Thursday, May 18, 2023

The Militant's Epic CicLAvia Tour XLV!!!


Interactive map! Click here for larger version.


The third CicLAvia of 2023, and the 45th-ever such open streets event in Los Angeles has gotten quite a bit smaller - on purpose. The first of two CicLAvia-branded "CicLAmini" bite-sized events this year is upon us this Sunday. This time, although we're in Daylight Saving Time, the CicLAmini hours are the same as the Standard Time CicLAvias (9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. as opposed to the 4:00 p.m. end time). And instead of taking the streets on your bike (which is still allowed), the focus on the CicLAmini is to emphasize walkability, as well as smaller human-propelled vehicles (e.g. skateboards, scooters, rollerblades, etc). In the spirit of the event, and because taking a bike to a 1-mile CicLAvia route is kinda overkill, The Militant will be marching all 1.08 miles of Sunday's CicLAmini Watts in his combat boots. He's walked a few CicLAvia routes before, so this won't be new territory.

Speaking of territory. the community of Watts is no stranger to CicLAvias. Having taken part in some five previous events, the most recent of which was just less than 6 months ago, in December 2022. But this time, we venture south of 103rd Street for the first time and are greeted by some brand-spankin' new bicycle infrastructure, which made its debut earlier this year.

Being only a one-mile route, there isn't much to an Epic CicLAvia Guide, is there? Well, acshully...The Militant found nine points of interest on the route! And stay tuned for some bonus sites on his Twitter account.

As usual...see you or not see you on the streets this Sunday!

Oh yeah, if you found this Epic CicLAvia Tour guide useful and visit any of these sites, please add the #EpicCicLAviaTour hashtag to any social media post that includes it. The Militant will be glad to re-tweet/re-whatevertheycallthatonMastadon!

And if you appreciate The Militant's work, kick him a little love via PayPal! He *hates* asking for money, but you know how it is these days...A Militant's gotta pay his bills! Your support is much appreciated!

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1. Mudtown Farms
2022
2001 E. 103rd St., Watts

A project of the influential locally-based community nonprofit Watts Labor Community Action Center (you will be hearing their name a lot in this guide...) to create sustainable urban farming to combat food insecurity and provide a closer bonds to nature and associated wellness, this 2.5 acre farm, garden and community center features fruits and vegetables, flower gardens, raised beds, exercise stations and walking paths. WLCAC purchased the land in 2005 and received a $5 million grant from California state Proposition 84 funds to create Mudtown farms, named after the part of Watts where African Americans were segregated in, known for its mud-covered streets. The facility, which broke ground in 2012 and was formally dedicated in 2022, also includes a two-story training center, a greenhouse, orchard and an outdoor classroom. The next phase of Mudtown Farms will feature a cannery, general store and a roadside produce stand.


2. Watts Towers
1921
1727 E. 107th St, Watts

You all know the story by now: Italian immigrant Sabato "Simon" Rodia collects scrap reinforced steel bars (using the adjacent Pacific Electric Santa Ana Line tracks as a fulcrum to bend them) and other found scrap material from rocks to broken glass to bottle caps, and builds 17 structures on his property over a period of 33 years. Then in 1955, he up and left for Northern California and never came back. Now that you know the story, see them up close for yourself. You don't deserve to call yourself an Angeleno if you've never visited the Watts Towers before. Signore Rodia's creation is 102 years old now, and recently fully restored for Angelenos to admire them for generations to come.


3. Pacific Electric Watts Depot
1904
1686 E. 103rd Street, Watts

Adjacent to the Metro A Line's 103rd St/Watts Towers station is a mustard-colored building that was once the Pacific Electric's Watts depot. A popular stop along the old PE Long Beach Line, the building survived not only the PE's abandonment, but was the only wooden structure that was not set on fire during the 1965 Watts Riots. After a renovation project in the 1980s, the Watts Station has functioned since 1989 as a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power customer service center.


4. Children's Institute Watts Campus
2022
10200 S. Success Ave, Watts

This regional early childhood and youth/family resources nonprofit has locations across the greater Los Angeles area. Its 5th and newest campus right here in Watts opened in June 2022 was designed by none other than the Santa Monica-based starchitect Frank Gehry.  

5. Ted Watkins Memorial Park
Dedicated 1995
1335 E. 103rd Street, Watts

Originally built in the 1930s to memorialize Western actor Will Rogers, this 28-acre Los Angeles County park was re-named in 1995 after the late Ted Watkins (1912-1993), a local community activist and the founder of the Watts Labor Community Action Center, which he started in 1965, just months before the Watts Riots. The aftermath of the uprising heightened the purpose of his nonprofit agency, which dealt with social services, community development and empowerment for the Watts area. The park also features a youth baseball field built by the Los Angeles Dodgers, a newly-built community swimming pool and gym with basketball courts.

6. Watts Central Avenue Great Streets Project
2023
Central Avenue between Century Blvd and Imperial Hwy

You may or may not have noticed that one of the "hidden agendas" of CicLAvia is to create or improve bicycle infrastructure on the streets of its routes. The "Heart of L.A." routes during the 2010s birthed the existing DTLA bicycle infrastructure on 7th Street, Spring Street and Broadway. The streets of Watts have hosted five previous CicLAvias and this 1.1-mile LADOT Great Streets project, spearheaded by the Watts Labor Community Action Committee to alleviate the high number of car crashes along the thoroughfare, became the end result. Completed in February 2023, it features protected bicycle lanes along Central Avenue between Century and Imperial Highway

7. WLCAC Skate Park
2010
10950 S. Central Ave, Watts

Conceived in 2006 as a project of local nonprofit Watts Labor Community Action Center (which is headquartered on-site in the surrounding 7-acre campus) and skatepark builder Spohn Ranch, this 4,000 square foot skateboarding facility was created to give Watts youth a safe and quality space to ollie. If you brought your board to CicLAmini, you have just the place to channel your inner Tony Hawk.
8. Pacific Electric El Segundo/San Pedro Branch
1911

The railroad track that crosses Central Avenue just south of the southern terminus of the CicLAmini route is the El Segundo/Torrance branch of the Union Pacific Railroad, which emerges from the track that parallels the Metro A Line just south of the 103rd St/Watts Towers station. But this track has quite some history. It carried Pacific Electric interurban cars from Downtown Los Angeles and on to El Segundo (1911-1930), Redondo Beach (1912-1940) and San Pedro (1912-1940). After 1940, the tracks were used for local freight trains of the Southern Pacific Railroad until it merged with the Union Pacific in 1996. The plate girder bridge to the west of Central Avenue may or may not have been a Pacific Electric relic (The Militant won't add it to his Pacific Electric Archaeology Map until he can confirm it).

9. Compton Creek
Running from Main Street & 107th St to the Los Angeles River

Just to the west of Central Avenue is Compton Creek, the southernmost tributary of the Los Angeles River. It is a remnant of a time when what is now South Los Angeles and the South Bay were dotted with wetland marshes replenished by winter rains and underwater aquifers, surrounded by forests of Willow and Cottonwood trees. In fact, the unincorporated Los Angeles County community known as Willowbrook was named after what the creek originally looked like. Originally called "Avila Creek" (after the family that owned the original Rancho La Tajauta, which became the Watts/Willowbrook area), The creek began in a onetime marsh in South Los Angeles, where its source was forced into an underground channel circa 1940s and emerges east of South Main St near 107th Street. Passing its namesake city, the creek heads southeasterly and joins the Los Angeles River just east of the 710 and south of Del Amo Blvd. Like its destination waterway and other creeks in Southern California, this 8.5-mile arroyo was channelized in the 1940s to function as flood control (although the southernmost 2.7 miles still have a natural bottom, providing an important ecosystem for avian, aquatic and reptilian wildlife).

Happy CicLAmini!

BONUS: THE OFFICIAL MILITANT ANGELENO EPIC CICLAVIA TOUR FOOD GUIDE!

First off, The Militant really wanted a nice list here for Watts. Unfortunately, things have changed over the years. The experimental healthier fast food joint Locol, located on 103rd between the Watts Pacific Electric Station and Mudtown Farms, closed down for good in 2018. And the Instagram-famous Mexi-Fusion stand All Flavor No Grease since graduated to a food truck after vending from a residential driveway on 108th Street, but unfortunately for us, the truck plans to sell at the Fair in Pomona this weekend. The Militant has spotted a few taco trucks along Compton Avenue north of 103rd, but can't vouch for their menu or quality. So since this is a very short CicLAvia, the list will likewise be very short. So here goes:

1. Hawkins House of Burgers
11603 Slater St, Willowbrook
www.hawkinsburgers.com

Rollin' down Imperial highway, big nasty burger at your side is this institution, in business since 1939. Having survived riots, uprisings and a big-ass freeway built next door, this family-run business is in the hands of Cynthia Hawkins, the third-generation family member to helm this stand that specializes in angus beef hamburgers, expertly-grilled, thick and juicy with a sesame-seed wheat bun, fresh thinly-chipped red onions, romaine lettuce and a generous slice of tomato. A burger (turkey, chicken, fish and veggie patty options are also available) with fries and a drink will cost about $15-$20 but it's totally worth it. They also sell chicken and waffles, fried catfish/salmon, tacos and burritos. The Militant considers Hawkins one of this Top 10 best burgers in Los Angeles. Yes, there's probably going to be a crazy long line on Sunday (open until 6:30 p.m.) but...YOLO.





Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Militant's Epic CicLAvia Tour XLIV!!

 




Springtime is here! Dodger baseball is in full swing (pitch clock and all...), wildflowers are in bloom, our local transverse mountain ranges are significantly greener in color, and the second of eight CicLAvias in 2021 (the 44th iteration of Los Angeles' open streets event) is upon us this weekend, this time running four miles through the southern end of Central Los Angeles. It's not a new route - The "Mid-City Meets Pico-Union" alignment was last done on June 30, 2019, and the first "To The Sea" CicLAvia route on April 21, 2013 ran through the Venice Boulevard section of this route. Sandwiched between Hancock Park/Koreatown to the north and South Los Angeles al sur, the Mid-City neighborhoods feature a diverse mix of African American, Latín, Immigrant African, Korean and Caribbean residents.

It's an area that was an "urban suburb" of streetcar corridors (The Pacific Electric on Venice, the Los Angeles Railway on Washington), houses, shops and houses of worship in popular early 20th-century aesthetic styles, with well-defined artistic pockets, both historic and contemporary. As usual, see you or not see you on the streets this Sunday!

1. Powers Place - Shortest Street in Los Angeles
1904
Powers Place and Alvarado Terrace, Pico-Union

You all know that the longest street in Los Angeles is Sepulveda Boulevard, right? But the shortest street in the city is right here! It's called Powers Place, a whopping 30 feet in length! Named after onetime Los Angeles City Council president (1900-1902) Pomeroy Powers, who spearheaded the effort to create a city park (originally named Terrace Park) at the neighborhood of Craftsman, Tudor and Victorian-style houses built in the early 1900s decade. All six historic houses along Alvarado Terrace were designated by the City as Historic-Cultural Monuments in 1971.


2. Iglesia Adventista Central/1st Church of Christ, Scientist
1912
1366 S. Alvarado Street, Pico-Union

Currently the site of a 7th Day Adventist Church catering to a Spanish-speaking congregation, this 107-year old Mediterranean Romanesque Revival house of worship has changed owners - even denominations - and has had a long, and even dark, history behind it. Built in 1912 as the 1st Church of Christ, Scientist, it served its Christian Science congregation for six decades, before it became a Jewish synagogue for a few years. In the mid-1970s, it became the Los Angeles location of The People's Temple, the cult founded by Jim Jones, who infamously led over 900 his followers to live in a commune in Jonestown, Guyana, and consequently, to die in the largest mass-suicide in history (which spawned the euphemism, "Don't drink the Kool-Aid"). The current Adventist church has been there since the late 1970s, since, Jim Jones uh...couldn't really use it anymore. The church structure was inducted into the National Register of Historic Sites in 1984.


3. Hoover Street - Original City Boundary
1850
Hoover Street, Pico-Union

The CicLAvia route begins/ends at this street, but note how all the streets east of Hoover run in a diagonal fashion, and all the streets west run perfectly east-west. Yes, Virginia, Los Angeles was not always big and sprawled. From 1850 to 1896, Hoover was the original western boundary of the City of Los Angeles, which meant that over 120 years ago, you'd be on the Westside. On April 2, 1896, the "Western Addition" was annexed into the City, extending the boundaries a few miles west to Arlington Avenue (more on this later...)


4. Loyola High School
1917
1901 Venice Blvd, Byzantine-Latino Quarter

Founded in 1865 at St. Vincent Court off of 7th Street in Downtown (a spot on the "Heart of LA" CicLAvia Tour), this Jesuit-run Catholic boys' high school is the oldest continuously-running educational institution in Los Angeles. The school moved to its current location in 1917 after splitting from the affiliated Loyola Marymount University, and after Irish philanthropist Thomas P. Higgins (who owned the Higgins Building on 2nd and Main in Downtown) donated land in what was then the southwestern corner of the city. Home of the Cubs, the school celebrated its sesquicentennial in 2015. Famous alums include volleyball great Sinjin Smith, Vons grocery founder Wilfred Von der Ahe, broadcaster Stan Chambers and holy Homeboy Fr. Greg Boyle.


5. Angelus-Rosedale Cemetery
1884
1831 W. Washington Blvd, West Adams

This 65-acre memorial park, originally established as Rosedale Cemetery, has been serving Los Angeles for nearly 140 years, and is the final resting place of a number of historic Angelenos, such as Port of Los Angeles founder Phineas Banning, the City of Burbank's namesake Dr. David Burbank, jazz legend Eric Dolphy, actress Hattie McDaniel and mayors George Alexander, Arthur C. Harper, Owen McAleer, John G. Nichols, Frank Rader and Frederick T. Woodman. One of the most notable graves is that of Catalina Island developer George Shatto, who is interred in a pyramid (pictured above)!

6. Westmoreland Heights Tract Gateway
1902
Westmoreland Avenue and Venice Boulevard, Harvard Heights

In an era before cities erected standard street signs on corners, tract home developments established concrete or masonry gateway monuments bearing the name of the development as well as the street. This one bears the name of the Westmoreland Heights tract, established in 1899, featuring homes built in the Craftsman, Tudor/Craftsman and American Foursquare styles. Many of the residents were the owners of large local businesses. If you notice, the sign facing Venice Blvd bears the name "16th Street." West of Downtown, 16th Street is nowhere to be found on any maps (not even in La Guía de los Hermanos Tomas) - that's because 16th Street was re-named Venice Boulevard in 1932.

7. Ray Charles RPM International Studios
1964
2107 W. Washington Blvd, Harvard Heights.

Just a few blocks south of the CicLAvia route, this 11,488 square foot, two -story building, designed by Joe Adams and Ray Charles himself, opened in 1964 as the legendary musician's personal recording studio and offices (he lived in nearby Leimert Park at the time). One of his biggest hits, "Georgia On My Mind" was recorded here, as well as his 2004 Grammy-winning swan song album, Genius Loves Company. It was designated as a Historic-Cultural Monument by the City of Los Angeles in 2004, just prior to Charles' death, and since 2010 functions as the Ray Charles Memorial Library, a museum dedicated to the singer's career, featuring free tours of the facility (by appointment) on Mondays thru Wednesdays.


8. Arlington Ave - Old City Boundary
1909
Arlington Ave, Arlington Heights

Continuing the Los Angeles City Boundary history, Arlington Avenue was once the westernmost border of the City from 1896 to 1909, when the Colegrove Addition (which stretched north towards Hollywood) was annexed into the City. Note how the street dramatically widens west of Arlington - that, of course, was to accommodate both automobiles and the Pacific Electric Red Car tracks, which run the rest of the way along Venice Blvd.


9. Washington Square Market/Swap Meet
1964
4060 Washington Blvd, Mid-City

This shopping center, built in the mid-1960s used to feature a Ralphs supermarket (hence the vestigal red oval sign) and local shops. Since the 1980s the shopping center has hosted an indoor swap meet, akin to the large Slauson Swap Meet in South Los Angeles, an indoor bazaar featuring clothing, shoes, sporting goods, repair/service stalls, salons and eateries owned by upstart immigrant entrepreneurs.


10. St. Paul's Catholic Church
1937
4120 Washington Blvd, Mid-City

Originally established on the site of a convent in 1917 among bean fields and oil derricks, the current Romanesque church building (inspired by the Basilica Papale San Paolo fuori le Mura in Rome) was built 20 years later and designed by famed Los Angeles architects John C. Austin and Frederick Ashley, who also designed the Griffith Observatory (which opened two years earlier). Today, St. Paul's serves a Spanish, English and Korean-speaking congregation.


11. Wellington Square
1914
Victoria Avenue, Wellington Road, Virginia Road and Buckingham Road (south of Washington Boulevard), Mid-City

Developed by M.J. Nolan on land formerly owned by George L. Crenshaw (Yup - that Crenshaw), this four-block neighborhood features over 200 Spanish Colonial, Tudor, French Norman, Craftsman and Revival-style residences. Today, the neighborhood is starting to get Capital "G," but you can check out their weekly Farmers' Market on the parking lot at Wellington Road and Washington Boulevard, also happening during CicLAvia Sunday (and every Sunday) between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.


12. First Presbyterian Church of Los Angeles
1924
1809 West Boulevard, Mid-City

This Presbyterian church community, which moved several times around Los Angeles in its 136-year history, settled at this location in 1924. The congregation became predominantly African American in makeup in the 1960s, which it remains today, although the church shares the building with a separate Korean church. This Gothic Revival church structure was also designed by John C. Austin and Frederick Ashley (architects of St. Paul's down the street, remember?), along with Frederic Roehrig, who designed Pasadena's iconic Hotel Green. Check out the old-school incinerator chimney facing Washington Blvd!


13. Nate Holden Performing Arts Center/Ebony Showcase Theater
2004/1950
4718 Washington Blvd, Mid-City

Named after the longtime African American Los Angeles city councilman (1987-2002), this City-owned facility, which opened in 2004, hosts community-based performing arts and arts education programs. It was built on the site of the Ebony Showcase Theater, the first African American-owned theater building in Los Angeles, which was founded in 1950 by actor Nick Stewart (who voiced Brer Bear in Disney's "Song of the South") and his wife Edna. That theater featured community-based performing arts programs which ran until the 1998, when the City's Community Redevelopment Agency took over the Northridge earthquake-damaged building by eminent domain.


14. Trabue Pittman Building/Willing Workers Building
1931
4801 Washington Blvd, Mid-City

This Art Deco structure, built in 1931 at the northwest corner of Washington and Rimpau (where the Los Angeles Railway's W Line ended) was designed by celebrated architect S. Charles Lee. Owned by the Tabue Pittman Corporation, it was leased to various businesses over the years, including an F.W. Woolworth's store and a Bank of America branch. Today it is the home of Willing Workers, Inc, a non-profit that trains developmentally-disabled adults for workforce employment.


15. St. Elmo Village
1969
4830 St. Elmo Drive, Mid-City

This unique artists community was founded by the late African American artist Rozzell Sykes and his nephew Roderick, who purchased several homes in the neighborhood to save them from demolition and create a multicultural artists' community as an urban experiment. The community organizes the annual St. Elmo Festival every May to celebrate the arts. Over 50 years later, now run by Roderick Sykes, the community is still going strong.


16. U.S. Post Office, West Adams Ray Charles Station
1983
4960 W. Washington Blvd, Mid-City

This post office building, which opened in 1983 and serves the 90016 ZIP code, was dedicated as the Ray Charles Station U.S. Post Office in August 2005, in memory of the one of neighborhood's most prominent figures, whose RPM International Studios is located just a mile and a half east (See #7 on this guide). The post office joins other facilities named after legendary musical artists, such as Nat King Cole on Western and 3rd and Marvin Gaye, on Vermont and 35th.

Happy CicLAvia!

BONUS: THE OFFICIAL MILITANT ANGELENO EPIC CICLAVIA TOUR FOOD GUIDE!


1. Dino's Chicken and Burgers
2575 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006
www.dinoschickenandburgers.com

Get the Chicken and Fries. French fries, drenched in spicy grilled chicken grease. Served with cole slaw and tortillas. All for $7.95.

2. Papa Cristo's
2771 W Pico Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90006
papacristos.com

They're one of the reasons (along with St. Sophia's Orthodox Church and the annual Greek Festival) for the "Byzantine" part in the Byzantine-Latino Quarter. One of Los Angeles' iconic long-time eateries for a Hellas-good meal.

3. Pupusa Stand

S. Bronson Avenue, south of Washington Boulevard, Mid-City.

Nice neighborhood sidewalk pupusa stand. Not guaranteed to be here during CicLAvia, but they're usually there on Sundays to serve churchgoers from across the street. Stop by to check it out!

4. Gish Bac
4163 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90018
gishbac.com

A nice Oaxacan option in Mid-City to get your mole on.

5. Simply D'Licious
4641 W Washington Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90016
www.simplydliciousca.com

If Soul Food is what you're craving on CicLAvia Sunday, this is just the place, but don't be surprised if it's crowded or there's a line forming at the door, as it's already a popular local spot on normal Sundays.

6. Roscoe's House of Chicken and Waffles
1865 S La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019
https://www.roscoeschickenandwaffles.com/

The classic, well-loved, presidentially-endorsed Pico location may now be gone, but this modern replacement for it is right here if you're craving some 'Scoes.

7. Leo's Tacos Truck
1515 South La Brea Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90019
leostacostruck.com

The O.G. location of what is regarded as the best Al Pastor in town, long lines form at the parking lot of this Sinclair gas station every evening, but you just might have a chance to get your trompo with the piña on the top with a shorter wait during CicLAvia.

Enjoy this Epic CicLAvia Tour guide? Show some support to The Militant Angeleno via PayPal!

Friday, March 31, 2023

Where The Wild (Flowery) Things Are: The Militant's Spring 2023 Southern California Wildflower Map!

 

A smattering of wildflowers in Walker Canyon near Lake Elsinore,
taken during the Spring 2019 Superbloom.

"L.A. has no seasons," goes the mantra of The Typical Transplant. But ah, why then are our mountain ranges green and not brown during the 2nd quarter of the year? Why are the stands of Dodger Stadium awash with blue again? And why does the sight of wildflowers attract people of all ages from young Instagram influencers to elderly grandparents?

It's wildflower season. It's the time when our native flora is present and alive. It's when humans go wild over the sight of countless plant genitalia. And we're blessed to have many areas that are not so far away from us where we can appreciate their ephemeral beauty. Do enjoy them now, for in a few months' time, the summer heat will dominate, the flowers will wither away, and the green will give way to golden brown. It's the Circle of Life, Simba.

The record winter rains have made our local wildflowers not only abundant, but have extended their season well into late April and perhaps May. The California Golden Poppy is the big star of the springtime show in this state, but other petals of red, white, purple, blue and yellow persuasions also make their presence known.

And so, The Militant has made a handy Google Map of the confirmed wildflower locations in Southern California - from San Luis Obispo County to San Diego County. All locations are based on personal, word-of-mouth and photographically-documented online observations. Do note that the addresses are based on the general publicly-accessible location (i.e. a park, nature preserve or hiking trail) and not necessarily the exact location of the blooms. But when you get there, the presence of the blooms should be obvious.



This map only includes areas where these flowers grow in the wild (hence, wildflowers - duh) and not any botanical gardens. Nothing against organized gardens, but it's more fun to see fish swim in the sea than in an aquarium, right?

This map is also continuously updated by The Militant several times a week, and certain locations known for wildflower blooms have not appeared on the map yet, because either the flowers have not yet bloomed, or The Militant has not yet seen or received reports of the bloom.

If you want to contribute to the map, shoot an email to The Militant (militantangeleno at gmail dot com) or send him a DM or @ on Twitter with a name and address of the location. If you're a wildflower-spotter and can ID the flowers, great! If you want, you can submit a photo and you'll get credit.

One more thing: Don't Doom The Bloom! Respect the marked trails and any property lines (if there are restricted areas). Don't step on the flowers! Nature is the main attraction here, not you! And Don't pick the flowers! They're not souvenirs, and they will quickly wilt anyway. Also, do note that not only have the flowers awoken from their winter hibernation, but so have the rattlesnakes. It's their home, not yours! Don't intrude on their area and they won't mess with you.

"But wait, Militant," you might ask, "Aren't you making things worse? These are closely-guarded secrets! They'll be ruined now that you're listing them all!" But au contraire - while the mainstream media only focuses on one location (as Lake Elsinore's Walker Canyon was back in 2019 - now it's currently closed to the public), the purpose of this map is to emphasize the fact that wildflowers are EVERYWHERE, and instead of focusing on one over-hyped location, The Militant is spreading out the crowds to other locations so that those other unsung locations can be appreciated and the handful of hyped-up "hot spots" won't be overloaded with crowds. You'll also notice that some areas, like the Antelope Valley and the southern Inland Empire have clusters of wildflower locations. You're strongly encouraged to make a day of it and visit them all! The Militant is doing a public service here!

Enjoy your spring superbloom, Southern California! And if you found this useful, help support The Militant Angeleno via PayPal!


Friday, March 24, 2023

Places Of The Water!

The sights of spring! The seasonally verdant San Gabriel Mountains overlook a gated subdivision and the San Gabriel River uncharacteristically rushing down below.

Friday, March 24 was a bright and clear day - high winds the night before blew the last remnants of the previous rainstorm away and Angelenos awoke to a sky of blue. Though the Vernal Equinox came and went earlier in the week, today was surely the unofficial official First Day of Spring, if the fully-opened California Golden Poppies on the grounds of The Militant's Compound was an indication.

The Militant headed east by car (he wasn't quite ready for a Metro + bike adventure just yet for an unspecified reason) to the 626. Though the 210 is normally a breeze, it slogged with 405esque slowness for most of the journey from the Rose Bowl onward. The destination: Azusa Canyon! The Militant looked forward to the northernmost reaches of State Route 39 to As Far As He Could Go.

Upon exiting Azusa Avenue, he headed due north, past the Metro station, reminding himself that he hasn't been around These Here Parts since the Gold Line Foothill Extension's grand opening some seven years ago this month. Has it really been that long?

Why Azusa Canyon? Though a light frosting of snow on the upper reaches of the middle San Gabriels (which overlook Pasadena) greeted us down below, the warm, sunny temperatures meant some of that snow was melting already, as well as some of the rainwater that came down during the past few days. The canyon is where the San Gabriel River begins upon its descent down to the San Gabriel Valley and on to its terminus in Seal Beach. After all, Azusa was named after the Tongva village of Asuksagna (later called "Rancho El Susa" by the 19th century Mexicans), which means, "Place of the water." So there you go.

The Militant's plans were slightly dashed when an orange Caltrans road condition sign trailer was set out on Highway 39 bearing the words, "AZUSA CANYON CLOSED." Booo! But The Militant still wanted to see how far he'd go. 

It wasn't long until he saw a set of cones on the road and two CHP vehicles blocking the way. The Militant took a U-turn onto a dirt lot on the side of the road, parked The Militant Mobile and heard the sound of rushing water. The dirt lot was conveniently set on a cliff overlooking the raging San Gabriel River down below. And was it raging. There was water alright, LOTS OF IT.

Not far from where The Militant stood, there was a bicycle/jogging trail that ended in a small cul-de sac. Guess The Militant could have biked up here after all. Noted for next time. After marveling at the sight of blue sky, green mountains and tan-colored rushing water, he made his way back southwards for a bit before crossing the river on a bridge leading to a gated community. But he was able to park on the un-gated street just west of the bridge and walked up to it.

The raging San Gabriel River as seen from the Mountain Laurel Way Bridge.

Though The Militant went as far as he was able to, he didn't want the day to go to waste. He realized that he wasn't too far from Glendora, so he made his way down Azusa Avenue and took a left on Route 66 to get his kicks. In The Militant's Lil'Mil days, Glendora was a familiar place, being where a family friend once lived and owned a business (no longer there). But back then he was not yet attuned to the legendary appeal of the one they call The Donut Man.

The Militant is almost embarrassed to admit that he never partook in the culinary wonder known as The Strawberry Donut, and even though TDM opened a location three years ago that was much, much closer to The Militant Compound, to be initiated into the sacred Strawberry Donuthood rite at a Donut Man location that wasn't the O.G. spot just didn't feel right. So he bought a few of them, as well as their almost-as-legendary Tiger Tail - a delightfully twisted chocolate-with-honey-glaze splendor. The Militant couldn't wait, so he opened the box on the trunk of The Militant Mobile and sank his teeth into the jelly-slathered strawberry wonder sandwiched between two horizontally-cut donut halves. OMG. The hype is real.

Now The Militant has finally earned his right to get one of these at Grand Central Market.

Since he was in Glendora, he might as well check up on the progress of the under-construction Metro L-previously-known-as-Gold-but-soon-to-be-known-as-A-previously-known-as-Blue Line station. He parked next to the Glendora USPS Post Office on Ada Avenue, and there it was, just a few yards up.

The Metro Rail Glendora station. Coming 2025. Or 2026. Or 2027. One of those.

Though the rails were in place, there was little to the station but its concrete foundation and a couple installed-but-non-functioning railroad crossing signals. Seems as though they have a ways to go. But for those of you already making your Foothill Extension Opening Day plans, The Donut Man is a 1 1/4-mile walk to/from the Glendora Metro station (great way to work off those carbs!). Just so you know!

The marquee of the old Azusa Foothill Drive-In Theatre (1961-2001).

Heading back to Azusa, the sight of the Azusa Foothill Drive-In Theatre marquee caught his eye. The drive-in, built in 1961, was, at the turn of the 21st century, the last remaining drive-in theatre along Route 66 west of Oklahoma. It closed in 2001 but the sign was declared a historic monument and was saved. The drive-in location is now the parking lot for APU (no, not that one).

A is for Asuksagna.

The Militant also caught sight of a white letter "A" on a mountainside overlooking The Canyon City. Yes, Azusa has a Hillside Letter (or a Mountain Monogram), a western U.S. phenomenon of placing the initial of a city, town or educational institution on the side of a mountain.

A piece of public art built in 2021 is based around the poem,
"The Stone, The River, The Door," by Krystal Chang.


A tiny cap of snow sits atop Monrovia Peak, as seen from Downtown Azusa.

Housing in Azusa - future and past.

The Union Station-bound L-Line train leaves the Azusa Downtown station with some snow-capped San Gabe peaks in the background.

The Militant wanted to walk around Downtown Azusa for a bit, so he parked off of Azusa Avenue on 6th Street - coincidentally, also in front of a USPS Post Office. He passed a playground that what was once the Azusa Theatre (1926-1972) and a modern mixed-use development a block up the street that features a facade that pays homage to the old theatre. There was also much public art in the form of wall murals, utility box art and a steel public art structure which bore the words of a poem. He went as far as the Metro Station and Target before walking back on the other side of the street. He also happened upon the Azusa  outpost of Congregation Ale House, conveniently just three short blocks from the Metro Rail station. Hmmm...noted.

Heading west on the 210, The Militant exited in Doorty, parked at Encanto Park and visited an old friend he had not seen since September 2015 - the 1907 Puente Largo Bridge, one of the featured surviving Pacific Electric remnants on his Pacific Electric Archaeology Map. It carried the Red Cars between Downtown and Glendora until 1951 and was renovated to its modern purpose as a pedestrian and bicycling path in 1989. The 1,019-foot bridge (the U.S. Bank Tower in Downtown Los Angeles could rest on the bridge end-to-end in its entirety with a foot to spare each side) spans the normally dry banks of the San Gabriel River - but not this day! The river was rollin' and raging! He was just a few miles south of where he was previously, and this water was well on its way to the spreading grounds in nearby Irwindale, where it will enter the groundwater table to be later used by the MWD and some of the local municipal water utilities.

The Puente Largo Bridge in Duarte. Not bad for a 116 year-old.

The riverbed was so much greener than when he was last there - the banks of the river also had small basins that caught excess flow from culverts. The basins also functioned as vernal pools, with wild (though invasive) mustard flowers popping up nearly everywhere. There was also a bike bath along the east bank of the river that reminded The Militant that he should take on this river path via two wheels sometime.

Vernal pools past the east bank of the San Gabriel River, with the bike path to the left.

The Militant continued on westward on the 210, but he wanted more. While searching for a place to eat, he saw a sign along Altadena Drive that read, "Eaton Canyon Natural Area Park." Hmmm. So he followed the signs up the road, past New York Avenue and entered an area right at the foothills with bushes and wildflowers galore. As soon as he got out of his car, he heard it: The sound of rushing water.

Eaton Wash is alive!
The Militant got so excited, he climbed down into the creek bed, crouched down and scooped up a handful of cold, clear water that made its way down the San Gabriels. It was this hardcore city boy's little moment with nature and it was quite awesome.

Wild Bush Sunflowers were in bloom.
Back on the trail, he was surrounded by rows and rows of native Bush Sunflowers in bloom. There were some prickly pear cacti in the area. A couple that was hiking asked him where the waterfall was. Though unfamiliar with the trail, he knew that it went in a roughly straight-line direction northward, so he pointed to the mountains. But he was curious about it now that the topic came up. So he kept walking towards the San Gabes. Several yards ahead, the trail dipped down in elevation slightly and the sound of rushing water grew louder. He saw another couple (one of them carrying a baby) walking across the shallow, yet fast-moving Eaton Wash, the water whitened as rapids by nearby large rocks. He didn't think crossing the water was a smart idea, but he watched vigilantly and at the ready while The Adventure Family was reaching the other bank, just in case there was a potential emergency. Fortunately, Adventure Family made it across safely, but The Militant didn't want to get his boots soaked, so he just stayed on the south bank, taking pictures and video.

Heading back, he stopped by the little Nature Center that had a small exhibit on the water table in the area. Eaton Canyon's watershed is part of what is called The Raymond Water Table, by which the cities of Pasadena, Altadena and other nearby municipalities pump for use in their respective water supplies. So no, this water doesn't go wasted out to sea. It is part of the greater Los Angeles River watershed, as it flows into the Rio Hondo, which meets the Los Angeles River in the South Gate area. There was also a cool California native plant garden outside of the Nature Center building.

The Militant headed out and back to Altadena Drive, being in awe that the Eaton Wash's rapids were just a few hundred yards from the streets of Pasadena. He proceeded south on Altadena Drive and west on Washington Street and found a place called Baja Cali Fish & Tacos.

Baja Cali's #3 combo with two Baja Cali Tacos, fries and drink for $11.99
The tacos had grilled fish and shrimp. Nothing mind-blowing, but it was pretty good. The restaurant seems to be a local chain with locations in the San Gabriel Valley, as well as in Long Beach and Highland Park. He'd definitely try out the other items next time (the potato and birria taco selections sound appealing).

He made his way back to the Militant Compound as the sun was setting on the first clear evening in a long-ass time. Here's to spring, here's to watersheds and wildflowers!




Friday, March 17, 2023

Peak Knowledge: The Militant's Guide To Our Local Mountain Ranges!


A few weeks ago, while en route to the February 2023 CicLAvia, as The Militant drove up the not-that-congested 405 into the San Fernando Valley, the sight of snowcapped mountains surrounding The 818 made him gasp in a Huell Howsereque, "WHAAAAW!!!" It also reminded him that the various amounts of snow on the mountains emphasized the individual ranges, whereas if he saw the same view on a hot August day, the mountains would all have a uniform brownness to them, as if they were all the same range. But not on that day. The well-frosted San Gabriels loomed in the background, while the lightly-powdered Verdugos stood to the east, and the similarly thin white veil over the Santa Susanas towards the west offered some contrast.

Which got The Militant thinking, "Hey! How 'bout an Epic Militant Post about our local mountain ranges?"

Back during the early days of the COVID-19 Lockdown, in April 2020, The Militant posted this thread regarding that subject on Twitter. But Twitter threads seem rather ephemeral.

It was then he started work on This Here Post, hoping to churn it out in a couple of days, but the task seemed tougher than hiking Mt. Baldy in the winter. But alas, finally, here it is, take it. A few things though:

First of all, The Militant is going to be covering the mountain ranges that can be seen within the Greater Los Angeles Metropolitan Area. This covers everything from The Grapevine in the north to Camp Pendleton in the south, and from Vandenberg in the west to the Coachella Valley in the east. No, we are not going to cover the mountains over San Diego -- you'll have to consult the Militant San Diegan about any of that (Stupid-punk-ass Padres fan that motherf...but anyways...). And as a bonus, the Sierra Nevada Mountains will get covered - we'll talk about that later.

Second, you might ask, "What about the Baldwin/Puente/Chino/Etc. Hills?" The Militant will cover the local hills in a separate, similar post in the not-too-distant future...stay tuned!

Third, you might want to know, "What's the name of that mountain?" The Militant was going to label every one of them. But since there's so many mountains, and to mark them all would be a herculean task in itself (not to mention become very messy, presentation-wise), The Militant will instead share you one of his Militant Secrets: Now, The Militant's primary objective is to inform, educate and enlighten all Angelenos, and not be such a stingy knowledge gatekeeper influencer-type just for the sake of making himself look all bad-ass. So here's one really, really, really awesome resource to learning the names of mountains: peakfinder.org. Just 1) Visit the site; 2) Click on the pin/map icon to the right of the search bar; 3) Move the map until your preferred location is in the circle; 4) Click on the "bird" icon on the lower-right to "fly" to your preferred location; and 5) Scroll left or right to the desired direction to see the mountains you want to view (it will also show you the exact location and time of the sunrise and sunset appropo to your selected locale - cool, huh?). Voila! There's also a Peakfinder app for iOS and Android.

Fourth, a little geology 101 here: There are three kinds of rock classifications (no, not classic, hard and soft):

1. Igneous (borne of fire), like basalt or granite;

2. Sedimentary (comprised of sediments), like sandstone or limestone;

3. Metamorphic (a rock that begins as one of the other types but evolves like a Pokémon due to friction and heat), like the pun-tastic gneiss or schist

The Militant may or may not throw these terms around going forward. He just wants to make sure you know your schist. You will be quizzed at the end of class!

Fifth, The Militant is not a geologist by training or practice, only as a hobby. If you are an actual geologist and find any massive errors in his explanation of geological terms or processes, please let him know! His email: militantangeleno [at] gmail [dot] com.

Oh yeah, you might want the interactive Google map version, so here it is:


To start with, all y'allz need to know that we got two types of mountain ranges in Southern California: The Transverse Ranges and the Peninsular Ranges. So here we go yo:

Transverse Ranges


The Transverse Ranges are a family of mountain ranges that include the Santa Ynez mountains in Santa Barbara County, the Topatopa and San Emigdio mountains in Ventura County, the Tehachapi mountains in Kern County, the Sierra Pelona, Santa Susana, Santa Monica, Verdugo and San Gabriel mountains in Los Angeles County and the San Bernardino and Little San Bernardino mountains in San Bernardino County.

Whatup with the name? On the North American continent, generally every mountain range runs from north to south: The Sierra Nevadas, the Cascades, the Rockies, the Appalachians. You name it - they mostly all run north-south. But there are only a few places where exceptions exist: Alaska (Brooks Range), eastern Utah (Uinta Mountains), Oklahoma/Arkansas (Wichita and Ouachita mountains) and Southern California. The position of our local mountains greatly influence our climate, our air quality, our watersheds, and our human-built geography. The dozen or so east-west major mountain ranges in SoCal are called the Transverse Ranges, being that they run sideways contra to the usual trending direction of mountain ranges.

So why are they "transverse" like that?

The offshore subduction of an ancient tectonic plate, the movement of the San Andreas Fault and the influence of other major adjoining faults made it happen. Without going into a big-ass geography lesson tangent, let's just say that some 20 or so million years ago, our mountain ranges actually did run north-south (technically northwest to southeast), but good ol' Plate Tectonics actually rotated this little section of the Pacific Plate 110 degrees clockwise!

This video will break it down for ya:


Little San Bernardino Mountains

The Little San Bernardino Mountains, as seen from Highway 62.
Geologically the same as their bigger counterpart, but with radically different flora and climate, are the lower-profile Little San Bernardino Mountains. The easternmost and southernmost of the Transverse Ranges, they are considered part of the desert as opposed to an alpine range on the edge of a desert. Spanning over 40 miles between Morongo Valley in the west and the Salton Sea in the east, they separate the Mojave Desert in the north from the Coachella Valley and the Colorado Desert towards the south and overlook the Palm Springs area from the north. Like their bigger counterpart, they too are greatly influenced by the San Andreas Fault, which runs along their southern side. Their highest peak is Quail Mountain (5,813 feet). The LSBs are home to Joshua Tree National Park and the native environment of the California Fan Palm (Washingtonia filfera). A notable geologic feature is Joshua Tree's eroded granite Skull Rock formation.

Mt. Pinos Formation
Mt. Pinos, as seen from the Wind Wolves Preserve.
Not even a mountain range, yet still part of the Transverse Ranges is the Mt, Pinos Formation. Located in far northeastern Ventura County, just to the west of the I-5, it's the highest peak in the county (8,847 ft) and was once considered part of the San Emigdio Mountains. But further geological research concluded that not only is it separated from the San Emigdios by the San Andreas Fault, but it's made out of igneous granite rock, as opposed to the mostly-metamporphic rock of the San Emigdios. Mt. Pinos is the extreme southern part of what geologists call the Salinian Block, a big-ass piece of granite stretching from Bodega Head in Sonoma County all the way down to here. And the Salinian Block just so happens to rest on the western edge of the San Andreas Fault north of where the fault intersects with the opposite-moving Garlock Fault (the mountain itself is likely the result of the interaction between the two opposing faults). Pinos' shorter neighbor, Frazier Mountain, is part of the same formation. A popular location for hiking, skiing and stargazing, Mt. Pinos is both remote from city lights, yet accessible by The 5.

San Bernardino Mountains

The San Bernardino Mountains, as seen from Beaumont.
Towering over the Inland Empire and located in their eponymous county are the San Bernardino Mountains - the tallest mountain range in Southern California. Spanning some 60 miles from the Cajon Pass near Hesperia to the Morongo Valley, these mountains rise high above the Inland Empire to their south and the Mojave Desert to their north. Like their neighbors the San Gabriels to the west, the San Bernardinos were uplifted by the San Andreas Fault. which runs like a backslash between the two ranges. At one point, millions of years ago, the San Gabriel and San Bernardino mountains were all one mountain range; the San Andreas Fault sliced them into two. Looking at any relief map, the split is obvious. The mountains are the origin of the Mojave River and (most of) the Santa Ana River watersheds. The range's highest point is Mt. San Gorgonio (11,503 feet), which is also the tallest peak in Southern California. Named after the land grant Rancho San Bernardino, the San Berdoos are home to Lake Arrowhead, Big Bear Lake and Silverwood Lake (all artificial reservoirs), Baldwin Lake (natural) and the San Bernardino National Forest. An aquifer in the southern part of the range above the city of San Bernardino bore the mountain spring water which gave a popular regional bottled water company its name. Speaking of which, a notable geologic formation of the San Bernardinos is the natural granitic Arrowhead formation near Arrowhead Springs (then again, it may not be).

San Emigdio Mountains

The San Emigdio Mountains as seen from the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley
near Bakersfield. The white line against the side of Grapevine Peak
is the pipeline segment of the California Aqueduct.

A familiar sight to travelers who pass through the I-5's Grapevine, the San Emigdio Mountains form the southwestern corner of the San Joaquin Valley. As you leave Los Angeles, these mountains would be on your left (the Tehachapi Mountains are on your right) just after you cross the San Andreas Fault and as you descend northbound towards Bako or Frisco. Located within southern Kern County and stretching some 30 miles, the metamorphic and igneous San Emigdios ride just north of the San Andreas Fault and are situated between the Tehachapi Mountains to the east and the non-transverse Temblor Range to the west. Their highest peak is San Emigdio Mountain (7,492 feet). Named after Rancho San Emigdio, which is part of the Grapevine today, the San Emigdios are home to Fort Tejon State Historic Park, the California Aqueduct's Ira J. Chrisman Pumping Plant and Wind Wolves Preserve.

San Gabriel Mountains

The familiar central San Gabriel Mountains, with Mt. Wilson (5,699 feet) on the right.
The highest peak pictured towards center left is San Gabriel Peak (6,162 feet).

Located primarily in Los Angeles County (with the extreme eastern end within San Bernardino County), and stretching 68 miles bookended by the Newhall Pass in Santa Clarita and the Cajon Pass in north San Bernardino, The San Gabriel Mountains are the largest and most important mountain range in the Los Angeles metropolitan area. We may be going ga-ga over the snow cover this time of year, but they really do play a huge role in our daily lives: They help trap the inversion layer, giving us smog, haze and fog. They aid in funneling the notorious Santa Ana Winds in from the east and north. They shield us from the dry heat and monsoon storm humidity of the Mojave Desert (...well, at least most of the time). The sediment that flowed down its creeks and rivers created the alluvial plans that became the fertile farmlands of the San Fernando, San Gabriel and Pomona valleys. Even our leisurely lives are affected by the San Gabes: Our radio and television signals are transmitted from there, and they provide the picture-perfect backdrop every summer evening whenever we attend a Dodger game. Their highest point is Mt. San Antonio, a.k.a. Mt. Baldy (10,064 feet). The mighty San Andreas Fault forms the northern end, and the Sierra Madre (which produced the M6.4 Sylmar Earthquake of 1971) and Cucamonga faults form the southern end that faces us. The mountains are the origin of the San Gabriel River and Santa Clara River watersheds, as well as a secondary contributor to the Santa Ana and Los Angeles river watersheds. Named after Mission San Gabriel, the San Gabes are home to the Mt. Wilson Observatory and broadcast transmitter farm and the Mountain High, Mount Waterman and Mt. Baldy ski areas. Most of the Angeles National Forest is contained within the San Gabriels. Notable geologic formations include Devil's Punchbowl near the Antelope Valley and the pillow-like Mormon Rocks in the Cajon Pass - both located along and formed by the San Andreas Fault.

Santa Monica Mountains

The familiar Santa Monica Mountains overlooking Central Los Angeles.

Bookended by Ventura County's Point Mugu in the west and Los Angeles' Atwater Village neighborhood in the east, the 40 mile-long Santa Monica Mountains are the closest mountain range to many in Los Angeles - and a number of people actually live in them. Colloquially referred to as "The Hill," they form the wall that geographically, geologically and culturally separates the Los Angeles Basin and the San Fernando Valley.  They are also very influential to our local climate - they keep the Pacific Ocean breeze and marine layer within the Los Angeles Basin, which fuels the characteristic hotter and drier climate of The Valley. They are the source of the watersheds for Topanga and Ballona creeks, as well as one of the sources of the Los Angeles River (via Arroyo Calabasas). Formed primarily by the Santa Monica Fault, most of the Santa Monicas are made of sedimentary sandstone, but the far western end is primarily made up of igneous rock of ancient volcanic origin (Conejo Mountain, which overlooks Thousand Oaks, was once an active volcano). The highest peak is the ironically-dubbed Sandstone Peak (3,111 feet), which was actually also formed by volcanic activity. Geologists theorize that because the rock age and composition of the western Santa Monicas matches that of the Santa Ana Mountains down south, they were once the same mountain range some 20 million years ago until tectonic forces rotated most of what is now Southern California 110 degrees clockwise out towards the sea. And the northern Channel Islands - San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Santa Barbara and Anacapa - are geologically considered to be an undersea extension of the Santa Monica Mountains. Named after the eponymous coastal city, the Santa Monicas are home to the Hollywood Sign, Hollywood Bowl, Griffith Observatory, Universal Studios, Los Angeles Zoo, The Greek Theatre, The Skirball Center and The Getty (both of them). They were also the domain where P-22 (R.I.P.) once roamed, and where his fellow P-numbered mountain lion relatives currently live. Appropriately, they contain a number of national, state and municipal parks, including Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, Topanga State Park, Malibu Creek State Park and Griffith Park. Two major mountain passes cut through the Santa Monicas - Sepulveda Pass and Cahuenga Pass - both which were originally established as routes by the indigenous Chumash and Tongva peoples and are still used today as streets and freeways. Notable geologic formations include the volcanic Boney Peak in the west end of the range and Griffith Park's Bee Rock sandstone outcropping in the east end.

Santa Susana Mountains

A rare sight of the snowcapped Santa Susana Mountains
overlooking the Valley in late February 2023. Oat Mountain, the range's tallest peak,
is seen on the left.

Stretching for over 30 miles between Saticoy in Ventura County and Santa Clarita in Los Angeles County, and sandwiched between the Santa Clara River Valley in the north and the San Fernando Valley in the south are the Santa Susana Mountains. Separated from the San Gabriel Mountains to the east by the Newhall Pass, the Santa Susanas' highest peak is Oat Mountain (3,747 feet), which overlooks Chatsworth and Northridge. The mountains are secondary contributors to the Santa Clara and Los Angeles river watersheds. Named after the old railroad town of Santa Susanna ("St. Susan"), which is now the city of Simi Valley, the mountains are home to Six Flags Magic Mountain (the thrill capital of the world!), Grimes Canyon, Pico Canyon (site of the first commercially successful oil well in California), the notorious (and particularly gaseous) Aliso Canyon, Big Sky Movie Ranch, Rocky Peak Park (where Boba Fett showed up on 'The Mandalorian') and Michael Antonovich Regional Park. A notable geologic formation in the Santa Susanas is the Chatsworth Formation, a group of sandstone outcroppings (which also contain marine fossils) formed by sand deposits and underwater ocean currents over 65 million years ago, which can be easily seen in the northwestern corner of the San Fernando Valley. It also covers the adjacent Simi Hills to the west.

Santa Ynez Mountains

The Santa Ynez Mountains north of Ventura, as seen from the 101.
The Santa Ynez are to Santa Barbara what the San Gabriels are to Pasadena - You really can't escape them. Located between the Pacific Ocean and the Topatopa Mountains, and primarily within Santa Barbara County, the Santa Ynez Mountains are the westernmost of the Transverses. Both the Santa Ynez and Santa Monica mountains are the only Transverse Ranges that reach the Pacific Ocean. And just like the Santa Monicas, the Santa Ynez Mountains are mostly sedimentary rock, with ancient igneous volcanic rock on their western end. They are created by the uplift of the Santa Ynez Fault. Their highest peak is the unimaginatively-named Peak 4864 (4,864 feet - shocking!), located due north of Santa Barbara but nestled where it can't be seen from that city. Named after Mission Santa Inés (St. Agnes) near Solvang, the Santa Ynez Mountains are home to the Vandenberg Launch Complex (where all those local SpaceX launches originate), Santa Barbara Bowl amphitheater, Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Gaviota State Park, Knapp's Castle, Cachuma Lake and Lake Casitas. Notable geologic formations are the Chumash Painted Cave - a sandstone cave above Santa Barbara that is adorned with 400+ year-old rock art made by the indigenous Chumash people and the Gaviota Wind Caves.

Sierra Pelona Mountains
The Sierra Pelona Mountains from San Francisquito Canyon, north of Santa Clarita.
Located northwest of the San Gabriels and south of the extreme western edge of the Mojave Desert and Antelope Valley, the Sierra Pelona ("Bald Mountain Range" in Español) Mountains have the San Andreas Fault slicing through their northern edge. They overlook the city of Santa Clarita and the 14 Freeway, both to the range's south. The highest peak is Burnt Peak (5,791 feet). Primarily composed of metamorphic rock, with some sedimentary and igneous zones, Gold was discovered in these mountains in 1842 (six years before that more famous gold rush up north) and was actively mined until the 1890s. The range was also the location of the ill-fated St. Francis Dam (designed by William Mulholland), which collapsed on March 12, 1928. Speaking of Mulholland, the Los Angeles Aqueduct runs through this mountain range via both underground tunnels and siphon pipes, which include two DWP hydroelectric power stations that run off the cascading water from the pipes. The Bouquet Reservoir (St. Francis' replacement) now stores water from the Aqueduct. Meanwhile, Los Angeles' other major water source, the California Aqueduct, has branches that run along the northern base of the mountains (heading towards the Inland Empire) and another through the western part of the range, with a hydroelectric plant and storage facility at Castaic Lake. Notable geologic formations include the it-should-have-a-Hollywood-agent Vasquez Rocks in Agua Dulce (created by San Andreas Fault uplift) and Neenach Volcano, which last erupted 23 million years ago and was sliced in half by the San Andreas: the other half was moved by the fault over time some 200 miles north and now forms Pinnacles National Park in Northern California.

Tehachapi Mountains

Double Mountain (7,981 feet), with wind turbines at its foothills,
looms over the north end of the Antelope Valley.

The northernmost of the Transverse Ranges, the Tehachapi Mountains run some 40 miles between the Tejon Pass in the Grapevine and the Tehachapi Pass in the mountain range's eponymous city. Named after the native Kawaiisu word tihachipia ("difficult climb"), They separate the low-lying farmlands of the San Joaquin Valley to its northwest from the Joshua Tree-dotted Mojave Desert landscape of the Antelope Valley to their southeast. The mountain range is formed by the Garlock Fault, the second-longest tectonic fault in California and unique among faults as a "Left-Lateral Fault," meaning that if you stand in front of the fault line, the land on the other side is moving towards the left (whereas on the San Andreas and most others, the land moves towards the right). This quirk is one of the reasons why the San Andreas has a noticeable bend in Southern California and why the Transverse Ranges exist in the first place. The Tehachapis' highest peak is Double Mountain (7,981 feet), which overlooks the Antelope Valley to the south and the town of Tehachapi to the north. The Tehachapis are home to the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument in Keene, the Tehachapi Pass Wind Turbine Farm and the famous Tehachapi railroad loop.

Topatopa Mountains

The Topatopa Mountains, as seen from the town of Fillmore.
Located mostly within Ventura County (with their extreme eastern end in Los Angeles County), the Topatopa Mountains span over 40 miles between the I-5 on the east and Highway 33 on the west. Named after the Chumash word "topa" which are the rush or reed plants that grow in the wetlands of the area, the mountains are home to the town of Ojai, the Los Padres National Forest, the Sesepe Condor Sanctuary, Lake Piru and Pyramid Lake (both artificially-made reservoirs). The tallest peak in the Topatopas is Cobblestone Mountain (6,738 feet).

Verdugo Mountains

The Ikea Mountai..er...Verdugo Mountains, as seen from Beautiful Downtown Burbank.
The shortest (in length) of the Transverse Ranges, the Verdugos run just 8 miles between Lake View Terrace and Glendale, separating the San Fernando Valley from the Crescenta Valley. Formed by the Verdugo Fault, their highest peak is Verdugo Peak (3,126 feet). Unlike the other mountain ranges, the Verdugos are surrounded by urban development on all sides, making their flora and fauna habitat a virtual island of sorts. Named after Jose Maria Verdugo, the Spanish/Mexican soldier who owned Rancho San Rafael, which encompassed the nearby lowlands, the Verdugos are the home of Glendale's Brand Library, Burbank's The Castaway Restaurant and Starlight Bowl amphitheatre, as well as several parks, including La Tuna Canyon Park, Verdugo Mountain Park and Verdugo Mountains Open Space Preserve.


Peninsular Ranges

Okay, we've covered the Transverse Ranges, but we got normal-type north-south mountains too (well, a few...). Called the Peninsular Ranges (referring to the Baja California Peninsula, in which this mountain cordillera extends all the way down to Cabo San Lucas), they are comprised primarily of igneous granitic rock, which is of the same composition as the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the north. In fact, the Sierra, the Salinian Block (remember that one?) and the Peninsular Ranges (all granitic rock) were once the same mountain range formed by the same geologic process...until the San Andreas Fault came along and done messed things up. Locally, our Peninsular Ranges of concern are the Santa Ana Mountains in Orange, Riverside and northern San Diego counties; and the Temescal and San Jacinto mountains in Riverside County.

San Jacinto Mountains

The snowcapped Mt. San Jacinto towers over the Coachella Valley below
The northernmost of the Peninsular Ranges, the 30 mile-long San Jacinto Mountains are located between the Perris Valley in the west and the Coachella Valley in the east. Surrounded by the 10 Freeway and Highway 74, the range is to the south of the San Bernardino Mountains and to the north of the Santa Rosa Mountains. The mountains form the watershed of the San Jacinto River, which feeds Lake Elsinore. They also contribute to the Santa Ana River watershed and the Whitewater River watershed, which ends up in the Salton Sea. Their highest peak is Mt. San Jacinto (10, 834 feet), and the rest of the range is rather prominent, thanks to the influence of both the San Jacinto Fault (west) and San Andreas Fault (east). Named after the numerous "Rancho San Jacinto" land grants that were located in today's Perris Valley/Hemet Valley area, the range is home to the town of Idyllwild, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Mt. San Jacinto State Park and Soboba Casino Resort. A notable geologic feature is Oswit Rock, a granodiorite outcropping that overlooks the southern end of Palm Springs.

Santa Ana Mountains
The Saddleback of the Santa Ana Mountains (Santiago Peak (R) and Modjeska Peak (C),
as seen from Highway 241 in Irvine.

Overlooking much of Orange County are the Santa Ana Mountains. Situated between (sub)urban Orange County in the west and the Inland Empire in the east, the range runs 61 miles from Santa Ana Canyon down to Camp Pendleton near Oceanside. Much like the Santa Monica Mountains, they trap the cool coastal breezes within OC (windward side) and help make the IE (leeward side) hot AF. The range also contributes to the Santa Ana Winds both in function and in name: The hot desert winds funnel through the mountain range's namesake canyon at their northern edge are the origin of the winds' moniker. Their tallest peak is Santiago Peak (5,689 feet). Together with its shorter neighbor, Modjeska Peak (5,496 feet), they form the Saddleback Ridge, which overlooks Orange County and can be seen from as far as the Santa Monica Mountains. The Santa Ana Mountains form the watersheds for Trabuco and San Juan creeks, both of which flow into the Pacific at Doheny State Beach in Dana Point. Named after the Santa Ana Valley (where Mission Viejo and San Juan Capistrano reside), the mountains are home to Irvine Lake, Santiago Canyon, Modjeska Canyon, Trabuco Canyon and Glen Ivy Hot Springs.

Temescal Mountains
California Golden Poppies decorate the Temescal Mountains near Corona
during the 2019 Superbloom.
These low-lying mountains in the IE, stretching some 21 miles from the Santa Ana River down to the San Jacinto River, with the Temescal Valley to the west and the Perris Valley to the east, are the Temescal Mountains, still comprised of the same granitic rock as its taller Peninsular Range neighbors. Gold and tin were mined here in the 1800s. Formed by the Elsinore Fault Zone, their highest peak is Estelle Mountain, (2,762 feet). Named after Rancho Temescal (which ran down the Temscal Valley into the Oceanside area), they are home to Walker Canyon (a.k.a. the Lake Elsinore Poppyfields), Painted Rock, which features ancient pictographs made by the indigenous Luiseño (Payómkowishum) people, the Lake Matthews reservoir (which is the southern terminus of the California Aqueduct) and Lake Matthews Estelle Mountain Reserve.

The Sierra

Sierra Nevada Mountains

Mt. Tom and the rest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains overlook the town of Bishop.

"Wait," you might say, "This isn't in Southern California!" Geographically, they may not be, but their influence on the Los Angeles area looms as high as they are. Stretching 400 miles from Fredonyer Pass in Lassen County to Tehachapi Pass in Kern County, the Sierra (not "Sierras," BTW) forms California's backbone, literally and figuratively. You may or may not know that some shiny mineral called gold was discovered at Sutter's Mill along the American River (one of the many Sierra Nevada rivers) in 1848. The rest is history. They are also California's icebox, storing the record snowpack from the Great Wet and Snowy California Winter of 2022-2023. Wanna talk watershed? They are the watershed of all watersheds: The snow on top of the mountains will melt into the Kings and San Joaquin Rivers and flow westward into the San Francisco Bay Delta and then south via the California Aqueduct, providing irrigation and livestock water for San Joaquin Valley farms and Central and Southern California municipal water supplies. The snow will also melt eastward into the Owens River and get intercepted by the Los Angeles Aqueduct, heading south through the Owens and Antelope valleys into the City of Los Angeles' municipal water supply (which also gets a good percentage from the CA Aqueduct). Even the city of San Francisco does some Sierra Snowmelt Stealing of their own - from the Hetch Hetchy Valley. That bottle of Crystal Geyser you bought from the liquor store? It originated from snowmelt from Olancha Peak, filters down into an aquifer in the Owens Valley and goes into that bottle. The water that you drink, bathe, swim in, water your plants with, wash your hands for 20 seconds with...a good percentage of it came from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They're that important, not just to our area, but to every county between Sacramento and Los Angeles. Though not located in geographical Southern California per se, the Sierra Nevada Mountains are still a huge influence on our area, and are part of cultural Southern California: the Mammoth Mountain ski resort (founded by El Segundo native and former LADWP hydrologist Dave McCoy) is a popular skiing destination for SoCal folks (Nor Cal people prefer to head east on I-80 and ski Tahoe), Eastern Sierra towns like Mammoth Lakes and Bishop have Los Angeles Times newsracks, Dodger game broadcasts on the radio and Vons (and not Safeway) supermarkets. Born from magma lifted from deep in the earth some 115 million years ago through the subduction of an ancient tectonic plate into the North American continental plate; the jagged profile of the mountains was carved from glaciers that began over 2 million years ago. You already know that the tallest peak is Mt. Whitney (14,505 feet), but 8 of the 10 tallest peaks in the Golden State reside in the Sierra. Named the "snowy mountains" by Spanish priest Pedro Font in a map he charted in 1777, the Sierra Nevada mountains are home to none other than Yosemite, Sequoia, and King's Canyon national parks, Plumas, Eldorado, Stanislaus, Sierra and Sequoia national forests, the Pacific Crest and John Muir trails, and numerous alpine lakes - most notably the king of all alpine lakes: Lake Tahoe. Notable geologic features include the needs-no-introduction Yosemite Valley, the cinemagenic rounded granite Alabama Hills near the town of Lone Pine and the Palisades Glacier - the southernmost glacier on the North American continent - near the town of Big Pine.

So there you go! A little knowledge on our local ranges. Did you learn something new? Do you feel the mountains calling? Do you have a newfound appreciation for our local peaks? Support The Militant's endeavors via PayPal!

Much Militant thanks to the following who have shown their support over the past few weeks! You are appreciated!

Lily Cosgrove
Michael Gonzalez
Catherine Kay
Lydia Otero
Ramona Monteros
Joe Ryan
Sudeep Sharma
Anthony Swilley, Jr.
Michael Turmon
Kari Wenger
Christina Wilson
Arthur Wong