Week 149: Descanso Trail—La Cañada Flintridge

October 14, 2018

A Shaded Hike in La Cañada Flintridge that's Perfect on a Hot, Sunny L.A. Day, 3.7 miles

Barbara and I explored the western portion of La Cañada's Cherry Canyon trails in Week 123, and today we returned to tackle the eastern trails. Although Charles Fleming's March 10, 2018 description of this hike in the Los Angeles Times suggests a hot, sunny day, we learned to prefer cool and cloudy for rigorous mountain hikes—1.5 miles straight up and 1.5 miles down without sunburn and sweat really works for us. Today was perfect. Temps were in the mid-60s, and the beating sun decided to sleep in. Although cloud covers prevent clear, long-range views as far as downtown L.A., the gray wrapping Mt. Wilson and Mt. Lowe in the distance provided a cool, moody, change of season atmosphere. We began at the Descanso Trail trailhead, about a block north from the Descanso Gardens entrance on Descanso Drive. Descanso Gardens began as a 1784 land grant to José Maria Verdugo, loyal service member of the Spanish military (love knowing the people behind our L.A. street names). In 1937, L.A. newspaper publisher E. Manchester Boddy bought the land for a working ranch and grew a vast camellia and, eventually, rose and lilac collection. In 1953, Boddy sold the land to L.A. County; and, in 1957, volunteers formed the nonprofit Descanso Gardens Guild that still manages the garden today. The first half of our hike followed the fences bordering Descanso, a shaded dirt trail with natural stone retaining walls hugging the switchbacks. As we climbed higher, an occasional bird chirp and the lush green foliage of Descanso Garden's 150-acres below us smoothed out any frayed nerves from the past week. Yesterday's rain left the trail just damp enough to embed wildlife footprints for us to wonder over (the one pictured is a deer, right?) And the rock strata along the stone walls to our right created a gallery of prehistoric art. We followed Descanso Trail to Edison Road at the top, took Padres Trail to its end at Forest Hill Road, and walked back to the car. Since we were so close to the entrance to Descanso Gardens, we had to wander inside! It was decked out for autumn, pumpkins and gourds everywhere, but a full tour encompassed another four miles and we're not that ambitious. We took our clear heads and tired bodies out for mochas instead. A great hike for ANY season.

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