Frequently Asked Questions

These are some of the questions that have been posed to me that may be of interest to others. None of these questions are made up (at least by me...). Some questions have been turned into new webpages at this site, and hence are no longer found below. Hence this page contains mostly miscellaneous information that does not warrant a full page elsewhere.

I have been asked many more questions than are posted here, but haven't had time for a while to update this page with new questions. Maybe sometime...

Where can I find a hiking map of the SGM?

What trails are suitable for nude hiking?

Dogs in the SGM

How Do You Pronounce Islip, Liebre?

Am I likely to meet maniacal killers in the SGM?

Do they make accurate pedometers?

What's the name of the pine that grows on Mt. Wilson with the big beautiful pine cones?

Where is the grave of Owen Brown?

Are "human-caused fires" tragedies for the SGM?
What are the impacts on the SGM caused by humans?

How long will it take to get an answer to my question?
How many people access this site per day?
How much feedback does this site get?

Where can I find a hiking map of the SGM?

The best overview map is the one supplied with the Trails of the Angeles at almost any sporting goods store or local bookstore. The map is also available separately as Trail Map for Trails of the Angeles.

The best actual hiking maps are the "7 1/2 quad" USGS topo maps with a scale of 1:24,000, available at Calgold stores, some sporting goods stores such as Sports Chalet and REI, and by fax or mail order from the USGS. The maps show most, but not all, of the trails. It takes about 29 such maps to cover the SGM. The mail-order price was $4 apiece in 1997 plus a handling charge of $3.50 per order.

A cheaper alternative is to buy the Topo! Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and Surrounding Recreational Areas CD-ROM containing all the maps, priced at $49.

All topo maps are now available on the web at TopoZone.

What trails are suitable for nude hiking?

As you might suspect, the page previously containing just this question was one of the more frequently accessed pages on this entire site probably solely because it contains one of the magic words many people search for...

First, let me make it clear that I have no personal experience on the subject. I assume that what is desired is a relatively secluded trail, and one that is fairly "open" so that you don't need long pants, for example, to protect your legs from chaparral.

A relatively secluded trail can best be obtained by maximizing the drive time from L.A. and by hiking on the weekdays. If you do both, you'll almost totally eliminate the possibility of meeting anyone else on the trail.

Some of the trails that I remember as being fairly open in the SGM are:

No guarantees, however, since I might not have noticed obstacles that might affect an unclothed hiker and because my memory is not always perfect!

If any readers have personal experience on which trails are good for this sort of thing, please email me.

Dogs in the SGM

For some reason, probably my observation that 90% of the dogs I meet in the ANF are off-leash, I had always thought that there are no restrictions on dogs in most of the ANF at all, except in campground areas and probably in wilderness areas. For example, Millard Campground has a sign requiring that dogs be on leashes, a reasonable restriction around picnic tables and tents that have food in them. However, the Forest Service Map clearly states:

Pets are welcome in the Angeles National Forest, but they must be on a leash. This not only protects your pet, but keeps it from scaring wildlife or disturbing other campers. With the exception of guide dogs, pets are not allowed in swimming areas.

The specific regulation requires a leash "not exceeding 6' at all times" (36CFR261.15j).

In addition, L.A. County requires leashes in all public areas except in officially designated off-leash areas.

I have taken my wife's dog on many hikes and bicycle rides and met many dogs along the trail. Although I am not a "dog person", I have never had a problem with any dog I have met in the forest, probably because there are so many other things for them to get excited about. (Oddly enough, I have had several bad encounters with dogs in areas outside the SGM that, unprovoked, came running and barking at me. These dogs were clearly not used to seeing hikers on a trail, and should have been restrained by their owners.)

The only problem I witnessed was on a hike on the Old Mt. Wilson Trail in Little Santa Anita Canyon back when there was a nest of bees partway toward First Water. The unleashed dog of a friend of mine stuck his nose into the next, which resulted in a swarm of angry bees looking to mete out some punishment. I unfortunately happened to be immediately next to the dog, but managed to outrun the bees by heading downhill. The dog was not so fortunate...

Before I knew about the leash restriction, I personally had taken our golden retriever on quite a few trails off-leash, and thus know how much easier it is to do it that way. However, back then I made sure to put him on a leash, or hold his collar, when we met others.

If you take your dogs off-leash, it is vital to know that your dogs won't harm or bother other hikers or the wildlife. After all, you are enjoying the home of birds, squirrels, rabbits, etc., and a proper guest doesn't eat or harass the hosts! An even more important question to ask yourself: if your dogs go ahead of you, and find a 3-year-old child separated a bit from their party, will anything happen to that child that you and/or the child will regret? Think about not only the usual problems of dog bites and/or harassment, but also the possibility that the dog might cause the child to fall off the edge of the trail as the dog powers past the child.

Many dog owners may not be aware that many non-dog owners are immensely bothered when a strange dog comes up to them and starts to smell them at close quarters, or worse, jumps up on them or barks at them. After all, dog owners consider this close contact with their dog to be a pleasant experience, and may even think that everyone else enjoys this, too. One person wrote me:

I hate to be smelled and sniffed by strange dogs and jumped on and scared.

Responsible dog owners would not inflict this discomfort on others.

There is a group of regular dog walkers, the California Canine Hikers, that has organized hikes in the SGM, and they demand that all dogs be on leashes on their hikes in order to prevent problems.

Many people are certainly very upset over having unleashed dogs fight with their leashed dogs. For example, Ginny writes:

Do you know if anything can be done about people walking loose dogs on those trails? Problem is, I walk my dog on a leash and if approaching dogs aren't leashed, they sometimes fight and I'm stuck with the very ugly experience of breaking them up because the owner too often has more than one dog and is busy trying to hold the other(s). It really can ruin the joy of a walk.

Finally, there is the very real issue of the large effect that unleashed dogs have on the wildlife. Dogs take great delight in hunting down wildlife and chasing them. Even if they are not caught and harmed by the dog, many animals are thus flushed out of their camouflaged home which exposes them to other predators, or have to expend valuable energy during a part of the day when they should be resting. Wildlife often live a very precarious existence during our long hot dry summers, and having to expend additional energy may decrease their numbers since the habitat only gives them a certain amount of calories. See Free-ranging Dogs.

See also Effect of Dogs on Wildlife at the Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.

How Do You Pronounce Islip, Liebre?

Islip: eye-slip (from Trails of the Angeles, 1990, hike 76).

Liebre: lee-bray (answer provided by Dave Anderberg, who heard the way the dispatchers for the forest service and the county pronounce it.)

Am I Likely To Meet Maniacal Killers In The SGM?

No, as long as I don't count my hiking companion when I am complaining too much......

In over 1,000 miles of hiking, I've met exactly one person who might not be regarded as a fine, upstanding citizen-hiker. He appeared to be a potential illegal alien who was either wandering around lost or had been sleeping in the mountains, but he was and seemed harmless. Everyone else I met I'd trade some of my neighbors for in an instant...

See Deaths in the SGM for a list of ways people do end up dying in the SGM.

Do They Make Accurate Pedometers?

Pedometers almost always accurately count steps, as long as you have sufficient hip motion to trigger the counter. The problem is that one's step size is never constant, and it takes a little iteration to find the correct average setting. The settings are also usually coarse - 1.5'/step to 1.75'/step at best, for example, a 17% change. Hence that pedometer would be 8.5% off if your average step size was 1.626'.

The other problem is that pedometers do not accurately count steps in unusual situations, such as steep descents. They depend on sufficient hip motion. I seem to be fairly unusual, in that when I do steep descents, it misses enough steps to approximately compensate for my step size being smaller then! I get pretty much the same mileage going up and down steep slopes.

See Accuracy of Trail Mileages and Pedometer Accuracy for more than you wanted to know about pedometer accuracies.

What's The Name Of The Pine That Grows On Mt. Wilson With the Big Beautiful Pine Cones?

The Coulter Pine is perhaps the tree you are thinking of. The Coulter Pine grows 40-80' tall and 1-3' in diameter. It has stiff, blue-green needles that are 10" long in bundles of 3. The large oval cones are 10" long as well and are the heaviest of all pine cones. The cone has thick woody scales, each ending in a long, narrow, sharp, curved claw.
from Trees of North America, p. 30.

Where Is The Grave Of Owen Brown?

John Brown was a fiery pre-Civil War abolitionist who did his part in causing Kansas to be known as "Bleeding Kansas" before the Civil War. Owen was John Brown's third son and last surviving member of the Harper's Ferry raid. Owen and Jason Brown lived in a small log cabin at the head of El Prieto Canyon, and wanted to name a local mountain in honor of their father. They failed to get Mt. Lowe so honored (before it was named Mt. Lowe), but succeeded in naming Brown Mountain for their father.

It used to be fairly easy and friendly to get to Own's gravesite, before the La Vina development was built:

[2001 no longer valid directions: To get to Owen's gravesite, drive up paved El Prieto Road in Altadena to its end at a Forest Service gate. On the east there are three or four small houses. Look to the west/southwest at the power towers. There are three small hills there. The grave is on the most distant and most rounded hill called Little Round Top. If you walk back down the road and keep to the right there is an old jeep/wagon trail which will take you around the first two hills and to the top of the third hill.

Back at the gate, immediately to the west is a trail which leads very quickly to a big sign which talks about Owen Brown. If you continue on that trail, in about a mile it will dead-end at the El Prieto Canyon Trail with a small sign "To Owen Brown's Grave" (or something like that), which points back to where you began.]

Michael Charters tried to follow those directions in 2014, and they no longer worked. Here are the directions Michael kindly supplied:

To get to El Prieto Road, take the 210 freeway to the Lincoln Ave exit and head north. After almost 2 miles, turn left on Canyon Crest Rd, immediately after Loma Alta and Loma Alta Park. Follow Canyon Crest as it winds around for about a mile, and turn left on Aralia Rd, left on Cloverhill Rd, and then right on El Prieto Rd. Drive to the top of El Prieto Rd and park along the street there, walk up past the gate (which is unmarked but allows pedestrian access), past the water tank building (?) on the right, and turn left onto a walking trail, go about 5-10 minutes, crossing under some power lines, and then turn back to the right about 150 degrees on a trail that is marked by stones along the edge and goes up to the top of a little knob which is called Little Round Top. There is currently no indication where the grave is since the stone marker is no longer there, but there is a sign. The marker has been placed in a secret location until its disposition can be determined.

The grave sits on private property, so please respect that property on your visit.

Funeral notice for Owen Brown in Pasadena Standard 12 January 1889.

Are "human-caused fires" tragedies for the SGM?

Occasional fires are not disasters and there is no need to feel any anguish when parts of the forest burn. In fact, the entire forest community, plants and animals, have adapted to fires occurring roughly once per 50 years, and depend on fire. Examples:

In the years before the 1993 fire near Mt. Wilson, there was virtually no trace at all left of the 1979 fire except for probably the ecosystem being healthier as a result of the 1979 fire. Fires help eliminate non-native vegetation that it not adapted to frequent fires.

However, fire that reoccurs too frequently is quite harmful to the chaparral and forest. For example, hoaryleaf ceanothus plants require ~5 years to produce seed. Hence if fires recur within less than ~5 years, this will also result in local extinction of hoaryleaf ceanothus. Frequent fires may result in the conversion of chaparral and forest to grasslands made primarily of non-native weeds.

What are the impacts on the SGM caused by humans?

This is a rather broad question, and anyone who knows of other impacts should email me to make these answers better and more complete. My answer below is not the product of research, but is "off the top of my head".

The SGM is one of the more untouched environments in the U.S., which is not to say that it is pristine.

Probably the largest effect on the SGM now is the existence of roads. Roads kill a large number of animals (birds, snakes, squirrels, etc.) on a daily basis who are simply trying to cross the road. Further, the construction of roads can sometimes disturb natural paths to water, safety, etc., and hence can change the entire ecology.

The next largest impact is probably the introduction of non-native species, both plants and animals. There are numerous stories of how the introduction of non-native species can wipe out a number of native species that depend on each other. I don't know of the specific ones causing problems in the SGM, and would appreciate feedback from those that do.

Increased fire frequency and fire suppression is probably third on the list. The chaparral is adapted to fires roughly every 50 years, but fires at a given spot are now occurring roughly every 30 years due to human-caused fires (Keeley et al 1999, Science, 284: 1829). If the fire frequency at a given location becomes less than ~10-20 years, there is a risk of converting the chaparral to grasslands made of non-native species. (See Are human-caused fires tragedies for the SGM?)

The assault on the chaparral and forest by fire-suppression crews is pretty major. Fire retardants and tons of water are dropped from the air. Fire retardants are basically fertilizer, which encourages the growth of non-native species. Tons of water dropped in one location can erode the landscape much more powerfully than El Nino storms. Dozens to hundreds of firefighters create firebreaks, which can then be a source of erosion.

However, the current view is that such fire-suppression efforts are needed due to the increased fire frequency resulting from human-caused fires (Keeley et al 1999). The side-effects of fighting fires are better than allowing large areas to burn frequently.

Removing grizzly bears entirely, and seriously suppressing the population of mountain lions and brown bears for most of the last century has also undoubtedly changed the ecology.

The construction of large numbers of debris dams has changed the flow of the rivers and undoubtedly changed the population of creatures that live in the water, as well as those that prey upon those creatures. John McPhee has written of the assault of the SGM by the dam-builders in The Control of Nature.

Nonetheless, while hiking on most of the trails in the SGM, it is easy to believe that the forest looks much the same as it did hundreds of years ago and that overall man's impact on the forest has been minimal. This is especially true in comparison to how the L.A. Basin looks now compared to how it must have been hundreds of years ago!

Go to:

Copyright © 1997-2014 by Tom Chester.
Permission is freely granted to reproduce any or all of this page as long as credit is given to me at this source:
Comments and feedback: Tom Chester
Updated 26 October 2014.