Where camping, Santa and ax throwing collide

Collage of photos of Obi Kaufmann and his drawings
Obi Kaufmann, author of “Forests of California.”
(Photo illustration by Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times. Photo of Kaufmann (left) by Paul Collins, @paulnemirahcollins; watercolor paintings, illustrations, maps by Obi Kaufmann)

By Mary Forgione

Design and illustrations by Micah Fluellen

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Hello, fans of The Wild! Is it too late for a redo on Labor Day weekend? I wish I could rewind to a time before fires shut all of California’s national forests, including the Angeles and the San Bernardino, because of extreme fire risk.

One of those fires, the El Dorado fire, started Saturday morning at a Yucaipa park after someone at a gender-reveal party set off a pyrotechnic device designed to signify pink or blue, girl or boy, officials said. This is the second time such a stunt has touched off a major wildfire — unbelievable.


“Stop it. Stop having these stupid parties. For the love of God, stop burning things down to tell everyone about your kid’s penis. No one cares but you,” Jenna Myers Karvunidis wrote on Facebook. She’s the blogger credited with starting (non-explosive) gender-reveal events in 2008, and she’s not the only one who wants this to stop.

Me, I want to do a better job of protecting forests. So does Obi Kaufmann, artist, naturalist, researcher, storyteller and observer of all that happens in our wild forests — and his (and our) place in them. “Forests of California”, released Tuesday (Heyday, $55), is described as a “field atlas” designed to make all of us act on behalf of our forests.

And then there are the fires. “For every point of despair,” he writes, “I have a counterpoint of hope for the survival and restoration of the natural world. … As long as there is time, there is hope.” Inside the 600-page book are watercolors and paintings, stories and observations, history and science. (This is the first in a trilogy; California’s coasts and the deserts come next.) Read more about the book here.

You can join Kaufmann for a virtual tour of a burned forest on Sept 25. He’ll answer questions about the connections he sees between humans and forests. Tickets from $10; more details and registration here.

3 things to plan this week

It’s tough to plan anything outdoors when the air quality is poor, fires are raging in Southern California and big heat is set to return this weekend. Here are things to do now — or plan for a cooler, fire-free future date.

L.A.'s Griffith Park
(Antoine Doré / For The Times)

1. Take a deep dive into Griffith Park with our mini-guide. This is one of the only hiking/biking/walking places open right now. It’s a big park with plenty of space to spread out, so don’t bunch up at the usual trailheads. Read our guide, pick out a place to visit (some aren’t open yet) and check a map to make sure you know where you’re going. Maybe it’s a hike to Amir’s Garden, a long lunch at the Bette Davis Picnic Area or an early-morning stroll through Fern Dell. Or maybe you want to earn your Griffith Park Badge (which isn’t a cloth badge, but a badge of honor) by completing the 11 activities on our list. Embrace it — and get to know this big swath of L.A. that Griffith J. Griffith donated to the city for the plain people, the rank and file. That would be all of us. Read the full story here.

An alpine building with candy cane clock at SkyPark at Santa's Village in Lake Arrowhead.
SkyPark at Santa’s Village keeps its mid-century yuletide vibe.
(Elisa Parhad)

2. Where to camp, mountain bike ride and get in a little ax throwing near Lake Arrowhead. You don’t have to be a Santa-lover to have fun at SkyPark at Santa’s Village in Skyforest, Calif. Don’t let the kitschy winter theme left over from the midcentury resort fool you. This redone family theme park and nearby campground has lots going on. “The options surpassed even those of Disneyland or Legoland: Archery! BB guns! Ax throwing! Roller skating! Rock climbing! Fly fishing! We hadn’t even stepped into the park and I was already relieved that we opted to camp across the highway at the newly opened SkyPark Camp + RV Resort, perched on the edge of the mountain, to give ourselves two days of fun,” contributor Elisa Parhad writes. Check out the details here.

Illustration of goats wearing COVID masks
Working farms welcome volunteers, even during the pandemic.
(Jamie Sholberg / Los Angeles Times; Getty)

3. Spend time on a working farm or ranch in Southern California. As the pandemic drags on, people with time on their hands and looking for new things to do might consider becoming a WWOOFer. Those are people who volunteer at sites listed on the British website World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. “One farm needs help milking goats for cheese,” contributor Sara Cagle writes. “Another seeks assistance harvesting peaches and nectarines. Prospective volunteers can filter search results to show nearby cities they’d like to visit, animals they’d like to care for and more.” Such as the horse-rescue site in Mojave. Each site follows COVID-19 protocols. Find out more here.

Wild things

 Close-up of a mountain lion cub
One of the mountain lion kittens born recently in the Southern California mountains.
(National Park Service)

Now for some good news: 13 mountain lion kittens were born between May and August in the Santa Monica Mountains and the Simi Hills. It’s the biggest baby boom in the shortest period of time that has occurred during the 18-year cougar study by the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Good or bad, their lives will be shaped by the landscape still recovering from the 2018 Woolsey fire.

How will we know whether they flourish? Each kitten has been weighed and measured, had blood samples taken and will continue to be tracked. Biologists will be able to see how they thrive and hopefully don’t succumb to man-made dangers.

Insider tip

Sugar Bowl
Hand plant move at Sugar Bowl Resort, near Lake Tahoe.
(Sugar Bowl)

If you’re a winter ski-pass fan, listen up. California ski resorts have promised to reduce capacity on the slopes this winter to comply with COVID-19 rules. Now some are starting to sell out. Sugar Bowl in the Lake Tahoe area has stopped selling passes for 2020-21, saying, “in this pandemic climate we must be especially careful not to overwhelm the resort by selling too many season passes, lift tickets and trail passes.” A limited number of day passes will be on sale.

Homewood Mountain Resort, also in the Tahoe area, announced this week it has just 100 passes left. Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in Mammoth Lakes says it has plenty of passes for sale but soon will be making an announcement about daily lift ticket availability. The bottom line: If you see skiing in your socially distanced winter future, you may want to grab a pass or lift tickets sooner than later.

Social moment

Repeat after me: Tamago kake gohan. Wes Siler of Outside magazine got my attention with this recommendation for a post-workout breakfast that serves up 22 grams of protein. This easy-to-make egg-rice dish costs about $1 in Japan. Follow this link for Wes Siler’s recipe on how to make it at home.

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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