Monday, September 3, 2018

13 Days in Ferguson: Book Review

Captain Ronald Johnson, of the Missouri State Highway Patrol, was unexpectedly put in charge of restoring peace during the unrest in Ferguson, after the death of Michael Brown. He tells his story woven within the daily events of those tense 13 days. He mingles his faith and times of doubt, in a way that keeps you riveted and gives you insight to the disconnect between law enforcement and those they are called to serve and protect.

Captain Johnson's story flashes between the past of his childhood and the present tension, confusion and frustration during the civil unrest in Ferguson. His own experiences of racism and bias directed toward him as a child, his upbringing and his faith, all have an influence over the decisions he makes in Ferguson and how he responds to the rising action of the events of those initial 13 days.

I highly recommend this book. I found it very inspiring and the first hand account credible. Its a fairly easy read, divided into chapters of each day's events. The Captain chronicles how his faith grew as he faced each day not knowing what would transpire, hoping and praying it wouldn't be another death.

He chose to be honest with media, citizens and colleagues, while intentionally working with the people in the Ferguson community, breaking down the barriers of us vs them, police vs the people, the people vs the police.

His story gives first hand insight into the lives of people who have felt invisible, unheard, unseen and neglected by their communities and the country at large.

As an educator myself, this part stood out to me. The schools closed down during the unrest in Ferguson. One teacher came to the protest with a sign indicating students could still have a place to go to learn...the local public library. Captain Johnson records his visit to this teacher's make-shift school at the library. On the first day only a handful of students showed up but by the end of the week there were over a hundred students actively continuing their education. A truly dedicated educator, who did what she could to empower the students in her care and the students in her school.

Captain Johnson makes it clear in his memoir that he was not alone, even when he felt like it. Though not everyone supported his decisions, he still had support, especially from his family, who worried about his own safety daily.

Again, I highly recommend this book.

Friday, August 17, 2018

The Beds We Make, The Beds We Lie In

I have owned 5 beds in my adult life-yes I counted. I moved from my parents home to marriage, with no independence in between. The first bed I had as an independent adult, and also married, was a huge, dark brown wooden water bed. So 70's but it was 1992. It was freezing to lay on because the heater was broken or something so we layered thick Mexican blankets on it, so we wouldn't catch our death of cold. The type that had two colors and an animal, like a horse or lion on it.

We took that bed with us to our first apartment. There was barely enough space for it in the bedroom. We did not move it with us when we upgraded to a cute back house with a loft and small bedroom upstairs for our first little one. We, well the husband actually-he just came home with it, I had no input, bought our first new bed in that home. It was a black, wrought iron bed with tall metal bedposts, for a canopy I guess. Though we had the four posts up we never utilized it with a canopy.

It went with us for another move but we did not assemble the canopy bars. The first marital lies were told in that bed. When I moved out and we separated the first time, I did not take the bed. I was done and I had no intention of ever sleeping in that bed again. I had a change  of heart, we reconciled and the bed came with us, though the mattresses got the heave ho!

There was something wrong with that bed though. It kept collapsing. Every so often, the mattresses would mysteriously fall through the frame rails and crash to the floor. I had no idea what caused it but I began to feel annoyed and distrustful of the stability of this bed. Sometimes it was stable and supportive so it didn't seem right to get rid of it.

Eventually, we got lucky and my parents got a new bed and offered their old bed frame to us. It was strong, sturdy wood. I even personalized it by custom painting it a beautifully deep, fuchsia color. The bed remained strong and sturdy as long as we had it. This bed bore witness to even more lies and deceptions. Memories of intimate humilations, kept at bay in the periphery of the past.

It survived another separation, though again, the mattresses did not. Fresh hopes and dreams were conceived on this bed. Healing and forgiveness. Reconciliation came with a new baby. Someone took pity on a momma using an air mattress on this sturdy bed and blessed us with a brand new mattress and bedding set.

Again, hopes were crushed and devastated as the dreams were unsustainable. A completely new start would be needed. I slept alone in the bed as it felt so much bigger than I imagined it ever could. I shortened my nights and time in it by staying up as late as possible. I rearranged it's placement. I cleaned out the closet, got rid of old clothes, swept every corner around it spotless. Still the bed loomed large and empty in the room. I finally gave away that bed, my parents bed, only to learn the recipient wondered if my experiences could be transferred with it. I could only wish my parents loyal love would have been.

I purchased a beautiful, big, sleigh bed, on my own. It was used but I chose, bought and transported it home myself. I didn't know that it would not last. The hope it held was false. As time passed I began to realize that this bed was also unstable. Though the dark wood and commanding size gave the illusion of reliability, again, my mattress came crashing to the floor. I finagled it as best as I could at the time, to hold me up and it worked...for awhile. It supported my long nights of tear entangled prayers.

It survived a moved and all seemed well. Until the night it dangerously came crashing down again--like all my hopes and fears. There was no more repairing it. I knew I had to get rid of this bed, once and for all. It went straight to the trash. I let it go and all the dreams of the future I was holding onto, with it.

Another bed. Chosen for its vintage design as well as it's affordability. It held no false hopes, only a future belonging solely to me. About me. These days it's sturdy enough to hold all three of my kids still at home, (two of which are young adults) and myself on it at once; to watch a movie, do some writing or homework, snuggle or just chat. I can trust this bed. It has all the appropriate supports and gives no indication of weakness. This bed is honest. It holds no secrets. It is light and lovely, yet strong. It's covered in layers of comforting blankets, quilts, sheets, with colorful pillows atop. This bed is our safe space, of sleep and sanctuary.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Shortest Trail to the Hollywood Sign, Mt. Lee, Hollywood


  • There are so many trails you can take to the HW sign. 
  • I parked in a residential neighborhood so parking was free. Pay attention to signs.
  • STAY on the trail since it passes through private neighborhoods.
  • NO restroom before, after or along the trail.
  • Distance: less than 5 miles out and back.
  • Full sun, no shade; wear sun protective gear.

Though I am a California native, I have never hiked to the Hollywood sign. This needed to change. With a little research I found  the shortest route available to get to the infamous Hollywood sign! 

The trail starts from a residential neighborhood. I parked on the street and right in front of me was a white service gate and signs everywhere warning to NOT stray from the trail or face $1000 fines.

Initially you have a clear view of the sign above and behind you. Once you get to the top, your view of the sign will only be from the back of it but the view of the city will be amazing! 

The trail is primarily a dry and dusty dirt road and up hill. 

Eventually you will reach a large green gate. To the LEFT of the gate is an almost hidden, narrow walkway. Go up a few stesp and  on the ground you will see stars. Follow the stars to a fork in the road. The gate is private property and to the right are private homes. Please be respectful.

To continue to the Hollywood sign you will stay to the RIGHT of the fork--toward the Smokey the Bear sign. However, look left for an awesome photo opp with the sign behind you.

Toward the left you will see a small hill that leads you to the photo opp. You can also add mileage to  your hike by heading up toward the water tower if you want.

When you come to this  point in the trail, stay on the road heading forward. Across from these signs will be a small sign to your left. Very easy to miss.

This is the easy to miss sign across from the signs pictured above. You can see my finger pointing to the trail summit you are looking for: Mt. Lee. 

Farther along, you will find another sign just like the previous one when you are almost there...You can follow it to Cahuenga Peak, again if you want to lengthen your hike. To stick to the shortest route to the Hollywood sign, continue left toward Mt. Lee Summit!

Stay to the left and you will come up to a chain link fence behind the Hollywood sign. For the best views, head toward the cell towers. Make a sharp left up a small hill--this offers panoramic views of  the sign and the city.

You have arrived!!! 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Stoddard Peak, Angeles National Forest


  • Adventure (parking) Pass required.
  • NO restrooms.
  • Parking lot is small BUT you can drive down the dirt trail road for more parking or park along main road. Pay attention to signs!!!
  • Road is very rocky, uneven and dusty. Use caution with your car if you decide to follow it down. 
  • There are private cabins at the beginning of the trail. Please be respectful.
  • Turn off is easy to miss--refer to pix below. 
  • Last 1/4 of hike, up the hill to the peak, is sort of over grown and will have brush. Long sleeves and pants recommended.

This was my first time on this trail. I hiked with a group of women who are also members of Girls Who Hike LA. My goal for this year is to attend at least one group hike a month with this awesome community.  

This hike is a nice, moderate, mid-level hike. 6.2 miles round trip--though with missing the turn, I think we did about 7 miles. From the parking lot, take the road along the left. TO the right of the parking lot is a preserve sign and boulders blocking an asphalt fire road. That is NOT the trail you take to Stoddard Peak. After you head down the dusty, gravel covered road, you will pass a woodsy, cabin community. There are residents and private property. As always, please be respectful. 

Most of the trail is uphill and covered in bark and acorn hats combined with slippery gravel and rocks.

There is a nice amount of tree canopy at first but eventually the trail becomes full sun. As the landscape changes, be aware of the turn off (see pix below). It is very easy to miss. We missed it the first time but another hiker had a map that we could consult to realize our mistake. 

The trail is primarily dry but there are at least 2 creek crossings near the beginning of the hike. The water was very shallow and I can imagine it drying up in the heat of summer. The creek was wide in one spot so we moved to the left to cross at a narrow spot. 

The tricky part is the last quarter mile or so. You turn right from the trail and head up the hill. The brush is very over grown and the trail is easily missed. This is where you need to be sure you are wearing long sleeves and pants, suitable for hiking. This part of the trail is also full sun.

As you reach the first peak, you may be tempted to stop here. This is NOT Stoddard Peak. The trail for SP continues along 2 peaks before you reach Stoddard. The 2nd peak requires you to gingerly go around the back of a large boulder peak. You will follow it around the boulder and continue on to the next peak.

Don't miss this turn out!!

Stoddard peak has  triangular metal sign that seems to be some sort of marker. In the center of that last peak, there is a rusted old can. Open it up to reveal a log book. Be sure to sign your name!

Get up that hill!!!
NOT Stoddard Peak
BUT one of the peaks you will pass
on your way to it. 
I normally do not like hikes without some sort of water feature, especially a water fall, at the end. This hike, though, was great. Of course I was in good company but also because it's not that strenuous and there was a creek to cross and the views at the top of Stoddard Peak are breath taking.
Oh, depending on what time and season you do this hike, the water levels may vary, parking can be scarce and the mountain can be cold. I was freezing in the parking lot while we waited for other group members to arrive. I warmed up quickly enough though.

Standing atop Stoddard Peak.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

How to Find Devil's Gulch Falls aka Secret Waterfall along the San Gabriel River via Bridge to Nowhere Trail {Part 2}

Is that the longest post title ever or what!?! Haha. This secret water fall is secret for a is VERY well hidden. Since it is still fairly unknown, there is not a true trail leading to it, there is wild brush but little trash at the falls with random items along the way.


  • Adventure Pass required for parking.
  • Vault toilets at lot, below at trail head and along the road before the lot. Bring your own TP.
  • Weather and water levels vary. Wear layers.
  • Your feet WILL get wet. Plan accordingly.
  • Beware of POISON OAK exposure at final river crossing up to falls.
  • Hike is about 8 + miles round trip.
  • You will pass miners, their work area and camps.
  • First half of trail follows Bridge to Nowhere trail--there will be small hills, bouldering and river crossings.

This account assumes you are at least somewhat familiar with the Bridge to Nowhere trail as you will be following it for the first half of this hike. The first marker to be aware of is entering Sheep Mountain. You will cross the wooden bridge and see the sign. Continue to follow the trail along the river. You will travel over rock face, use caution--always use caution. Then the trail will narrow and cross what looks like a former rock slide are with small gravel. You will come down a hill and cross over an open area with gravel, rocks and sharp, pointed yucca plants. 


Eventually you will reach a point where you MUST cross the river, regardless if you are heading to the Bridge to Nowhere or not. Normally you would cross over to the *left* side of the river, then *back* across to the right, sort of like a U-turn to avoid a large rock face that enters the rivers edge. (it is on your right as you make this crossing)

In this case, STAY on the LEFT side of the river--do NOT cross back over here. Follow along up the river, from the left side. It will sort of feel like a trail because of flat ground with small rocks.  You will stay on the left side most of  the time while crossing back and forth.

First crossing back to the right
side of the river.

The first time you cross back to the right will be because the 'trail' dead ends into the river and you have no other option but to cross over. Trekking poles or a large stick may be good as you are crossing the river to help with stability. For the most part, we were able to keep our feet and shoes fairly dry with a few toe splashes, by rock hopping. If we had to step into the water, we looked for the most shallow spots, hopped quickly across and toughed it out. 

When you have no idea where you are going, it can feel like forever, but don't worry, it will be quick and easy on the return. The next major marker to be aware of is a large ditch/rock quarry/active mining area on the LEFT side of the river. 

Active mining area.
Ditch/rock quarry

We stayed along the left side but at this point, we crossed back over to give the miner his space. There were also tools on the right side but he was working on the left so we left him alone and gave a wide berth. You should see extremely large piles of big rocks. He is digging ditches and moving rocks, had a wheelbarrow, and other tools. He has been there probably a few years. Last summer (2017) when we passed, he had a ditch the size of a room and we passed by on the left. He has rearranged so many rocks and expanded his work area significantly since then, at the time of this writing.

Another marker that may be helpful is coming upon lime/light green colored rocks face. This is also located on the left side of the river. This will help break up the confusion and affirm you are on the right track and have NOT passed up the tributary yet. You will climb on this a little to continue traveling along the left side of the river. Eventually you will pass slightly red rock. 

The next significant marker is an abandoned camp or mining area on the right side of the river. You will need to cross over at this point to the right. This time had way more cast offs and materials than last summer (2017). There were clothes and shoes spread out all over and some still in bags. There were tarps but also signs of previous mining attempts, long, large tubes all along the right side of the river. The atmosphere may feel a little eery and you realize you are very alone on this road less traveled.

 At this abandoned area you should see a very, unusable swing. It may have barbed wire wrapped around it--I do not recommend using it. Keep moving forward up river. 

Some points along the left side will feel open, airy and the ground will be flat. At  other points, you WILL be stomping through brush, tree branches, over rocks, fallen trees, avoiding getting stabbed by yucca plants--keep going. Maneuver however you need to continue moving up along the river. You can travel up the center of the river when it is shallow, if you like. Some areas are deeper and the water moves more rapidly with unstable river floor of rocks and small boulders. 
Can't see in this pic but that is where
the water flows down/over from and into
the San Gabriel River.

When you finally reach the tributary streaming into the river, you will probably be on the right side of the river OR in the river itself. Its a tricky spot and can easily be missed. Right where the stream is flowing into the river is a bit of a deep and potentially unstable spot to step with rapid flowing water. We chose to cross a couple feet past it, where it was shallow and you could see the river bed. It is well hidden with brush and it makes you doubt it is anything more than a random trickle of water.
THIS IS IT! It's what you have been searching for. Yay. We entered on the right of the tributary. It is uphill (sort of) but not too hard. Use caution because now your shoes are wet and rocks will be slippery. It is over grown so also be aware of poison oak. I did not notice any poison oak on this trip but we were very aware of it last summer. Some boulders you need to climb up, will be waist high. There will also be inclines of gravel. 

The falls begins to come into view.

The pictures can not do it justice!
Devil's Gulch Falls

Enjoy a serene moment taking in the view. During the summer, we got in and stood under the falls. This time we did not get in at all and simply took selfies from the shore. Enjoy a quiet and serene lunch listening to the falls. It's breathtakingly beautiful. 

Eventually you will head back down and out. Keep an eye to the left on your way down to catch sight of old ruins and the remains of a road or foundation {I don't know which}.

We traveled down the center of the river for awhile. We came upon a weekend gold miner and he advised us of a 'trail' along the 'right' side of the river, which is now on our left as we are travelling *down river*. We ended up staying on that side most of the way since we did not have to stay aware looking for the hidden tributary. We crossed back over at the point where we initially crossed and separated from the original BtN trail, to rejoin the trail.

These graffiti arrows are not noticeable when you descend this gravely part of the trail after sheep mountain. They work as good markers to be aware of to get back onto the trail, up above the river. When/if you come across these, they are on your left or right in front of you. The trail is just to the left of this picture and easy to miss. It heads back up above this rock face. 

I hope you enjoyed this trail and find the secret falls. In case you are more of an auditory person...I also made a VIDEO! lol It is a scrappy video that I initially planned on using for my own personal notes. Please keep your expectations LOW. I made this on the fly. It may or may not be helpful but I hope it is.

Let me know if this helped and if you have any more questions, I'll try to answer them.

See you on the trails. 

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Devil's gulch Falls, San Gabriel River, along Bridge to Nowhere Trail {PART 1}

The only reason I will rise before dawn...
for a great hike!
This was the moody sky as we drove up the mountain.
In part one of this 2 part post, I will review the trail as usual. In Part 2 I will share tips and markers to find this gorgeous hidden and little known waterfall! So be sure to check back, because you don't want to miss part two-I guarantee it!


  • Adventure Pass required for parking. Pay attention to signs and postings.
  • Lot gets packed, plan accordingly.
  • Vault toilet at lot, down at trail head and along the road before the lot. Often out of TP, bring your own.
  • Canyon can be cool and shady (depending on season) or extremely hot in full sun. Dress in layers and check expected weather.
  • Trail can be rocky, dusty, dry and have gravel.
  • Be aware of sudden rock slides.
  • Hike/trail is unmarked and about 8 miles round trip.

Nature's bridge! Try to keep your balance for
dry shoes and feet.
This hike follows along the Bridge to Nowhere trail, past Sheep Mountain bridge until you hit the river. We hit the trail fairly early, around 8 or 8:30am. GPS started tweaking and took us up the backside of the mountain that we had never driven before. It was a chilly start to the day and I was almost under dressed but warmed up soon enough. 

This time of year, during California winter, temps may be low and today was no different. Water levels will vary depending on rain and weather conditions.

The first half of the trail, as stated, follows along the Bridge to Nowhere trail until you get back down to the river. From the river, you do NOT go back up to the mountain ridge to the bridge. You stay along the river. Stay tuned for part two which will have more detailed directions and information.

Winter in California.

Follow the woody path to adventure.
 Water didn't appear too much higher than in times past and definitely not as high as this same time last year. Last season we had a very wet winter, which our drought stricken state poorly needed. So far, weather conditions have returned to "normal" with very little rain.

We were able to make most of the river crossing with dry feet except maybe a toe splash here an there.

This hike, however, will eventually require you to step into the water to access the hidden falls. No getting around it. Also, the nature of the trek requires many river crossings. No point in wasting time trying to find a spot with enough rocks to stay dry when you can just as easily step pin on most sure footing. Much of the river was very shallow but there are parts that require care and caution as it's moving and deeper. Trekking poles or a stick would be helpful.

Southern California mountains boast native plants acclimated to our dry conditions, succulents and drought tolerant foliage. Trails tend to look like what you might expect to see during a traditional autumn day. Warm hues of red and orange line the dusty brown trails with pops of green through out.

This time, on our way back, we saw actually caught sight of a Big Horn Sheep. This was a first. The animal was at the top of a cliff digging for something and causing a rainfall and rockslide of small boulders, and rocks! It was fascinating to witness but we were so glad that we happen to be on the opposite side of the river as they pounded down into the water and ground.

Careful with those yuccas--those spikes hurt!

The waterfall is hidden within a small grotto and can be tricky to locate. The main point is to stay along the river and and to the left. Although, in order to really find the entrance, you have to be on the right or walking in the river to see the tributary pouring in from the left. If you stay to the right of the river the entire time, you may miss it if you are not watching to the left.

Isn't she a beauty?
The pic doesn't do her justice and I couldn't fit
the full falls in the frame.
The water falls in two streams along a deep, green, moss covered rock face. It's absolutely gorgeous. When I hiked to this fall last summer, there was very noticeable poison oak. I bathed myself down with Tecnu Wash when I got home and immediately washed my clothing to be on the safe side. It can also be used as a preventive if you wipe down with it before contact. Since it was so noticeable we were able to easily avoid it. This time, I did not see any and there's a risk I may have come in contact with it unknowingly. Always pay attention and know what it looks like.

Gold 'miner' camp.
The San Gabriel River is home to many gold panners. Some have been searching for gold for years and some are weekend warriors hoping to suddenly strike it rich. I have never had an negative interaction with either but always be aware of surroundings and be safe, as with any hiking excursion.

Clear Blue skies ahead of us as we end our hike. 
Since this trail requires hiking further up the river into lesser known and unmarked area, you will see active panners and their camps, tools, gear and remnants of camps. Technically, it is illegal to dig around the area and along the river but that does not stop them from doing so.

We came across a few camps and the atmosphere can feel a little sketchy. Use wisdom and caution. We let the panners have their space, kept our distance and kept on moving.

In my next post, I will have {scrappy} video clips and pix of what to look for as you attempt to find this hidden gem.

See you out on the trails!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Growth Mindset for Adults

I'm excited to attend my first official guitar class tonight! {I've owned my guitar for 11+ years!!!!} I saw a FB ad for a FREE group class just for females. I'm hoping lessons after that, are affordable. I'm also back to ballet on Thursday nights. Its a riot-I  to dance but I am NO ballerina! Lol
I am now convinced if you want to experience *personal growth*, over come fear of failure and perfectionism-taking a ballet class is the answer. Lol I'm obviously there to learn or I wouldn't be in the class. But not being already good or excelling at something is way out of my comfort zone. Who wants to intentionally fail?
I am in my last semester of my teaching program and I found also taking a class like ballet, has helped with my "growth mindset" over all. It may sound silly but allowing myself the grace to be clumsy in ballet has helped me to accept grace and make mistakes in my methodology classes and student teaching.
In my 20-25 years of marriage I developed a strong fear of failure and perfectionism. Because you know, if I was just *perfect*, my marriage wouldn't have ended and my children's father would have *loved* me. {eyeroll}
This has been so eye opening for me and also empowering but not without great struggle and a lot of work to untangle myself from this unhealthy and irrational way of thinking.
What are you doing to stretch and grow your mind, body & spirit?

Monday, January 15, 2018

Friday Hike Day: Hermit Falls,Chantry Flats

Hiking crew.
Actually we hiked on Monday, Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Chantry Flats is a very popular recreation area and home to numerous trail heads. Parking can get pretty crazy, especially on weekends and holidays.

Do gooders!
Collecting trash for soda. 


    • Adventure (parking) Pass is required.
    • Vault toilet at trail head. {HOT TIP: the upper lot has real flushing toilets that are not as used. Bring your own TP just in case!}
    • Steep asphalt road at beginning of hike--remember this for your return.
    • Dog friendly {on leash} trail.
    • 3< mile round trip.

One of many infinity pools along this trail.

Once we found parking and headed toward the trail, we noticed rep under a canopy at a table. She was having out trash bags and offering a FREE soda to anyone who filled up the bag at least half way with trash. This was such a great idea! I always think of this too late and forget to bring trash bags. We grabbed a few and the kids were really on it. There actually wasn't much trash along the trail, over all but there were plenty of plastic bottles that had obviously fallen along the sides of the trail, but they were unsafely out of our reach so we had to leave them behind. But as you can see, the kids did work together to fill up one full bag and two other bags half way (our friends with their bag are missing from this picture).
Another natural infinity pool.

This hike is rather mild on the way in. Pretty much all downhill. You know what that means...uphill all the way back. Haha. It's a beautiful season to enjoy this trail. Dry and dusty at first but then it moves closer to the creek and lush greenery surrounds you. The trail can be dry, dusty and narrow. 

Eye level view of the top tier of the falls.

While we were hiking in we actually witnessed a young man FALL OF THE EDGE of the trail. Granted, he was being very reckless, riding a skateboard along the trail. One of his tires was too close to the edge, the edge gave way and he fell and slid down the side of the mountain. Lucky for him, he was caught by a tree and his friends were able to pull him back up. No major damage or injury and I hope he learned his lesson. Always use caution and be safe. The trails must be respected. 

Once you arrive at the falls, you will notice it is tiered with pools separating the tiers. The largest pool may be deep enough to jump in. Some hikers have jumped from the higher cliffs. PLEASE use wisdom and caution. There have also been deaths at this location due to careless behavior. The falls are a nice spot to stop and have lunch before the return. Unfortunately it is also home to plenty of graffiti. 

This trail also features cabins, private property, please be respectful. You will see dams, similar to what you see along the neighboring Sturtevant Falls trail. 

I recommend this trail except for the parking challenges. You can park along the highway in designated areas. Pay attention to all posted signs. Be careful walking along the highway to the trail head.

I wonder if you could slide down this
into the pool below?

View of the top two tiers and adjacent pools.