Camping, Hiking, outdoors, Travel, Uncategorized

Another fun hike… and easy camping


About two weeks ago, a small brush fire at Eaton Canyon disrupted our usual Monday night hike up to Henninger Flats with our Boy Scout troop. Fortunately, our awesome L.A. County and Pasadena firefighters were quickly able to extinguish the wind-fueled fire before it got more than about an acre. The bad news was that folks were being evacuated from Eaton Canyon and immediately surrounding trails, which meant that we could not get onto the trail up to Henninger.

Not one to miss an opportunity, however, my younger boy went home with his buddy, a fellow Scout, to hang out before their patrol meeting later that evening. Which left myself and my older two, a Boy Scout and a Venturing Scout to figure out the evening.  Jacob and Emily both did not want to head home, and as Sami was having dinner with her uncle and cousin, we figured we would find another hike. After all, Los Angeles County is home to literally hundreds of trails. And I had already carb-loaded in anticipation of making a molehill out of a mountain.

But where to go? We had debated on heading up to Echo Mountain again, but darkness made it more difficult for us to get down the last time we headed up to the ruins. Instead, we decided to take the recommendation of the very knowledgeable Sheriffs officer, who recommended Chaney trail, about 5 miles from Eaton Canyon. So my two big kids and I loaded back into the car and headed to the trailhead. We were originally going to head up, toward Echo Mountain, but the high winds and chilling temps impeded our progress. We made it about 100 yards, then I made the executive decision to turn around. Especially since I was unfamiliar with the trail. And Jacob was in a short-sleeved tee with no jacket. So much for ‘Be Prepared.”

Still not one to give up so easily, even though by now the high schoolers were starting to get a bit whiny, we got back in the car, and headed down toward Millard Canyon. At the bottom there was a parking lot, and what looked like a serene trail. Ignoring the protests of my now unenthusiastic children, we hit the trail from the parking lot, and quickly came upon the campground.  There were a few campers on the Monday evening, and they said that the water fall was just a short hike from the campground. There wasn’t much wind down in the canyon, hence the temperature was tolerable, even for jacket-less Jacob. With a renewed sense of adventure, my Scouts and I hit the trail to Millard Falls.


In the dusk’s fading light, the trail reminded me of something I would see in a fairy tale. The hike was marked by lush and green riparian forest, against the background of the canyon itself. The excursion itself was a fairly easy one, a bit over a mile out and back, but there were stream crossings and smallish boulders to hop. There wasn’t a ton of water coming out of the 50-foot falls, which comes from a stream at the top of the falls. The small pool at the base wouldn’t be enough to wade in, but is is enough for kids to get dirty. For those who are more adventurous or just want more of a work out, the trail continues to Dawn Mine.  Maybe one day when we have more time, the older two and I will try that. But for the evening, the out and back from Millard Falls was adventure enough. It was great to try a different trail, and find a campground that is easy to get to for a simple family campout.


A few logistics: Forest passes are required, as Millard Canyon is located in the Angeles National Forest. These can be picked up at REI, the U.S. Forest Service, and other retailers. We went on a Monday night, but I have been told that the campground can get busy on weekends.  There are six campsites available on a first-come, first-served basis. The U.S. Forest Service indicated that the campground occasionally closes due to bear activity.

We were so excited to find this little slice of heaven within the San Gabriel Mountains. Happy trails!

breakfast, Brunch, coffee, Family, Food, photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Beachy vibes: San Clemente, California

Greetings! It has been a while since my last post. Much has happened between then and now, including my parents-in-law moving to their ‘new’ home in San Clemente.

It is a place our family frequented in past years, as the house belonged to the husband’s grandmother. Nevertheless, the change is bittersweet. Our family has  been fortunate to live in close proximity, within a mile of our parents/grandparents. The sad feeling is compounded by the fact that my mom-in-law is amazing. She truly was a fixture in our community with her constant involvement in our church and schools, long after her boys graduated and even as her grandchildren continued on in our school district. It is no wonder that we love her so much; she’s really just a fabulous person. She will be sorely missed by many in our community. On the flip side, visits to Grammy’s house aren’t so much over the river and through the woods.  It’s more like down the Golden State Freeway to South Orange County and to the beach. I guess I can live with that…

San Clemente is known best for its surfing, which is all year long.  Many go to catch waves at T-street, the Pier and more. This is all within a mile of Grammy’s house. There is a cute downtown area characterized, as is much of the town, by Mediterranean-style architecture, white stucco and red tile roofs. There are also some great places to eat (though my favorite Beach Garden cafe closed a couple years ago 😦  ).

After hearing much about Antoines, which boasts the ‘best coffee, best bagels, and best breakfast’ for the past eight years, we decided to try Saturday brunch there this past weekend. The girls and I took Grammy. We figured there would be a wait as Antoines is popular with both locals and tourists, but it wasn’t too bad (about 20 minutes), probably because it was 10:30 rather than breakfast time. The menu offered some tempting bagel selections, such as the avocado bagel, but no bagel orders came from our table on this trip. I went with the California Benedict, poached eggs, tomato, avocado, bacon and Hollandaise sauce on a toasted English muffin. I had the bacon on the side so that Sami could take it. I tend to prefer my Hollandaise to have a bit more citrus, but it was a good California Benedict. Sami loved the dark hot chocolate with its mountain of whipped cream. The prices were what one would expect being in a beach town, about $15 per person. I would go back and try one of their bagels.

We will certainly have more San Clemente adventures which will be shared on the blog. There are a few coffee shops and restaurants I would like to try on our future trips. Life won’t be the same not having the parents around all the time, but one really can’t blame them for retiring where they are. The view is spectacular.

Hiking, Organization, Pets, Shopping, Travel, Uncategorized

Great Hikes: Be Prepared

Welcome back to my two-part series on hiking with dogs. Today the focus will be on how to prepare for a hike with your best pal.

As with just about everything in life, there are some inherent risks in exploring the great outdoors.  Weather, unexpected terrain, wildlife (by which I typically mean insects, though we have seen a couple bears in Monrovia Canyon) can easily turn a pleasant day out into a practical nightmare. Fortunately, however, most potential issues are easily prevented with some preparation beforehand and consideration once on the trail. I cannot claim credit for most of these tips. Most of these guidelines are borrowed from Scouting.

Things to consider:

As mentioned in the previous post, keep in mind your ability as well as your dog’s. Research the trail ahead of time, taking into account distance, terrain, slope grade, and whether the area offers shade. Be sure to check the weather and other conditions, such as pollen, as this can impact your experience and safety. And always be sure to have a trail map.

Water and treats for my buddy

What to bring:

Much of this is based on the Boy Scout “Ten Essentials.” This provides a good guide for what to bring on a hike or day trek.

Food: Bring ample high-calorie trail snacks. Foods such as nuts, granola, or dried fruit are good picks. The kids and canine also like meat jerky.

Water: Hydration is key. Many issues that develop on a hike happen as a result of improper hydration. A rule of thumb is 16 ounces for every hour of hiking, however this can vary depending on the individual and weather. I’d say bring at least that, and hydrate ahead of time. If you feel thirsty, it’s already late. For your pal, REI sells a few products that can be used as a dog bowl. I personally like the Ruffwear quencher collapsible bowl. It’s easy to stuff in a daypack, and easy to clean after a hike.

First aid kit: A good hiking kit will have a wrap bandage, small ice pack, band-aids, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, antihistamine cream, and small packs of NSAID painkillers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen) and Benadryl. REI sells day packing kits in soft pouches that are easy to clip to your daypack. REI also has a few ready-made kits for canines If applicable, be sure to bring your rescue inhaler or EpiPen as well.

What’s in your daypack?

Map and compass: Know and stay on your trail. This common sense advice given me long ago will keep you from getting lost most of the time. For those rare occasions when one might get lost, a map and compass can quite literally be a lifesaver. Any reliable compass will do, but I personally like a clear compass, as this is easier to line up with a map.

Attention-getters: We always carry both a whistle and a mirror.  The mirror doubles as a hygiene (or get Instagram-worthy) tool and a signaling tool, just in case.

Weather ready: We always carry sun protection and a hat, regardless of how much shade will be on the trail.  We also will carry ponchos and a lightweight jacket just in case. Weather changes quickly in many areas, so it’s good to be prepared.

This is not a comprehensive list of what one can bring on a hike. You know yourself and your pup best. I would not recommend bringing too much extra for a day hike. Too much extra weight can lead to added fatigue and a sore back. Also, remember to pack in and pack out.  Some areas will not have trash service along the trail, so bring bags (including poop bags) to carry waste out.

As we say in Scouts, leave no trace.  Take only photos, leave only footprints, and kill only time.  Happy trails!


me and my dogggggg
In the Angeles National Forest. Happy trails!
Hiking, Pets, Travel, Uncategorized

Great Hikes… with dogs

Welcome to my two-part series on hiking in the San Gabriel Mountains.  Owen, my golden retriever, and I have recently started hiking together.  I’m not entirely sure why we haven’t done more of this before; being out in nature is a fun way to bond with each other.  And it is great exercise for both dog and human. Owen and I seem to be happiest in the outdoors. We are fortunate to have a few trails close by that work well for us.  I take into account several factors when deciding where to go:

Trail width: As my pup is a 67-lb retriever, I prefer areas where the main trail is wide enough to allow two hiking pairs to pass comfortably.  We simply take up space, and he is heavy enough to be difficult to lift.  I also found that he likes to stay at my side as we’re going up a slope, rather than going ahead, so having the extra space makes things easier.

Water/stream crossings: My dog is supposed to be fond of water, but he seems to be ambivalent about it.  That said, he will go where I go, and will willingly cross small streams. Boulder hopping is fun, but it is a bit trickier for me when I’m with Owen.  I prefer more “boring” trails, with only a couple shallow stream crossings and not too many boulders.

Trail conditions: Owen does just fine on rockier trails, but seems to prefer smoother surfaces. He also is not too fond of steep hills, though he was able to complete a couple of those.  Let’s just say that both he and I were pretty wiped afterward.

Crowds: My dog and I can both be easily distracted.  He is great with people, good with most dogs, but reactive toward certain small dogs. For this reason, and our mutual enjoyment, I pick less the trekked areas.  We also go on weekday mornings when the crowds would be lower.

All that considered, here are just a few picks for my favorite hikes with my dog:

Gabrielino Trail, Sunset Overlook to Gould Mesa- Owen and I had fun on this nice flat hike, part of the Lower Arroyo Seco trail.  The picnic area at Sunset Overlook overlooks Jet Propulsion Laboratory. We took the small side trail from the Overlook down to the main, paved trail.  The trail is wide as you cross the bridges, allowing for good space between groups. We explored some of the smaller side trails, which followed a small stream. There was a lot for him to explore and sniff out, and the trail was quiet and pleasant in the morning.

Sam Merrill Trail, Echo Mountain- The trailhead is at the top of Lake Avenue in Altadena. We’ve only gone part of the way up the mountain together. The trail begins fairly wide, but gets more narrow as you get higher.  Owen wasn’t quite sure what to do as the trail got narrow. He tended to want to heel, but I needed him to go forward, as there wasn’t enough room for him to stay at my flank.  I’m sure this is something that would improve with practice. What I really like about the trailhead area itself is that there are some fun areas to explore before hitting the actual trail up the mountain.  We went around the ‘meadow’ area and hiked up some of the small side trails. We didn’t meet with many people on the smaller trails, so space wasn’t a problem, even as it got narrow.  However, this would not be true on the main trail.  Sam Merrill is not as popular, as say, Eaton Canyon, but it does get quite a few visitors.

Mt. Wilson Toll Road, Henninger Flats-  The hike to Henninger Flats Campground from the bridge is a strenuous 2.8 mile all uphill torture trek that I hike once a week during our Scout hiking season, and about every other week or so after. Every time I head up, I wonder why I put myself through that kind of pain, but the hike really is a fantastic workout. If you and your pup are up for a challenge, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the San Gabriel Valley and LA Basin in a quiet forest setting. The hike itself is not shaded, but the trail is mostly smooth and pretty wide. I’ll confess that Owen and I together haven’t made it to the top; I’ll say that I’m still ‘conditioning him.’  The tricky part for me is the downhill.  I would not recommend this hike for dogs who have a very strong pull because it is easy to lose footing on the down slope.

There are a few fun hikes that can be done with a canine companion, however are not on my recommended list.  Eaton Canyon is nice and very popular, but is heavily trafficked.  On a busy day it’s tricky enough with kids, more so a dog (though some might have the opposite experience). Chantry Flats to Sturtevant Falls or Hoegee’s Campground is also a popular choice. These can be great hikes, however I would not recommend them on a hot day.  There have been instances of dogs being injured because the paved portion can get very hot. And depending on prior rain fall, there can be a lot of poison oak growth.

Dogs are required to be leashed on all of these trails at all times, regardless of obedience level or temperament. Also, you know your dog best, so do your research and choose trails that are suited to your dog’s (and your) activity level. It also is important to bring enough water for the both of you. On that head, the next post will be on what to take along on a hike with your buddy. Here’s to exploring the great outdoors. Happy trails!


Kids, Money savers, Shopping, Style, Travel, Uncategorized

Saving money Saturdays: the Citadel Outlets

Happy Tuesday! I know it’s not Saturday, but we took a trip to the Outlets on Saturday, so that counts. Sort of.

Take a trip south on the Interstate 5 from Los Angeles, and you’ll see a set of peach-colored buildings with Babylonian-style architecture.  This is where you want to stop.

The Citadel buildings have an interesting history.  The site was built back in 1929 as the Samson Tire Company, and at the time, was the largest tire manufacturer west of the Mississippi. It became Uniroyal Tire in 1962.  Manufacturing ceased in 1978, but the site was purchased by the City of Commerce in 1983 to prevent its demolition. Today the site is a mixed-use facility with offices, the Doubletree Hotel, and L.A.’s first and only outlet mall.

I love the Citadel Outlets for two reasons: One, it’s only about a 20 minute drive from my home, even with the characteristic horrible L.A. traffic.  Two, the Citadel features many of the stores where I would typically shop. All three Gap brands are carried here, as are luxury brands Coach and Kate Spade, and business attire essentials Ann Taylor, Van Heusen, and Tommy Hilfiger. These are just a few of the 130 brands one can find at the Citadel.

As with any shopping trip- outlet or otherwise- be sure to do your due diligence and compare quality and price. Certain stores such as Kate Spade carry both items that are designed specifically for outlet stores and past season merchandise. Others, such as the Disney Store, have sales that are not much different from the typical retail store. You’re not always guaranteed a bargain just because you’re shopping at an ‘outlet.’ That said, with a little research and some willpower, you can score some really great deals. Okay, a lot of willpower.

Happy Thanksgiving? The Citadel is all decked out with plenty of time for the Christmas holidays.