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In Search of Water at Crystal Lake in Angeles National Forest

We took a crack at backpacking over the fourth of July weekend.  Originally, we had planned to backpack through the Bridge To Nowhere, up further past the bungee jumpers that frequent the bridge. Little did we know, this is a really popular spot for pretty much…everyone. Mostly drunk young people it seemed. So, with the advice from a sweet little lady from the ranger station we headed to Crystal Lake Campground in search of “Little Jimmy” a trail that starts at the campground. We arrived at the campground, and to our surprise there really weren’t a lot of people there.  What we did find was a serious lack of water.  There were very few working spigots for roughly 80 campsites.  And, with the coming holiday, we knew that’d be trouble.

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We started out hike to Little Jimmy in good spirits, but were soon beaten about half a mile in by the heat and ridiculously steep incline (that’s the problem with the parks surrounding L.A. – most of them are jagged peaks whose trails just go straight up and straight down). We were unable to find water anywhere along our hike. All the hikers we passed coming down the trail could attest to the fact that there was also no water further up the trail from us – Little Jimmy or otherwise. We were fortunate enough to find a little spring run-off on our way to Deer Flats Group Campground and stopped for lunch to enjoy it.  It was just a trickle of water – you suck water through a straw faster.

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We ventured on to Deer Flats Group Campground in search of water and nice spot to pitch out tents. What we found was a completely abandoned camping ground for RVs that clearly hadn’t been serviced in 10+ years.  It was eerie, and the fact that the doors to tall the bathrooms swung freely and the roads were overgrown wasn’t comforting either. We could still hear the hollers of the people down at Crystal Lake campground, but how had no one found this? We decided that the road closure at the trailhead (I didn’t mention that the road is closed with a barrier and the trailhead begins there) must have, at some point or another, lead up to this abandoned camp. There was no water here, either.

We followed the road from the abandoned Deer Flats camp back down to Crystal Lake. We ventured beyond the open loops to the ones that were closed off to cars and eventually found ourselves a nice little camping spot with water access and away from the crowds. The next morning was the 4th of July and the camp filled up really quickly with people out the enjoy the weekend. We got in and out just in time.  We weren’t disturbed and everyone had an all around good time (despite California being drier that popsicle sticks in the middle of the Sahara).

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Galco’s Old World Grocery (aka The SODA POP STOP)

This weekend we decided we wanted to “do” soda.  And we did.  Oh, we did.  Galco’s Old World Grocery is up north of us, about 45 minutes away via the Arroyo Seco Parkway. I saw this ages ago (probably when I was still in grad school) and I always just assumed it was some tourist trap kind of joint on Route 66 in the middle of New Mexico or something.  I never dreamed it was anywhere near me.  Check it out here.

Well, do not fret for he shall be named root beer, and thou shalt have your elixir and never want, as it shall be accompanied by the sandwich meat ham, where it is fortified by its siblings mustard and bread.

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Here are our final choices.  Critique as you will – it is of no consequence to us.

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NYC Business Trip

I went to NYC to flog some robot to tech news outlets.  I did some stuff. I did some things. It was good.

Here’s what I did in NYC.  More details below.

http://techcrunch.com/2015/05/31/meet-musio/

http://time.com/3901769/musio-robot/

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Not sure what building this is.  But…it’s a building, that’s for sure.

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The menu gave “Schmear” options.  I went with classic cream cheese.  I didn’t realize that the schmear would be an inch and a half thick.  Delicious…but difficult to eat. image

Here’s the robot.  Thrilling.image

We went to Eataly.  It was mediocre.  Just a huge, confusing store filled with horrible tourists milling around and not buying anything.  image$15 reuben.  It was good.  Worth $15?

Yep. Worth it.

So, here are some of the interviews we did.  You can check the Musio indiegogo here (https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/musio-your-curious-new-friend#/story)

Here are a few of the outlets that featured us.  TIME and TechCrunch to name some big ones.

http://www.wired.com/2015/06/little-robot-wants-best-friend/

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2015/06/01/say-hello-to-musio-ridiculously-cute-ai-robot-that-keen-to-chat/

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-3106464/The-AI-robot-just-wants-friend-99-Musio-control-home-help-answer-email-hug.html#article-3106464

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Road Trip to the Cabazon Dinosaurs

Happy Memorial Day weekend, everyone! How did you celebrate yours? With plenty of grill time and beer, I hope. Sadly we are sans grill this weekend, but we did manage to make our way to a creationist dinosaur museum in the middle of the desert. Close enough?

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I honestly can’t think of anything more American than this. In my opinion, weird roadside attractions are right up there with football, apple pie, and muscle cars. California has plenty of them, apparently. We discovered this particular one here. Which one would you want to see? We might have to make another trip next weekend.

The Cabazon Dinosaurs are a mere 1.5 hours drive east of Los Angeles and boast the world’s biggest dinosaurs. There is also an attached T-Rex museum, complete with gem-mining and a dino dig. You can walk around the two largest dinosaur sculptures that are accessible from the parking lot or you can pay $8.95 for the whole shebang. We paid to see the whole thing because, duh. The creationist part isn’t too prevalent, so just go in with a good sense of humor and have a good time.

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See a resemblance?

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Digging for dino eggs. If you find one you can turn it into the museum for a prize. I never found one, but the kid next to me did. Whatever, his dad was helping him. I hope the prize sucked.

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Dinos and lions? Not pictured: a sheep that was chilling next to a velociraptor.

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You can go inside the big T-rex and sit in his mouth.

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There’s a Burger King adjacent to the dinosaurs but ew. We went down a few exits and saw a sign for a The Fat Greek in a town called Yucaipa. It was about 3 miles off the exit and was really, really tasty. The owners are Greek and very friendly. We tried the falafel plate and the gyro. I wish this place was closer to our house because it was really perfect.

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I’m lovin’ this road trip stuff. I can see why people drop everything and go. I hope we have a chance to do a much longer road trip in the future. Any takers?

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Hiking Red Box Trail to Mount Lowe in Angeles National Forest

Back to hiking this weekend and we were both glad for it. The weather has been fantastic and the city unappealing so off to the mountains we go. This trail was about a 45-minute drive from the LA and was much less crowded than the trails we’d done previously in Angeles National Forest…probably because we left before 6:00am to beat the crowds. We were able to park right at the trailhead this time.

It’s amazing how the landscape changes just 30 minutes drive outside LA. Before we knew it we were winding up the mountain toward Disappointment Road (ha) where we parked at the trailhead. The beginning of the trail doesn’t ease you into the hike; it’s straight up and to the top you go:

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This was the first time hiking since I’d injured my leg but I was confident that I could do these 6 miles without a problem this weekend. I was wrong, however. About 1 mile in I started to feel it again. We continued on and completed two miles before we decided I should probably let it rest some more instead of risking making it worse. So these pictures are of the two miles to the top of the saddle. If we were to complete the trail, it would go 1 or so miles up Mount Lowe straight after the saddle.

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The views were spectacular on the way up.

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When you make it to the saddle, this is what you see – the entire city of Los Angeles at the bottom. Camera doesn’t really do it justice. We decided to stop here, have some lunch, and just take in the views.

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Jacob is standing on what used to be a ski lift (I think we read that somewhere?) that burned when a forest fire caught here in 2009. You could tell the fire was a big one. Tons of downed trees and piles of wood chips from the clean up efforts. This trail actually runs right along a fire access road which is only used by fire trucks in case of a forest fire. These past few weeks, actually, have been bad for brush fires around the city. It seems like one is on the news almost every day. The drought is at its worst this year, and I’m sure parts of the forest will go up in flames before summer is over with. It’s just something they have to deal with a lot here, unlike the Smokies where it’s not so common.

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Anyway, really hoping to feel 100% on the next hike. We’ve also got plans in the making for a backpacking weekend this month which I’m really excited about.

In other news, we felt our second earthquake this week. Woke us both up in the middle of the night. It sounds like thunder is right on top of your roof and feels like a giant is jumping around outside.  I’ve never felt anything like it. It will definitely take some time to get used to those.

We also went to a housewarming party for one of Jacob’s co-workers. His wife made an amazing spread of Korean food which was so, so delicious. The housewarming gift situation was a little humorous. His co-worker doesn’t drink so the typical bottle of wine was out. We opted to make some cookies and take them instead. While we were walking in with our baked goods, his other Korean co-workers and friends were bringing practical things like Costco-sized amounts of toilet paper and paper towels. Makes total sense, but it was funny to see what an American vs Korean will bring to a housewarming party. I’ll be sure to bring 5 gallons of laundry detergent next time.

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Camping at Camp Wishon in Sequoia National Forest

Camping! One of my favorite past times that we haven’t had the opportunity to do in years. The last time we went camping was in 2009 on Edisto Island off the coast of South Carolina (2009, seriously?). We had planned to do some backpacking this weekend (would have been my first time) but I’ve managed to pull a muscle in my leg so we decided it was best to rest it. We dusted off Jacob’s camp box, loaded up the car, and headed out on a 4-hour drive from LA to Sequoia National Forest.

This was a spur-of-the-moment trip and our first time camping in California so I thought it was best to reserve a campsite before we showed up. I now wish I hadn’t because not only did it cost me $10 extra for the booking fee, but there were also plenty of empty campsites there when we arrived. On the other hand, it’s only April and not peak season for camping. I would probably use the reserve system for June and July, as I noticed that a lot of campgrounds around California are ALREADY FULLY BOOKED through 2015. Californians love the outdoors and their National Parks. Can’t blame ’em. It’s beautiful out here.

Anyway, off to Camp Wishon just outside of Springville, California. The camp itself is off the main road that winds up the mountains. It’s actually very difficult to spot and we ended up driving about 5 miles past it up the mountain before I stopped at a very remote cafe (straight out of the 60s) to ask for directions and was told to turn around. Once you turn off onto the dirt road, it’s about 4 miles to the camp. You’ll see this sign after those 4 miles.

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There’s no ranger station or place to check in, you just drive around the loop until you see the spot that you reserved. If you just go on a whim without reserving, there’s a sign that says “Open”.

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The campsites are all very shady, lots of pines, and fairly even ground to set up a tent. There are fire pits with grills and picnic tables at each site. There are non-flush bathrooms (no showers) and water spigots to share with other campsites.

There are a couple of sites that could fit a small RV, but this campground seems to be mostly for tent camping. Actually – when I called to make the reservation, the woman told me my total was $54 (for one night!). I told her that I saw it was only $22 online and she said she gave me a campground with a pull through drive-way (usually for RVs). I told her I just wanted the cheap one and she changed it without a problem, but beware that some sites will cost more if you have several vehicles or a large camper/RV.

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Brought the trusty cast-iron (thanks, Papaw!) and made pork chops as well as sweet potatoes, carrots, red peppers, and onions in foil packets over the coals.

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The Tule River and Hossack Creek surround the entire campground. We saw some swimmers and some people fishing. The water was a bit too cold for me this time of year, but made for some good sounds to fall asleep to at night.

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Some of the campsites sit right on the creek. These are the ones you want! They are beautiful and more secluded from the main entrance.

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I’ll leave you with this cute little thang. He waltzed in to our campsite as we were about to leave. His owner came over and informed us that he was blind in one eye. “No kiddin’?”


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7 Mile Hike to Icehouse Saddle – Angeles National Forest/Cucamonga Wilderness

What better way to celebrate Easter weekend than to get out in nature. Jacob and I drove about 1.5 hours to the trailhead of Icehouse Canyon in Angeles National forest on Saturday to begin our hike. Despite leaving at 7am the parking lot was already packed but no worries, it’s common to park along the street heading up to the trailhead. Last weekend we bought a year-pass for parking which allows us to do that in a number of national parks and forests in CA without getting a ticket.

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This trail was a lot different from last weekend at Santa Anita – very rocky, much steeper, and less tree cover. It was 3.5 miles straight to the top of the “saddle” which we learned was the area where two mountains meet. It was really cold at the top, actually. I wasn’t prepared for the chilly winds so I had to borrow Jacob’s jacket (Eagle Scouts are always prepared). Some of the most memorable things: pine cones as big as your head, the sound from the wind echoing through the mountains sounded like a busy highway, and Koreans, so many Koreans! How could I forget that hiking is Korea’s favorite past time. Even in LA.

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If you know me at all, you know that food is always on my mind. Since this hike was short, we made a trail mix consisting of some great snacks found at my new obsession, the 99c Only Store. They have a ton of snacks to choose from so it’s fun to go in and mix it up. I’ve posted the ingredients we used in the mix below, but you can’t really go wrong with trail mix. I was pleasantly surprised at how delicious and energizing this was. Hopefully I’ll be posting more substantial camping/backpacking recipes as we go. We just bought some sleeping bags this week so we’re really excited to check out the camping scene around here.

“Our Trail Mix”

  • roasted & salted edamame
  • dried cranberries
  • peanut butter M&M’s
  • peanut M&M’s
  • honey roasted peanuts
  • shelled & salted sunflower seeds
  • toasted coconut flakes
  • bag of mixed “asian” crackers (salted, spicy puffed rice snacks)
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Hiking 9 Miles in Santa Anita Canyon – Angeles National Forest

We went hiking up in Angeles National Forest last weekend.  We decided to take the Santa Anita canyon loop through Stuyvesant Falls, Spruce Grove Campground, Mt. Zion, and back to the trailhead at Chantry Flats.  California is interesting.  Coming from the Smokies, this dry and arid California climate makes for some interesting scenery to the unaccustomed southerner.  A lot of dust and prickly plants.  In the hollows and canyons and low spots there is quite a bit of green.  Typically, the trees in these places are deciduous. It is easy to spot where they are – you can see them as bright green veins running down the mountains. Seems like maples and oaks mostly.  Up the sides of the mountains and on top are evergreens and low shrubs with way too many sharp, pokey bits.

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What was also interesting was the amount of scat (poo).  In the Smokies it was always exciting to see bear scat as it is not particularly common – maybe see a pile every mile or so depending on the area.  However, on this trail we saw scat like every ten feet.  Turns out (according to seasoned west-coast hiker-cousin Hand Me Down) it was cougar scat.

The trails here aren’t particularly well marked.  It seems to me that the Smokies (as well as Big South Fork and a few others) are much better marked.  The signs here are metal, which seems good to me as they need to be maintained less often (and some a**hole is much less likely to turn them).

The dry climate of California doesn’t mean there isn’t water along most of this trail.  It was there (both stagnant and flowing) but in the low, shaded spots the mosquitoes are unbearable.  Also, we saw a squirrel about the size of a daschund.  So, there’s that.

Geocaching in Culver City, West Los Angeles

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We’ve been doing some geocaching around the neighborhood in recent weeks.  Essentially, you go online and find GPS coordinates that correspond with a small, waterproof container hidden somewhere nearby.  You dig around, look under rocks, in crannies, trees, drains, cracks, holes, etc. until you find it.  You can see emily signing a log we found in one of the containers (pretty common) about a mile from our house.  It can be a little awkward traipsing around next to apartment complexes and other places where people usually don’t go too often on foot.  The object is to find your geocache without alerting the muggles (non-geocaching people).  Good clean fun.