10 things to do safely this summer in the great outdoors

10 things to do safely this summer in the great outdoors
(Ross May / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)
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Tired of staring out the window during these long, stay-at-home days of the coronavirus pandemic? The outdoors is one place where Southern Californians can rev up, relax or recharge — physically and mentally — while playing it safe and sticking to social distancing rules. Here are 10 things to do to enhance your wellness and well-being, whether in your backyard or beyond.

1. Take a sound bath

Experience a sound bath outside to double down on relaxation. Find a quiet spot with no interruptions. Bring something comfy to lie or sit on and then live-stream the magical reverberations of 20 quartz bowls being “played” with mallets in a flawless sound chamber at Integratron, which charges $15 for a 60-minute session. “Each bowl is keyed to the energy centers or chakras of the body, where sound is nutrition for the nervous system,” the website says. Info:


2. Find the purple haze

 Jacaranda trees, in bloom along Myrtle Street in Santa Ana
Jacaranda trees, in bloom along Myrtle Street in Santa Ana.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Chart a course in older neighborhoods exploding with purple. It’s the tail end of bloom time for jacaranda trees, sometimes called L.A.’s cherry blossoms, which pop from April into June. And bring your camera. Jacaranda mimosifolia grows in Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, but the 25- to 40-foot giants feel at home — some for the last 80 to 100 years — in the L.A. Basin. Look for the bluish-purple flowers (and purple puddles on the ground) along Paloma Street and Del Mar Boulevard in Pasadena, North Whittier Drive in Beverly Hills and Hollywood’s residential streets. Info:

The park’s reopening lures hundreds of impulse campers, and weekend hordes are possible.

May 21, 2020

3. Take a wildflower walk

It’s not too late to find spring wildflowers. Late rains gave way to stellar displays in the Santa Monica Mountains, where most trails are open. You’ll find meadows tinged with yellow and gold, and trails are lined with the soft purple flowers of black sage, deep purple blooms called woolly blue curls and tall stands of shrubby yellow deerweed. My fave flower route: Start down the Sycamore Canyon Trail in Newbury Park and follow side trails to Hidden Pond or Wood Canyon. Bring a map and a flower guide, or download the free Santa Monica Mountains wildflower ID app. Info:

4. Learn to bird sit


Go outside, sit still and look for a bird — no binoculars or field guide needed. It can be in your backyard or your local park. Now pay attention: What is the bird doing? What calls does it make? How does it interact with others? This is called a bird sit. “You’ll get to know birds in a deeper way,” said Molly Tsongas, Audubon’s digital campaigns manager. “Because we sit, the birds are not scared and don’t fly away.” There’s no pressure to make an identification; it’s more important to experience the bigger story playing out on any given landscape, Tsongas said, “an unfolding story we get to be a part of.” Info:

5. Stand-up paddle yoga

Yoga studios are off-limits for now, but maybe stand-up paddle yoga can tide you over. If you can balance on a board, you can join in a social distanced YogAqua class that has received permission to resume in Ventura (Marina del Rey sessions are still on hold). Paddle for 30 minutes to get used to the board, then spend an hour doing vinyasa yoga poses, “anything from kneeling warrior to a head stand or tree pose,” said owner and founder Sarah Tiefenthaler. Good for beginners and advanced students. Classes are limited to eight people; you must sign up in advance ($25 for first class; $35 thereafter; discounts and packages available). Info:

6. Take a self-guided architectural tour

It’s a good time to take a deep dive into some of L.A.’s lesser-known landmarks, such as the magnificent mosaics by architectural designer Millard Sheets in the ’50s and ’60s. They were created for onetime Home Savings and Loan branches throughout SoCal. Check out the glittering beach life mosaic at 26th Street and Wilshire Boulevard in Santa Monica or the actor-centric motif at Sunset and Vine in Hollywood. The Los Angeles Conservancy (its group tours are on hold during the pandemic) provides a self-guided narrated tour you can drive and do anytime. Info:


Lodgings and some campgrounds would reopen under a draft plan that still requires approval from the state and the feds.

May 21, 2020

7. Meditate with the pros

This may be the ideal moment to learn healthy meditation skills to keep away pandemic stress. Before coronavirus stay-at-home times, UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center hosted free Thursday meditation sessions at the Hammer Museum. Now, free 30-minute sessions are on Zoom, with titles such as “Cultivating Joy” and “Urge Surfing.” They include opening comments, then guided meditation, a silent practice time and closing comments. “Each also offers a new daily life practice for the week,” the website says. Step outside, find a quiet nook and join by video or phone. Info:

8. Savor the strawberry moon

You’ve heard stories about people howling at the moon as a group act of pandemic pride. It could be a good emotional release too. Whether you howl or not, plan to catch the next full moon, also known as the strawberry moon (or the rose moon or the hot moon), according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. It signals the time of year to start picking wild strawberries (not the color of the moon). Look for spring’s last full moon to rise in the sky just after sunset June 5. Info:

What to do this summer locally and at home

May 28, 2020

9. Run a virtual road race — and get a medal too

Your favorite race was canceled or postponed because of the pandemic, but that’s no reason to slack off. Pasadena Pacers ( hosts free training programs you can follow on your own, including one for newbies and a 10-mile challenge for folks who want to go farther. You can also compete in virtual organized races (you pay, run your course and receive a medal in the mail) or make up your own virtual course, such as completing a half-marathon by running 1 mile every hour for 13 hours. Runner’s World ( challenges everyone to a “running streak” of at least a mile a day through the Fourth of July. The point: Keep running.


10. Take a night-blooming jasmine walk

The true smell of spring in L.A. smacks you in the face during an evening walk. It’s night-blooming jasmine, a plant with tubular white flowers whose scent ranges from gently sweet to sickeningly pungent. As promised, it blooms at night. Follow your nose in your neighborhood and you’ll find the woody shrub that’s relatively drought-tolerant. “We humans are an accidental audience,” former L.A. Times staffer Emily Green once wrote. “The show is put on for moths, the doughty pollinators of so many white, night-scented flowers.”