This Saturday, deep in Franklin Canyon Park below the intersection of Mulholland Drive and Coldwater Canyon Avenue, a team of National Park Service volunteer docents will conduct a pair of free nature hikes for the artistically inclined of all ages.
Barbara Benoit Baron and Andrea Diamond will run the 10-11:30 a.m. program called "Exploring Nature Through Art for Kids 8-12." Reservations are required.
Baron is a four-year veteran docent at the park, and Diamond is an art teacher with the Los Angeles Unified School District. They said they want to start a young people's program with this monthly hike and plan to add others, including one for preschoolers four days a week.
Diamond calls this weekend's event "an old-time botany walk for children because they have certain observational skills, they notice more things than we adults do."
She will give the children magnifying glasses and dental mirrors to use on their search for plant details and symmetrical patterns they can put down on paper.
"They have the ability to notice the full spectrum of all the colors," Diamond said.
After about 45 minutes on the hiking trail, kids will go to the park's Nature Center to "render what they've seen," Diamond said.
The docents will give them art tips and materials, including crayon-like pastels.
Diamond stressed that "this is not a drop-off program."
"Parents are supposed to stay," she said. "It's important that parents go through the experience and get something out of it."
At 4 p.m., the "Franklin Painters," a group of adults who meet monthly for a hike, will gather for a 45-minute jaunt through the canyon. Participation is free, and hikers usually carry a sketch pad.
"Bring whatever you have--your media," docent Lisa Warner said. "At the beginning of the hike we take a poll--'What would you like to see?'--and later we come back to a spot where we sit down and draw until about 6 p.m.
"We don't teach art," Warner said. "We just help people get there."
To get to Franklin Canyon Park from the Valley, drive south on Coldwater Canyon Avenue to Mulholland Drive. On the west side of the intersection is an unmarked road that is actually Franklin Canyon Drive and leads down through a residential road to the park entrance.
Further inside the park, just before you reach the lake, will be the William O. Douglas Outdoor Classroom/Sooky Goldman Nature Center.
For details and reservations, which are required for the 10 a.m. program, call (310) 858-3090.