Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Monday, May 31, 2010

Walk #28 : Los Angeles River Loop

Distance: 3 miles
Steps: 115
Difficulty: 2

"Here is a most unusual walk - a hybrid of gritty, urban stairs, and verdant, open wetlands. This relatively undemanding trek includes pedestrian bridges over freeways, secret paths through hobo camps, and nesting habitats of exotic waterfowl. While not appropriate for everyone - women walking alone, children, hobo-phobes, and others - it offers a dramatic look at a seldom seen part of Los Angeles." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.

While this walk was short on steps it was long on memories! This part of Los Angeles (Atwater Village/Los Feliz) is quite near my home in Burbank and Charles lives only blocks from the start/finish of this walk. We have walked along the riverbank and surrounding areas countless times and it is great to see this neighborhood included in Secret Stairs.

Many will recognize the river from television shows and especially from car chases further down the river where the water stream narrows. I like to remember the river as an urban habitat where plants and wildlife coexist with bike paths, walking paths, horses, and the homeless. It amazes me how so few people take advantage of what this area has to offer. The river was paved in the late 1930s after a series of disastrous floods.

The Los Angeles River at Los Feliz Blvd.

We walked along the Los Feliz bridge over the river and on to the bike path/walkway. As you walk/ride and head south, the freeway is on your right and the river on your left. We enjoy riding our bikes heading north where it ends in Burbank at the Victory Blvd offramp. Although the freeway is right there on one side you have the river on the other and you really do get to see numerous herons/egrets/waterfowl. There are also several types of fish to be found and we have seen many people down there with fishing poles.

If you go down to the water's edge it's really nice to see a live river and not just a flood control channel. Just stay away when it rains!

For several miles Interstate 5 parallels the LA River. When I was a kid I remember that all the storm drain covers were painted to look like cats. Very few of these remain painted that way.

We headed south and went to the water's edge. The trees grow IN the river and we saw numerous ducks and birds and of course, garbage. When it rains and the water level rises it is quite disturbing to see plastic bags, clothes, and all sorts of trash stuck in the foliage. We should all remember to NEVER use the storm drains on our streets as garbage cans!! It will end up in our river.

This 'island' appears to serve as a home for some homeless people. You see their encampments under the bridges, on these islands, and between the bike path and the freeway.

Between Los Feliz and the Hyperion bridge is this footpath. We crossed it to get back to Atwater Village. On several occasions we have stood in the middle of the bridge and enjoyed 4th of July fireworks from here.

It's Jacaranda season here in LA (they bloom in late May/June and again in December). While they are beautiful to look at, I have one on my front lawn and they can be a pain as the fallen flowers ooze a sticky substance and stick to the bottom of your shoes!

Jacaranda trees in bloom in Atwater Village.

The Hyperion Bridge
We crossed the bridge at Hyperion/Glendale Avenue and found our first set of stairs. As you can see, there are homeless in the area and it was a bit smelly climbing this first staircase!

The bridge with the Golden State Freeway (I-5) running under it.

The bridge was lined with US flags in honor of our Veterans.

Looking north from the Hyperion bridge.

After crossing the bridge we walked down this set of stairs and ended up on Riverside Drive approaching Griffith Park.

There were 2 parts to the sign pictured below. The top part reads 'Hotel' and lies on the ground behind this one. I suspect it read 'Hotel Californian' and graced the top of an old Los Angeles apartment house.

While this beautiful fountain located at Los Feliz Blvd. and Riverside Drive is called the Mulholland Fountain I have dubbed it the 'Quinceanera Fountain.' I rarely pass by this fountain on a weekend without seeing a wedding/quinceanera party taking pictures here!

Lucky Charles found $6 right here!
We crossed the street and found our last staircase leading to a swimming pool and tennis court complex.

The last staircase across from the Mulholland Fountain.

Just over the hedges is busy Interstate 5! Behind the tennis courts lies a short footpath which took us to a pedestrian bridge spanning I-5.

Crossing over I-5 towards Atwater Village

If I'm driving north on Interstate 5 I always know I'm close to home when I see this 'hump' which belongs to Griffith Park. I'm only 3 exits away.

From this entrance on Los Feliz Blvd. you can access the eastern side of the river. We like to walk on this side towards the Colorado Blvd. overpass as there are multiple horse stables. One can often see horses with their heads peeking out and riders enjoying the path. I'm surprised by how few people use this side of the riverbank.

At the end of the walk (back on Los Feliz Blvd.) there are some options...

It was too early to grab a drink at Bigfoot Lodge so we crossed the street and had breakfast at EAT (Loz Feliz Coffee Shop). It's a quaint little eatery with a back porch that faces the 9-hole golf course and was a perfect way to end our Memorial Day walk!

Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 35 stair walks.

Steps walked to date: 3,130

Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Walk #34: Beachwood Canyon

Distance: 2.6 miles plus a hike down to Lake Hollywood
Steps: 861
Difficulty: 4

Hollywood Sign as seen from Lake Hollywood

"This is a vigorous hike through Hollywood history, utilizing some of the steepest and most charming staircases in the city, and affording breathtaking views from Downtown to the sea." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.

I had never been up Beachwood Canyon Drive in Hollywood despite living here for so long. It is a street that tourists know well as it seems to lead directly to the Hollywood sign. Despite not being able to access the sign they come in droves anyway! What I discovered was a beautiful neighborhood with amazing (and challenging) stairways, as well as views to die for.

I was wondering how long before I ran into a fellow Stair Walker and it happened today on our 6th walk. Jenny told me that she had done this one before and that it was one of her favorites. We would soon discover why.

Jenny and me with our Secret Stairs books.

Last week was the first week we had guests join us and we had two of them (my sister Sandra and Vlad). On today's walk we had FOUR and it took us an extra long time to complete the walk but we had some great laughs along the way. We had a special guest (Albeiro is visiting from Boston), along with Vlad, Jim, Willie, Charles and me. I told my doctor about this blog and I think he may join us soon. All guests are welcome!

From left to right: Vladimir, Willie, Charles, me, Jim, and Albeiro

The Hollywoodland development was built in the early 1920s as one of the area's first premier housing developments and counted Humphrey Bogart, Bela Lugosi, and Bugsy Siegel among its many famous residents. To advertise this neighborhood a giant sign was built on the mountainside which read 'Hollywoodland." After a landslide the 'land' fell off and the rest is history.

Stone arch entrance to 'Hollywoodland'

This walk contained several steep stairways. The first one was made with the same granite used in the stone arch pictured above. 143 shaded but tough steps.

I have always marveled at how they manage to hang houses on steep hillsides in this town. See a great example below.

The stair climbing gets rougher. This one contains 149 steps with the last 84 "in a single unbroken run."

Almost there...

The views from up here are amazing as are the houses. There are many castle-like homes with a large number of them built in the French Chateau style.

We could clearly see the sign from this walk but this is about as close as we got.

My favorite stairs are the ones that go down! This one consisted of 178 steps but had handrails which were very handy as they were steep.

Charles, Albeiro, and Willie on the way down.

A local tree swing.

This stairway was among the more spectacular that we have seen on our walks. As the author of Secret Stairs puts it, "This is the grandaddy of Beachwood stairs, a towering double set separated by a stone wall that used to contain a running stream." It was built in 1923 and is a cultural landmark.

Here is another example of LA hillside architecture. The infinity pool and sundeck seem to barely cling to the side of the mountain.

This one was not so bad - only 118 granite steps.

Downtown Los Angeles.

This next house, 'Wolf's Lair,' was first built for one of the original Hollywoodland investors and has been inhabited by Debbie Reynolds and Debbie Matenopolous.

The House of Debbies.

From this house we had a view of Lake Hollywood. When I was in high school we used to hangout here but I had never seen the lake from this side. We hiked down a dirt trail to reach the reservoir. Too bad you can't swim here!

That's me looking at the turtles below.

This final stairway was a great relief as we had to go down 125 steps to reach the end of our walk/hike/trek.

We try to end our walks with food and had a well-earned lunch at a local cafe - The Village Coffee Shop.

Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 36 stair walks.

Steps walked to date: 3,015

Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA