Sunday, December 28, 2008

More Secret Garden -- The Earthside Nature Center

A couple of weeks ago, after discovering the old Earthside Nature Center, I posted a series of photos and some narrative. Since then, I've tried to find out more about Earthside. I returned today for more photos and the discoveries continue.

The shrub/tree in the photo is a toyon, which is native to southern California. It is also known as the California holly.

Elizabeth Pomeroy, author of Pasadena: A Natural History, recalls Earthside Nature Center as "inspiring and verdant little oasis of California nature." She says, "I visited there often -- once inside, under the sycamores and beside the pond with its tadpoles, the city seemed far away."

This photo is taken from the south end of Earthside looking north to Del Mar Blvd. That's Eaton Blanche Park on the left, the Eaton Wash channel down the middle and Earthside on the right. There is a footbridge from Eaton Blanche over to Earthside. Can you see it?

The Southern California Edison power lines border Earthside on the east. I took this photo while standing in a grove of oak trees on the south end of the Earthside site. The building on the right is the Boys and Girls Club. Until a few years ago, a Christmas tree farm covered much of the land under the wires.

If you look hard, you can spot little signs around the Earthside site identifying plants and trees. Some of the identified plants remain. Others are gone.

There are also plaques dotted over the site on rocks, tables or posts, which bear the names of Earthside supporters.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas

It is a rainy Christmas morning. But, the fire's going and its warm inside. Christmas music is going. The kids have opened their gifts. Our five year old is playing with her Polly Pockets. Our eleven year old is already on the phone to a friend ("hey dude"). We've had our morning coffee and gingerbread cake is underway with fresh brown eggs. We've read the Christmas story with all the readers in the house taking different paragraphs. We watched Linus tell Charlie Brown the meaning of Christmas and read the Grinch for the umpteenth time with such gusto I'm surprised the neighbors didn't complain about the "noise, noise noise, noise." There's nothing like Christmas morning.

Normally we would load the car down with gifts and head over to my folks' house where bedlam typically reigns with kids running all around. But, my mom is recovering this year from a tough surgery and the family gathering will need to wait. I'll head over this afternoon, but for the rest of the family, a merry Christmas phone call will have to suffice for today.

Every year, we enjoy our area's Christmas displays. We do Christmas Tree Lane in Altadena (with our car lights off). We take multiple trips to Hastings Ranch and the Balian house. It is amazing they've been doing the lights in Hastings Ranch since 1957!

I made several runs at passable pictures of Christmas lights. Believe it or not, I took pictures of lots of great stuff. Just none of it came out. Anyway, the top picture is from a lawn display in Hastings. The manger scene below is one of the many scenes at the Balian house.

Monday, December 22, 2008

San Gabriel Mountains with snow

The San Gabriel Mountains extend eastward well into San Bernardino County. The eastern San Gabriel peaks are spectacular after a snow. This was taken yesterday from the train station in Upland.
With snow on the mountains it is a great time to check the Mount Wilson Tower Cam. The Tower Cam has some great scenes when the clouds lift.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Secret Garden

Closed off for more than a decade, the weathered remnants of Earthside Nature Center hold forth. Like the Secret Garden, it waits to be restored.

In its heyday, Earthside was a wonderful garden of native plants and wildflowers on grounds shaded by sycamores and oaks and surrounded by grape vines. Naturalists held guided tours to teach others about native plants. In 1989 Earthside won the American Horticultural Society’s award for Urban Beautification.

Earthside Nature Center was photographed and described in the book The Natural Habitat Garden:

“At Earthside Nature Center, a two-acre garden only for natives founded in 1971, [Kevin] Connelly and naturalist-author Elna Bakker work with more than color combinations in mind. Though the place is positively brilliant, what was first in the gardeners’ minds was a desire to see plants with their natural companions.” The book describes two acres of flat gardens with pathways zig- zagging down the hillside next to the wash.

Connelly and Bakker were forward-thinking and quite accomplished. They combined their talents to make Earthside. Bakker was a noted naturalist who wrote many books including "An Island Called California: an introduction to its natural communities" published by UC California Press. She died in 1995 and was remembered in this article which now appears at the Sierra Club website. The Angeles Chapter of the Sierra Club awards the Elna Bakker Nature Interpretation Plaque for outstanding achievement and creativity. Kevin Connelly was active with the Theodore Payne Foundation, which published his book A Gardner's Guide to Wildflowers. He also wrote Month by Month in a Water-Wise Garden.

Today, you’d need to know exactly where to go to find Earthside. The Earthside remnants sit a couple of hundred yards behind an abandoned child care center on the south side of Del Mar Blvd. But, if you can get past the chain link fence fronting Del Mar, the sign warning of rat traps, the fallen trees, glass and gopher holes, the old Earthside awaits. Earthside (which seems like more than two acres) is bordered on the west by Eaton Wash channel and the Eaton Blanche park and on the east by the Edison power lines. On Saturday, my son and I walked the area. The sky was gray, but hopefully these pictures are enough to get your imagination going.

Also, thanks to Richard Janisch for uncovering this gem!

One of the terraced paths leading down the hill beside the wash.

A potting shed with bench and sink to the right. Also, notice how deep the leaves are around the picnic table.

Another trail, now blocked by a fallen tree, heading southward alongside the wash. A 1967 plan approved by the Pasadena Parks Director, but never implemented, designated part of this area east of the wash for overnight group camping.

Grape vines, like those in the foreground, border much of the nature center. This is taken standing on one of the terraced trails looking south from the nature center. That's the Eaton Wash with Eaton Blanche park to the right.

A kiosk that, according to a faded sign, was donated by the Pasadena Rotary Club.

I had to push away old grape vines to see what this sign said. There are bunches of dried grapes on the left of this photo. I wonder what the Dr. Stephen Smith Learning Center was.

Yes, I know this is a repeat of a photo that appears above. But, I can't figure out how to delete just this one picture without deleting the entire post, which I really don't want to do!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Stealth Bomber - out for a Sunday flight (12-9 Update)

While out in the yard Sunday afternoon I heard a rumble from the sky and looked up to see the stealth bomber. We've seen fly overs on New Years mornings to start the Rose Parade. It is an awesome sight. Isaac Garcia's blog reports that this was a practice run for January 1.
As Laurie (of the excellent Glimpses of South Pas blog) commented, the stealth bomber flyover was to commemorate the passing of former Secretary of Air Force Verne Orr. Mr. Orr's funeral was held Sunday afternoon at the Pasadena United Methodist Church, which happens to be on the parade route on Colorado Blvd. This was reported in Frank Girardot's Crime Scene Blog for the SGV Tribune and at I wondered why the bomber would have to practice flying over the parade route.
Not everyone gets a stealth bomber flyover at his funeral. So, I checked Vern Orr's obituary in the LA Times. As you might guess, he was one of Pasadena's more eminent residents. After serving as a Naval officer in WWII (where he was awarded the purple heart), he returned to Pasadena to run the family car dealership. He went on to head a local bank and then was tapped by Gov. Reagan to head the state DMV and later named by Pres. Reagan to serve as Sec. of the Air Force. In the later role he oversaw inception of the stealth bomber program. He served as dean of the University of La Verne School of Business. Then, four years ago at the age of 88, he earned his doctorate degree from Claremont Graduate School.