How about the Monrovia Mountain Park? Too many trees? How about the Santa Fe Dam Recreation Area over by Azusa? Other places along the San Gabriel River in Irwindale? or up along the San Gabriel River in the San Gabriel Mountains?
Yeah, definitely too many trees in Monrovia Mountain Park, especially for a Noob like me. :lol:
I think Santa Fe Dam recreation area is too closely regulated and monitored as it's a fee-based site and part of the L.A. County Dept. of Parks and Recreation. You even need to get a special permit to do any filming and, even though it's not a lot different than making home movies, shooting video from my Phantom without a permit could be construed as a violation. I'd rather not take a chance, although it would be a nice spot to get some cool high altitude (400' or under, of course) shots from.
I could probably get away with flying up in Azusa Canyon or from Glendora Mountain Road though. However, if I ran into any problems that required an early landing offroad, retrieving the bird could be very difficult as it's quite rugged up there.
As I'm very new to this I'd like to find some large, flat open areas that are forgiving of mistakes. Once I develop some flying skill and confidence I would probably be willing to tackle some of the riskier areas.
My other concern regarding any of the canyon areas is the possibility of causing a fire with a hard crash and shorted electrical components. I know it's a very slim chance that it would happen, but I still wouldn't want to have something like that on my conscience, let alone the legal ramifications. It sometimes makes me wish I lived in the Midwest with all the wide open farm land in the spring and summer and snow in the winter.
Your safety concerns are all valid. I started out by flying in some big commercial parking lots on weekends, and on a high school soccer field, also on weekends. You could fight the ghastly I-210 traffic out to Upland near some of the big open spaces between the freeway and the mountain front. I've driven the 210 the last three weekends and saw some interesting looking space in Azusa north of the 210 and north of the beer brewery, but not in the big gravel pit. Lots of flying space in Antelope Valley and the Mojave Desert, of course, but they are a long way from Monrovia to go just to fly a couple of batteries worth of time. Chino Hills? Puente Hills? Brookside Park in Pasadena?
My first flight was in a field with fairly high, but dead, grass, so I understand your worry about a hard crash when starting out. I wish I could show you how easy it is to land gently. For starters, just don't fly high or far, and bring her in and down SLOWLY. You could also have a friend with you to hand catch, but again, come in and down SLOWLY. Good luck and continue to worry about flying safely and responsibly.