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Welcome, readers of The Wild. I was thrilled to learn bald eagles nicknamed Shadow and Jackie laid the first egg of the season last week. The birds gained rock-star popularity ever since Friends of Big Bear Valley trained a webcam on the Big Bear Lake nest five years ago. About 5,000 people watch at any given time during the breeding period.
But when I tuned in Thursday, I didn’t see the eagles. What I saw were two ravens picking at what was left of the newly laid egg. It had been eaten. Viewers watched in horror as Jackie, the female, flew into the nest and searched for her egg. For some who responded with real-time comments, it was too much:
“I can’t stop crying.”
“My daughter is crying so much and heartbroken but I tried to reassure her that Jackie could still have another one.”
“I knew something was off when Shadow didn’t show up. I’m sure crying. Painful. I hate this part.”
So what happened? Sandy Steers of Friends of Big Bear Valley said she doesn’t know why Jackie left her egg unprotected. The ravens, well, they were scavenging for food. “We can’t be mad at them,” Steers said. “It’s what they do.”
Eagles may “not start incubating full time with the first egg,” Steers explained. “They usually lay more than one, and they want the eggs to hatch close together because they have a better chance of survival that way.” The good news? On Saturday, Jackie laid a second egg, which is due to hatch in about 35 days, around Valentine’s Day.
Hopes are high that we’ll get to watch this chick enter the world. Last year, fans were disappointed when two eggs never hatched. In 2019, two eggs hatched, but only one chick survived. Eagles are faithful to their roots, returning to the same nest year after year. Watch the nest anytime on YouTube.
3 things to do this week
1. Start hiking segments of the Backbone Trail, L.A.’s 67-mile thru trail. Winter and spring are the ideal times to explore the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains. If you did it all at once (and there’s no easy way to do that right now), you would hike 67 miles and climb almost 13,000 feet. Most folks break it down into individual segments. Start at Will Rogers State Historical Park and hike to the Hub and back (about 14 miles and 2,200 feet of gain) to notch your first piece. Or do them out of order. You’ll be rewarded with nice views of the ocean and the heart of the low-lying Santa Monica Mountains. Check out FAQs, maps and other details about the Backbone Trail here. Then use a hiking app to guide you on each segment.
2. Look for migrating gray whales along the Palos Verdes Peninsula. It’s the time of the year when gray whales head south from Alaska to their winter breeding grounds off Baja, Mexico. The bluffs around Point Vicente and Lunada Bay are good places to see whales from land. Last Saturday the Los Angeles chapter of the American Cetacean Society reported sightings of five gray whale babies and their mothers (two off the peninsula, two off Dana Point and one off Oceanside). Bring binoculars and head for the bluffs along Palos Verdes Drive West. Keep up to date on the latest sightings here.
3. Learn the history of the lighthouse at the Cape Horn of California during this online talk. Point Conception is a wondrous, rugged coastal point north of Santa Barbara. When the tide is low, you can take an 11-mile beach walk to get there. Since 1856, a lighthouse has guided sailors in offshore waters so dangerous that the point was called the Cape Horn of California. The Santa Barbara Maritime Museum will host a free online program to discuss the history of the area (it was sacred to the Chumash), the lighthouse and the 6,000-pound historic lens that since 2013 has lived at the museum. The Zoom presentation starts 7 p.m. Jan. 21; it’s free, but you must register in advance. Get details here.
Gucci and North Face? Really? It’s true. With the outdoors the only place you can be seen right now because of COVID restrictions, this may be the perfect mash-up. The luxury Italian fashion brand launched gear it designed with the outdoor retailer in late December — and Gucci’s website crashed for about 10 minutes as everyone clicked to get a first look. The reaction to North Face x Gucci seems positive, with GQ gushing “going outside has never looked better.” Yep, you can pick up backpacks and puffer jackets with the interlocking Gs, and boots emblazoned with both logos. There’s a downtown L.A. Gucci pop-up at 2120 E. 7th Place that you can visit by appointment. More info here.
I was hiking the Backbone Trail in the Santa Monica Mountains last weekend when I saw parents struggling to get three young children up a steep stretch. Dad had a baby strapped to him; Mom was cheerleading two boys (who looked to be younger than 5) struggling with the incline.
I applaud the parents; I also felt for them. They were taking their children outdoors for the day, but the trail may have been too hard for such little ones (except the baby, who got a free ride). For parents wondering where to take young children instead of the neighborhood jungle gym, I recommend these places that keep it a bit wild.
Tapia Park, Agoura Hills: This lesser-visited park is set in a shady oak woodland with lots of picnic tables, good for a pre- or post-hike lunch. Look for the Tapia Spur Trail, which leads through native oak trees and onto the side of a ridge in the Santa Monica Mountains. The route is 1.5 miles each way (you come out near the entrance to Malibu Creek State Park, if you do the whole thing) with about 500 feet of gain. There are clean bathrooms on site; $12 to park for the day. Here’s a guide to help you find your way.
El Dorado East Regional Park, Long Beach: This woodsy escape from the city is set on a lake. You can walk the 2-plus-mile flat loop and hop off anytime to watch blue herons lurking in the reeds or turtles sunning on a rock. It’s a good place for young children to observe nature without feeling challenged by the terrain. Parking costs $6 to $9, depending on what day you go. Find more information here.
Griffith Park, Los Angeles: The wide Crystal Springs Trail parallels a park road and passes a few golf courses. It’s easy to find and follow, a flat mile each way that will take you from the ranger station on Crystal Springs Drive to the Autry Museum. The museum is closed, but there are two remarkable outdoor sculptures to see on this walk: Doug Hyde’s “Tribal Gathering” of Apache, Navajo, Hopi, Pueblo and Pima women; and Douglas Van Howd’s “Special Delivery,” which shows a Pony Express rider carrying Lincoln’s inaugural address. Here’s a map of the park showing all hiking trails.
The red flag
Those who had thoughts of heading to Channel Islands National Park anytime soon will need to postpone. My Times colleague Christopher Reynolds reports that Island Packers, the main provider of transportation to the park, suspended trips to the islands on Dec. 21, citing California’s tough COVID-19 restrictions. The Ventura-based company’s website notes that all trips “have been temporarily suspended until further notice.” However, you can make a reservation for mid-February and early March.
Catalina Express also reduced operations amid health orders from the governor and L.A. County. Boat trips from San Pedro and Dana Point to Catalina Island have been suspended. Two round trips per day are offered from Long Beach to Avalon. Also, onboard galleys are closed, and passengers with take-out food are not allowed to eat or drink onboard.
The must read
Author Lisa See takes a deep dive (pun intended) into a little known world of the haenyeo, described as a subculture of free divers on the Korean island of Jeju, in her novel “The Island of Sea Women.” The plot is fictional, but the story of the women who go deep — without any breathing aids — to harvest shellfish and other seafood is real. See went to South Korea to interview the divers, many of them older because younger women aren’t taking up the activity. “They’re working women, and they’re also very loud, since their ears have been damaged,” See told the L.A. Times. “Sometimes, they’d say, ‘Go away! I’m busy!’ But others said, ‘Sure.’” See joins the L.A. Times Book Club on Jan. 25 to discuss the book. Read the full story here.
Griffith Park has lost its most ardent booster and enthusiastic hiker. Former L.A. City Councilman Tom LaBonge, known as Mr. Los Angeles, died last week at age 67. He hiked the park just about every day since 1978, clutching a football and sharing with anyone who stopped to chat how truly wonderful his city and his park was. If you never encountered LaBonge on the trails, here’s your chance — courtesy of this video shot a while back by my colleague Christopher Reynolds.
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Click to view the web version of this newsletter and share it with others, and sign up to get it sent weekly to your inbox. I’m Mary Forgione, and I write The Wild. I’ve been exploring trails and open spaces in Southern California for four decades.