Three things to do outdoors this week

Big-leaf maple leaves.
(Getty Images Tntemerson)

By Mary Forgione
Design and illustrations by Micah Fluellen
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Welcome to The Wild. I recently went hiking in Icehouse Canyon near Mt. Baldy, where the trail follows an offshoot of San Antonio Creek. I hadn’t thought much about the name, so I did some digging. I found an 1857 newspaper ad touting “Ice! Ice! Ice!” for 15 cents a pound.

Ice moguls Damien Marchessault and Victor Beaudry transported blocks from the canyon to downtown L.A. by pack mule to sell to restaurants and residents. (Sadly, Marchessault, who later became mayor of L.A., shot himself in the head in City Council chambers, citing drinking, gambling and a $3,000 debt as reasons in a suicide note to his wife.)


I found something better than ice on my hike: a remarkable number of big-leaf maple trees changing from green to gold to brown. These trees have large, hand-shaped leaves that glow in the light of late afternoon.

The higher I went up the canyon, the better the colors became. I pressed on to the saddle at 7,500 feet, where all-day hikers choose routes to Cucamonga (permits are now required), Ontario, Timber and other peaks, but you don’t need to go that far.

Even a mile walk reveals nice fall colors you can enjoy while sitting on a boulder facing the creek. Add Icehouse Canyon to your leaf-peeping list, particularly during midweek when fewer people are on trail. Bring lunch and snacks, and enjoy autumn — until the ice sets in.

3 things to plan this week

Celebrating 10 years of CicLAvia.
Celebrating 10 years of CicLAvia.
(Brian Rea)

1. Become an urban explorer on these CicLAvia neighborhood routes. CicLAvia this year notched a decade of hosting events throughout the L.A. area that close streets to cars and open them to bikers, skaters, runners, walkers and skateboarders. In that time, more than 2 million people have hit the car-free streets and explored parts of the city they may never have seen. The big street events are on hold because of the pandemic, but you can follow CicLAvia itineraries to create your own self-guided tours of Boyle Heights, the Civic Center and Little Tokyo, Chinatown and El Pueblo, and L.A.'s Historic Core. Find out more at CicLAvia Explores.

Camping in Death Valley
Death Valley campgrounds have opened for winter.
(Ben Greenburg / National Park Service; Pierre Longnus / Getty Images)

2. Go camping in Death Valley during its chill season. Many mountain campgrounds close for the season in fall. It’s just the opposite in Death Valley National Park when triple-digit heat subsides and cooler temperatures prevail. The park’s 762 campsites are open, most on a first-come, first-served basis. Here’s a list of campgrounds; some are free, others cost $14 to $16 per night. Reservations at the Furnace Creek Campground start at $22 a night and can be made at now through April 15. Each campsite is limited to eight people and two vehicles. Social distancing guidelines in the outdoors are in place, and remember to wear a mask when you pass others.

Learn how to take care of your store-bought orchids.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times)

3. Learn the secret to keeping store-bought orchids alive. I love orchids, but I hate killing the ones I buy at Trader Joe’s or Home Depot. No. 1 no-no? Overwatering. Then there’s the shock the plants feel when you move them around your garden or home. Who knew? “Plants in the wild don’t move,” says Brandon Tam, an orchid specialist at the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens. “If they do, they are going down the canopies of the rainforest. Any drastic change causes shock. Even if it’s just from the office to the bedroom.” Read all of Tam’s tips in this story.

Wild things

More bison will be joining Catalina Island's herd.
(Catalina Island Conservancy )

I traveled to Catalina Island’s quiet side in the spring and came in contact (not intentionally) with some of its famed 100-or-so bison. It’s amazing to watch these free-range creatures navigate the hills and hidden coves in the back country. Bison have been on the island for almost a century, but in an effort to breed healthier offspring and strengthen the herd through genetic diversity, two pregnant females from the Laramie Foothills Bison Conservation Herd in Fort Collins, Colo., will arrive in December. They carry genes from the Yellowstone National Park herd, “the only place in the lower 48 states to have a continuously free-ranging bison population since prehistoric times,” the park’s website says. Pretty cool to have a herd of the largest North American land mammals so close at hand. Babies are due in spring.

Cool stuff

National Parks scratch-off chart.
(Pop Chart)

This National Parks Scratch-Off Chart resembles a cross between an Advent calendar and a Scratcher card. It’s pretty simple: Visit a national park and scratch it off your bucket list, revealing a color vista on a grid of 62 squares, one for each park. Pop Chart describes its mission as “turning nerdily encyclopedic pop-cultural knowledge into gorgeous, richly detailed infographics.” You can frame your chart and hang it on the wall. It could be good holiday gift for kids too. $25 at PopChart.

The must-read

Wildlife on Ecuador's Galapagos Islands.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Nothing like a trip to the Galápagos Islands to savor some pandemic-free (or maybe election-anxiety free?) moments. Times staffer Susanne Rust reports that the famed islands, 600 miles west of Ecuador’s coast, are temporarily free of visitors because of the COVID-19 lull in tour boats. That means wildlife has been out and about: Times photographer Carolyn Cole has captured images of creatures from the ocean (rainbow runners) to the streets (tortoises) to the rocks (blue-footed boobies and baby sea lions) to the air (frigatebirds). These images calmed me even from thousands of miles away. Read the full story here. By the way, Americans now are allowed to travel to the islands, provided they have negative PCR test results taken within 96 hours of arrival.

Insider tip

Illustration of tent, snowshoes and other gear
More ways to buy lightly used gear from REI.
(Moniaphoto / Getty Images; Ganesh Bastola / Getty Images; Thomas Northcut / Getty Images)

REI has been in the used-gear business for years. Its Garage Sales are always a great place to pick up high-quality returned or lightly used gear at a discount. You might find boots that someone wore once, snowshoes that didn’t work out, or a tent that was too short for the person who bought it. The big in-store sales aren’t happening this year because of COVID-19, so the outdoor retailer came up with a few smart workarounds.

REI is opening two pop-up stores for members in a pilot program that sells only used gear. One opened Saturday in Manhattan Beach, a few doors down from the REI store at 1800 Rosecrans Ave.; the other will open at a Pennsylvania site. “It gives us the opportunity to introduce more of our members to more activities, and helps us reduce our overall impact on the environment,” said Ken Voeller, manager of re-commerce.

Other ways the store feeds the “circular economy” (putting used gear in people’s hands instead of landfills): You’ll find some Garage Sale items on racks at its retail outlets and online 24/7 at the Good & Used web page, which REI launched two years ago. “It has exceeded all of our expectations,” Voeller said. “To date it’s up 100% over last year.” Also, members (one-time $20 fee) can trade in their clean old gear to receive a gift card in the amount of its assessed value. Check it all out at

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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