hiking


Yesterday after breakfast (and before the day’s NFL Conference Championship games yielded the two teams I least wanted to see in the Super Bowl; but still: Go Giants, beat that Brady Bunch!), Susan and I went for a morning hike with Ranger in Bronson Canyon Park, a place I’ve been visiting since I was 12 years old. It was our first time back since 2005 with Shadow, in part because we’d been struck with a bit of the curiosité morbide following this week’s news of the discovery of the severed hands, feet and head of what turned out to be a local resident.

Ranger enjoyed the outing (though she wasn’t so thrilled when we walked through the made-famous-by-the-movies “cave” that is the park’s marquee attraction), which thankfully produced no additional body parts, but was tempered with the discovery afterward of several teeny tiny ticks trying (unsuccessfully thanks to our efforts) to turn Ranger into their host.

I haven’t made much noise here or anywhere because up to this point it’s primarily been percolating in my brain, but I’ve begun more earnest planning of my second-annual March March  (last year’s can be read about here) for either the first or second Saturday of that month, and I’m starting to get pretty excited about it so I thought I’d share what I’ve come up with so far in case you’re interested in penciling it in to your calendar and coming along for the stride.

Just like my Sunset Boulevard walk from downtown to the sea a few years back it’s going to convene and commence at Union Station. But unlike that epic journey, this one’s much shorter, will start at a time far more civilized than dawn and is mult-modal. Instead of setting out on foot, we’ll first board the Gold Line and head across to the other side of East Los Angeles, making stops along the way out there to micro-explore the immediate vicinities/points of interest surrounding those stations.

Once we’ve arrived at the end of the rails we’ll exit and walk our way south along Atlantic Boulevard to Whittier where we’ll then begin trekking it back west toward downtown, with various sidetracks along the way. Crossing the landmark 6th Street Viaduct over the Los Angeles River we’ll come up through the Arts District and back to Union Station.

With the inclusion of the Gold Line getting us east, this walk’s total distance will depend in part on the amount of tangents we take. The main stretch back to Union Station from East Los Angeles through Boyle Heights is about 7.5 miles, and the total will probably fall somewhere between the 10- to 14-mile range. If I had to guesstimate a more specific number I’d say 12 miles.

There will, of course, be more info as I firm up details. So look for updates here and on Blogging.la.

Hey! Here’s yours truly with my friends Joni and Don at the beginning of Michael Schneider’s 5th Great Los Angeles Walk (GLAW). I found the above screen capture in Michael’s walk recap on his Franklin Avenue blog, taken from the piece Eyewitness News did Saturday afternoon on the event. Peace.

And for more visuals along the almost-16-mile hike, check out my photoset here on Flickr, and the GLAW group pool here.

Nah, that headline ain’t some sorta code. Just the general compass points I was facing when I snapped the following images in the vicinity of Dante’s View while on our way up to the top of Mt. Hollywood Saturday morning.

What I’m taken most with is the fact that though the two shots were taken literally steps away from one another, they look like they could be hundreds of miles apart. Such is the grand topographical diversity of my city.

Click for the bigger pictures, but be warned: For the sake of my own personal enjoyment, they have both been somewhat rigorously run through my fauxtography filter cycle in Photoshop (click each for the bigger pictures):

la

glendale

Susan and I made good on vague plans suggested a couple weeks ago to forego our usual Saturday-morning porch time and get ourselves over to Griffith Park for a near-sunrise hike from the Observatory up to the top of Mt. Hollywood.

It was my first time on pretty much any of GP’s trails since the devastating fire back in May of 2007, a disaster that part of me is sorry I missed experiencing first hand, but a larger part of me is glad I was far away on a ship somewhere in the Mediterranean Sea as it happened (but I must say it was odd learning about my virtual playground going up in smoke while floating about so far removed some 6,000 miles away).

I literally could not bring myself to visit the burned areas in the ensuing years because the park is so close to my heart and  I knew if I got up close to all the damage I’d risk breaking down in tears — or at the very least walking through the denuded areas shaking my head so incessantly I would appear to have the most severe case of Parkinson’s ever. I even had trouble looking at pictures of the park in the fire’s aftermath.

So yesterday was my first day in it. And while I still despaired at the lingering evidence all around me, I was heartened at the recovery taking place — bolstered no doubt by this past week’s storms.

But the worst reminder was the pocket to the west of Mt. Hollywood’s summit known as Captain’s Roost, which prior to the fire was a wonderful oasis, but now stands done-in and still waiting any kind of organized attempt to restore it to its former glory.

Whereas the breezes used to blow overhead through the boughs of towering eucapytpus and other trees, those are all gone now but for their charred stumps, leaving little more than a promenade of palms — trunks blackened but surviving.

Among the many things carved into them by representatives of the legion of mouth-breathing cretins compelled to furtively leave definitive evidence of their inbred stupidity, I found one to be the most laughably ridiculous of the bunch: a peace sign.

peace

Given how wordy I’m known to be, I could of course go on and on and on seething about the irony of using a living thing as a canvas upon which to destructively carve such a hopeful symbol, but instead I’ll convey how incensed it made me via the fragment of a dream I had sometime between Saturday night and Sunday morning, one clearly influenced by having watched “Inglourious Basterds” earlier that evening.

In it I was walking along the fire road above the Roost, shaking my head in despair when I  found the culprit in the act of  immortalizing his idiocy. Though it seemed as if the dream started with me empty handed, when I looked down I had a baseball bat in my left, and a giant knife in my right.

I did nothing stealthy in my approach because the young man turned, saw me and simply went back to it as if either he was entitled to do or my walking in a park with a bat and a monster knife was nothing out of the ordinary, so I just walked casually down to a place directly behind him and watched as he continued, the bat resting on my shoulder, the grip on the knife loose.

My guess is he thought I was admiring his work, or at least up until the violence began. But unlike Quentin Tarantino I’ll leave what happened next up to your imagination — other than to say that what I did with the weapons distinctly mirrored their most horrible uses in his movie.

It’s certainly wonderful to be home, but pardon me if I dispense with the trivialities of being back from our fantastic four-day Highway 1 Getaway and get right to what was one of several highpoints of our trip: Big Sur’s Mill Creek Trail.

The Mill Creek Trail was a revelation — even moreso as it was something of a substitute for the Limekiln Trail that was to have been our farewell hike on our last day in Big Sur yesterday, but we were disappointed to find it closed from damage due to last year’s horrific Basin Complex Fire, which burned across five weeks last summer consuming more than 160,000 acres.

With the fog still pushing in from the sea, Susan and I entered at the hike’s entirely unassuming roadside trailhead wondering if the hike ahead would be worth the walk. But after winding our way inland on the narrow trail along the western wall of the canyon, eventually we descended down into the cooler air under the forest canopy  to the floor along Mill Creek where we basically stood among towering pines young, ancient and in-between and found pure beauty and serenity. If peace and tranquility are manufactured, then we were touring the factory.

Oh. My. God.

Or let me put it another way: I’ve found where you can scatter my ashes after I check out (click for the bigger picture):

millcreekpines

Seriously, If I wasn’t getting humbled and awe-struck chills from the verdant and aromatic magnificence then I was literally tearing up from it. Or both.

And as a super bonus (in this unfortunate day and age of loud-mouthed disrespectful trailjackers), we had the entire place to ourselves. Literally. The only person we encountered along the entire out-and-back hike, was a solitary gentleman and that was just inside the trailhead as we were coming out, as if it were a relay.

It’s great to be home, and there will of course be more pictures and words and such, but until then I just wanted to check in with a post and urge you to put the Mill Creek Trail near the top of your list should you plan a trip to Big Sur.

I’ve been wanting to do this for awhile: create a chrono-log of my memories as a native angeleno. From my earliest on up be it a recollection fuzzy or crystal clear, paragraph to novella in size, mundane or meaningful, it’s important that I attempt a compilation of my memories.

And so we begin with the earliest concrete bit of recall, and it is indeed a moment — and a fleeting one at that. Probably pretty mundane as well. Definitely fuzzy on the details such as when. I’m going to say it was 1967 mainly because I have pictures of me during my third birthday that year taken in the courtyard of the Hancock Park adjacent  apartments on Westminster Avenue just north of 4th Street. In one picture in particular I’m sitting in one of those old  pedal cars and holding a popgun rifle and not looking very thrilled.

If it weren’t for that photographic record I’d actually have no memory of my third anniversary, so thanks to those black-and-white images I can bracket an inexact timeframe for this memory. In other words I was either a pre-birthday two or a post three. Enough about that.

The memory is a simple one. After a bath, my mother had put me down for the night, but for whatever reason I was restless and unable to go to sleep. I was already well conditioned about crying and that it should only be done if there was pretty darn good reason and not being able to score some shut-eye on queue was certainly not one of them. Goodness knows I’d tried to add it to the list but all it brought was loud stomping up the stairs and a thrown open door where my mother’s backlit silhouette would ask what’s wrong and in telling my shadowmom I wasn’t sleepy she would respond gruffly and most seriously with the demand that I figure out a way to keep quiet and get sleepy and quick. That’s not meant as some sort of attack on her child-rearing skills, she just didn’t have the inclination to baby me and in retrospect I actually can appreciate that.

So instead, I kept my trap shut and my eyes dry and decided to just get up and grab a look around.  Having at some previous point mastered the art of climbing in and out of the crib I had long outgrown I clambored over the rail and down its side to the floor of the bedroom whose door was open a crack allowing in light from the hallway.

Mother was downstairs talking on the telephone and nothing beyond the door — the bathroom, my mom’s bedroom or the top of the stairs — held any interest for me so instead I padded across the floorboards to the window, which faced east, and looked out into the night.

And there it was that I saw a big blue bird off in the distance. It wasn’t a real bird, just a large lighted sign on the wall of a tall building however far away that had a bird’s head sideways atop a big round moneybag body.  There were some words around the sign, too, but I didn’t know how to read yet.

I have no clue how long I stood looking out the window at the sign and the night and whatever else might have caught and held my attention. Same goes with whatever thoughts might have been provoked by the view. But I do remember that when I got bored or sleepy or both I padded back across the floor, climbed up carefully as I could into my crib and drifted off perhaps to dream of giant glowing birds.

It wasn’t until many years later that I realized what I was seeing was Union Bank’s long-extinct logo high up on what had been their 22-story mid-Wilshire building on the southwest corner of Wilshire and Western. For awhile in the 1990s it was famous for its huge murals of Shaquille O’Neal and now the murals are gone and the high-rise is in the latter stages of being renovated into contemporary loft housing. When I was 13 I learned the apartments were torn down to make room for a box of condos; my first exposure to the erasure of landmarks to my personal history.

Below is a Google Earth still that depicts the line of sight between my toddler eyes at the proximity where the long-gone window would have been on Westminster and the sign’s location on the tower’s woefully windowless west-facing wall (shown here):

ubview2.jpg
(click to enlarge)

Distance had little meaning to me as a child and I always thought the floating bird as far away as the moon and twice as big. Instead, it was but a half a mile away as a bird might fly.

And until this moment I never realized my relative proximity to the assassination of Robert Kennedy that took place another half-mile’s further flight away at the Ambassador Hotel a week after my fourth birthday — a date I happen to share with his brother John. Had I looked out the window that night? Or maybe the faint sirens stirred me in my sleep? Who knows. But I do know that after the shooting, Bobby Kennedy was taken to the nearby Hospital of the Good Samaritan. Where I was born, he died.

Next Page »