Wildwood Canyon Hike

I signed up for HikeTheGeek when I moved down to LA to look for more out­doorsy things to do. They invit­ed me to come on one on July 3, but I was already doing my neon tour, so I decid­ed to go on my own on July 4.

The descrip­tion made me think twice, though.

Hel­lo all,

Yes, this is an ear­ly hike! 8:08am

But, this will be the first hard hike I have done since my recov­ery for the past half year.
This hike is indeed called the ARSE BURNER.

Bring water! Bring a hat! Bring sun Screen! Bring Great sto­ries to share! Bring an oxy­gen tank!

The Good

  • Great work out.
  • Free park­ing.
  • Dog friend­ly (Bring a leash)

The Bad

I took my wolf on this hike once. Sev­er­al times he want­ed to give up. When we got back to the bot­tom he actu­al­ly fell over, and his tongue sim­ply hung out of his mouth.

This is the hike I like to call the ass burn­er. You will feel this on the hike, after the hike, and maybe a few days later.

It is like walk­ing up stairs for an hour or so, and then walk­ing down stairs for an hour or so.

Great view, real feel­ing of accomplishment.

I decid­ed to tough it out, though. So I woke up ear­ly, filled up my Camel­bak and threw it into my back­pack along with a Calpi­co and a Quest bar, and set off. I drove right by Por­to’s, which was open but did not have a line yet. On the way up to the park entrance, I noticed that all the fire hydrants along the road were paint­ed pur­ple and some­one had stuck goo­gly eyes on them.

By the trail­head is a cool sculp­ture called “Tree Spir­it” which remind­ed me of a room­mate’s art from my house back in San Francisco.

Tree Spirit

As I cleared the tree-line, I could see the Bur­bank Police Depart­men­t’s fir­ing range and CQC train­ing house.

Burbank Police firing range

The hike itself is very decep­tive. As the warn­ing in the invite descrip­tion sug­gest­ed, there is a lot of ele­va­tion gain. Every time I crest­ed a hill, I saw that there was either a small flat or a dip before the next climb seg­ment, which I had not even seen before. Very dis­heart­en­ing. Let me tell you right now, when you start, there are three cell tow­ers vis­i­ble along the top ridge. The top of the hike is next to the left­most of the three towers.

I start­ed strong, but start­ed tak­ing breaks at every switch­back. Grannies with walk­ing sticks and lit­tle kids with pup­pies were pass­ing me up, but I did not care. There was one point where three ravens start­ed cir­cling me, and I thought per­haps I was in trou­ble. But I forged onward!

When I was almost at the peak, a lady passed me on the way down and then squealed as she met her child­hood friend and turned around to go back up with her. The three of us reached the peak togeth­er, with the moti­va­tion­al stylings of the one who had already hit the top on her own. She loved say­ing how sat­is­fy­ing beers and hot dogs would be after this (truth), and that the peak was “just around the cor­ner” (lie).

From the top, there is a beau­ti­ful throne from which you gaze over your kingdom.

Wildwood Canyon hike peak

Sit­ting there, I had the best Quest bar of my life.

I took my sweet time going back down, let­ting fam­i­lies with small chil­dren pass me by and high-fiv­ing some shirt­less hik­er bros who lapped me. I sat in the shade at back at the trail­head and enjoyed my cool Calpi­co, and then drenched my car in sweat as I drove home and prompt­ly passed out.

Accord­ing to my activ­i­ty track­er, the total hike was 4.59 miles with 1,854 feet of ele­va­tion gain and took me 3:01:22 to com­plete. (I did take a detour at the top in an attempt to find the Tree of Wis­dom, but I took a wrong turn.)

Zero Escape Puzzle Hunt

After “Trust on Tri­al”, I asked for a game kit for SCRAP’s “Zero Escape Puz­zle Hunt”.

Zero Escape Puzzle Hunt

This was SCRAP LA’s first “Escape Park” style game, where you go around the neigh­bor­hood find­ing clues to solve the puz­zles on your game kit. It played dur­ing Ani­mé Expo at the con­ven­tion hall and around Lit­tle Tokyo. For peo­ple with­out Ani­me Expo badges, there is a “cheat sheet” post­card with copies of the clues in the hall. It is very sim­i­lar to SCRAP SF’s “10,000 Trea­sure Hunters” games, which were coor­di­nat­ed with Japan­town’s JPOP Fes­ti­val. The game is free to play; I think 10,000 Trea­sure Hunters was a very cheap tick­et just for crowd con­trol pur­pos­es. And both were of low­er dif­fi­cul­ty than stan­dard SCRAP games.

The over­all puz­zle hunt was very short. There were four puz­zle clues inside Ani­mé Expo, which I got from the post­card. There are three remain­ing clues out­side. One was post­ed in the win­dow of SCRAP LA’s store­front, and the final two used sig­nage from busi­ness­es in the area. Using edu­cat­ed guess­es, I did not need to vis­it the two busi­ness­es, so the only clue from the entire puz­zle hunt that I need­ed to vis­it in per­son was the one at SCRAP LA. Even with the oblig­a­tory SCRAP twist for the last puz­zle, the entire game took me about 15 min­utes to com­plete on my own.

Slight­ly dis­ap­point­ed, I made my way over to the end location.

Zero Escape Puzzle Hunt end location

Instead of staff check­ing your phys­i­cal answer sheet at check­points, Zero Escape Puz­zle Hunt used a web­site check-in sys­tem. After you solved the final puz­zle, it asks you to post your suc­cess to social media. The end loca­tion staffers just check for your post before giv­ing you a prize. I got lucky num­ber 5 from the prize wheel — a post­card ad for Zero Escape — Zero Time Dilem­ma and a dis­count code for a future SCRAP game.

[yasr_multiset setid=1]

Com­ing from an escape room stand­point, this was not SCRAP’s best work, but I am sure peo­ple who came for Ani­mé Expo and got this as a treat enjoyed it. Espe­cial­ly the ladies, who were unan­i­mous fans of the Jun­pei cutout.

Illuminating the Art of Neon

Con­tin­u­ing my hol­i­day week­end of activ­i­ties, I went on anoth­er Atlas Obscu­ra tour to Flek­tro Stu­dios. San­di was the offi­cial Field agent, but Erin was there, and our host was Michael Flechtner.

Flektro Studio

Among Michael’s many accom­plish­ments, he designed the “Cel­e­brate Neon” For­ev­er stamp for the Unit­ed States Postal Service.

Celebrate Neon

He is also on the board of trustees for the Muse­um of Neon Art and earned the J. Paul Get­ty Trust Fund Fel­low­ship for the Visu­al Arts. He is even one of the first Amer­i­cans to vis­it Cuba for the Havana Light project.

Michael is one of the few neon artists who cre­ates three-dimen­sion­al pieces. It is a bit hard to see from this angle, but the red­dish fish is a ham­mer­head shark.

3D Shark

3D Fish

He also enjoys incor­po­rat­ing word­play into his work. This first piece is called “Budapest” and the sec­ond one is called “Moolah.”



While we were there, he walked us through the entire process of mak­ing a neon light. In hon­or of Atlas Obscu­ra, Michael made a sim­ple AO. First, he start­ed with one long tube for the A, cut it down to size, and heat­ed up small sec­tions to get the tight bends. Then he got a sec­ond tube for the O and heat­ed up about half at a time to get the long curves. The tricky part was clos­ing the gap on the O with­out hav­ing the ends hit each oth­er. The last step of the shap­ing was to join the two let­ters togeth­er and close the out­side ends with elec­trodes. On one end, he put a small bulb in the glass to trap a tiny bit of mercury.

We learned that neon lights get their col­or in three ways. The first is the gas used — each of the noble gas­es can be used, and they each have a dif­fer­ent nat­ur­al col­or asso­ci­at­ed. The sec­ond is the glass tube — phos­pho­rus coat­ings on the inside of the tubes can con­vert the UV por­tion of the light emit­ted by the gas to a vis­i­ble wave­length. And the final method is mer­cury, which will turn any gas to blue when it is vapor­ized and sus­pend­ed in the gas.

After fin­ish­ing at the bend­ing sta­tion, he took it over to the gas sta­tion. First he blasts extreme­ly high cur­rents through the tubes while they still have just nor­mal air. In the stu­dio, Michael actu­al­ly has a trans­former nor­mal­ly seen on pow­er lines for this pur­pose. This burns up all the water vapor and oth­er impu­ri­ties in the tube, which leads to a longer life for the neon. Michael told us about the neon signs at Clifton’s Cafe­te­ria, which have prob­a­bly been run­ning 247 for over 80 years with­out repair because they were well made. Then he fills it up with the gas of choice and runs “nor­mal” cur­rent through, and works the mer­cury from the trap through­out the tube. That is the stage we are in this photo.

Atlas Obscura demo

Once the mer­cury is even­ly spread, he gives it a few min­utes of steady pow­er to get an idea of what the final col­or will be. It took him about 45 min­utes to go from start to fin­ish. Michael tells us that mass-pro­duc­ers of signs, like for beer com­pa­nies to put in bars, are much faster than him because the shap­ing por­tion is stamped, not freehand.

Here are a cou­ple of videos of pieces I real­ly liked, for obvi­ous reasons.

And my absolute favorite shot from the entire tour, me, hold­ing a neon cam­era and drop­ping an F‑bomb.

Camera and F-Bomb

And as a bonus, here is a piece of Michael’s in the wild.

Called “Yucky!”, it can be found at Sweet! Hollywood.