Night-Owl Outings

<i> Oliver is a frequent contributor to The Times. </i>

There are morning people, afternoon people and evening people. And while their inner clocks may operate in different time zones, they by and large enjoy doing the same things. Daytime folks have always found it relatively easy to find leisure-time outdoor activities, and now more and more night owls are finding ways to escape the hectic pressures of the workaday world during the twilight to midnight hours.

Once a week when the stress of his job as an equipment coordinator for Southern California Edison gets him down, Joe Flores of La Mirada grabs his fishing gear and drives to Belmont Pier in Long Beach. There he joins a group of seniors, families, young couples and just plain serious fishermen aboard the Xplorer II. The thread that unites them is their desire to get away from the hustle of the city for a few hours to enjoy a starry evening out on the ocean.

“When the moon is out and the water is peaceful, you definitely get away from the stress of your job,” Flores said.


“Fishing at Belmont Pier is a safe activity,” said John Dollar, an air-conditioning tradesman who lives in Rancho Cucamonga.

“When we get back at midnight or later, everyone walks to the parking lot together. The lot is well lighted, and because the pier is locked at 10, there aren’t any loiterers.”

Dollar and his wife, Laurie, have been night-fishing for the past 10 years. Companies that arrange fishing expeditions call their sunset-to-midnight outings twilight fishing.

“It’s really relaxing for me to go fishing, especially after being home all day with a 2-year-old,” Laurie said. “I go along when we can get a baby-sitter, and when our son is older, we’ll take him too.”

John Dollar added: “It’s so beautiful out on the water at night. We go past the lighted oil islands in Long Beach harbor, down to Huntington Flats where we fish a mile or two from shore. The fresh air and sea breeze are relaxing.”

Flores said: “On a good night I’ll catch anywhere from three to 10 bass and sometimes a barracuda, which is a good fish for smoking. The barracuda is a challenging fish to catch because it will put up a good fight. My whole family likes to eat fish.

“The deck hands are friendly and help the novices out. They will filet the fish you catch for a small charge.”

Greg Phillips, skipper of the Xplorer II, said: “Experienced fishermen know that they may not catch fish every time they go out, but they can still enjoy being on the water under the stars. There’s a lot of joking and laughing, and usually everyone has a good time. People who catch more fish than they can use will give some away to those who aren’t as lucky.”

If you’re a landlubber, you can experience the open spaces at twilight or under the stars without trepidation when you take a group hike or ride a horse through the outback.

Every month when the moon is full, Marc Barrington, production manager for L.A. Style magazine, loosens his tie and takes off his coat to lead a group on a 3-mile hike in Franklin Canyon above Beverly Hills.

“Leading the hike is a counter to what I do between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. on my job, where I’m involved with the printing and deadlines of magazine production,” Barrington said. “It’s a rejuvenation. It also gives me a chance to use my degree in wildlife biology.”

Barrington likes to spice up his narration with anecdotes about Indian and animal lore.

“I like to talk, and I have a corny sense of humor that keeps the audience on their toes,” he said. “I’ve had little kids and seniors up to their 90s on my hikes. They set their own pace.”

Awe-Struck Hikers

Just before 8 in the evening the hikers gathered at Franklin Canyon Ranch.

“We’re not naturally night creatures, but we can rely on our audio sense,” Barrington said as the group trekked off in the twilight. “The quieter we are, the more we can observe. We may hear and see owls.”

With a sense of awe, the hikers began to ascend a fire road. Barrington pointed out buckwheat, Indian tree tobacco, black sage and laurel sumac, all native to the Santa Monica Mountains.

At the crest of the hill, the group settled down to peer at the lights of Beverly Hills twinkling below. Waiting patiently for the moon to appear from behind a mass of clouds, the hikers listened to Barrington explain the habitat and life style of the great horned owls and coyotes who live in the Santa Monica Mountains. In the background, crickets chirped and an occasional bird warbled.

“Patience and luck run heavy on the moonlight hikes,” Barrington said. “I always tell people that this is nature. Owls and other animals don’t appear on a schedule. A lot depends on luck. Most people aren’t disappointed.”

‘People Feel Secure’

On the slippery descent, several hikers lagged behind. Barrington said that he advises hikers to keep walking even if their pace is slower. He waits at the parking lot and is the last person to leave to make sure that all have safely returned.

“People feel very secure in Franklin Canyon,” he said. “The dirt road discourages a lot of people from coming up just out of curiosity.”

Janice Miller of Beverly Hills, who took the hike with a friend from the East Coast and her 5-year-old son, added: “It was the first time I had taken a mountain hike in Los Angeles, and I wasn’t at all nervous in the company we were with. Marc really set everyone at ease. I didn’t know it was possible to hike in the wilderness at night in Los Angeles.”

“Most visitors to L.A. don’t expect to find a wilderness area in the middle of the city,” said Scott Szmykowski of North Hollywood.

Szmykowski, financial vice president of Musicians’ Institute in Hollywood, recently took his sister, Sandy, and her friend Sue Haertel on an evening horseback ride through Griffith Park. The two women, visitors from Milwaukee, were astounded by the experience.

“It’s such a thrill to see the different flora and fauna,” Haertel said. “It’s all so different from Wisconsin. I can’t believe we’re in the middle of a big city.”

Haertel and Sandy Szmykowski were especially pleased to get a close-up glimpse of the Hollywood sign glowing in the dark.

They were part of a ride sponsored by Sunset-Hollywood Stable in Beachwood Canyon. Every Friday since 1954, riders have gathered at the stable at 5 p.m. to mount up.

Chow Down in Burbank

Ascending a steep trail, they lope across the mountains, wend their way through tunnels under Interstate 5 and cross a narrow bridge spanning the Los Angeles River, finally arriving in Burbank, where they all dismount to chow down on Mexican food at a local restaurant. After dinner they retrace their steps under the stars, returning saddle-sore to the stables shortly before midnight.

“It’s a cheap 7-hour date on a Friday night,” said Danielle Kiraly, an actress from Chatsworth, who has taken the ride seven times in different seasons. “It’s outdoors. It’s athletic. It’s even romantic if your horse likes your date’s horse,” she added. “Otherwise you might be a long ways apart.”

The group of about 50 riders paired off more on the basis of the horses’ preference than on who had come as dates. One lucky couple rode hand in hand. Everyone else seemed to enjoy the camaraderie of chatting with one another as they rode through groves of eucalyptus.

“Even if you get separated from your date,” Kiraly said, “you’ll meet new people.”

Dusty, Unusual Ride

The ride passes through parts of the park that are not commonly seen. From a large landfill on the eastern slope, riders peered down at the financial towers of Glendale and the studios of Burbank glowing through a mixture of sunset and smog. On the ride back, a few lucky riders at the front of the pack saw a large stag standing on the landfill.

Some riders complained about the dust, especially in the tunnels.

“The trail was extremely dusty. I should have brought a bandanna,” said Ian Stewart of North Hollywood, who rode a palomino named Trigger. “Otherwise, the ride was great. I saw two shooting stars.”

“It was wonderful being in the wilderness but knowing that civilization was so close,” commented Linda Leopold, a magazine production manager. “I’m not a woodsy person or a camper, but I love being outdoors at night. I really enjoyed it when my horse cut loose on the way back and started to gallop. I guess we all need a little country now and then.”


You should have some riding experience before attempting these rides. Guides accompany the riders:

Sunset-Hollywood Stable, 3400 N. Beachwood Drive, Hollywood; (213) 469-5450. Moonlight rides on Friday nights year-round are first-come, first-served. Riders arrive at 5 p.m., leave the stable area at 6 and return between 11:30 and midnight. The 8-mile ride crosses the mountains of Griffith Park for dinner at Viva Restaurant in Burbank; $25 per person, dinner is extra.

Sunset River Trails Equestrian Center, 12625 Rush St., El Monte; (818) 444-2128. Twilight rides on Saturday evenings leave at 6 p.m., return at 8. On this ride you’ll ford the San Gabriel and Rio Hondo rivers. The ride is first-come, first-served and costs $15.


To fish you will need a license, which can be purchased from the boat operators. One-year licenses cost $12.75; a one-day license is $5.50. Juniors under 16 do not need a license. Most boats will sell or rent fishing gear; most have galleys where you can buy refreshments. Reservations are recommended, especially on weekends.

Cisco Sport Fishing, Channel Islands Harbor, 4151 S. Victoria Ave., Oxnard; (805) 985-8511. Twilight fishing Wednesday through Sunday leaves at 5:30 p.m., returns between 10 and 10:30; $20 per person.

Redondo Beach Sportfishing, 233 N. Harbor Drive (in Redondo Beach Marina); (213) 772-2064 or (213) 372-2111. Fishing aboard the Sea Spray leaves every night at 6 p.m. and returns around 10. $14 adults; juniors under 11, $9.

L.A. Harbor Sport Fishing, Berth 79 (near Ports of Call Village), Los Angeles Harbor; (213) 547-9916. Twilight fishing every day on the Matt Walsh or the Sport King leaves at 6 p.m. and returns around midnight. $17 adults; $10 juniors under 12.

22nd Street Landing, 141 W. 22nd St., San Pedro; (213) 832-8304. Fishing on the “Monte Carlo” every night except Monday, $17. The boat leaves at 6:30 p.m. and returns at 1 a.m.

Belmont Pier Sport Fishing, Ocean Boulevard and 39th Place, Long Beach; (213) 434-6781. Twilight fishing on the Xplorer II leaves every day at 6 p.m., returning around midnight. Adults, $17; seniors 62 and older, juniors under 12, $14.

Long Beach Sport Fishing, 555 Pico Ave., Long Beach; (213) 432-8993. Expeditions leave at 6 p.m. and return around midnight. Adults, $17; children under 15 and seniors 62 and over, $14.

Seal Beach Sport Fishing, 900-B Ocean Blvd. (on the Pier), Seal Beach; (213) 598-8677. Thursday through Saturday you can go twilight fishing on The City of Seal Beach. Adults, $17; seniors 62 and older, juniors 12 and under, $14.

Dana Wharf Sport Fishing, 34675 Golden Lantern St., Dana Point; (714) 496-5794. Twilight fishing starts at 5:30 p.m., returning at 9:30 p.m. Adults, $19; children 12 and under, $14.

H & M Landing, 2803 Emerson St. (Pt. Loma area), San Diego; (619) 222-1144. Fishing expeditions leave Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 6:30 p.m., returning at 10:30 p.m. Adults, $18; military, seniors 55 and older and children under 12, $12.

Seaforth Sport Fishing, 1717 Quivira Road, Mission Bay in San Diego; (619) 224-3383. Fishing daily off La Jolla leaves at 6 p.m., returning at 11 p.m. Adults, $16; active military, $13; children 16 and under, seniors over 62, $11.


Oct. 6, 13, 20 and 27--Weather permitting, 7 p.m., Caballero Canyon Moonlight Hike, (818) 887-7375. Enjoy a leisurely hike through a beautiful canyon to Mulholland Drive. Led by the Sierra Club. Beginners welcome. Meet at south end of Reseda Boulevard in Tarzana. Look for public access trail sign.

Oct. 8--Cheeseboro Canyon Park, 4-7 p.m., (818) 889-0356. Three-hour interpretive walk at twilight, led by Sierra Club. Bring water and your supper. Take Chesebro Road exit from U.S. 101.

Oct. 13--Franklin Canyon Ranch, 7 p.m., “Full Moon Hike,” (213) 858-3834. Three-mile hike to see full moon above Beverly Hills. A 100% cloud cover cancels the hike.

Oct. 13--Will Rogers State Historic Park in Pacific Palisades, 7:30 p.m., telephone (818) 706-1310 or (213) 399-6644. A nice hike for beginners. Explore the ranch grounds and hike to Inspiration Point, a 751-foot elevation gain. Two miles round trip. Meet at park entrance. If you want to go for pizza after the hike, bring money.

Oct. 14--Leo Carrillo State Beach, 7:30 p.m., (818) 706-1310. Songs, skits and an informative program will be led by a California State Park Ranger. All ages welcome.

For a brochure listing other activities in the Santa Monica Mountains area, contact the Visitors Center at (818) 888-3770.