Completing the Loop

Goodbye perfect, clean, wide, straight streets of Phoenix.

Friday morning was a sad time because we all had to say goodbye to each other, and leave our beautiful Arizona Airbnb home. It was a signal to the kids that Spring Break was coming to an end. Tanner and Laurie had to go home and go back to work. I had to go home and continue my retirement (hee hee).

Goodbye palm trees.
Goodbye landscaping with rocks because there’s no water for grass.

The quickest route back for me would be to cut directly west into Los Angeles, pick up Interstate 5, and make the many many many many miles drive home on I-5. Boring. (I just checked and of my 1,385 mile – 2,229 km – trip home to Oregon, 981.4 of those miles would be on I-5!) Considering that I began by heading south through Idaho and Utah, then returning through California made a loop.

…and off I went into the desert again. Apologies for the ever-dirty windshield.
I stopped for gas and cleaned my windshield.

My route was direct, and clear, and there was nothing to do but settle back and let the miles roll past me. I saw beautiful mountains, and a couple of nice spots with saguaro cacti and a few Joshua Trees, but it was all freeway with no good places to stop except one nice rest stop.

A pretty rest area for travelers like me to take a break. It was 80 degrees and felt like summer to me, but to these trees it was barely spring, and their leaves had barely begun to emerge.

Going west meant I would be heading directly for Los Angeles! Yuck. Who wants to drive there? Not me. So I found a place to camp outside of Altadena, California. Instead of heading all the way into the city of LA, I turned off the main road early and headed for the mountains.

I turned off I-10 in San Dimas, a town that instantly reminded me of Bill and Ted, who went on their own excellent adventure. Those mountains are where I would be sleeping that night.

I managed to get to Altadena in seven hours, and since I didn’t start driving until 11:00, that was perfect timing. It was still light out when I got to town and stopped for something to eat.

I did a search on my phone for restaurants nearby. I got SO lucky and found the greatest little bar called The Altadena Ale & Wine House. I drove past it and didn’t even see it. So I parked, and walked to it. It seemed tiny inside, with room for only a bar and stools, and a couple of tables for two. I spotted a doorway to another room, but no one was in there, maybe because the weather was too nice and they sat in the patio instead. The friendly bartender (owner?) asked me for proof of vaccination (that is so reassuring to me), then happily served me a wine and told me about their custom handmade pizzas. She was the only one there, so she said it would take a while, but the pizza would be delicious. It was! And there wasn’t much of a wait.

My view from inside the small outdoor patio

While waiting for service, and then waiting for pizza, I observed the other customers. I sat outside, after scooting past the bar, out to a storage area, and through a doorway to the patio, which was large enough to accommodate four tables. It was clear that most of the customers knew each other, and most of them knew the bartender; they may as well have walked here from their homes – it felt like that. The place felt easy and comfortable, and there was conversation between tables. The bartender spotted my hiking boots and asked if I had just got off the trail. I told her I was heading out there, and would hike in the morning, and she was eager to tell me about all her favourite trails that begin at the trail head I would be camping at.

I wrapped the leftover pizza (it would be a good breakfast) and headed the final couple of miles to the trailhead. It suddenly became magical like a Hollywood movie, as my road twisted directly up the mountainside. I passed groups of cars parked precariously at every curve with a view of the valley. I followed their example and pulled over for a couple of photographs.

Altadena below me and Los Angeles in the distance.
It was like one of those LA sunset scenes from the movies. Heck, it probably was. Those hills in the distance on the right are where the HOLLYWOOD sign is.

I got to the parking area and discovered to my surprise that I had to hike in to the camp sites. Well, I was prepared for that (remember a week earlier when I brought my backpack to hike into my camp at Petrified Forest NP?). I parked next to a couple who had parked a few minutes before I arrived, and began to load up my pack. When I was done I walked the way they had gone.

By the time I got to the campsites, it was completely dark. It was also warm and quiet and pleasant and I was in a great mood due to the perfect bar I had just left and the absolutely darling and friendly town of Altadena. I knew there were six available spots here, as described on the trailhead website. I could see a few campfires, and more than six tents scattered through the trees already. I suspected this would be the case, since it was a Friday night outside one of the largest metro areas in the world (at 15.7 million, LA is in the top 20, but not top 10).

My plan B was to keep on walking! I knew I was in a National Forest, and since I am a citizen and a taxpayer, that forest belongs to me. So I walked happily along the trail that continued up the hill. I spotted a flat area that turned out to be access to a water tower (maybe water for Altadena?). It seemed as good as any spot, so I set up my tent and gratefully climbed into my sleeping bag. With one occasional bar of cell service, I was able to have a stuttered conversation and eventually let Pedro know I was safe and warm and goodnight.

Even with the light pollution and some cirrus clouds, I could still see stars through the mesh ceiling of my tent. At the bottom of the photo you can see the top of the water tower.

5 thoughts on “Completing the Loop

    1. Oh you are so right. I remember not even sleeping on Sunday nights, in dreadful anticipation of Monday stress. I’m glad you enjoyed my journey this day. It was mostly in the car, but I had a great day despite that.

  1. Ahh! First of all, I love that you two are having a conversation above, Crystal and Bonnie Rae. I knew immediately that you were two of a cloth.

    Second, I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVE L.A.! 😀 I blame The Doors for that, and the movies. It’s the only place in the USA that I have visited, together with San Francisco and the coastal highway (I know, I know, where you used to live.) When I was there, I thought I’d return and live there one day. I love the ocean so so much. I know that it’s the phoney people who would turn me away, but in fact this is how my authenticity would shine even brighter. 😉 Alas, I found my California much closer.

    I’m happy that you found the perfect bar and mountains with the view after such a drive. And you even cleaned the windshield! 😀

    1. It would have been fun if you had lived in California for a few months, just to have that experience. But now you are in the beautiful weather beside the sea, so things didn’t turn out much differently. ❤ I have heard so much about the inauthentic people of LA that I assume I would not like it, but I've never given it much of a chance. I love Disneyland and the trails and parks and museums, so that's a lot to like. I never went to a southern California beach though. I spent a weekend at Catalina Island but that was not the same I'm sure.

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