Climbing Los Angeles One Step at a Time

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

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