Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sunset Fire Road

The Sunset Fire Road was closed to hikers after last autumn's Station Fire, which killed two firefighters and burned 251 square miles of forest. Not to be confused with the Sunset Trail, which remains off limits, the Sunset Fire Road is open again.

In Altadena, turn north off of Loma Alta Road at the flashing yellow light, onto Chaney Trail. Drive uphill until you reach the chain link fence. Park there. (Make sure your car displays an Adventure Pass--you can get one in the post office section at Webster's.) Then walk and enjoy. I think those firefighters would want you to.

Be sure you're back out on Loma Alta Road by 8pm, by the way. The Fire Road is open, but not around the clock. My friends and I almost didn't make it the other evening before the gates were locked. I might have been able to climb the fence but I'd have had to leave the car overnight and Boz would have had to camp out.

The mountains in the photo were once forested with trees resembling the survivors in the foreground. Last fall, after the fire, miles of mountains were covered with gray ash. It'll be years before a forest covers them again, but at least now they're colored a hopeful green.

I posted about the Sunset Fire Road once before, about two years ago. That, too, was in the aftermath of a fire. It strikes me that no matter what befalls it, this is compelling terrain.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Santa Anita Racetrack

I'm one of the few people in southern California who didn't watch the Lakers beat the Celtics last night. I knew LA won, though, when at about 3 minutes to 9 o'clock my quiet little block erupted with cheers, fireworks and party horns.

I'm thrilled with the Lakers' win. Even if no one got any sleep last night, everyone in LA will be in a good mood for a while. But I admit I'm not much of a sports fan, though I couldn't take my eyes off the equine athletes working out at the Santa Anita Racetrack yesterday morning.

I don't know why it took me so long to get around to going to Clockers' Corner, where you can enjoy breakfast while watching the horses work out on the track against the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains. I thought about posting a photo of them (horses and mountains), but the Altadena Hiker did a good job of that not long ago. Plus I love the deco style of the stands. The place was built in the 1930's and still has that feel of that bygone era about it. I kept expecting to bump into Bing Crosby.

Some older area residents may not remember Santa Anita so fondly, as it was used as a Japanese American internment center from 1942-1944. From what I gather, the part of the park that was barracks is now the Westfield Santa Anita Shopping Mall.

I found two references on the web about the track's owners, Magna Entertainment, having filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. I don't know what this means for the future of Santa Anita Racetrack, but it was bliss to sit there yesterday and watch those gorgeous animals reach speeds akin to flight.

Each sport has its own history, its language, its in-crowd--its world. And although I've never been much of a sports fan in general, I'm drawn to the arcanities of certain sports. There's nothing like a baseball game at Wrigley Field, for example. And now that I live in the San Gabriel Valley, I'm glad the Santa Anita Racetrack is still here to enjoy.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Royal Laundry Complex

I should probably call this post "Disney Stores World Headquarters," because that entity occupies the Royal Laundry Complex at 443-477 S. Raymond Avenue. But I poked around the web and discovered Disney's leasing the property, so I guess we can still call it the Royal Laundry.

Designed by Gordon B. Kaufmann, an accomplished architect credited with Greystone Mansion, the Los Angeles Times building and several buildings at Caltech, our regal laundry complex is on the National Register of Historic places. Its interior was redone for Disney Stores by Clive Wilkinson Architects.

I encourage you to look at all the links but especially that last one. When you walk along the Raymond side of the building you can peer in and catch glimpses of the giant honeycomb. (Along the Bellevue Drive side, you can see toys.)

There's a nice master shot by an uncredited photographer at They have a lot of great stuff.

Enlarge this one to see the printing painted over on the sign.

I love Raymond Avenue--all of it, south to north.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Weekday Afternoon

I've been to the Coffee Gallery, oh, about a thousand times. But I've ceased to be alert for photos in the places I frequent, which may be why this one showed itself--because I wasn't looking for it.

I was struck by the contrast of black against blue: the stencils in the window, the chairs against the light, the man's silhouette.

I like the photo precisely because it's not spectacular. Just Altadena, going about its business.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Door, 1

I suppose what lures me to doors is the possibility of what's behind them, but maybe that's too simple. A door puts a face on a place, gives it expression, says something about who lives there. I love a reclusive door at the end of an alleyway, a bright red front door declaring itself or a neglected garden gate overgrown with roses--or better yet, weeds.

My front door is a massive thing that needs either refinishing or replacing, whenever I get around to it. I'd rather have a door that lets in lots of light but that's the one I have for now. At least it doesn't let in mice or bugs. I'd love a screen door, but I notice people don't have those around here. Not on the front door, anyway. We had them on all the doors in the house I grew up in.

This door was irresistible and now I'm on a kick. I call this post "Door, 1" because there might be more to come.

P.S. Locals may want to take a look at Pasadena, 91105 and Beyond today. It looks like a local landmark may be threatened. Do you know anything about it? photo courtesy of Kat Likkel

Thank you, Kat.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Zen Monday: #99

Zen Monday is the day you experience the photo and give us your thoughts rather than me telling you what I think the photo's about. There's no right or wrong. It means what you think it means, or what you want it to mean.

I look for a photo worth contemplating or, failing that, something odd or silly. Unless I absolutely must say something I stay out of the comments box to avoid influencing the discussion because when I get in there everything goes down hill.

Next week is Zen Monday #100. What shall we do to celebrate?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Memory Bus

click on the photo to enlarge it

John, Boz and I were walking in the neighborhood the other day when I noticed these flowers behind a fence. I began to photograph them when I saw a school bus parked ahead. The sidewalk led my eye like a fast lane through a tunnel of memory.

I didn't always ride the bus to school. My mother was a teacher in my grade school and junior high. Needless to say, I had a regular ride. In high school, I usually carpooled with friends or walked when it was warm enough. On winter days, if the carpool wasn't available, I rode the bus. It picked me up at the stop sign at the end of our street, the last street in town before the cornfields.

It wasn't exactly toasty on the bus in northern Illinois in 1970, and those were the days before seat belt laws. I remember sliding from side to side on the cold seat on the way to school and just being glad I didn't have to walk all the way there in the snow.

Here in sunny, southern California all that is behind me. My friends are going through final exams, school plays, proms and graduations with their kids. Everything's different. Then again, nothing's changed.

Despite the bright yellow flowers and a sunny afternoon on the way, that school bus looks exactly like the one that used to pick me up at the end of our street on snowy, winter days.