Jaunts With Jackie

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Month: February 2020

Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point

Early Saturday morning Sally and I set out to hike to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point. We parked on a residential street. Parking is limited so go early unless you don’t mind a long trek on the sidewalk. The hike starts on the corner of Lake Ave and Loma Atla Dr. in the city of Altadena.

Park along one of these streets.

The History of Echo Mountain

Today if you want to get to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point you need to hike, but from 1893- 1936 you could ride on the Mount Lowe Railway. The railway was a combination of a Funicular like Angel’s Flight that took passengers up the canyon and then a narrow gauge trolley that took them to the resort at the top of Echo Mountain. It is crazy to think that in its heyday the Mount Lowe Railway was the number one tourist attraction in California. More people went to the top of Echo Mountain than Yosemite or Catalina. Ultimately, the resort burned down in 1936 and the railway tracks were damaged in a storm in 1937. Today all that is left are the ruins.

Historic Photo of Mount Lowe Railway

The Cobb Estate

The hike to Echo Mountain starts at the Cobb Estate which is supposed to be haunted. At one point the Marx Brothers owned the estate. They were sure it was haunted and they tore down the property. The Marx Brothers tried to build a cemetery on the haunted land, but the neighbors were opposed. Eventually, a private donation allowed the city to purchase the land.

The Cobb Estate

Hiking to Echo Mountain

We started our hike by walking through the “Haunted Woods” of The Cobb Estate and luckily we didn’t feel anything weird. Our hike to Echo Mountain started on the Sam Merril Trail. It is a little over 2 1/2 miles to the top of Echo Mountain. The trail is rated as moderate and it is a single track. The elevation gain is almost 1,500 feet, but the switchbacks feel gradual. There are posts marking the 1 and 2-mile mark. You are half-way up when you are directly under the power transformer.

At the top of Echo Mountain

You know you are close to the top of Echo Mountain when you see the giant gear. The ruins are all that have survived from the Lowe Mountain Railway and the Great White Resort. This is a good place to stop and take a rest and there are usually people hanging around looking at the ruins and having a snack. Depending on the weather you might have an amazing view all the way to Catalina, however, if it’s foggy your view will be a blanket of clouds. In addition to the view, history buffs are in for a treat because there are plaques and signs with information about the Mount Lowe Railway. If Echo Mountain is your final destination then you will return on the same trail back to your car.

Hiking to Inspiration Point

After hiking to Echo Mountain we chose to continue on to Inspiration Point. We backtracked a little way to Castle Canyon Trail. The Trail is 2 miles in length and takes you to the Inspiration Point. It is rated hard and has steep inclines and you will gain about another 1,500 feet in elevation. We hiked in the winter and the trail was overgrown and there were a lot of trees down that make for interesting obstacles. You will see far fewer people on this trail than on the Sam Merrill Trail. Because the trail is in a canyon it isn’t possible to see the top of Inspiration Point until close to the end of the hike. When you have hiked about 1 3/4 miles you turn a corner and look up and see the shelter at Inspiration Point.

The Top of Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point is not actually a point, it is in a saddle between two canyons, however, on a clear day the views can be amazing. There are picnic tables and plenty of spots to rest. Viewing pipes have been installed and they are labeled with the locations you are viewing. On a clear day, it is possible to see all the way to Catalina. We hung out at the top and ate our lunches and took pictures.

We made it to the top of Inspiration Point.

Hiking Down

We decided to take a different route down from Inspiration Point. Castle Canyon Trail is step and it has lots of loose gravel and that can make it tricky to hike down. Instead, we opted for the Sam Merrill Trail. I can’t stress enough the importance of doing your research and to be on the lookout for the sign for the Sam Merrill Trail. The first time I did this hike I missed the sign and ended my hike far from my car. This trail is pleasant and meanders through a canyon forested in large trees, however, the one downside is the mountain bikers. You need to keep an ear out for them so you don’t get run over. Castle Canyon Trails is 2 1/2 miles and it passes some ruins along the way such as Sunset Peak and an old observatory. The trail ends at Echo Mountain.

The sign for the trail back to Echo Mountain.

Hiking Down From Echo Mountain

From Echo Mountain we hiked down the same trail we had come up in the morning. In the afternoon there is barely any shade and the day we were there it was only in the low 70’s, but it felt really hot. Although it is only 2 1/2 miles down the trail seemed endless. Make sure you bring at least 2-3 liters of water even on a mild day because you will be working hard. When we made it to the bottom we still had to walk about 1/2 mile to our car. Our round trip from for the day was over 12 miles and we were ready to take off our boots and put on some flip-flops.

Mt Lowe Brewing Company

Sally and I have a hiking rule any hike over 10 miles and we stop at a local brewery and get a beer. Today we stopped at Mt Lowe Brewing Company in Arcadia. Mt Lowe Brewing Company has a cool vibe, it’s big, clean and the one beer I tried was good. I had to try to the Inspiration Porter because of its guarantee to ease my sore hiking muscles and my chapped lips. I love the giant pictures of the Mt Lowe Railway that they have hanging inside their brewery. The afternoon we were there a large crowd was playing bingo and a food truck was serving nachos and tacos. I will definitely be back and it was the perfect way to end our hike to Echo Mountain and Inspiration Point

Beautiful Art Deco

A Walking Tour of DTLA

One Saturday in February I decided I would be a tourist and do a walking tour of DTLA. To avoid trying to find a parking place I decided to take the Metro. I boarded the Gold Line at the Azusa/Citrus College stop and because it was Saturday parking wasn’t a problem. After I parked I used the vending machine to pay $3 to park for the day. Next, I used another machine to refill my TAP Card and I decided on the all-day unlimited pass for $7.00.

First Stop: Union Station

I rode the Gold Line from Azusa to Union Station and when I arrived I chose to look around instead of immediately transferring to the Red or Purple line. Union Station is a busy place. Over 100,000 passengers pass through on a daily basis. The architecture is beautiful it is a mix of Art Deco and Mission Revival and there are some restaurants and bars in case you want to hang out and people watch.

Second Stop: Bottega Louie

My next stop on my walking tour of DTLA was Bottega Louie. Bottega Louie is a gourmet market, patisserie & cafĂ©. The patisserie part of Bottega Louie is filled with delectable treats. The restaurant portion is large and they don’t take reservations. I stood in line at the counter to order my cappuccino and pain au chocolat. After paying I received a number and I picked a small table for two in the section that has open seating. A waiter brought out my drink and croissant and for a few minutes, I was able to pretend I was back in Paris.

Third Stop: The Biltmore Hotel

My third stop on my walking tour of DTLA was the Biltmore Hotel. I was curious to take a peek inside because the popular Disney ride Tower of Terror is modeled after the Biltmore. Stepping inside definitely reminds me of the Tower of Terror. I wandered around the lobby and hallways checking out the photographs of all the dignitaries and celebrities that have all stayed at the Biltmore.

Fourth Stop: Los Angeles Central Library

The Los Angeles Central Library was my fourth stop on my walking tour of DTLA. Saturday was my lucky day because I was able to join a free docent lead Art and Architecture Tour and I learned that the library was built in 1926 and its theme is the light of learning. The inside walls of the library are covered in murals and the ceilings are painted to resemble wood, although they are actually made of concrete. A fun fact about the library is that the entire building is made of concrete and that is what kept the library from burning to the ground in 1986 in the most epic fire in Los Angeles history. On my way out of the library, I ran into a machine that prints out either a 1 minute, 3 minute or children’s story for you to take with you.

Fifth Stop: Grand Central Market

If you are walking around DTLA, do yourself a favor and stop at Grand Central Market. The market is a Foodies dream. You can get every possible type of food there. Grand Central Market is perfect if you are with a group of friends because everyone can pick out what they want to eat and then you can all meet back at one table and enjoy your food. Today I tried Egg Slut for a late lunch and McConnell’s Fine Ice Cream for Dessert. Egg Slut is having a moment and the line is usually long. I waited 30 minutes to order. I ordered a regular breakfast sandwich without the bacon and I was lucky to find a barstool at the counter and I was able to watch them make my sandwich, which was an over-medium egg with cheese sandwiched between a brioche bun that is toasted with butter. Delicious!

Sixth Stop: The Bradbury Building

The Bradbury Building is across the street from the Grand Central Market. In 1971 the Bradbury Building was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Currently, the building is used as offices and tourists are allowed only in the lobby. The Bradbury Building is famous for its ornate ironwork and atrium and it has been the location for several movies including the original Blade Runner.

Stop Seven: Angel’s Flight

The entrance to Angel’s Flight is across the street from the Grand Central Market. Angel’s Flight originally opened in 1901 and is the shortest operational railroad. It is possible to board the cars at either the bottom or the top of Bunker Hill. I rode it both ways and it was free with unlimited TAP card without a Tap card it is $1 to ride each way.

Stop Eight: Little Tokyo

I walked to Japanse Village Plaza at 335 E. 2nd St. The plaza is busy and there are many shops and restaurants. In the plaza, there is usually some sort of entertainment going on such as karaoke or a performer. I watched a woman though a window making little cakes and I went inside to ask what they were. The man at the counter told me they were Red Bean cakes and he assured me they are delicious. I bought one for $2 and took it to go. I was too full this trip, but my favorite Ramen restaurant Daikokuya is across the street from Japanse Village Plaza and I highly recommend stopping in there for some amazing ramen.

Heading Home

After Little Tokyo, I decided it was getting cold and I was tired so I walked to the corner of First and Alameda and I waited for the Gold Line. There is lots more to explore in the area, but it will have to wait for another day.

Camping tent Anza-Borrego State Park

Desert Camping Anza-Borrego

Anza-Borrego Desert offers a multitude of camping options. There are four developed campgrounds with over 175 sites. These campgrounds also include group sites and Tamarisk Grove has primitive cabins for rent and if you really want to get away from it all Anza-Borrego allows roadside camping.

Camping amongst the cacti.

Anza-Borrego State Park

Anza-Borrego State Park is located about 2 hours away from both San Diego and Los Angeles. The park is open 7 days a week and there is a $10 fee for day use. After paying the entrance fee your first stop should be the visitor’s center. Inside volunteers and rangers have a wealth of information about the wildflowers, cacti, palm groves, and wildlife you might encounter in the park. They can also provide maps and current conditions for hikes. There are a small gift shop and restrooms located outside the doors.

The Cactus Bloom in the spring.

The Best Season to Camp at Anza-Borrego

Winter and Spring are the preferred seasons to camp at Anza-Borrego. Reservations can be made through Reserve California. Weekends in February book up far in advance. A regular site is $25 a night. Each site includes a picnic table, a shade awning, and a fire ring. There are a variety of bathrooms spread amongst the campsites including some pit toilets, some flushing toilets, and a few you just have to see to believe.

Tamarisk Grove in Anza-Borrego State Park

I have camped in Anza-Borrego State Park two times. The first time the only reservation I could find was at Tamarisk Grove for a cabin. I was leery about the definition of a cabin, but I made the reservations. The cabins cost $60 a night and are basically a large shed with a door and two windows. There is room for 8 to sleep and inside are bunk beds and a loft, however, there are no mattresses provide. You need to bring an inflatable or you will be sleeping on plywood. There are a table and two chairs, no electricity or running water and the door locks. Overall, the cabin provided protection from the howling wind and it was a cozy place to spend the night.

A Cabin in The Desert

We were able to hang our hammocks outside in between the poles of the shade awning. The hammocks were a perfect place to relax and read a book. When it was time for dinner we set up my jet boil on the picnic table and cooked ontop. After dinner, we made a fire in the fire ring and made s’ mores. The bathrooms at Tamarisk were nice, clean and they flushed. Because we only stayed one night we didn’t try the coin-operated showers. There are two easy hikes that start across the street from Tamarisk. They are the Yaqui Well Nature Trail and the Cactus Loop Trail.

Desert Camping

For our second overnight, we stayed in the main campground for Anza-Borrego State Park. We stayed in February during the rainy season and we didn’t make reservations, because we thought it was going to rain and we would have to cancel. When we arrived at the main gate they told us that they were completely booked for the night. We asked them lots of questions about the group site or the hike-in site and the ranger decided to let us camp in a hike-in site. Again at this site, we had a picnic table, a shade awning, and a fire-pit. The bathroom by our site did not have a roof and it had two toilets with a wall in between, but no doors. Not a toilet for the modest. We decided it was best to go to the bathroom in pairs and use one person as a look-out.

The craziest toilet I have ever seen.

A Hike That Leaves From The Campground

There are various hikes that start throughout the campground. One of the most popular hikes is Borrego Palm Canyon Trail. It is a moderate 2.9 miles roundtrip hike. There are signs warning you of the importance of bringing enough water with you for this hike. There is no drinkable water and you wiil not find any shade until you get to the palms. In the spring if it has been a rainy year there is a stream that runs down along the trail. It is possible to see a variety of animals on this hike including iguanas, Chuckwallas, and Bighorn Sheep. Once you get to the palms you will feel like you have made it to an oasis. The palms are huge and tower over you. They provide the much-needed shade from the scorching desert sun.

A Small Desert Town

The little town of Borrego Springs is right outside the entrance to Anza-Borrego State Park. In the center of town is Christmas Tree Circle. Here you can find a grassy common area, bathrooms, and free wi-fi. There are a few restaurants, gas stations, and little stores, however, be sure and check the hours, because of some of the places close early.

The Ocotillo were almost ready to bloom.

Dragons in the Desert

During your camping trip make sure you leave time to visit some of the 130 life-size art sculptures that are located around the town of Borrego Springs. The Chamber of Commerce has a map that shows the locations of the sculptures and because they are spread out you will need to drive to see them all. If you are camping with kids, this should be on your list of fun things to do.

The Sea Dragon

Free Dispersed Camping in Anza-Borrego

If you would like to camp in Anza-Borrego and are not able to get reservations you are allowed to camp for free as long as you follow the rules. Your car can’t be park more than one car length off of the road, however, your tent can be further you just need to walk. Another rule to remember is that you need to be at least 100 yards away from a water source. Furthermore, if you plan on having a campfire you need to have it in a metal container. No ground fires are allowed and lastly, you are responsible for hauling out your trash.

Staying in Anza-Borrego

Anza-Borrego has a lot to offer. There are plenty of both hiking and 4 x 4 trails. If you plan your visit right you might see the desert wildflowers in full bloom and at nighttime, you will get an amazing view of the stars. The desert just might surprise you, so get out there and start exploring.

Anza-Borrego Desert
Anza-Borrego Desert

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