Sunday, October 18, 2009

Free in LA – Griffith Observatory

Griffith Park is a massive (over 4200 acre) municipal park in Los Angeles. One part of this park, the part we visited on September 26, 2009, was the Griffith Observatory. This Observatory is in Hollywood, directly below the Hollywood letters in the Santa Montica Mountains. Joy and I were intending to visit the Observatory earlier but put it off so that we could be there for the “Public Star Party” (more on that later).

Inside the top floor of the observatory, there are a ton of exhibits describing many different aspects of astronomy, other fields of science, and even has a live telescope looking at the sun that you can look through. Above is Joy standing in front of an exhibit of the periodic table with an example of each element in as many of the places as possible. The noble gases are visible under a microscope and prism so that you can see the color spectrum of each gas.

From the balcony in the rear of the building you get a good view of downtown Los Angeles. I’ve got this same view at night later in this blog.

Directly over Joy’s and my shoulder you can see the famous Hollywood letters.

From the roof of the building you can see the courtyard of the observatory.

On the bottom floor there is a cafe, a gift store and more displays. Here is me sitting with a bronze sculpture of Albert Einstein.

This is dusk as seen from the Griffith Observatory looking over the Santa Montica Mountains.

Every month, on a Saturday night, Griffth Observatory hosts the “Public Star Party.” This is where amateur astrologist set up their telescopes on the front lawn of the Observatory and the public can come and look through the telescopes and talk to the astrologists. The picture above is while they are setting up. While there, we got a really good look at Jupiter, three of its moons, and our moon. As an extra treat, the International Space Station flew by while we were talking to one of the astrologist there and we got to see it.

Here is the picture from above, taken at night.

I think Joy is ready for my to put my camera up and go home.

This final shot is a long exposure shot shot overlooking Hollywood and Beverly Hills with downtown LA visible to the left of the shot.

Even without the Public Star Party, the Observatory is a cool place to visit in LA. Parking is free but expect to walk a while if it is crowded. There is also a LADOT shuttle that will bring you up from Vermont/Sunset Metro Red Line station for only 25 cents. The exhibits are interesting but there aren’t that many overall so don’t expect to be able to spend a long time here and many exhibits are interactive which is sure to entertain the kids. Overall, its a cool place to stop in if you happen to be in the area.

P.S. While there Joy found a couple CREEPpl. Check them out at

posted by admin at 11:49 pm  

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Free in LA – Franklin Canyon Park

Growing up, my family and I often took weekend trips to various states parks in Georgia. Here, you can relax, take a walk on a scenic trail, enjoy being in nature, and take a break from the normal hustle and bustle that life so often entangles us in. Taking a break has become even more important now that I am living in LA and Joy is attending law school. In Georgia, the only state park within 25 miles was Gordonia-Alatamaha State Park in Reidsville. Here, in Lake View Terrace, we have 118 within a 25 radius including Hanson Dam State Park across the road from us. So, how do you pick where to go on the weekend with 118 so nearby? The choice was easy for me. When Hollywood wants to film a movie that is based in “The South” they go to Franklin Canyon State Park. Many shows, including “The Andy Griffith Show,” use this location for their outdoor scenes. On September 19, Joy and I decided to go. This is a beautiful park nestled in the heart of Beverly Hills and expensive houses can be seen in the distance but for the most part it is peaceful (more on the “for the most part in a bit”).

We arrived early so the Welcome Center wasn’t open yet. We grabbed a trail map complete with warnings about Western Diamondbacks and Poison Oak.

We set off on what we thought was a trail. It was well-marked and maintained but ended up going nowhere. This is Joy before she figured this out 😀

Even though the trail dead ended it had a nice view 😛

Here is a rare glimpse behind the camera. This is me right after I took the previous picture. As you can see, my shades are still off and my hat is still backwards.

Even though most of the park resembles the North Carolina mountains the Redwoods don’t quit fit that image. The area behind that tree is where the opening scene of the Andy Griffith Show was shot. It is really grown up now and hard to recognize.

Here is a shot of the Upper Franklin Reserve Reservoir a.k.a Myers Lake from the Andy Griffith Show 😀

A couple more shots of the lake.

These pics are from another edge of the reservoir.

Joy is taking a break while walking around the reservoir.

While leaving the trail around the lake we saw an old pine stump. True to my childhood roots, I climbed it 😀

After walking around the reservoir we decided to go to the lower reserve and walk the 2.6 mile loop consisting of the Hastain and Discovery trails. These trails give you some good views  of the really massive houses located in Beverly Hills. While walking, we started hearing music. We finally figured out it was coming from the private tennis court of one of houses in the distance.

Near the end of the Hastain trail, it splits. The part of the trail that is not on the trail map dead ends at the peak of one of the mountains with this view. You can see the trail we have already walked on and, in the distance, shrouded in fog, downtown Los Angeles.

In between the Hastain and Discovery trails is a grass area with picnic tables where we ate lunch. After lunch, I decided to take a rest before finishing the walk.

After finishing the walk we rested at the duck pond. This is also a common filming area.

We had a great time and if you are in the LA area and want a breath of fresh air I would strongly recommend Franklin Canyon Park. Unfortunately, you can’t get to the northern part of the canyon via public transit but the lower part of the park (where the walking trails are) can be accessed by a 1 mile hike from the Metro 2 Sunset/Alpine stop. Look for other state park reviews coming in the future on Free in LA.

posted by admin at 9:51 pm  

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