Thursday, August 4, 2011

A weekend in Angeles National Forest


I've always wanted to go camping in the Angeles National Forest. So I started planning a mountain bike camping trip. I pulled out my 20 year old sleeping bag from when I was a boy scout. In the car I tossed an old tent, camping stove, cooler and enough food to last me for 2 days. Heather was gone for the weekend, so I borrowed her mountain bike, which has a little more suspension and is lighter than mine. I was ready to go! I had called ahead and spoke to a ranger who suggested I would find great mountain biking trails and a quiet campsite at Horse Flats.


It's silly just how close it is to Los Angeles. Within an hour of leaving my house, I was driving high into the pine forest, searching for a campsite in the pitch black night with stars hanging overhead. After about an hour of driving, the sign for Horse Flats appeared and I drove into a nearly full campground. Luckily there was one spot left. (Note: expect crowded campgrounds on warm a Saturday night)


I quickly made camp, built a small fire, an after relaxing a bit, hopped into my tent, zipped up my sleeping bag and fell fast asleep.


I awoke in a beautiful forest setting, ready to spend the day exploring the scenery on 2 wheels. But first, some nourishment.


I love camp cooking. Before I left, I planned out a few simple meals that were easy to make and did as much prep at home to minimize my effort out in the woods. My breakfast was some hot granola, cooked in almond milk, topped with apples that were marinating in cinnamon, nutmeg and agave nectar. Fueled up, I was ready to ride a bicycle.


The trails did not disappoint. I rode out to Mount Hillyer, a peak about 2 miles from camp. The trail was steep and full of boulders on the way up. I quickly learned a couple important lessons. Tire pressure has a huge impact on grip and there is less oxygen available at high altitude. Within minutes I was catching my breath as my rear wheel was spinning like it was on ice. I had no grip and couldn't climb this technical trail. I took a break, let out about 20 PSI in the tires and hopped back on the bike. Instantly the bike started working perfectly. I could hop up on rocks and every pedal stroke pushed me further up the trail towards Mount Hillyer. The rock garden gave way to a meadow scattered with trees and flowers everywhere.



I came across a burned out grove of trees, from the wildfire that swept thru the forest in 2009.



I was careful not to touch any of the flowers in this area, after being warned about the poodle dog bush.


On I rode to the peak, past giant boulders


I got to the top and found a pile of boulders to take a rest


and look out over a beautiful view of the mountains beyond


The only sounds were the wind, some birds and these fellows


By this time I was exhausted and in need of sustenence.


While I was eating some goldfish, something caught my eye in the rocks


It was some message in a bottle!



A small notebook and pencils placed in a canister by one Dorothy Danziger on June 1, 2011. A bunch of hikers left messages over the past 2 months, describing the scene I was now enjoying.


I wrote my own message and placed the canister back in it's hiding place.


I continued riding to the end of the trail, which went to a paved road. So I turned around and rode back


stopping along the way to shoot some photos



Back at camp, I was ready for Lunchtime!


By now, the whole campground had cleared out, and I was the only person there. The campers next to me had left their fire burning, which was perfect for me to cook some quesadillas and a hotdog on. I rounded out the meal with some homemade sauerkraut and a spicy ketchup I mixed up before I left the house.

It was the early afternoon, and I wanted to explore the forest a little more, so I broke camp and packed up the car


The contrast between bright colorful flowers and charred trees was everywhere



The picnic sites along the highway offered a shady retreat from the blazing sun


The light makes everything glow


After driving around a bit, I returned to Horse Flats and found a better campsite to spend the night. So I got all setup and hopped back on my bike as the sun was making it's way to the horizon







It was now getting dark, so I booked it back to camp, eating it a couple times on the more technical sections of the trail.


Home again! I turned on the radio, listened to some classical music as I cooked up more hot dogs, quesadillas and some Trader Joes Spaghetti Os. The stars quickly came out as I was enjoying dinner.



I stayed up a few more hours, enjoying the fire and the solitude.



I can't for round 2, hopefully with Heather and some of our close friends.



jeana sohn said...

omg. how cute is the hidden notebook?
thanks for sharing the photos. xoxo

Matthew said...

Great post Alex. Looks so peaceful(esp. w/ the jets.) It's awesome how close that wilderness is to the city!

Heather Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Heather Taylor said...

I loooove this post. So cozy. Really can't wait to go camping soon!

Melissa Levin said...

This looks beyond! Who knew!?! I want to do it next time we are in LA.

Sunday Taylor said...

This is incredible. How amazing that you did this! You got to do some of your favorite things, biking, camping, and photography. And your pictures are gorgeous. Thanks for sharing with us your incredible weekend, one that I am sure you will not forget. I hope you were reading Thoreau.

Megan Taylor said...


why wasn't I there with you???

you are magical.