The mountain story to share on Thanksgiving

If you’ve sharing a story this Thanksgiving, let it be this one. A few months ago I wrote about Jack Ryan Greener, a quadriplegic and stroke who has taught himself to walk. In August, he hiked to the top of Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the cohesive United States. Now, a recently released documentary called “Paralyzed to Peaks” tells his story, step by step, stumble by stumble. (Stream it for free here.)

The documentary by his buddy, Chase Viken, takes you from the hospital to the summit of the 14,505-foot-high summit west of Lone Pine, California. In the film, Jack’s anger, frustration, exhaustion, and gratitude collide on the mountain. At the introduction of the film, Jack recently wrote on Instagram: “I have really started to move my vocabulary and thought process to love. To move the vocabulary from failure to opportunity, a culmination of months after months of attention, meditation and writing. ” It’s another life, not one that Jack chose, that is being rebuilt with purpose and consideration. Enjoy and happy Thanksgiving.

5 things to do this week

A man jumps through a wreath with lights scattered on top.

(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

1. Yep, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of holiday lights. You should know by now that Thanksgiving is the unofficial start of the holiday lighting season, and it’s not just ornate neighborhoods and houses anymore. Local gardens install artful light shows (requiring expensive tickets) where you can walk in the middle of an immersive decor. These are great places to take the family with as well as visitors from out of town. Some examples: Lightscape at LA County Arboretum & Botanic Garden in Arcadia through Jan. 16; animal-themed LA Zoo Lights at Griffith Park Zoo through Jan. 9; South Coast Botanic Garden’s GLOW (Garden Lights & Ocean Waters) in Palos Verdes Estates through January 17; Descanso Gardens’ Enchanted Forest of Light in La Cañada Flintridge through Jan. 9; and Sherman Library & Gardens’ Nights of 1000 Lights in Corona del Mar on 10-12. December and 16-22. December. Click here for ticket prices and dates for these seasonal events.

An announcement about the LA County Parks event, "Park after dark"

Snow play starts in LA County parks this weekend.

(LA County Parks and Recreation)

2. Snow game to begin after closing time in LA County parks. LA County plans to send 40 tons of snow to city parks to give the city’s children a glow in the winter landscape. Parks After Dark hosts a sleigh ride and a snow play area, a visit from Santa Claus, a Christmas stocking gift (as long as stock lasts) and hot cocoa station – all for free; no registration required. The snow game begins on December 3 in Sorensen Park in Whittier and Pamela Park in Duarte and continues over the weekend through December 18. The sessions run at

Two hikers along a path with '#optoutside' written above

#Optoutside instead of shopping on Black Friday.


Resist Black Friday shopping frenzy and #optoutside instead. It’s pretty easy to avoid shops and online shopping the day after Thanksgiving. Plan a hike (here are 50 SoCal hikes to choose from), bike ride, running, skiing, surfing, anything that gets you and your loved ones out in nature. Maybe choose a place you’ve never been to to experience an adventure. Outdoor retailer REI started #optoutside in 2015 when it closed its 170 stores and websites on Black Friday, urging everyone to enjoy the outdoors instead. The Outdoor Association then started a Cooperative Action Fund to distribute money to community organizations that promote “justice, equality and belonging in the great outdoors to strengthen the health and well-being of people and communities.” Nature is waiting. It’s up to you to take the time to explore and share your experiences with your community.

Two people on bicycles with helmets pass a cinema sign that says: "Happy birthday CicLAvia, established October 2010."

Car-free streets return December 5th.

(Laura Rudich)

4. It’s time for another car-free spin cycle with CicLAvia. Have you ever wished you could clear LA streets of traffic? Of course you have it. CicLAvia does just that on a regular basis, so you can cycle, roll on roller skates, walk, run on a scooter (human-powered) or run on a car-free route in LA (See here for rules for which vehicles are allowed). to South LA for a route along Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from Central Avenue to Crenshaw Boulevard and as far north on Crenshaw as West Exposition Boulevard. The 5.3-mile route will be open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday. More info here.

Shells and sea creatures.

Tide-pool farmers.

(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

5. Join a free tidal pool hike on the Palos Verdes Peninsula. Tide basins along the SoCal coast provide an insight into another world. During low tide you can discover sea anemones, mussels, clams, starfish, snails, crabs and much more. Take a walk along the slopes and then drop down to the beach to see the tidal pools that host the Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy. (Bulderhopping makes this a moderate to strenuous ride.) The free walk takes place at. 9.00 December 11th. Sign up here to participate.

Wild things

A small fox is standing next to a boulder.

A red fox puppy from the Sierra Nevada.

(California Department of Fish & Wildlife)

The Sierra Nevada red fox is one of the rarest animals at high altitudes in the forests of Northern California. How rare? They count in the dozens. Really. Wildlife officials were concerned about the foxes after the Dixie fire last summer burned 963,309 acres in and around the Lassen National Forest. But they were encouraged after receiving pings from a radio collar on a 3-year-old fox, which they called Tule. This story from the LA Times describes how the foxes survived: “Tule is among a group of Sierra Nevada red foxes that state wildlife authorities began capturing in 2018 and equipping with satellite collars. Three other collared females in Lassen Volcanic National Park also appear to have “Survived the fire, which charred about two-thirds of the park. … Smaller of their habitats were damaged by the Dixie fire, but they continue to use parts that burned.” Read the full story here.

It must be read

A man looks out at a wide view with snow-capped mountains, blue skies and clouds.

Vincent Valencia enjoys a great view of the Sierra Nevada ridge while looking for some fresh air on top of Mammoth Mountain.

(Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Oops! What is it like to live alone on top of 11,053-foot Mammoth Mountain? Vincent Valencia knows that. For much of the past 18 years, he has been monitoring Mammoth Mountain Ski Area’s gondola operation, which has endured “whiteout conditions, 184 mph winds and temperatures dropping to minus 30 degrees,” wrote The Times’ Louis Sahagún. Valencia, 61, can walk five days without seeing anyone else. “A social butterfly will not like this job,” he said. “But it’s not me.” Read more about Valencia’s life at the top and his decision to leave that post.


Two young men stand under a stone archway in a forest next to a wooden sign.

Sammy Potter, left, and Jackson Parell begin on the Appalachian Trail.

(Jackson Parell)

Two Stanford students completed three of America’s most difficult trails in record time: Appalachian, Pacific Crest and Continental Divide. Sammy Potter and Jackson Parell started New Year’s Day 2021. They have become the youngest known hikers to complete the 7,940-mile journey in a single year, known as the Calendar Year Triple Crown. This LA Times story reports: “The first person to report completing the calendar year’s Triple Crown, Brian Robinson, finished at 10 months in 2001. Since his initial hike 20 years ago, fewer than a dozen people have followed in his footsteps. ” Potter and Parell used a strategy that involved jumping from trail to trail to gain more miles. Read the full story here.

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Click to view the web version of this newsletter and share it with others, and sign up to have it sent weekly to your inbox. I am Mary Forgione, and I write The Wild. I have been exploring trails and open areas in Southern California for four decades.

Mary Forgione

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