Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Monday, April 4, 2011

Walk #32 - Fern Dell and Immaculate Heart

Distance: 2.1 miles Stairs: 193 Difficulty: 3
"Here's a great hot day walk along a cool, shady creek, past a venerable educational institution, then up a grand staircase of historical importance - all in the middle of Hollywood." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming

We did it! Charles Thompson and I completed all 42 stair walks in the book and ended it with a blowout Colombian lunch in the park catered by my mom. Because I love facts:
42 walks completed since we began on 5/2/2010

Number of stairs climbed/descended - 21,090

Miles walked: 115.1 (plus a little more for all the times we got lost along the way!)

Number of times we met fellow stair walkers by chance: 3

Dog bites: 1 event

Twice we encountered rain and soldiered on

Fun times we had on the walks - too many to count!

Favorite walk? All of them. We saw something interesting every time.

One of my favorite memories is stopping by Angela's house on a very hot day and my friends and me being treated to trays of goodies after a long, exhausting walk.

We do plan on doing our Top Five but I won't be blogging about any of them. Thanks Julie Wolfson for the great idea!

Our Top Five: Mt Washington; Avalon-Baxter Loop; Coffee Table Loop; Beachwood Canyon; and Hollywood Bowl and High Tower Loop

The number of surprises we found along the way: hundreds!

Number of empanadas my mom and I made for our post-walk celebration: 150;

Arepas made: 90

Batches of Dulce de Leche Brownies baked by the author of this blog: 3

I am officially 'retiring' the Climbing LA blog after this post. I started it knowing that it would have and end and am thankful for the experience. It made me get up early on Sundays to exercise and it also allowed me to be a bit creative with photography and writing and I learned how to put together a blog. For this I thank Charles. His food blog (100 miles) was established and he suggested I do it and that same day in May, 2010 we had two stair walks under our belt and my blog was up and running. THANKS CHARLES!

We also shared responsibilities: I took the pictures and he told us where to walk. Throughout we saw things that we normally would not have seen had we been zipping by in a car as most Angelenos do. Secret Stairs forced us to slow down and take in the sights. Some use the guide for cardio routines but we used it as a means to catch up with friends and explore this wonderful place called Southern California. Don't ask me if I will blog again. Right now I need to focus on my interpreting classes but I have learned never to say 'never.' I want to thank all the fellow stair walkers and especially the 'regulars' who walked more than just a few: Willie, Mark, Ines, Enrique, Jessica, and Julie. And then there were big fans who were always there with positive comments: Angela, Katrina, Judy, and many others.

We began this walk at The Trails Cafe in the Fern Dell section of Griffith Park. This shady area is quite popular with walkers/hikers and includes a trail that leads to the Observatory. If you haven't been here, take a look and bring a picnic basket. You'll be surprised as several of our fellow walkers were. Toya, and Rory came all the way from Costa Mesa and brought along their friend Trish.
Mark, Charles, Julie Top row: Mark, Charles, Gym, Julie. Middle: Glenda, Jessica, Enrique, Willie Bottom: Toya, Rory, and Trish A little creek runs through this lush section.
This side of the park is neighbored by the Los Feliz neighborhood with the hillside portion of it being very exclusive as you can see by the homes pictured below.

The very busy Los Feliz Boulevard is an entry point to the park and I always see people laying out on this hillside just off the street. It has to be really cold or raining for this hill to be free of sun worshipers.
A glimpse of Downtown LA.

We walked down a set of steps which brought us past AFI (American Film Institute) and Immaculate Heart High School. One block of walking on Franklin and we were headed back into the hills and to our very last set of stairs. I think I felt all 153 of them. They seemed steeper and higher than usual and when I thought they ended we were only halfway up.

Up, up, and away on our last stairway. Only halfway there.
The house pictured above is said to belong to the actor Nicolas Cage. It is ghastly and no wonder he has had trouble selling it!

The Griffith Observatory has been a constant in many of our walks. We have been able to see it from most of the walks and we would end our last walk in its shadow. In no time we would be back in the park where lunch was waiting.

Downtown LA
On our final descent towards Fern Dell.
The gate to a Japanese-themed house.
I love this look, car and all.
A Japanese tea house.

This house was designed by the son of Frank Lloyd Wright - Lloyd Wright
Near the end of our final walk I had a 'moment.' WE DID IT!
We re-entered the Park and what awaited us was a memorable event. Most of our walks ended with lunch afterward in a cafe or restaurant but this one did not. Instead, I planned a picnic in a beautiful section of the park and turned it into a little bit of Colombia, if only for an afternoon.

The scene of La Pachanga en el Parque (Party in the Park)
Colombians love their Parcheesi! Pictured are 2 of my favorite pastimes
Some of my interpreter gang: Jessica, Glenda, and Enrique.
Our guests snacking on appetizers.
Pictured: Julie, Phil, Katrina, Charles,Enrique, Anabel, Perla, Trish, Mark, Toya, Rory, Willie, Jim, Doug, Billy, Jessica, Natalie, Sandra, Claudia, Angela,Ines, Leah, Glenda, mom , and my stepdad Cemil (Jimmy).

We had quite a crowd and I think they were really there to sample mom's cooking. She is known as a fantastic cook who puts her heart into her food and she did not disappoint. I had a good time helping her put it together but she gets the credit. After I said a few words to thank friends and family and more importantly, to describe what was for lunch, my mom spoke a few words in Spanish (she speaks English just fine) and I jumped in to provide simultaneous interpretation into English. We are currently studying this mode in school and I wanted to see what my fellow interpreters thought of my attempt. They gave me a 'thumbs up.' I captured the meaning, no embellishments, used proper vocabulary, and there were no omissions!

Oh yeah!! Appetizers: Chicharron, arepas, empanadas, and yuca; all fat-free! I am known for my aji (the hot sauce you see in the white bowl) and they ate it up. (photo courtesy of Phil Nigash)

The main event: Sancocho (photo courtesy of Phil Nigash)

My mom is from the city of Cali and my brother and I lived there for a few years when we were young. One of the traditions is a paseo de olla (an excursion with a pot.) You go to the lake/river and you bring along a big pot, firewood and all the ingredients for a hearty soup. You can use fish, beef, or chicken and my mom did hers with beef. While the kids play and swim the older ones cook it up. Of course you have to have white rice and a salad which we had on hand. Following this we served dulce de leche brownies, arroz con leche (rice pudding), and watermelon. While I was born here in the States and lived most of my life here, I was raised in a traditional Colombian household and am proud to have grown up that way. If you haven't been yet, I recommend it!

Ensalada de zanahoria y remolacha con repollo y cebolla. (photo courtesy of Phil Nigash)
Soup's (Sancocho) on! Mom and me dishing it out a lo colombiano! (photo courtesy of Phil Nigash)
My mom and her girls! (photo courtesy of Phil Nigash)
on the left: little Leah, her mom Ines, and Julie. On the right: Natalie, her mom Claudia and her aunt Angela.
Doug, Billy, Mark, and Jim getting their Sancocho on..
Charles with Phil and Katrina who came from Irvine just to join us!
Toyita (left) is from Cali too and it is always a treat to see her and Rory. Trish came with them and I think I saw her dancing! She jumped right into the madness.
He is 100% Colombian at heart! He understands everything so I have to be careful when speaking Spanish.

It's not a Colombian party without music and Phil and Kat brought the boom box and Angela gifted me with 3 CDs of Colombian music! Lunch was followed by a raffle (another tradition, especially for children's parties) of LA based books: one of photos of LA, another of pop-up maps of LA, and the Grand Prize was a copy of Secret Stairs; but not my copy! Some of the group broke off and went on a hike up to the Observatory and some of us played Parcheesi. Its origins are in India but it is a constant in Colombia and we maintain that tradition in my family.

My mom and Enrique playing parques (parcheesi). He beat her! Beginner's luck?
Mom, Cemil, Leandro and Lorenzo (who turns 10 on 4/7)

My sister-in-law arrived late in the day with my 2 very hungry nephews who love their abuela's cooking. Smart boys!

And this is how I ended our 11-month stair walking adventure - surrounded by supportive friends and family,and amazing food.. I could not have done this without my partner Charles Thompson. He was right there with me on every single walk and thanks to him this blog was created. See you on the Secret Stairs!

Get your copy and get hooked on exploring!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Walk #39 - Santa Monica - Bluffs and Beach Walk

Distance: 3.5 miles Steps: 384-450 Difficulty: 3
"This is a great combination walk - big stairs, huge Pacific views, and long stretches of flat pathway filled with interesting historical bits. It can be very hot in summer and somwhat windy in winter, but the vistas are sensational." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.

We had to do this walk rain or shine as it was the next-to-last walk and the invitations for the party following the final walk were sent. We have experienced a very wet winter and we in parched SoCal should love this but not on my walk! This is the 2nd time it rained but we soldiered on and the payoff was a beautiful day spent with wonderful people! I had saved the four Secret Stairs walks on the Westside for summer or summer-like weather but we ended up going through the walks faster than we thought we would. 42 walks in 48 weeks!

We started this walk at the famous Santa Monica Pier which dates to 1909. I can say that in the 30-plus years of living in LA that I have never set foot on this beach and rarely visit the pier(except when we have guests) but sometimes it is fun and this was the case.
It was unusually calm for a Sunday on the Pier. Charles, Ines, Mark, Jessica, and Enrique.
Down some wooden steps and these concrete ones and we were at street level.
The underbelly of the Pier.
Back up some wooden stairs to the pier.
Looking towards Venice.
Just as soon as we were back on the pier we went down the other side to begin our walk along the beach.
While there was never a downpour it was coming down at the start of the walk but pretty soon it started to clear up and the weather improved as we walked. So much so that by the end of the walk it was a beautiful spring day. I remember when as teenagers we would go to the beach and being SoCal, it was always overcast in June and July and we would say, "it'll burn off," and it usually did!

As we walked along the beach the very busy PCH (Pacific Coast Highway) was a constant. This highway is so disaster-prone that it is a local running joke. It is a very busy highway and in addition to automobile accidents that can easily cause a shutdown of this major artery, mudslides after rains and fires in the warmer months are not rare.

An unexpected brick stairway once we crossed the overpass.
At the top of the stairs is a really beatiful promenade that is a buffer between the ocean and the city.
My friend Paolo used to cater and we did a party in one of these houses along this stretch but I can't decide exactly which one it was.
An old house on Ocean Drive.

We walked along the bluffside park for a short stretch before heading back to the beach side. There is a house directly in front of the stairway which I find kind of odd. I mean, you pay millions for a house and not only is it on a very busy highway but then you have a massive concrete post right in front of your bedroom window..
See what I mean?
This bikepath runs for several miles in both directions. On my list of things to do is to bike it this summer.
Charles on the path. You can see that the weather is improving.

We were about to go back to the bluffs and took this unusal spiral stairway leading to another overpass.
From the bluffs and from the overpass you can clearly see nature at work as evidenced by the erosion. We expected to climb the stairway pictured above but as we approached it was evident that it was in bad shape.

Glad we didn't climb this one - it's kinda iffy!
Closed. Now what?
There was a solution to the closure. We took a detour and continued up this famous incline and were back on the bluff (Palisades Park) and would soon return to the walk route.
A view towards Pacific Palisades and beyond that, Malibu.

I still don't understand it.
Charles and Mark smiling as we head (yet again) over PCH towards the beach.
Down some muddy steps.
I lost count of the overpasses covered in this walk.
Okay, someone tell me what this means. Should we be afraid of cats with Black Widos spiders?
Archeological evidence of a once grand building.

All that remains of a fancy beach club from 'back in the day.'

This one just stands out.

We were on our final stretch along the beach that would take us back to the pier and our starting point.

The Johnathan Club

Back at our starting point.

Lunch was a big surprise. Instead of the usual local restaurant someone suggested the Food Court at the newly-rebuilt Santa Monica Place. Genius idea! It was a nice food court as far as mall eateries go and the added bonus was the rooftop dining area with views of the ocean. Not a bad way to end our next-to-last walk!

Charles, Mark, Enrique, Jessica, and me.
Jessica and Ines at the rooftop dining are with the ocean behind them.
Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the ONE remaining stair walk.
Steps walked to date: 20,897.

Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA