and mules to stretch out and start the day. There were a lot of people playing Frisbee who didn't seem to get it that to an equine a Frisbee is a UFO, but we enlightened them.
Boulders pushed to the sides are evidence of flash flooding in the past. It is a great thing that this watershed land was set aside for public use. We saw lots of people walking, biking, playing sportball, even just reading books in the shade of trees at picnic tables.

Along a section of the trail were dozens of enigmatic shapes, looking very much like Templar graves in Scotland. I am supposing they are concrete that once were poured to a purpose, now reassembled into what might pass for "art" these days.
Wraith like, we shadowed past.
But then, we had to go UNDER the 210! The trail is beautifully fenced and actually quite safe, but the noise was SO LOUD that any sensible equine ought to RUN AWAY!
Fortunately Team Tobe was focused on the moment, and I did my newly learned trick of whistling tunes to him when we are in a tight spot. I whistle when we are just cruising along, but then if the going gets hairy I whistle then too. Maybe I am faking him out that I am unconcerned, (?), maybe more importantly I am keeping his mind on me, and thus he remembers that together we will stay brave.
"Courage is being scared to death, but saddling up anyway." ------ John Wayne
But we really weren't scared, we were too busy looking at new sights, and wondering what the heck this brick thing was. A pillar of wisdom, perched on the creek-side?

Once out from under the freeway we were in a verdant paradise, another world entirely. A natural creek bed, filled with water plants and shaded by trees, and across it the backyards of the presumably rich.
The hillsides have been sliced into to create this trail, and a clever and very effective series of retaining walls is holding back the slope above. I was genuinely impressed by the care and engineering of these trails, built for heavy use and gently meandering through neighborhoods. Great sport for guard dogs in fenced yards, excellent access to the mountain trails form the horse facilities that bracket the park.
An old bridge, like so many that date back to the early days when Pasadena was being laid out. This area is officially "La Cañada Flintridge", but for practical purposes it is adjacent to and spiritually a part of Pasadena. The famous Rose Bowl is just a bit South of today's trail, and I must here confess that my very first horseback riding was here. I was quite enthusiastic then, but there was not a financial priority for the passion, so I had to wait 50 years to return on my very own mule, and ride here again.
Dream come true, lush in the middle of drought, natural beauty.
But then, the power of the Corps of Engineers, the beautiful creek transformed into a cement river. Tobe was calm and in his element strolling along the shady glens, but he was not at all sure about this chasm with the mossy water below us. He kept quite an eye on it as we tracked along.
Then we left the last subdivided area and entered Cherry Canyon. I confess that over the next hours we went in and out of many canyons and I did not keep track of the names. That's the virtue of having a trail boss, and the gal on the flea-bit Arabian who led us forth did so with a familiarity with the trails that put us all at ease and we flowed behind her with confidence.
Only as we rose into the heights could we see the smog. And if Tobe Mule wondered why he was feeling a bit out of breath, we could now see why. When you are in it, frog in the water, it just seems like a hazy day. Once you start to rise above it the pall hangs heavy over the beautiful city I was born in. I am deeply grateful I left and now live where the air is freshened by sea breezes.
Without my trusty steed I could not have risen to the views, never have had this nostalgic tour of a place remembered from my childhood.
Finally, at the Ultimate Destination, we could look back and see how far we had come. JPL is the white complex of buildings roughly between Tobe's ears. The group had a toast to the memory of the woman the ride is named for, and the animals availed themselves of a water trough thoughtfully placed there at the peak next to one for humans. Just another example of how this trails in this area are sensibly designed for multiple use. We actually passed a man who was part of the local Trails Council and were able to thank him in person for the trails we were enjoying.
Then we started to track back down, and came upon this vista looking North, into another valley of smog. Desolation of Smaug. And only a tiny percentage of the people crammed into those ashy streets ever rise to these overlooks, from whence to gain perspective.
And then it was back down into the neighborhoods, to track our way back to the starting point.
Back into the lovely shade and dappled light.
 The contrast between the dry chaparral above and the creeks below is amazing.
 Both are timeless, and wait for us to visit.
 A slow procession, tired animals have earned the right to go calmly as they take us back to the flatland.
 And now I have ridden in my home town, 10 trail miles on my mule, and risen to heights above and gained perspective and am so very grateful that living in smog is not my destiny. As I write this the next day I am still coughing, and remembering how often I was ill as a child. Health is wealth, and I am feeling very much the Lucky Fish. And I am so very happy to return to my happy home in the little town by the big blue sea, on the edge of the continent.

For more information about this Cherry Canyon Park trail system see:
http://www.lamountains.com/parks.asp?parkid=629