I didn’t think this hike was going to happen.
Earlier in the week, the Morris Fire was started by an arsonist in the Angeles National Forest above Azusa. By the day of the hike, it had already burned 1,700 acres. A few hours before today’s hike, another fire was started near a ranger station on the Angeles Crest Highway in the forest, thus called the “Station Fire.” Both fires are wreaking havoc on the forests and the air quality in the Los Angeles Basin. I actually woke up to the smell of smoke. My car was covered in ash that morning and I felt physically ill after driving through the smoke to get to my office in Pasadena. At work, the building’s powerful air conditioning unit struggled to keep the air clean, yet I could still smell smoke at my desk. Throughout the day, I monitored the air quality at AQMD.gov and the Mt. Wilson Towercam. It wasn’t looking to be a good day to hike.
Yesterday, I had posted the hike on my Facebook page, The Hike Guy’s Hiking Club, and had a few people interested in joining me, but I was hesitant to do the hike in such conditions. The fires were nowhere near Griffith Park, but the AQMD had issued a health warning advising that people should stay indoors and not exercise in the smoke-effected areas. In the end, I decided to do the hike. I figured it would be more of a hazard to my health to return to my apartment, which was located in the “unhealthy” zone marked in red on the AQMD map, then hike in Griffith Park, which was in the “moderate” zone.
We met in Griffith Park near the famous The Trails Cafe in Los Feliz. Joining me on the hike today would be Gregory, whom I met on hike #27, Scott, a new member of my hiking club, Chris (whom has joined me on hikes #6, #21, and #42). Also with us was Chris’ friend, Linda, and her dog, Volt.
We were to meet at 6pm, but didn’t get started until about 6:30pm. Our goal was to hike up to the Griffith Observatory and back without getting a parking violation or finding our cars locked in the park overnight, two very reasonable concerns considering either one might happen around sunset tonight, when the park closes.
We kept a steady pace on the 1.7-mile ascent and reached the Griffith Observatory at 7:15pm as the setting sun began mingling with the thick layer of smoke on the horizon. Los Angeles is famous for its sunsets, but what most don’t realize is that the smog/haze play a big part in the evening show. With the two horrible forest fires going on today, a more impressive sunset might be the only good news to come out of the situation.
Dozens of tourists watched in awe as the sun finished its journey across the sky, sinking into the Pacific. I spent more time looking eastwards, into the burning Angeles National Forest. For those that had vehicles in Griffith Park, we had no time for sight seeing. After just ten minutes at the Observatory, we started back down. We had to get back to their cars before they closed the gate! Of the 46 hikes I’ve done this year, this hike marks the first time where I’ve done some trail running. Gregory and I jogged at a steady pace down the rough trails, reaching 7 MPH a few times (according to my GPS). The speed helped, for we reached our cars just as the street lights were coming on and made it out of Griffith Park without dealing with any tickets or locked gates.
What I learned on the hike:
- If you are planning to do a sunset hike up to Griffith Park from the Fern Dell Drive trailhead, I suggest parking out on Los Feliz Blvd, which does not have the same restrictions.
- Despite the two major forest fires, it was still a very clear day to the west.
- I’m getting in pretty good shape. I still breath pretty hard, but my heart drops back to normal within seconds of stopping to rest.
- This was my very first hike in Griffith Park…. ever.
- Date of hike: August 27th, 2009
- Location: Los Feliz, California, United States
- Duration: 2 hours, 1 minute
- Length: 3.4 miles
- Average speed: 1.7 mph
- Altitude gain: 735 feet
- Altitude loss: 702 feet
This map was made with the data my GPS captured on the hike.
For a more detailed trip report map, check this out.