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!


  1. Lovely, absolutely lovely! The walks sound great, but that party... WOW!!!

  2. Thanks Kristen.It was all so much fun.

  3. Okay now I have tears in my eyes! Thanks for all the kind words. We did it TOGETHER and that was the best part for me. I loved every minute and I'll miss it. The ending party was so much fun, all of our supportive friends there with us! Your words here are the perfect last blog post. Now to find another hobby that you can blog about! (Knitting? Spelunking?)

  4. No more blogs for me - until I find something that will really make me want to do it like this one.

  5. This was awesome Robert. Proud of you on so many levels. Proud to have my pictures gracing your blog. Thanks again for a memorable afternoon.

  6. We had a blast, thank you for the wonderful experience and delicious food! Please let us know when the repeat starts.
    T ;o)

  7. Thanks Phil for your continued support!

  8. What a specatacular day! beautiful walk, delicious food, wonderful friends, and now fantastic photos and blog about it all !!! Robert you are amazing, only wish i could have been around for more of the 42 adventures !!!! looking forward to your next blogging adventure..... (and still loving Charles' delicious "100 miles" blog. !!! xoxo Gym

  9. Thanks Jaime (Gym) for your kind words. We had so much fun along the way and the first walk you joined (Beachwood Canyon) was a real memorable. We appreciate your coming back early from PS. It was GREAT having you there.

  10. I just found this blog now, so I'm a little late to the party... but this blog is so great! Love this idea and kinda sad it is over. Congrats on completing all of the Secret Stairs!

  11. Thanks Valerie! I'm glad you are enjoying the blog.

  12. wow Really beautiful walk, delicious food, wonderful friends, and now fantastic photos thanks for sharing

  13. Thanks for commenting! It really was a special time..

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