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HIKING

Two Garden Walks in the San Gabriel Foothills

April 11, 1993|JOHN McKINNEY

It might not come immediately to mind as a hiker's destination, but the former estate of businessman and developer E.J. (Lucky) Baldwin, now home to the Los Angeles County Arboretum's 30,000 plants, provides the walker with a great landscape to explore.

Here, among the reeds of the natural lagoon, for instance, you will spy the striking Queen Anne-style cottage constructed by Baldwin after he purchased the old Rancho Santa Anita in 1875.

If the arboretum scenery looks familiar, it's because you've seen it on the screen: old Tarzan flicks, the "Fantasy Island" TV series. With Katharine Hepburn in tow, Humphrey Bogart pulled the African Queen through the arboretum's jungle.

Strictly in terms of exercise, the road circling the arboretum offers the best workout. But to really see the flora, get off the road onto the garden paths. Those paths wind past some of America's tallest palm trees, streams and a waterfall into a tropical greenhouse--for bromeliads, orchids, begonias and other tropical plants. The stands of eucalyptus in the Australian section look right at home in Southern California.

For a good clear-day view of Mt. Wilson, follow the path up Tallac Knoll. En route, you will encounter a stand of rare Pasadena oak.

Amid the colorful flora, the walker will likely encounter the arboretum's dominant fauna--peacocks, descendants of a couple of peafowl brought from India by Lucky Baldwin at the turn of the century.

While the arboretum gets plenty of visitors (half a million a year), many more head for another Baldwin-inspired creation across the street--Santa Anita Race Track.

Directions: From the San Bernardino Freeway (Interstate 10) in El Monte, exit on Baldwin Avenue and drive north to the entrance of the arboretum, on the west side of the street. From the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) in Arcadia, exit on Baldwin Avenue and go south a short distance to the arboretum entrance.

Open 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; closed Dec. 25. Admission is $3 for adults.

RANCHO SANTA ANA GARDEN

On the right day, in the right light, this botanical garden offers a scene from a 1920s postcard: wildflower-bedecked fields in the foreground, snowcapped Mt. Baldy in the background.

Native California flora (more than 1,500 species) is the emphasis at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. Prominent are a multitude of manzanita and a ceanothus (California lilac) collection that has attracted nationwide attention.

You can walk a mile or so through the garden. Trails lead to desert, coastal, woodland and riparian plant communities.

Although the garden welcomes walkers, its main orientation is toward science. Affiliated with the Claremont Colleges, it has a modern botany lab and a huge herbarium. The garden has developed, nurtured and introduced to nurseries many varieties of plants that have, in turn, greatly influenced Southern California landscaping.

Highlights include a collection of more than two dozen California conifers, the Coastal Garden and the Desert Garden, which displays native cactus species plus succulents and desert shrubs.

Directions: Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden is on College Avenue, north of Foothill Boulevard and east of Indian Hill Boulevard, in Claremont. From I-10, exit on Indian Hill, travel two miles north to Foothill, turn right and proceed three blocks east to College Avenue.

Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily; closed Jan. 1, July 4, Thankgiving and Dec. 25. Free admission.

\o7 Take a hike with John McKinney's "Day Hiker's Guide to Southern California" ($16.95). Send check or money order to Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Dept. 1, Times Mirror Square, Los Angeles 90053.

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San Gabriel Valley / Acadia Where: Los Angeles County Arboretum. Distance: 1 or 2 miles. Terrain: Specialty gardens featuring plants from around the world. Highlights: Tropical greenhouse; colorful peacocks strutting through the gardens; a collection of ducks that populate the four-acre lake, and a 50-foot waterfall that forms a beautiful backdrop for a collection of ferns and water-loving species. For more information: Contact the Los Angeles County Arboretumk, 301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia 91006, (818) 821-3222

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