Millard Canyon Hike

I like to sleep in until 10am when there's no class I have to push myself out of bed for, but I woke up at 6:22am this Sunday morning ready to go hiking in Altadena near JPL.

The day had a rough start. There was a group of us going in a small bus, but two of my friends went on their own and got desperately lost, never making it to the canyon. Although from what they described, they did have an exasperatingly hysterical adventure of their own, getting lost in the canyon and having a run in with a Jet Propulsion Lab security guard (never to be messed with) and getting mistaken for house maids in a gated community. But that's definitely a whole other story.

Those of us on the bus headed out from Pasadena City College in the right direction thankfully. Along the way we passed the haunted/Enchanted Forest where my friend described the morbid details behind the forest's notoriety. Evidently, there used to be a meat processing plant underground, somewhere in the canyon wall I suppose, where two men dragged their victims to their deaths. Though now teenagers and college students dare themselves and their friends into the canyon during the dead of night, keeping an eye out for ghosts and scarily enough, the cops. The bus rumbled on and we passed near Gravity Hill where, as the story goes, the ghosts of schoolchildren from a horrible accident push your car up the hill while the car is in neutral. We passed the places of these (could be true) urban legends and headed into Millard Canyon.

We had reached the Millard campgrounds and gotten off the bus before I, mortified, realized that this wasn't the place we were meeting the volunteers from another organization. The bus was about to leave stranding us, but my friend signaled the driver and let him know that this wasn't the right place. We boarded the bus again and headed down the canyon towards JPL finally reaching the right road.

We had planned to join with a local environmental organization called the Arroyo Seco Foundation, but found that they had headed up the canyon trail before we got there. However, one of the organization volunteers was thankfully notified that we were trying to reach them and so came down to meet us.

Once in the canyon we wound our way through jutting rocks and the small streams sheltering the small frogs that call the canyon home. We passed over makeshift wooden planks over larger streams, careful not to let any one of us fall into the water. One of volunteers had smartly brought his rain boots and was able to make his way through the course of the stream without fear of getting wet.

Can you see the frog??
In addition to frogs we also found a salamander that was accidentally startled when one of our participants passed a little too close to it prompting the salamander to hurriedly make it's way up the canyon from the stream.

The main reason we went in the hike though was to pick up trash and so as soon as we met up with the rest of the group, which consisted of a couple girl scouts and boy scouts earning their badges with their parents, we got some trash bags and those metal trash picker uppers whose name escapes me and began to look for any trash around the canyon.

It was a really fun time. We learned a bit about the plants around and how it was used in the past. For instance, the Native Americans used mule fat for bows and arrows because of how straight it is. Though it's called mule fat because miners on their way up the canyon would feed their mules the plant to keep them nourished.

The air was fresh and brisk and there were only a couple of people on the canyon trail with their dogs. Though it felt isolated and was quiet, at the top of the canyon to the side were houses, which might have explained a rusty sink we found at the bottom of the canyon.

Bonus: There's a couple great bike paths near the canyon that go alongside the stream and JPL.

I will definitely be returning soon.

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