Forget fireworks. 3 ways to safely get outside this holiday weekend

A masked person looks through binoculars.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

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By Mary Forgione

Fourth of July weekend is here, but don’t expect to run your favorite holiday 5K or celebrate with a day at the beach. Yep, you can blame it on the coronavirus. L.A. and Ventura counties as well as some state park sites temporarily shut beaches, piers and bike paths from Friday through Monday after cases surged past 100,000 this week. Most fireworks shows have gone virtual. Still, take heart. There are plenty of other ways to enjoy the outdoors over the long weekend. Here are some ideas to get you started.

3 ways to get outside this week

Illustration of a bike
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

1. Take a bike ride. If you have a bicycle, consider yourself lucky. Turns out toilet paper wasn’t the only thing we were frantically buying during the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. bike sales over the past two months saw their biggest spike since the 1970s. Bicycles became hot purchases, with some stores running out of stock. Bike rides also allow you to stay away from others. Here are nine routes to try that are within 50 miles of downtown L.A. They’re flat and keep you off city streets. You can take kids out for an easy couple miles on the Duarte Recreation Trail or pump out 50 miles on the Santa Ana River Trail. When you’re ready to go farther (after California has lifted its stay-at-home order), sign up for a guided bike ride on one of these scenic itineraries.


Cam Zink sets a Guinness World Record for the longest mountain bike dirt-to-dirt backflip in 2016 at Mammoth Bike Park.
Cam Zink sets a Guinness World Record for the longest mountain bike dirt-to-dirt backflip in 2016 at Mammoth Bike Park in Mammoth Lakes.
(Peter Morning / MMSA)

Speaking of biking, I still am gobsmacked by this photo of Cam Zink setting a Guinness World Record for the longest mountain bike dirt-to-dirt backflip in 2016. Zink cleared 100 feet, 3 inches, at Mammoth Mountain. Photographer Peter Morning slowed down the feat to create this multiple-exposure image. It reminds me of early photographer Eadweard Muybridge, who used his camera to slow time and catch horses in motion. Zink’s record has since been broken, but that doesn’t diminish the frame-by-frame breakdown of the flip. By the way, Mammoth’s mountain bike park and others in Southern California are open, with COVID-19 rules that keep capacity lower on chair lifts and tracks.

Lauren Mollica, left, and Lino Jubilado fishing early in the morning in Long Beach.
Lauren Mollica, left, and Lino Jubilado, fishing in the morning in Long Beach earlier this year.
(Jerry Hsu / For The Times / L.A. Times illustration)

2. Go fishing in the city. Most of us drive over or past the L.A. River without giving it a second glance. It’s not the most obvious place to spend time in the outdoors. Maybe it should be. There’s a dedicated corps of fly-fishing fans who love to hook carp at this close-to-home venue. You can find their passion bubbling to the surface in this first-person account of how a carp-fishing day might change your view of the river — with a recipe on how to cook what you catch.

Illustration of a butterfly
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

3. Chase butterflies. If you love butterflies, think about wearing a loud red shirt. I happened to be wearing one when a western tiger swallowtail landed on my arm as I sat atop Mt. Baldy. Butterflies seem to be fluttering around everywhere right now. Plan a day to see how many different types you can find in your local park or on the trail. Take this ID chart along and use it as your scorecard. But skip the Butterfly Pavilion at L.A. County’s Natural History Museum; it remains closed because of the pandemic.

Wild things

A Southern Pacific rattlesnake
(Getty Images)

During a recent NPR interview, Dr. Randy Tobler of Memphis, Mo., compared the coronavirus to a rattlesnake. “[Y]ou don’t have to be afraid of it,” he said. “But stay away from it, and have a lot of respect for it.” Good advice. Southern Pacific rattlesnakes (Crotalus oreganus helleri), the most common species in the L.A. area, have been coming out of hibernation to find a mate. Here are 12 things to know in case you see one. A few hints: Social distancing is a must; and don’t yell. Snakes are hard of hearing and won’t budge.

Cool gear alert

An exfoliating foot peel can help slough off dead skin and make your feet summer-ready.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

You need to take care of your feet for all you do in the outdoors. An exfoliating foot peel could help. My colleague Adam Tschorn wrote about the treatment that aims to smooth the skin on your dogs: “You put your feet in a pair of plastic, chemical-filled booties for an hour, wash them off and then wait patiently up to a week until your feet start to slough off the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the epidermis) like something out of the L.A. Zoo’s reptile lair.” Photos are stomach-churning (don’t look), but it’s pampering you can easily do at home. Order online (Original Baby Foot costs $25) or pick up a CVS brand for $4.99.

The must-read

A range of hills and rock formations make up Alabama Hills National Scenic Area.
A range of hills and rock formations make up Alabama Hills National Scenic Area, near the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada in the Owens Valley in Inyo County, Calif.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

What does a Confederate warship have to do with the outdoors? Sometimes, plenty. The facts: The Alabama, a notorious raider that destroyed several Union ships during the Civil War, was chased and sunk by the USS Kearsarge in 1864. Impressionist painter Edward Manet memorialized the battle in a painting (not that he was there). Cut to the Owens Valley, about four hours north of Los Angeles. Early Californians sympathetic to the Confederate cause named a string of boulder-strewn hills after the ship. The Alabama Hills in Lone Pine, Calif., became a beloved Hollywood backdrop for Westerns in the early 20th century. But back to the name. Times staff writer Louis Sahagun tells the story about why “the name ‘Alabama Hills’ has come to be regarded as contaminated by racist beliefs” and what could happen next. Read the full story here.

It’s not the only Confederate controversy playing out on public lands. Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Park is removing references to Robert E. Lee in its exhibits and information. However, renaming the 255-foot Robert E. Lee giant sequoia would take approval from Congress or the director of the National Park Service. Stay tuned.

A social moment

And speaking of Lone Pine, the magnitude 5.8 earthquake last week in the Mt. Whitney area rattled more than nerves. No injuries were reported, but huge boulders slid into parts of the campground and snapped off trees at the Whitney Portal, the stepping-off point to the highest point in the Lower 48 states. The area was evacuated too. The mountain’s main trail was closed to hikers because of the coronavirus pandemic. Permits to hike to the 14,505-foot summit will be issued starting July 3.

Insider tip

Supplies hidden inside a hollow tree for hikers.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

Trail angels don’t have wings but they may bring a little bit of heaven to Pacific Crest Trail hikers walking 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada. They may offer a ride into town, a home-cooked or restaurant meal, a place to stay for the night, and everything in between. Trail angels stick to rules set up by the PCT’s association, which believes the trail “is not just a path through the mountains — it’s an experience that connects people to nature, trail towns and each other.”

Send us your thoughts

“I love reading about nature during these times,” reader Evita Cheslow wrote to The Wild. “It sustains my soul.” What do you think? Keep the comments coming. Share anything that’s on your mind. The Wild is written for you and delivered to your inbox for free. Drop us a line at

Click here to view the web version of this newsletter and share with others. I’m Mary Forgione and I write The Wild. I’ve been exploring trails and open spaces in Southern California for four decades.

Mary Forgione