Haunted Forest Hike

May 3, 2012

Of course it started to rain the other day as I drove to go on a hike.

Of course it didn’t stop raining until well after I got back in my car following the hike.

And, of course, it was one of the best hikes I’ve ever taken.

I had no idea what to expect when I left home for the hike. My friend Natalie had been in town a few weeks prior, and a friend of hers had told her about an awesome hike, which Natalie didn’t have time to do before leaving. On her last day, Natalie handed me a post-it with directions:

Mt. Lowe. Exit 210 at Lake. Head north until Lake dead-ends.

So, the other day, I did exactly that. I didn’t look into what was at the end of Lake, or the difficulty of the hike – I just went. I ended up spending over two hours on the mountain, ascending and descending into some serious fog. It was gray everywhere, and it was absolutely stunning. The fog added a huge element of mystery and surprise – I literally had no idea what was around the next corner, or which direction I was heading.

After the hike, I settled in with my laptop, and did some research into where I had just been, and what I found was utterly fascinating. Just like that, my hike went from awesome to awesomer.

Here’s what I learned.

The trail begins at the gate to the Cobb Estate.

Charlie H. Cobb made his fortune from lumber, and in 1918, he and his wife built their dream house in the foothills above Altadena, CA. They lived there for slightly over 20 years, until Cobb died in 1939.

Cobb made news in 1935, when, at 83 years old and armed with just a garden hose, he saved his house and family from an encroaching forest fire in the middle of the night.

Cobb left the house (pictured at right in 1930) and land (all 107 acres of it) to a local Freemason group, and over the next 17 years, ownership changed hands multiple times, until the Marx Brothers bought the property in 1956 as an investment. By this time, the house had fallen into disrepair and was used as a hangout for local teens (police arrested nearly 200 people for petty crimes at the dilapidated mansion). The Marx Brothers demolished what was left of the house in 1959, leaving only the foundation behind, which I found on my hike:

Eventually, the Marx Brothers wanted to turn the land into a cemetery, an idea that was hated by the community. In 1971, after those plans fell through, the Marx Brothers decided to auction off the land to developers. That plan was foiled by a group of high school students, who, in just one week, raised a commotion in the media and caught the ear of a local wealthy art collector, who helped them buy the land at the auction. They turned the land over to the Forest Service, with the condition that it could never be built on. The story of the auction is riveting stuff – read a great article about it here.

So I have a group of high students to thank for my wonderful hike. Thank you. Without your hard work, I never would have spent the afternoon amongst scenery like this:

The trail went up a mountain, and I got higher, the fog got thicker.

There were all these wonderful moments when I would see the trail curve ahead of me, and there was nothing beyond but fog.

At one point I saw these structures looming ahead – it turned out they were power line towers (I’m not sure what these are called, are you?):

After a switchback or two, the trail went directly beneath one of the towers.

The entire experience was unlike any other I’ve had, mostly because of the weather. Rain is rare is Los Angeles, and even though I was soaked by the end of the hike, I loved every second. For the most part, I was alone on the mountain (in 2 hours, I came across maybe 8 other people), and the fog and the gray made everything seem… a little unsettling. A little eerie.

Turns out I’m not the only one that thinks that way. One of the other things I learned after my hike was that the Cobb Estate has another name: The Haunted Forest.

I couldn’t track down specific stories of spooky occurrences or unexplained activity, but apparently the Cobb Estate is a whole different place at night – a place where there are weird lights and sounds, and where people have claimed to have been ‘touched’ when no one’s there. Thankfully for all of us, the very-official-sounding Los Angeles Ghost Patrol investigated the Cobb Estate – you can read their write-up (and watch videos) here.

Lastly, I also learned that had I continued on that trail for a few miles longer, I would have come across some more ruins from another fascinating chapter in Altadena’s history. I’ll share those details at some other point – probably after I go back andfind those ruins on another hike. It gives me something to look forward to.

I kinda also wanna go back to the Cobb Estate at night. Who’s up for a nighttime hike in the Haunted Forest? Anyone wanna come with?

And did I mention that it was an tiring hike? I have no idea how far up the side of the mountain I went, but I was definitely feeling it in my quads later that day.

Keep it up, David!


Photo Shoot

March 5, 2011

It’s been raining intermittently in Los Angeles for the past few weeks.  Luckily, though, on Friday, the skies cleared up and it was a beautiful, warm day.  I say luckily, because I had an outdoor photo shoot!

My friend Mike is an amazing photographer (Check out his website here), in addition to being a really sweet, funny, good guy (sorry, ladies and gents, he’s married).  I’ve been thinking a lot in recent months about how much I’ve changed, physically and in other ways, during the past year, and how wonderful it would be to have a few kick-ass photographs that illustrate that.  So when I saw Mike a few months ago, I asked if he’d be willing to snap a few pictures, and he said he would!

Last night, I picked out a few outfits and steamed them, and today, I went and met Mike.  We brainstormed a few ideas on where to go, since we wanted to be outdoors, and we settled on a part of the Angeles National Forest.  It’s only about 20 minutes away, and I had gone there on a hike with my friend Tavi in November (you can read about it here) and loved it.  There’s a burned-out bridge (thank you, Station Fire, the largest forest fire in Los Angeles County recorded history), some other ruins that are much older, a creek, and it’s really beautiful.

Here are some pics.  These are from the hike in November – they’re NOT Mike’s photos from today.  He’s gonna send those to me soon, and I’ll definitely post them.

This is the trail you take to head into the forest.  Because of all the rain in the past few months, it was a lot greener today:

The burned-out bridge:

Every so often there’s remnants of stone walls and foundations – making me extremely curious about what these structures were, and when they were built:

There’s also lots of dead trees that didn’t survive the fire:

It took me and Mike about 30 minutes to hike down to the burned-out bridge, and then it was time to shoot some photos.  I’ll be quite honest and say that I was kinda nervous – some people are naturally very photogenic, and I’m not saying I’m not, I’m just saying it doesn’t come easy for me.  Mike was very helpful and very patient and tried a few different tactics to try to get me to relax.  We tried a bunch of different set-ups – on the bridge, under the bridge, sitting, standing, leaning, and it took me a little while, but I think I loosened up.  What really helped was focusing on a piece of music, and letting it get stuck in my head, because then I was thinking about that, and not what I should be doing and tensing up and getting self-conscious.

The song I let get stuck in my head is one of favorites, and it’s called “Lay Your Head Down” by Keren Ann.  When it’s stuck in my head, it’s stuck at a much slower tempo than its actual tempo.  You can hear it, and watch the music video, here.

After the bridge, we stopped at one of the stone wall ruins, and took a bunch of photos where I’m leaning against or sitting on top of a dead-ivy-covered wall.  Then we pulled out the ladder and I leaned against the top step – oh no wait, I’m thinking of my brother’s high school senior photo from the early ’90s.

Mike showed me a few of the photos on the little screen on his camera, and HOLY SHIT, I can’t wait to see the full-sized versions.  I really had very little to say – they almost struck me speechless.  You’ll definitely want to check back in with the blog in the coming days/weeks, because I’ll be posting them here!

As I type this, it’s now about 1:30am on Saturday, March 5th, which means 2 things:

  • 1) It’s technically my birthday.  I’m 32 years old now.
  • 2) The deadline has passed to enter my Birthday Giveaway Contest.  It looks like I have close to 50 entries, although I haven’t cross-referenced them yet to see if everyone followed the rules – I’m serious about disqualifying the slackers!  I’m gonna take the remaining 22.5 hours off from blogging, so no new posts until Sunday, when I’ll reveal the winner.  Maybe it’s you!?

Oh, and I ended up having a bonus workout today!  I worked out when I woke up, doing 15 minutes of free weights, 45 minutes on a recumbent bike, and 15 minutes ofabs/push-ups, and then Mike and I ended up hiking to get to our photo shoot location!  It was about 30 minutes to get to and from the bridge – so another hour of exercise, all up- and downhill…

…Keep it up, David!


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