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Fitness Bound

A Post-Work Hike--and Back Before Sundown

April 15, 2002|J. MICHAEL KENNEDY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

And now a word about daylight saving time, fitness and spending an hour or two with your kid.

At our house, morning is not a good time for exercise, unless the pandemonium of getting out the door qualifies. I'd be rich if I had a buck for every time "It's already 7:15" was uttered under our roof. And after our two teenagers are deposited at their respective schools, my wife and I still have to make our own dashes for the office.

Until now, evening hasn't been great for exercise either, on account of darkness. I'm not one of those folks who like to adorn themselves with blinking lights for a run at night. I'm the one who nearly hits them on the drive home from work.

But now, blessedly, daylight saving time is upon us. When I got home the other day, there was still plenty of sunshine left for a hike. For company, I recruited my son, Nick. We had not been hiking for some time, mostly because of hectic schedules and the fact that darkness had almost always fallen by the time I arrived home. When such an opportunity does occur, it is time well spent because hiking provides the combination of exercise and uninterrupted time to talk and catch up.

We headed for the mountains, which isn't nearly as exotic as it sounds. The San Gabriel Mountains are the northern boundary of Los Angeles, the view from thousands of windows. There are abundant hiking trails throughout Southern California, some more challenging than others but almost all easily accessible. They range, for example, from paths deep into the Angeles National Forest to places such as the Hollywood Reservoir or El Moro Canyon, just north of Laguna Beach.

For our hike, we simply drove up Arcadia's Santa Anita Avenue until we came to the Angeles National Forest. In five minutes, the San Gabriel Valley was far below us. In five minutes more, the valley had disappeared, replaced by steep mountains on all sides. After a series of switchbacks we were at Chantry Flat, the starting point for any number of hiking trails through the mountains and one of the most beautiful settings in Big Santa Anita Canyon. This, less than 20 miles from downtown Los Angeles.

We parked at Kim Kelly's pack mule station, where several donkeys were loaded with lumber destined for a cabin deep in the forest. Kelly is relatively new to the business, but the station has been a gathering place for locals since the Great Depression. The mules are the only way to get large amounts of supplies and equipment to the 80-odd cabins that are tucked away in the canyon. None of them has electricity or running water, and some were built more than 100 years ago.

So we set off, both of us wearing heart rate monitors. Nick was wearing the basic model I'd bought several years ago that only registers heartbeats per minute. I was wearing the fancier version that also measures things like calories expended. According to calculations that come with the monitor, my maximum heart rate is 167, while Nick's is 207. These numbers are arrived at by subtracting your age from 220.

So off we went, with Nick's monitor registering 99 and mine at 102. We were headed for Sturtevant Falls, a scenic four-mile round trip that is only difficult at the end, when the trail back to Chantry Flat is very steep. Very early in the hike, just as we entered the lush forest of giant alders, we came upon a sign that said, "Take care of the land. Someday, you'll be part of it."

We eased into a comfortable pace on the trail, which parallels a boulder-strewn stream. We crossed paths with a fisherman, who said he'd had no luck that day. And we passed a cabin with a sheet of plywood over one of its windows. The last time I'd been on the trail, the window had been smashed open, the cabin burglarized.

We talked of various things as we walked, including school and sports and how the day had gone for both of us. And we occasionally looked at our heart rate monitors. On a bit of an uphill climb, mine registered 144, a few ticks over my optimum. Nick's was a steady 125. No surprises there. He plays a lot of sports and, more to the point, has a school gym teacher who works his students hard every day.

When we got to the falls, which towered 50 feet above us, I checked my monitor again. After two miles of walking, I'd expended 389 calories. We rested for a few minutes and headed back, retracing a trail that led us over three stream crossings. Then we started the steep climb at the end of the trail. My heart rate climbed to 165 and Nick's went to 166, though he showed no sign of fatigue.

"You OK?" he asked.

"Sure," I replied, though I could feel the strain in my legs. We stopped once to rest briefly before reaching the top of the hill. When I checked the monitor, it said I'd used up 859 calories in one hour and 19 minutes of walking. It also said I had been in my zone--the optimum heart rate--for almost 50 minutes, a record for me.

We didn't dally at Chantry Flat but hopped in the car and went down the mountain. My daughter was in a high school track meet, and I thought we might still have time to get there before she ran. And the sun was still shining.

*

Snapshot:

Hiking

Duration of activity: One hour, 19 minutes.

Calories burned: 859

Heart rate: Average, 120; high, 165.

Time in target zone: 50 minutes.

Where to go: For informa-

tion about hiking trails in the

Angeles National Forest:

www.r5.fs.fed.us/angeles;

Crystal Cove State Park, Laguna Beach, (949) 494-3539;

or for general state park information: www.cal-parks.ca.gov.

*This information was obtained using a heart-rate monitor. Time in the target heart-rate zone is a measure of the intensity of the workout. Target zone varies based on age, individual heart rate.

*

J. Michael Kennedy can be reached by e-mail at j.michael.kennedy@la times.com.

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