Sunday, March 22, 2009

Over the top of the world

The road not taken - not today.

Sometimes I just want to explore. Get in the car to run an errand and then say - oh, let's go down this street instead, this time. Turn here, go that way. I've never been down this road before.

Topanga's lifeline is California Route 27, a two-lane highway that runs from the San Fernando Valley to the sea. When there is an accident, or an obstacle; when the road is washed out, shut down for paving, a Haz-mat spill or blocked for miles with stopped cars, we've learned to find other ways to get in and out of the Canyon.

Years ago I found the way Up-and-Over from Calabasas to Entrado Drive, but I forgot it. Today on the way back home from the valley, I searched again, and this time found it.

It's a blustery day today - exactly what a March day should be. Bright and sunny, and gusting with sudden wind. The sky is brilliant, with white puffy clouds that scud across the horizon. I pointed the little Volkswagen up a suburban street, lined with Spanish-tile stucco houses, shiny SUV's in each driveway.

And the road climbed. And climbed some more.

There was a huge water tank. And the road still climbed.

I stopped and got out of the car and looked back where I'd come from. Here, the wind whipped the grass, and spun dust from the road's shoulder.

Then the road changed. It narrowed, still climbing. The asphalt was rough and potholed.

To one side was the Valley; Woodland Hills, Calabasas. Streets of orange-roofed house and swimming pools and grassy lawns and cars. To the other side was nothing but the hills and the chaparral and the oaks and the meadows.

The road grew rougher and more narrow. It clung to the edge of the hillside. I crept the little car along, feeling its wheels thud into the potholes.

And then the road came to a "T". Poised there on the crest of a narrow ridge, at the top of the world. A red-tailed hawk rode the currents of air.

Ahead, Henry Ridge Road. To the left, Alta Road. To the right, a dirt driveway climbing higher still, past a gate. Should I continue? No, it was private property.

I took the leftward turning. Up here, the road threads along the top of the ridge, and the land falls abruptly away from the edge of the pavement. The houses cling to the hills, their rooflines below the road; or poised on stilts that cantilever them over yawning precipices.

We Topangans are used to treacherous driveways and car-parks. Up here, that's all you get.

Then the road began to descend, curving and switchbacking onto itself down to the creekbed.

Folks get to know their neighbors up here. Encounter another driver and someone has to pull off to the shoulder.

The road twined down through the oaks and past the older houses that used to be country cabins for Los Angelenos escaping the city on weekends - or hippie hangouts in the '60s.

Now dropping swiftly into the woods, it dipped across the creekbed,

then climbed back up through the bungalows to join Route 27 again.

I waited at the stop sign for an Escalade to blow past, then accelerated back into the world.


Woman in a Window said...

Now I see. Wonderful. It's always good to know the alternate routes for necessity, or just a Sunday drive. What I wouldn't give to stand in warm weather and watch that hawk.

KathyR said...

WHICH Entrado? Seriously.

I think I can see my house from there.

OK, not really. But nearly.

g said...

Hi, Kathy!! It's Entrado not Entrada. The one just beyond Top of Topanga. On the right.

It's not as fun as Tuna Canyon, but it's still a wild ride!

cactus petunia said...

Sighhh. That's what I miss about California.

hipspinster said...

this was a great post! i live in laurel canyon and have often puzzled over the thomas guide, mapping out alternate routes in case of traffic or emergency. i haven't actually traveled them all, but i have tried a couple. wish i'd taken pictures too!