By Mary Forgione
The triple-digit heat finally got to me. I wanted to be somewhere chill in nature — and get there fast. I grabbed a backpack and headed to sizzling Palm Springs, where I took the 10-minute aerial tram ride up to Mt. San Jacinto State Park. Ahh, the temperature was at least 20 degrees cooler.
I strolled over to the ranger station and snagged a permit ($5 per person) to stay at Round Valley, which has more than a dozen sweet back-country campsites set amid boulders and trees. The hike in was 2.3 miles with about 700 feet of gain on an easy, well-marked trail. I arrived at a cozy campsite, and boom, there I was at 9,100 feet above sea level, cool and comfortable with temperatures in the 70s.
The Cahuilla people hunted here; European settlers later logged and grazed the area, and in 1897 the area became a protected reserve. It became a state park in 1937. These days, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, which was completed in 1963, offers easy access with stunning views as you zip up from the desert floor ($28.95 for adults, $16.95 for children ages 3 to 10, plus $10 to park).
Staying overnight in the forest shortened the trek to 10,833-foot San Jacinto Peak, less than four miles each way with about 1,700 feet of gain. I lucked out at the high point: A group of runners had brought a new hand-painted sign that peak baggers could hoist above their heads for a victory pose. On the way down, I stopped to tour the emergency shelter, a stone structure built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. If you go (and you should), it’s best to make a back-country campground reservation by downloading a permit application and mailing a check (more info here).
6 things to do this week
1. Hike to a grove of redwood trees — in O.C. Coastal redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) are usually found in a corridor that runs from southwestern Oregon to southern Monterey County. Of course, the planet’s tallest living things have been planted elsewhere — such as in Carbon Canyon Regional Park in Brea. “The grove of 241 coastal redwoods is the largest of its kind in Southern California,” Matt Pawlik writes in his list of the 12 best trails in Orange County. “It grew from a local bank’s seedling promotion in the 1970s.” Another reason to go: These shade giants provide a quick cool-down. Also, check out the L.A. Times list of the 50 best hikes in L.A.
2. Watch a drive-in movie all about wolves. The return of wolves to North America is hailed as a conservation success story, but it’s a controversial one: What role do these animals play in the landscape where people live? Wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in 1995. California recently identified a rare pack of gray wolves in Northern California. Colin Monda explores the species’ role in a 57-minute documentary called “The Trouble With Wolves.” REI will host a one-night showing of the film at 7:30 on July 25 in its parking lot at the Arcadia store (214 N. Santa Anita Ave.). A carload of people costs $25 for members, $45 for nonmembers. Admission includes a Whole Foods treat bag and onscreen Q&A with Kent Laudon, a wolf expert with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and Diane Gallegos of Wolf Haven International in Washington state. Can’t make it in person? $5 gets you a virtual screening, with proceeds going to Wolf Haven. Details here.
3. Take a free outdoor workout class Saturday mornings in Santa Monica. Free classes can provide an opportunity to try something new without a hefty investment. Free yoga, barre, kickboxing and other workouts are offered at 10 a.m. and 11 a.m. Saturdays through Sept. 25 on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. Coming up: Recharge Method (meditation, dance cardio, high-intensity interval training) at 11 a.m. July 24; Cardio Sculpt fitness class at 10 a.m. July 31; and Cardio Hip-Hop at 11 a.m. July 31. Classes are free but you must register in advance. More Self-Care Saturdays events here.
4. Check out Plantopia at Union Station in downtown L.A. Love the green inside your home? You may want to check out the free Plantopia plant marketplace at L.A.’s Union Station on July 31. The day’s events include plant vendors, a Q&A with a plant doctor, authors and electronic music designed for plants. Advance signups are required. Find this and more on our plant event calendar.
5. Explore the summer side of a local ski resort on guided hikes. It’s no secret that ski areas shift gears in summer to welcome hikers and mountain cyclists to the slopes. Now Snow Valley Mountain Resort in Running Springs is offering hikes in the Children’s Forest led by the resort’s general manager, Kevin Somes, at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on July 25. Hikers will see ponderosa pine, manzanita and other plants and wildlife along the way. Good for beginners too. Tickets for the chair lift to the hike cost $25 for adults, $19 for ages 13 to 21, and $15 for children ages 6 to 12. You can purchase tickets at the resort’s website.
6. Sign up for a behind-the-scenes tour of SoCal’s preeminent native plant nursery. If you are thinking about planting California native plants this fall, here’s a chance to see how the pros propagate and conserve seeds. The Theodore Payne Foundation in Sunland offers outdoor tours led by horticulturist Katie Tilford that include places usually off-limits to the public. Sessions run from 7:30 to 9 a.m. July 22 and Aug. 12. Tickets cost $10 (free for members). More information here.
The red flag
If you plan to overnight in the Angeles National Forest, leave your camp stove at home. It’s no surprise that the Forest Service last week elevated the fire danger to “extreme.” That means strict restrictions are now in effect. How strict? Stove fires, including two-burner propane stoves and backpacking stoves with those convenient canisters, are banned. The Forest Service defines “stove fire” as “a campfire built inside an enclosed stove or grill, a portable brazier, or a pressurized liquid or gas stove, including a space-heating device.” That means you must bring food that doesn’t require heating or boiling. You can find the rules for every level of fire danger here. By the way, “extreme” isn’t the highest danger level. If conditions turn “critical,” the forest and campgrounds could close.
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Read More:Ugh, this heat! Camp at this chill Mt. San Jacinto spot