Sunday, September 30, 2007

Deer Season?

I know some time ago I mentioned that I could probably do a blog just about hiking and I guess I really wasn't kidding. So, because a good half of my blog focuses on hiking, I thought I'd add the word "hiking" to the subtitle. Anyway, my husband had the last week off work and I got absolutely no work done, but, naturally, we did do quite a bit of hiking . On Monday, we went to Topanga State Park and hiked the Santa Ynez Canyon Trail. The trail starts out high up in the hills and gradually winds down into a heavily wooded canyon. Taking a left at a fork in the trail, the path leads to a waterfall. We strayed off the beaten path a bit and followed the stream, boulder-hopping to reach the waterfall. At one point in the creek, the boulders are just high enough that we needed to use some knotted ropes that had been left there to help pull ourselves up to higher ground. The waterfall was no more than a trickle just like every waterfall we've encountered this summer, but unlike the many creek-beds we've seen, this one did run with water.
Taking the same trail, we made our way back to the car. As we came over the crest of the last hill, the land opened out into dry, grassy meadows. We spotted a lone deer grazing not too far away. I tried to get as close to it as I could without alarming it, shooting pictures along the way. When that deer disappeared from view, we continued on our way, but stopped again shortly when we heard something sizeable crashing through the brush. Another deer came into view! And another and another - a herd of eight deer in all wandered out from the cover of forest into the open meadow. We shot many photos, but the deer were so well camouflaged that they are difficult to see in the photos. When they finally slipped out of view, we made our way through a live oak grove back to the car. We'd been so tired from the long hike, but after we paused and watched the deer for a while we felt energized all over again. It's so exhilarating to see wildlife in their natural habitat.

Malibu Creek
On Friday we went hiking again, this time we started out at the parking lot for Piuma Ridge. There seemed to be endless little side-trails that led to who-knows-where. We made our way north, entered into a smallish live oak grove, and got a glimpse of a water reclamation facility. After nosing around for a bit, we decided to try to find our way through Tapia Park and into Malibu Creek State Park, intending our final destination to be the Mott Adobe Ruins. We took a trail that seemed logical, but turned into a dead-end at a locked gate. So we had to double back, find a trail not marked on the map and carefully pick our way across a narrow strip of the creek. We had made it into Tapia and ended up hiking right next to a long road/parking lot which then ended abruptly at a camp. According to the map we had, the camp appeared to have been plunked down right in the middle of the road we wanted to take and of course it was gated, so the desirable road was completely off-limits. We were so lost we even asked for help. Unfortunately the person we asked wasn't all that familiar with the trails, so we took a guess at which trail to take. And we guessed right! We took a segment of the Backbone Trail that traversed up the side and over a mountain right into Malibu Creek State Park. Not too far into the park, we spotted six deer grazing on a patch of green grass. We were as close as we'd ever been to the creatures and shot a lot of photos. The buck seemed to become a bit unnerved by us and bounded gracefully away across the road. It was as if he was telling his herd that he wasn't terrified, but thought it best to move on. The rest of them seemed unperturbed, but gradually followed him. We did finally come across the Mott Ruins. There wasn't much left of them, save the chimney. It seemed a bit of a disappointment after spending much of the day being lost in trying to find it. On the way back we crossed a broad meadow were a whopping fifteen deer were grazing. This sight alone made the trek well worth while!

Temescal Canyon
So then yesterday we went back to Topanga State Park and hiked Temescal Canyon Trail which is on the southern side of the park in Malibu. It was a really beautiful location, but it was just full of people - probably the most we've ever encountered during a hike. With all the people there was no chance of encountering wildlife. The trail leads out to a meager California waterfall and then loops back to the parking lot switch-backing along a mountainside. At the top of the mountain, there's a path that traverses the ridge and ends at Skull Rock. Usually look-out points in these various parks offer sweeping views of the ocean or more mountains, but this trail featured views of the city. Very pretty, but a bit too busy.

On a more artistic note, last night we watched the anime movie Tekkonkinkrete. Even if you're not really into anime it's definitely worth a watch for the backgrounds alone. They are just stunning. I would never in a million years have the patience to paint such amazingly detailed backgrounds. Wish we'd caught it on the big screen...

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Woodland Post

A mysterious thing happened the other day - drops of water starting falling from the sky, soaking into the ground and forming puddles on the streets. I thought - I remember something like this from long, long ago. I think it's called "rain." And rain it did - for the first time in I can't remember how long. I had to walk to pick up my take-out dinner from a nearby restaurant and in order to get there had to cross a section of the LA River. Usually the water meanders slowly, finding its course around patches of mud and plant life, but Friday evening the water was rushing like I'd never seen. It was a strange sensation standing on the bridge, watching the water rushing out from under. And later that evening I even heard some thunder, which clapped loudly enough to set off several car alarms. I think I've only heard thunder maybe three times in these six years that we've lived in LA. Being a California native himself and very much unaccustomed to any weather other than sunny, the cat did not like any of this at all...

So after setting it aside in great frustration sometime ago, I picked up "The Woodland Post" again and finished it off:
This one was a bitter battle to the end - a good deal of repainting elements that just weren't working. I think part of the problem I had initially was that I fell in love with the color of the sloppy digital color-study I painted for it, knowing full well that I can't possibly reproduce the exact color from the study in a traditional medium. I'm pretty content with the color overall, but there are all kinds of other problems with it. For example, the rather ambiguous lighting and I've never been happy with the leaves on the trees. Regardless, it's a personal piece that I'm ready to be done with - I need to move on to something else! Well, for those that are interested, there are prints at my Shop.

Update 5/13/11: This painting is now available for purchase here in my Etsy shop.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Point Mugu

I know I just wrote in my last post that we weren't going to go to Point Mugu until October so we could catch the sycamores in their full glory, but we've sort of run out of coastal parks to visit, so this past weekend we caved in hiked part of Point Mugu. It's gradually getting cooler, but it's still just warm enough to prevent us from doing some of the more inland hiking. Fortunately, Point Mugu is a huge park, so we'll likely come back to hike more of the trails and maybe we'll get another glimpse of the sycamores.

So we started up Big Sycamore Canyon Trail, thinking we'd try to keep to the shade that canyon trails usually offer and then we took a right a a fork in the path onto the Serrano Canyon Trail. It was a good choice as the trail was heavily wooded for a long way and offered much shade. Eventually, the trail winds up out of the canyon and opens onto a vast, grassy meadow surrounded by mountains on all sides.

I generally think that I prefer hiking through woods, but I always find myself so contented trekking through open grassland listening to the wind rustle through the dry grass - it's one of my favorite sounds.

The trail began to climb up out of the valley, back into the mountains. We took a left at another fork in the road, thinking this narrow path would take us back to the main fire road. As it turned out, we were very much off-the-beaten-path on what resembled a deer path cut through dense short, woody trees. My bare arms took quite a lashing from those dry branches. A machete would have been very handy at this point! We continued on the trail despite misgivings just to see where it would take us and ended up on a promontory with a great view, but no way down to the fire road. So we had to make our way back through the brush to the more well-worn trail. After quite a bit more trekking we made it back to the fire road. We still had another two or three miles to go to get back to the parking lot and we were pretty tired already. But, at least the fire road was pretty flat - no major hills to climb. I think this was our longest hike yet. I'm estimating it at seven or eight miles. We were really feeling it by the end! I really liked this park - maybe we'll come back and hike a little more of it next weekend!

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Corral Canyon

I got a new camera - yay! It's my early Christmas present - I just couldn't wait that long to have a working camera, so we broke down and bought a new Canon PowerShot A570IS. And I was able to try it out a bit this weekend. We went to Corral Canyon in Malibu. For us, the hike was kind of 'been there, done that' - almost indistinguishable from some of the other coastal trails we've hiked before. It was a 2.5 mile loop with great ocean views for a good half or more of the hike. The coolest part of the trail, to me, was toward the finish, down in the canyon where there's a chimney standing alone, jutting out of the ground. I love stumbling across remnants of civilization past both ancient and modern.

I'm looking forward to a cooler fall and winter so we can tackle some of the non-coastal parks. I've been saving Point Mugu (which is partially coastal) until the fall since I hear it has beautiful sycamores come October. Autumn's my favorite season and I plan on making an effort to seek out the little pockets of Fall where they can be found in this arid climate that is LA.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Spot Illustration

I just finished up a spot illustration for the newsletter Daughters: for Parents of Girls. I can't show the finished piece, so I'll post the unused sketches:

The accompanying article is about celebrating girls' coming of age. I think this might be the first piece I've ever painted for an adult publication. It was very interesting to do a piece that was a bit more conceptual as opposed to narrative. I drew on the mother-daughter aspects of the article and symbolic imagery to come up with the designs. The finished art is scheduled to appear in the Nov-Dec. issue, so watch for it if you receive the newsletter!