29 August 2011

Hiking Thunder Mountain

There's a hiking trail in the Angeles National Forest (San Gabriel Mountain range) that's known simply as the 3 T's — the names of three prominent peaks along this walk begin with the letter T: Telegraph Peak (8,303 feet/2530 meters), Thunder Mountain (8,587 feet/2617 meters) and Timber Mountain (8,985 feet/2739 meters).

Riding the ski lifts up to the Baldy Notch.
It's possible — and indeed popular — to bag the 3 T's in a single day. Access is via the Icehouse Canyon Trail (east of the 3 T's), or from the Mt. Baldy Notch, just north of the three peaks.

Whichever way you go, you should prepare for a mildly strenuous walk and sweeping views of the steep canyons and peaks of the Cucamonga Wilderness on one side, the expansive desert floor on the other.

On this particular day a 5-year old was accompanying us, so to make the walk more enjoyable for all, we took the ski lifts from the ski lift parking lot up to the Mt. Baldy Notch and walked the mile and a half to the top of Thunder Mountain. (Tip: reserve your round-trip lift ticket on-line and save $5. Kids 5 and under are free.)

Here are a few of the photos from our afternoon.

Trail marker at the Notch - left to the Mt. Baldy summit, right for the 3 T's.

Clouds roiling up from the desert.

The top of Mt. San Antonio (Mt. Baldy), the highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountain range (10, 064 feet/3068 meters)

A stout Jeffrey Pine arches over the trail leading to Thunder Mountain.

Fun cloud formations in the north.

The Baldy ski area has some interesting names for their downhill runs.

Looking into the desert from the top of Thunder Mountain.

The back of Thunder Mountain and desert in the afternoon sunlight.

22 August 2011

A Little Bit of France...in Pasadena

Nestled against the foothills of the San Gabriel mountain range, the city of Pasadena, just 10 miles north of downtown Los Angeles, offers an impressive diversity of activities: movie theaters, parks, restaurants, museums, parades...and shopping, of course.

Whether catching a foreign film or just going for a bite to eat, discrete little signs pop up frequently enough to remind one of France, and that the French culture is a influential part of what gives Pasadena its unique charm.

Place Vendôme, an upscale jewelry store.

The French language school of Pasadena.

Protesting against tax breaks for large corporations. Seeing this somehow made me feel like I was back in France.

A café serving French and continental cuisine.

11 August 2011

California Plant Life

Here are some trees and plants that thrive in the southern California climate.

Sago Palm

Drought-tolerant Beaucarnea


Incense cedar bark

Canary Island Date Palm over the vegetable garden


California Shopping

Less than 24 hours after our arrival in southern California, we hopped in the car and did what all tourists with strong currencies often do — shop.

First stop: the Apple Store, to check out the new 21" iMac. It's a sleek, powerful machine that makes the GFiMP homepage look stunning with its brilliant, glossy screen.

We then headed over to Trader Joe's, a specialty retail food store that has some rather exotic and great tasting foods that you'd be hard pressed to find anywhere else, at least at these prices: Honey Goat Gouda ($9.99/pound), Wild Marinated Soy Ginger Cod Fillets ($6.99/pound) and South African Smoke Seasoning Blend ($2.29) for a 1.76 ounce grinder, about 50 grams.

Sweet onions, only 69 cents a pound.

Bottles of Côtes du Rhône and Bordeaux selling for about 3.5€, before sales tax.

Every store we shopped at over the next several days was disconcertingly empty, not surprising considering the current economic situation. The two exceptions to this were the Apple Store and CostCo.

One clothing retailer, Kohl's, is practically giving merchandise away with ongoing sales and cumulative discounts. It's the place to go if you're looking for a deal on clothing or housewares, but in the overall interest of the economy, I would have preferred to see people thronging the aisles to snatch up the last of the summer goods or stock up on the new fall collection.

But since we GFiMPers weren't born to shop, we fill (the rest of) our days with other activities.

To be continued.