31 December 2010


Just one sketch from very far away for the month.

Big mountains vanishing into the clouds of their own making.

08 December 2010

Lamma Island

Hong Kong

It turns out that there is hiking in Hong Kong, which is a bit more than a city of skyscrapers. I went out to Lamma Island, which is served by two public ferries and has a (paved) trail from one port to the other plus a few other routes. When I got to the ferry terminal, both were leaving within 5 minutes of each other, so I got on the one that came less frequently which came a little later although it was supposed to be earlier. Soon enough, I was on the island at Sok Kwu Wan. There's sea food restaurants along the path into the community as well as a public bathroom (including a western style stall and pictures on the doors to indicate which one) and a temple and ...

the harbor
The harbor at Sok Kwu Wan.

the harbor looking out of the bay
Looking out of the bay back to the skyscrapers.

Ten Thousand Buddhas

Hong Kong

Hong Kong has all kinds of steep hills, so there are plenty of urban hikes that are a bit of work even if they aren't so long. The trek up to the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery is short but steep and has a semi-urban route choice for returning. The main route is watched over by one after another large golden Buddha states each individually produced to represent a specific person.

the first few life sized buddhas
Entering the grounds, the path is suddenly lined with life sized statues.

02 December 2010

Himalayas: Chandrashila

Uttarakhand, India

<- Back to day two.

We climb out of bed for a breakfast, including chocolate chip pancakes, and the last bit of hiking, climbing to the top of Chandrashila. The trail up the mountain starts a little way up the road, so we drove up to it. Buildings to serve all the needs of the average tourist stood empty so no one tried to sell us postcards of where we were about to go. The trail starts off paved until an area of temple and shrines about halfway up that also stands abandoned in anticipation of the coming winter.

peacock as a game hen
A couple of male Himalayan monals, the state bird of Uttarakhand.

The paved path snaking up the mountain side.

01 December 2010

Himalayas: hiking

Uttarakhand, India

<- a="" back="" day="" one.="" to="">

The women of Sari came up the mountain in the morning early morning light, passing our still lazy selves chatting. They headed into the forest ahead of us where they climbed the trees (in their saris) and collected wood for the household. We got up for breakfast and had hot water for washing. Luxuries abound! The lake had formed a thin layer of ice on the surface in places and I wondered again about the orange trees such a short distance away. After breakfast, we packed up our personal stuff and grabbed what we wanted to have with us for the day and followed the women into the forest.

Chaukhamba in the morning light
Chaukhamba in the well established morning light.

one of the smaller local trees
A small tree hanging over Deoria Tal. The growth pattern of the trees seems a bit odd, perhaps influenced by all the growth on them.

30 November 2010


November was spent very far away from home.  I brought a new watercolor book for the trip.

My home for a couple weeks.

A non-botanical element in  Lalbagh Botanical Garden.

Painting in the dark, carefully pruned bushes and lighted water features.

Somehow I'm the only one in our party awake.  Men (mostly) waling to the bath in the street.

Waiting for the folks on a different airline to stop having their plane delayed and get here.

Himalayas: Deoria Tal

Uttarakhand, India

I went to India, as one does. One friend was having a wedding ceremony there and another had been demanding I should go at least once. Those brought me to Bangalore and Delhi and there were a few trips from each, but can you say you've been in India if you haven't been to the mountains? I had to find a way. Also, I had some encouragement from my friend in Bangalore who likes to run off to the mountains from time to time. She was trying to get us a set trip with a tour group, but in the end couldn't go herself. There was a couple going up on the perfect trip for me who were happy to have others join their trip, so I got to be a part of their tour. It is quite a different mode of travel than I am used to for a multi day walk.

The trip started in Rishikesh and I was in Delhi, so I got myself a 2nd class ticket and boarded the sleeper train up to Haridwar. I wasn't sure how well I would sleep in such a setup or even what exactly the setup was. There is about a car of 1st class, two or three cars of 2nd class, then a long line of 3rd class cars vanishing down the track. I had a top bunk and a pillow and blanket were provided with the mattress. Apparently the procedure was basically stow the luggage under the bottom bunk, show my ticket to the ticket taker, then stretch out to sleep. I set the phone to when I was supposed to get in and stretched out. I actually slept quite well as the car rattled along the tracks. We were pulling into a stop a couple stops away when the alarm went off and it was still dark. One of my neighbors said where we were and how many stops to Haridwar. I still hadn't seen the signs saying Haridwar when I got off a half hour late, but it certainly looked reasonable as the large station. Perhaps I am too trusting, but this time I found a taxi driver waiting for me as was supposed to be. I rode into Rishikesh in an Ambassador, the mainstay of Indian vehicles for many years and my only ride in one.

It was still a few hours early when I got to Red Chille Adventures headquarters and internet cafe, which has a great view, but I hadn't had breakfast or the morning ablations. When we started, we were a group of three. The end of November is considered the late end of the season, so no one else had joined up. We started up the winding Himalaya roads, which were quite fine at first. Good pavement, except at a ford, and people tended to their side of the road, except during the plentiful passing. But then there started to be one lane areas, where a bit of road had dropped down the side of a cliff. At least once the whole road had dropped down the cliff and the cars were going along a plowed out bit of rock. Roadwork is constant and every few miles and largely hand done. I saw one tractor and a lot of two person shovels. Going around every blind corner, there was an unabashed beep to make sure the other side knew we were coming. We stopped briefly across the river from Deoprayag where steps allowed access to one of the more holy areas of the river, the confluence where the Ganges is born.

the making of the Ganga
The confluence of the Alaknanda and Bhagirathi Rivers forming the Ganges River at Devprayag.

28 November 2010

Agra Fort

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

After wandering for hours around Taj Mahal, I walked over to Agra Fort, because it wasn't that far. Besides, the purely normal along the way would likely contain something new to me.

fort from a distance
From far outside the walls of the fort, looking to the many buildings within.

The fort is impressive just to approach. Walls are built of brick and covered over in red sandstone that is quite striking. So far removed from thinking of the strategies of defending a piece of land, the many layers for defending armies to guard within, the slits to shoot from, the way the lowest wall is shaped to make repelling climbers easier all looks artistic. It all looks quite formidable, although it seems to have changed hands quite a few times.

some of wall and gardens
Plenty of grassy grounds around the formidable wall.

more fort wall
More of the details of the outer wall.

Taj Mahal

Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India

It seems to be the in thing to take a day trip to Agra and see a few of the sights. There are a number of trains leaving Dehli in the morning and arriving back in the evening. While the majority of most trains seem to be 3rd class, the one I was on had none and even served a breakfast on the way out and some supper on the way back. What luxury, but without the antics of 3rd class, how can it be a train in India? First stop for the day was the Taj Mahal. They all say you must go. The tuk-tuk driver of course offered to be my dedicated driver for the day for a flat fee, but I dislike such arrangements. Tickets are expensive for foreigners in comparison to citizens, but as Shachi points out we do not pay the national taxes that also go to keeping the place up. My camera did not also need its own ticket, an odd and all too common phenomenon in other places. Video cameras were forbidden. I almost failed at not pointing out that every still digital camera is capable of video these days. For my more expensive ticket, I also got a box of items they thought I might need. There are booties to put over my shoes for entering the mausoleum (citizens must take their shoes off) and a bottle of water. Otherwise, food and drink were not permitted inside. I decided not to point out the dried fruit in my bag. If I do not pull it out and eat it, it is as good as not there, right? They also did not allow menstruating women, which is quite none of their business. Without much ado, I got my ticket and shuffled into the forecourt.

gate within the complex of the Taj Mahal
The main gate entry within the complex of buildings of the Taj Mahal.

top dome of mosoleum behind the wall
The first look at the iconic mausoleum.

31 October 2010


Sketches for the month.

Houses on the hill in Solstice Canyon.

Little waterfall by the ruins in Solstice Canyon.

Drawing the wet rock to leave the water clear for the fall in Rubio Canyon.

24 October 2010

Rubio and Eaton Canyons

Pasadena front country

Locate the trailheads: Rubio Canyon and Eaton Canyon.

There was a week or so of rain, so I decided to go out and see the waterfalls. It was not heavy rain, just drawn out.

Rubio Canyon

Wandering up the various Rubio named streets, I got to the trailhead. The trail hadn't suffered under the recent watering. Unfortunately the canyon hadn't really filled up, either. I didn't see water in it until about halfway up the section of the trail in the canyon where some of the bottom is visible instead of the endless stones from the water company's little mistake.

small and gilled butter colored mushroom top
As I came into the canyon bottom, I spotted this little mushroom.

first sighting of water
The first sighting of water and there's not very much of it.

03 October 2010

Solstice Canyon

Solstice Canyon Park

Locate the trail head.

I went out to Marina del Rey searching for particular parts and failed, so the purpose of the trip didn't work out, but that area is a fun drive with funky homes all along the way. I had also brought along a few necessities for hiking around although I only had my sandals along. I decided to drive a little further up the coast to just past Malibu. There was a hike at the bottom of the hill from the one we did a while back. I drove past the road we'd got to Pacific Crest Highway on, recognizing it. I drove past Pepperdine. I spotted the Thai and sushi place we'd had dinner. Then I saw the road up to Solstice Canyon and managed to even feel confident enough about it to turn up it. In no time, I got to the trail head.

The information by the parking lot confirmed there was a loop to be hiked in a little under three miles and that I needed to be out by sunset although my hiking book said 5PM. The shore was socked in with fog but it didn't get very far inland so the canyon "with views of the ocean" was clear. I grabbed my stuff, minus the camera that was not among it even though I'd remembered to gather it up with the rest. I took off up the hill, climbing in the sun. The hiking book had noted a house that jutted out absurdly, and indeed there was. It's wasn't the only house visible from time to time.

Houses on the steep hillside.
Some of the houses up on the hillside.

Eventually the trail wound around a bit traveling up and down and around a torn bit of fence and then dropped down again. As it dropped, ruins could be seen with random tropical foliage jutting out at the edges. This was where the trail was headed. Up above the house, an offshoot of trail went up to a little waterfall.

Waterfall with more tropical foliage.
The little waterfall upstream of recent ruins.

After the waterfall, I took a longer look around the burned out home. I found the sign talking about the ruin. It was only built in the 1950s and burned down in 1982 but seemed to be cooking with wood. Perhaps they couldn't get services to it when it was built. It also seemed to have a dam for water storage, which would be sensible since the stream is intermittent. It was flowing down the falls, though.

Coming back down the canyon, there is another ruin, but older from around 1900. This one was built, sold, burned and then the fellow built it up with "stones and tin" for fire protection and it worked well, for a while. But eventually it got wood built around it for porches and things and it had burned again in 2007. It clearly had had services in once that was possible. After I saw the place, I saw the sign explaining all this. I seemed to be doing the loop in the wrong direction.

The dog walkers were coming out once I got back. They didn't seem to worry about the fine for having off leash dogs, but they did actually have leashes with them, which you don't always see.

©2010 Valerie Norton
Posted 3 Oct 2010

30 September 2010


Sketches for the month of September.

A twisted section of the old toll road.

Power lines stretching over the mountains by Alder Creek.  (From an old photo.)

19 September 2010

Verdugo Mountain


Locate the trailhead.

I've been going up Henninger now and again to stretch the legs. Generally leaving before sunset so I can get through the gate and then coming back out the middle between the two usual spots that close at sunset. I did again the day before and sat at the junction between the trails to draw. I just got a new water system and wanted to give it a try. The mosquitoes were biting and I'd not put repellent into the little pocket, only the lamp. Score one for the usual pack that usually has the repellent in it. I decided not to go all the way up with all the bugs.

I decided to go up in the Verdugo Mountains the next day, again to stretch the legs and try out the water system and this time see a bit I'd not seen before. The hike is along fire roads starting in a seemingly random spot in a neighborhood and climbs up into the emptier mountain surrounded by city, then loops around past some radio towers and back down. I somehow seem to have got Nathan to come along as well, although I think he might be treating this one in a similar way to my treatment of Henninger. They offer similar climbs at similar easy grades. We started around 5 aiming to be at the bench at the top for sunset and almost dallied too long along the way.

Looking down the road to the city at the start of the trail. Beyond is the (generally closed) Angeles National Forest.

18 September 2010

Mount Wilson Toll Road

Angeles National Forest

It's been a while since the last bit of hiking somewhere.  I really should.  Just not really sure where and the forest is still closed.  I think there were some changes in exactly what is open, but it's hard to figure out.  The forest service page doesn't seem to bring people's attention to the fact it is closed and hasn't for some time.

I went up along the toll road a little and sketched the winding route along the side of the mountains from the intersection with the thing often referred to as the "horse trail" although I don't think I would want to ride a horse on it.  The mosquitoes were biting and I didn't have the repellent along, so I decided to go back down after sketching instead of continuing up to the top.

A stretch of the Mt. Wilson Toll Rd., no longer collecting tolls but not letting people drive up either.
Toll road twisting up the mountain.

Going up seemed easier than usual.  Perhaps the daily walks about 1.5 miles to and from school are helping out.  Perhaps it's just easier to go with an ultralight hydration system with a long sleeved shirt, scarf, light, and drawing packet tucked into the webbing than with a whole ultralight pack suitable for overnight travel with various emergency things (like mosquito repellent) stuffed in it.  I just got the self contained hydration system earlier today and wanted to try it out a little.  It was a bit of a whim from the closeout and seconds shop that just opened up and had some good sales, including full hydration systems for less than the price of a bladder.

31 August 2010


No hikes for August, except for walks downtown for the concerts at Memorial Park, where I did do some sketches out in the wild.

A statue in the park.

Parks have to have trees, of course.

Sunset colors just before the concert starts.

The band.

31 July 2010


No hiking, except down to the park for the concert, which including one sketch.

A moment of joy.

30 June 2010


Wild sketches done during the month.

Stopping for a moment while wandering on the Wilcox Property.
Er... I mean Douglas Family Preserve.

Hanging out in the gardens at the Getty.

Heading out to one of the free summer concerts.

A jacaranda on campus.

My campsite at Idlehour.

Walking along the trail that forms the boundary between open forest and that closed by the station fire.

A spot of Humboldt Lilies by the creek.

28 June 2010

Idlehour (day 3)

Angeles National Forest

26th | 27th | 28th

The new day started again with a gentle brightening of the clear blue sky and an eruption of birdsong at 5 AM. Someone's got to eat all those bugs.

I decided not to be so lazy getting up, so I could enjoy the most time going uphill in the shade. No one had stolen my cashews in the night. I didn't manage to finish off my dried fruit even though it looked like such a small stash the day before. Camp was struck fairly quickly and the pack stuffed to the top. I got some water pumped from the stream and a little dirt scrubbed off. Then splashed on some bug attracting sunscreen and followed it up with some mostly DEET to get rid of them again. About 6:15, I started up the trail. Okay, I wasn't in that much of a hurry.

I met a little sunshine in the bottom of the canyon the trail had come down, but the day was still cool. There was very little on most of the trail as it wound up the north side and around the west side of things.

clouds around the foothills
The city below has no sunshine as the morning fog keeps it cool.

mostly black caterpilar with flecks of blue and orange on a yellow monkey flower
All those butterflies have to come from somewhere.

27 June 2010

Idlehour (day 2)

Angeles National Forest

26th | 27th | 28th

Between the elevation and all the twists and turns to get through the canyon below, there was no marine layer to darken the morning and cool the initial part of the day. Light started breaking around 5 AM and the forest erupted into birdsong. The loud stream down the short cliff very near the tent was virtually drowned out in the noise of at least a dozen different ways of screaming "mine!"

Having not gone down the stream bed because of the poison oak, I was suspicious I wouldn't go up it either for the same reason. Instead, I would probably follow the trail on up to the top, maybe all the way to Inspiration Point, connecting with where I've been before. I was rather lazy about getting up. Eventually I did as the sun started touching the tops of the nearby trees. It took a while with the high canyon walls.

Someone had gotten into my bags and carried off most of my almonds. Not to say I had many left, but there was more than five. The bread bag had a hole in it and the ants were going after that too. Not much my scones that I'd planned for that morning's breakfast, but they were loving the olive loaf for Monday. It was a bit bothersome. The dried fruit was untouched. I dallied a bit longer until the sun was finally coming down the the campsite.

my shadow far off on the cliff wall
Good morning! The sun is here and I am here. Right there on the cliff side, you can see me.

26 June 2010

Idlehour (day 1)

Angeles National Forest

Locate the trailhead.

26th | 27th | 28th

Eaton Canyon is a local hike with hundreds of people headed up to the first falls on a daily basis. The falls themselves and the area around them offer no way up to the top. Apparently you can get there for another waterfall, but that one completely blocks all progress of the hiker. Most of this canyon cannot be seen unless you've got a very long rope. I've poked around Rubio enough to know that there can be a lot more waterfalls up there. I've been meaning to take the Idlehour trail but had been told it was somewhat hard to find once (not true). I realized that it was getting late in the season and I'll never get another chance, so if I really want to go up there, I better go now.

I decided to make it an overnight, or rather two night. Grab the tent, but now the rain fly since the average rainfall for this month is in the hundredths of an inch. I decided to pack it all up in the ultralight and forgo the stove. I'm not sure the ultralight is really that great when fully packed. I once had a replace a hip belt and the only one I could get was twice as heavy but four times as comfortable and made the pack feel lighter than it had ever felt before with the same load. The ultralight carries oddly once loaded with the recommended weight and the single stay numbs my tailbone a bit. On the other hand, it's got really good ventilation.

I poked around for information about the canyon above the falls. I found this on the stretch from Idlehour down to the falls first. According to it, as a hiker, I can get down to the first feeble bit of good stuff and no further. Then I found the matching site for the canyon from the top down to Idlehour. I could do the whole route of that, if I cared. I decided to try to hike in, set up camp, and poke around down stream the first day, since I wouldn't be able to get far. The next day, I would poke around upstream then hike out the next morning.

I didn't get started until almost 10 AM, once the care and feeding of the cat had been arranged. There was a nice marine layer cooling off the day while I hiked up the south facing roadway. It burned off at the top as I started passing boy scouts. I stopped into the museum since it was actually open while I was there. The county firefighters were enthusiastic to get me to sign a fire permit even though I didn't have my stove so didn't need one, even claiming it was a camping permit as well. Had to pull teeth to get the last one (at Red Box) and this one is foist upon me. Mostly the firefighters were concerned with what educational program they would be putting on for all the boy scouts. Three or four troops were already up there.

It was noon, so I nibbled a bit of lunch while at Henninger. The fog had burned off just a little before I got up there. I packed it back up and headed out, leaving the boy scouts behind. Everywhere I looked, tufts of yucca flower were springing up. There was a bit of wildlife, especially butterflies. Dozens of butterflies at any one moment.

A hillside popping out with blooming yucca.
Yucca all over the hillsides. It was especially noticeable along the ridge edges which would be lined with stalks of flowers.

A very cute lizard.
A small bit of wildlife.

Hillside of yellow monkey flower and such.
The floral displays along the way were rather stunning from time to time.

The backdrop for the hike.
The backdrop for most of this hike. The local mountains are covered in green with the occasional freshened fire break while the further ones are an ash grey from more than distance.

Ecological Staircase to the Pygmy Forest

Jug Handle State Natural Preserve Click for map. I noticed an Earthcache that looked interesting as it asks for study of an area wi...