Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Walk #5 : Mt. Washington

Distance: 3.2 miles
Steps: 466
Difficulty: 4.5

We encountered the Silver Lake Walker twice during our stair walks (see walks #18 & #22) and on many other occasions where we found ourselves in that part of LA. I saw him as recently as 3 weeks ago on our Coffee Table Loop walk and included the picture below in that post. Now he is gone. He died last Wednesday under a cloud of suspicion and the facts surrounding his death and a criminal investigation into his medical practice are not clear. Whatever was going on, I will always remember him as a local icon who made an interesting neighborhood even more so.

Dr. Marc Abrams, dead at 58.

I have not hosted a walk since July 4 as I've been very busy with school and we were in Catalina last weekend. I was looking forward to walking around Mt. Washington and had all the best intentions but this walk proved to be eventful! I woke up groggy as I did not sleep well at all and to start off I forgot my camera. Luckily, Charles always has a backup but he had given me his memory card last week so that I could upload some pictures and I had not returned it. I didn't know that we were working off of the very limited memory in the camera and I was only able to get 8 pictures! I forgot my camera once before on our LA River Walk and we hopped into the car afterwards to capture the lost pictures. I don't think that'll happen on this one. It would be very confusing to navigate the streets so I apologize. What I can say is that although a rough walk, it was completely worth it.
We were joined by our good-natured regular guest: Willie. He is always upbeat and makes us laugh and is not fazed by anything. He has enjoyed the walks so much that he bought his own copy of Secret Stairs and has done some on his own since we we took a break. We had done a walk that took us to the same neighborhood (Highland Park/Southwest Museum) but this one took us to the southern part of Mt. Washington. We started at Figueroa and Avenue 45 and quickly began a steep ascent.

Marmion Way, near the Gold Line Metro stop.

These stairs led to an empty lot - not part of the walk.

The area is rich in Craftsman houses so typical of Southern California and we saw many fine examples in this neighborhood.

Willie and Charles heading uphill.

The 2 structures with arched roofs are all that remain of a funicular that used to run up the hill from Figueroa to the former Mt. Washington Hotel. The buildings used to house machinery for the railway that ran until 1920.

This short, steep street led to our first stairway - 102 of them.

The hillside is filled with unique structures.

As we climbed and climbed we found ourselves in very quiet, secluded neighborhood. The area has a real friendly vibe and every single person that we encountered greeted us! We even ran into one jogger 3 times during this walk and she was quite helpful in giving us directions. It's the kind of place where you feel the community is very active and really cares. Our suspicions were confirmed when we walked by an elementary school and saw a bulletin board full of community notices and announcements.

The former Mt. Washington hotel is now the site of the Self Realization Fellowship Center. Some of you may have visited the Pacific Palisades location. It was closed as we walked by but I know for certain that I will visit it soon. If it's anything like the other location it will be beautifully landscaped, serene, and welcoming. The area where it's located (San Rafael Avenue) is stunning. The three of us all expressed a desire to move to the area!

As I said earlier, it's really confusing to navigate the area and at least twice I took us off-track. Both times we were able to recover but I got teased mercilessly by Charles as he is usually the one who leads us down the wrong path.

From Mt. Washington you get spectacular views of El Sereno, Downtown Los Angeles, and parts of Eagle Rock and Glendale. This is one LA neighborhood definitely worth exploring!

As we did the last time we walked this area, we had lunch at Chico's Mexican Restaurant at Figueroa Avenue and Avenue 50. Again, it was no-nonsense and delicious food served in a homey setting.

Despite all the mishaps of today's walk, we got our exercise on a perfectly sunny summer day, walked a great neighborhood, hung out with friends and laughed, and ate good food. That's what these walks are all about!

Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 28 stair walks.

Steps walked to date: 6,283

Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Walk #31: Franklin Hills West - Radio/Prospect Loop

Distance: 2.7 miles
Steps: 684
Difficulty: 4
"Here's a relatively short, but demanding, East Hollywood hike, with lots of elevation change - a serious workout for the calves and quads. It includes stretches of two of the city's few officially designated walk-streets, Radio Walk and Prospect Walk." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.

What a great way to start out the 4th of July! The LA 'June gloom' is alive and well in July but I prefer it that way so as not to get too much sun. On this walk we had a new walker - Julie Wolfson. Julie is Lifestyle Editor at If you are not familiar with this site you should really check it out as it is full of useful information about LA. I keep up with them via Facebook. Our two regulars (Willie and Vlad) came along as well. We met up at the Vista on this busy stretch of Sunset Blvd. The Vista dates to 1923 and is one of the last remaining single screen theaters in Los Angeles.

Vlad, Charles, Julie, Willie
Across the street is a place we know very well - EL CHAVO. This Silver Lake Mexican restaurant serves the basics in a no-frills, kitschy environment. After a 'remodel' the large Dolly Parton picture remained in a corner of the bar. It's an institution and really worth a visit.
We headed for the hills and on the way was this very old brick structure. It is now part of the KCET (a local PBS station) campus and is one of the earliest movie sound stages in SoCal. Of course there were 4 Emmys in the window. Sooo LA!

Our friends Vladimir and Willie have joined us on at least 4 walks each and by now a routine has developed. You are not allowed to walk in front of any stairway until I have photographed it and then it's Willie who goes first. If it's a really harsh one he will let us know when we are near the top. The first stairway dates to 1923 and there is a plaque noting the historic Hoover Walk. Recently we saw a mural on the wall (the TaiChi steps on Figueroa) but I haven't see the stairs themselves painted for the full effect. Soon we came upon Prospect Studios. The facility dates to 1915 and has been owned by ABC/Disney for quite some time. I know that General Hospital was filmed here and this location served as the KABC news studios before they moved to Glendale.

Yet another treehouse we've come across on these walks.

The next staircase formed the bottom of Prospect Walk and consisted of 57 shady steps.
At the top we crossed the street only to encouter 71 more steps.

Interesting furniture placement.
Wait! We were not done yet. We crossed the street again only to find another 168 steps which took us all the way up to Franklin Avenue.

Happy Walkers: Vlad, Julie, Willie
We walked for a bit before encountering Radio Walk. Thankfully we walked down these 127 stairs.

Griffith Observatory with the Hollywood sign barely visible behind it.
Notice the ivy growing inside the lamp.
After walking down the 127 steps we crossed the street and continued our descent, this time 97 more stairs.

The playing fields of the Lycee International de Los Angeles, a bilingual French/English K-12 school.
Charles & Mr. 4th of July (Vlad).

Soon we encountered this wide, shaded 85-step staircase which dates to 1926.
At the top we encountered the Shakespeare Bridge which dates to 1926. I have driven across this bridge in Franklin Hills many times but did not expect to run into it. I had no idea there was a staircase nearby.

Lost Kittens.
Yet another house I wish to own.
A garage with a VIEW.

Our final staircase consisted of 41 easy steps.
As we neared the end of the walk we encountered many small worker's cottages, many dating back at least 100 years.

We had a cat sighting at the very end of the walk.

I'm a huge PBS fan and am a supporter of the local station.

Alas, this walk did not end with a meal but it was not for lack of trying. All the eateries within walking distance were closed as it was the 4th..

Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 29 stair walks.
Steps walked to date: 5,817
Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Walk #22 : Coffee Table Loop

Distance: 3.5 miles
Steps: 268
Difficulty: 3

"This is a gentle, flat walk interrupted by hidden staircases and towering views of Downtown Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains, as well as up-close snapshots of the Silver Lake Reservoir and some of the community's most treasured architectural gems." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.

There are times when Charles and I wake up and just feel like doing one of the Stair Walks and this day was one of those. I have received some feedback on this but hey, sometimes you just want to go for a walk without announcing it and on this day we walked in one of my favorite neighborhoods - Silver Lake. There are many different facets to this LA neighborhood but if I had the money I'd live anywhere along this walk. You get beautiful Downtown, hillside, water vistas, and a central location plus it's where the Silver Lake Walker lurks. You may remember that in my very first post I included a picture of him. I don't know his name but I do know that he is a retired physician and that he lives in the area. He almost always walks shirtless and with a magazine/newspaper in hand as he was on this day. The guy is in great shape and rocks a mean tan. I have seen him ALL OVER Silver Lake (Sunset Blvd/Hyperion/Silverlake Blvd.) and I had barely parked the car when Charles said "look who's crossing the street!" I quickly jumped out of the car and my journalistic instincts kicked in. I stalked him like prey for a block in order to get a good snapshot. By coincidence, the author of Secret Stairs mentions him in his overview of this same walk! I just love moments like these and they keep me inspired to do all 42 walks. We have done 12 to date and only 30 more to go so if you plan on joining in, don't hesitate. The only rules are that you have to allow your picture to be included in the blog and that you be on time.

The Silver Lake Walker

We walk this area at least once per week during the spring/summer and lately there has been much interruption in the area due to a massive public works project. Our walk in this area is usually a roughly 3-mile walk around the Silver Lake Reservoir but we never ventured into the hillside on this side until this walk. Recently we did a walk which offered vistas from the top of the hill on the other side from where we were. This neighborhood is graced with old-growth trees and unique street lighting.

Angelenos will do anything for a deck!Built in 1926, 111 steps with several landings in between.

One of the reasons I love this area is that it's hillside living but not so congested (like the Hollywood Hills) and it is not pretentious like Beverly Hills. So here is my dream house in my dream neighborhood.

As I've said before, our walks are long because we try to take in the little details.

Now that's a sundeck!

George C. Page is a leading figure in Los Angeles and there is a museum named after him at the La Brea Tarpits. The house pictured below was the hunting lodge back in the day! This is all that remains of the estate.

Are these Chardonnay grapes? Sauvignon blanc?

We encountered this street with a sharp slope going down and a corresponding slope up. Included were amazing views of Downtown Los Angeles.

At the top of the hill we came upon a dead end only to find a breathtaking view of the Silver Lake Reservoir. We had this same view from across the lake a few weeks ago.

Silver Lake Reservoir

It took us a while to get down these 84 steps as at every landing we would stop to take in the views.

Once at the bottom we started to walk along the reservoir; a walk we have done numerous times. On the walk around the lake I have had at least 3 intimate coyote sightings.

Countless joggers and walkers use this path every day.
A 1957 John Lautner house (with the rounded roof).
My friend Andrew lived on this street and I always think of him when we pass by.

We have walked along the path across the street (on W. Silver Lake Blvd.) dozens of times and never noticed this stairway! Because of the guide we are being forced to slow down and observe our surroundings thereby making each walk a new adventure.

73 steps with a sloping walkway.

I am the photographer/blog writer and Charles is the guide on these walks. On every single walk there is a point where we get 'lost' so I have to do double duty as the following picture illustrates!

Charles, you got us lost- again!

Obligatory kitty picture.

We ended our walk on Rowena Avenue near Hyperion. I celebrated a birthday at Blair's and MJ's Bar is nearby!

Of course, it ends with food, this time it was brunch at The Coffee Table. They have a casual menu and a great patio in the back.

Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 30 stair walks.

Steps walked to date: 5,133

Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA