Who holds the key to hiking Eaton Canyon?

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The city of Pasadena limits snake way up into Eaton Canyon for the water rights. Once you step off the Altadena curb from Pinecrest into the canyon to hike up to Mt. Wilson or just to Henninger or Idlehour on the old Toll Road, you’re in Pas for at least a little while … if you can get through, that is.

The key to the hiking highway has long been given to Pinecrest neighbors irate at the noise non-Sierra Club types — the kids who party and sometimes graffiti the rocks at the Eaton falls — can make down in the canyon.

The sometimes persnickety neighbors can close down that gate pretty early. I remember leaving my hiking party behind to run down the trail for half a mile to force them to keep it open well before sunset so we could get out of there without having to hike all the way down to the Nature Center.

Attorney and hiking activist Paul Ayers, whose son is pictured above at the gate in question, asks these questions:

On Friday, my fourth grader James had the day off so we decided to go hiking. After finding that Pasadena had closed the lower Arroyo Seco we wandered over to Eaton because James wanted a walk by “a stream”. Out of habit I swung by the Pinecrest gate and… found it opened; hikers were parking and walking down to the falls, up the Toll Road, etc. James and I went down the road and up to the falls and had a fine time; I have attached a photo of James at the gate. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that no one, including a county fire fighter I met at the gate, had any rational explanation as to when the gate openings began, what the open hours were, etc. Most troubling was the fire fighter’s statement that the gate was “unlocked by a neighbor who has a key”. And the signage on the gates still says the City of Pasadena has no responsibility for the gate and if it is locked when you’re inside, tough luck.

Pasadena Water & Power owns the land at the access point. That entity according to letters I have seen signed by Mayor Bogaard, was responsible for the closure. The closure was in many ways irrational. There was nothing particularly unsafe in Eaton after the rains stopped in 2005 and if safety was the issue [which Mayor Bogaard stated it was] why did access to the “unsafe area” from the Nature Center and other Eaton Canyon access points remain unfettered? Given the lack of logic of the City’s position it is no wonder that the trail community came to believe that safety was not the issue, but rather that the Pinecrest “neighbors” simply didn’t like the great unwashed in their neighborhood. This may not be the case but when a government spreads bullsh*t all kinds of plants grow.

Be that as it may, now that the repairs are completed and the Toll Road is passable and safe it seems reasonable that some kind of rational approach to access through the Pinecrest gate be established. In my opinion this would involve some accountable governmental entity controlling and scheduling gate openings, not the “neighbors”.

Demanding a $400 apology for enduring U2


Most of the nearly 100,000 people in the Rose Bowl last night seemed to enjoy the U2 concert.

So did most of the people in the neighborhoods surrounding the Arroyo Seco, with some having outdoor parties to take in the show’s audio at least.

It was indeed very, very loud, very far away.

At least one homeowner wrote the Rose Bowl and the mayor and copied me and didn’t like it at all. In fact, he’s demanding retribution. His letter, taking out his name and a few identifying details, follows:

My wife and I have lived (near the Rose Bowl) since 1982. This is about 1/2 mile from the stadium. We value the Rose Bowl and appreciate that it often makes good efforts to keep the operations of various sporting and entertainment events as unobtrusive as possible. Something went terribly, terribly wrong last evening (10/25/09) however. Even though we had our double-glazed windows and doors shut, the sound from the U-2 concert reverberated within our home making it hard to talk, impossible to ignore and impossible to sleep. We called the police, the Rose Bowl operating company, the local councilmember, and the mayor’ office to request help — all to no avail.

It is my opinion that allowing the speakers to be placed up so high and operated at full volume was the origin of the problem. The sound was not confined to the interior of the stadium as is usually the case but went off to the surrounding homes. Although your company wrote that a “sound check” would be done, we did not hear one and so were totally unprepared for the awful and truly frightening level of sound that intruded into our home from about 7:15 p.m. to about 11:45 p.m last evening.

This was about 4 hours of painful and frightening noise which scared us and upset us.

As a result of your negligence and nuisance my wife and I demand four things:
1. A written explanation and apology for the noise;
2. A promise that this high positioning of speakers such that the sound can escape will not be repeated;
3. A payment of $400 for the emotional distress caused by your nuisance and negligence; and
4. This payment may be made as a donation to the Pasadena Humane Society in our name if you notify us that it has been made.

The Tournament of Roses and newspapermen


The word that a longtime newspaper guy — P. Scott McKibben, the former publisher of our sister papers in the East Bay, the Alameda Newspaper Group — has been named the new chief executive of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses might seem odd.

Actually, it’s the reverse — it’s par for the course.

The Rose Bowl stadium was so-named by a Star-News sports reporter after its completion in the early 1920s. We used for many years to do the official parade program — the covers were high camp and sometimes also approached high (commercial) art. There’s a framed copy in the foyer of Tournament House of the best one from the early ’20s, in which a bi-plane with the Star-News logo is flying over the Arroyo Seco and the Colorado Street Bridge, its pilot strewing roses on the town.

And before the retiring Mitch Dorger, the two most prominent parade bosses came out of Pasadena newspapers as well.

Jack French, still a big part of Pasadena — he and his wife Patti produce the annual 4th of July event in the Rose Bowl — was, before he became head of the Pasadena Red Cross and then for decades the top tournament guy, an advertising executive at the Star-News.

And Max Colwell, the former Pasadena Post City Hall reporter, went from being a White Suiter TofR volunteer to become the first full-time general manager of the parade and game when he was hired in 1952, a post he held into the 1970s.

Newspapers and parades just go together — ephemeral, colorful, daily miracles with tight deadlines.

Upper Millard, after the fire, before the rains


Hiker Ken Farley went up the Sam Merrill trail at the top of Lake Avenue — way up — last weekend and took a bunch of photos that depict both the devastation of the Station Fire and the remarkable landscapes that were saved.

The above shot is from Upper Millard Canyon looking to the east toward Mt. Disappointment and Mt. Wilson. You can see the burned out areas down below, and the beautiful greenery that remains.

Ken has more insight than your average bear into our mountains. He’s a geophysicist and chair of the division of geological and planetary sciences at Caltech. I believe he was accompanied on the hike by his wife, fellow geologist Kristen Farley, a former academic herself who is the big boss of Pasadena Up & Moving, the exercise advocates who plan the monthly walks with the mayor around the Rose Bowl.

Both hikers are ultra-marathoners who know the mountains as well as anyone. Today and for the next coupla, no one is supposed to know the mountains as we stay out of them because of the intense danger of debris flows in this rain.

The way to win a Nobel

OK, so the best way to win a Nobel Peace Prize is clearly to be an American president — the surprised fellow in the Rose Garden today; or an ex-president building a legacy — the Georgian negotiator; or an almost-president — the king of cap ‘n’ trade; or a reluctant presidential fighter of the war to end all wars, which didn’t work out so well — the namesake of yours truly.

Whereas the way to win a Nobel Prize in Literature is NOT to be an American novelist working at the top of your game, or anybody’s game, for many decades, as in the late John Updike, whose failure to get the prize is a crime. And as in Philip Roth, who, yoo hoo Stockholm, is still with us and still eligible. Or Thomas Pynchon or Don DeLillo, whose politics are presumably more to European tastes.

The way to get the writing award is to be a European leftist with an interesting personal story as opposed to pure novelistic chops, as the selection of Herta Muller shows — not that I’ve read anything she’s written, and only a couple thousand Americans can say they have, before this week at least.

No good just to be European — otherwise the late great Tory novelist Anthony Powell, my favorite writer ever, would have won simply on the massive strengths of “A Dance to the Music of Time.”

It’s all diminishing the prestige of the Nobel in the end. Then again, the failure to award the prize to any of the trio who were the greatest writers of the late 19th and early 20th century — James Joyce, Leo Tolstoy and Marcel Proust — went a long way toward diminishing it, too.

Sure, they get sensible sometimes. No discounting the pure poetry that is Seamus Heaney.

A Coke on board ship

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I’d driven by the Streamline Moderne Coca-Cola bottling plant on South Central Avenue (from 1937 by architect Robert V. Derrah) in downtown L.A. many times — always doing a double-take. It’s an ocean liner on the city streets. Today I got to go inside to speak on a panel on the state of the SoCal economy. Danged if I didn’t take my camera in, not expecting anything visual in there — but the execs’ offices are like captains’ quarters; you have to step over a bulkhead to get in. Asked someone else to take a picture of that coolness and will post when I get it …