Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Walk #9 - El Sereno Circles

Distance: 1.8 miles

Steps: 350

Difficulty: 3

"This is a snappy walk through a seldom-visited section of the city; a compact walk that takes in a lot of elevation over a small amount of geography. Along the way are vast views of the San Gabriels and more barking dogs than you can shake a stick at." Taken from Secret Stairs by Charles Fleming.

This walk marked our 40th and I still can't believe that we are almost done. Only two more walks remain before we're done with all 42 in the book. I am looking forward to focusing more on my studies but continuing to enjoy the beauty of Southern Cal without the added burden of taking pictures and writing. Regarding the dogs - oh yes!! There were tons of them in all shapes and sizes which made for a not-so-quiet walk.

El Sereno Middle School. I would have attended this school had we stayed in Lincoln Heights long enough after moving to LA from NY.
We began our walk at N. Eastern Avenue and Gambier Street in the El Sereno neighborhood of Los Angeles. It's an old neighborhood, predominantly Mexican and bordering Alhambra and South Pasadena to name a few neighborhoods. We had some great views from the hills. Nothing special in terms of architecture but it was a great way to spend time exercising, discovering an overlooked neighborhood, and hanging out with friends.
On this walk were the regulars: Ines, Charles, Enrique, Jessica and Willie.
Soon after starting our walk we found our first staircase at Phelps Avenue - 83 steep, painted stairs with multiple landings. Although you can't really tell when you are walking, they're called the El Sereno Circles because the stairs join 3 streets in the shape of concentric circles. They're not perfect cirlcles but close enough.. Charles and I have come across this gallon-jug-full-of-water-on-the-lawn thing in Atwater Village and we think we may have solved the mystery that has been 'dogging' us for years. Enrique may have provided an explanation - that people do this to keep the dogs from leaving deposits behind.. Thanks for the explanation! Just when I thought I had the answer I heard from Enrique about a possible 2nd explanation. Some also believe that the jugs are put there to prevent frost but I have seen them on lawns in the middle of summer so I'm not sure about that explanation.
99 steps would lead us to some amazing views.
Enrique is a resident of El Sereno and the green space in the background of the above picture is the Elephant Hill section of this part of town. According to him, in the past some LAPD helicopter pilots thought the mound looked like an elephant and the name stuck. Thanks again for your insight on El Sereno lore Henry!
Charles and Willie.
We climbed one side of the circles only to head downhill soon after. The 95 steep stairs that led from Chadwick Circle to Lynnfield Circle ended with a chair at the bottom and Charles took full advantage of the situation. We didn't bother to wake him up. I hope he is still not there! We crossed the street and continued downhill but this time only 73 steps. All throughout we could hear the dogs barking. The climb downhill continued..
Dogs and more dogs! A feline, for a change. My friends Katrina and Angela like the mailboxes. I think that's Henry's head in the bottom left corner.
We headed up this gentle slope for a bit and surprise; we saw more dogs!
This was a really interesting property - so inviting. These old steps were not part of the walk.
These houses are a bit out of scale, no??
More dogs, but more cuddly this time.
My favorite LA icon, Washingtonia Robusta
Our last stairway of this walk - 19 easy stairs.
A charming bungalow complex dating to the early 1900s.
Another mystery I hope to solve: What do tennis shoes strung over power lines really mean? Does it mean something nefarious or just a harmless prank?
Nothing cures curiosity better than a good, traditional Mexican brunch. Henry took us to one of his favorite haunts - Hecho en Mexico on Huntington Drive. Great food, great service and great prices. Muy delicioso!
Feel free to join me as I discover hidden parts of Los Angeles and tackle the remaining 2 stair walks.

Steps walked to date: 20,447.

Follow me on Twitter: @ClimbingLA


  1. Hey! I'm still sitting in that chair. Can't believe you left me there. Great walk. Can't believe it's almost over. You've done a great job of leading us on all of them.

  2. Charles: your time out is over. You can get up now, haha
    Sorry I missed brunch: the place looks great!

  3. Another mystery I hope to solve: What do tennis shoes strung over power lines really mean? Well, my friend, in Argentina that means certain people is that area meking some "dirty business" (related to drugs or that stuff). Those places are known here as "kioscos", but this is what it happens here. I don´t know if that means the same there. I hope you solve that. The places you show are awesome as always. Keep walking around and posting, now we know L.A as neighbords. All the best. Carlos

  4. Carlos, about the tennis shoes.. That's the same story I hear; about the drugs. I don't know if that is always the case or if it's mainly kids playing. Thanks for reading. Only ONE walk remains.

  5. Robert,
    I was using google maps to find my aunt's old house on Phelps. I couldn't remember the address but I remember the multi-level stairs across the street. I think her address might have been 2837 Phelps. My sister and I used to clim those stairs. There were very few houses on that street in the 1950s.
    Thank you for showing those stairs! They are etched in my memory and I knew they would still be there.

  6. Thank you for reading and commenting . I love hearing these types of stories - the ones that cause people to reflect on times past!