Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Walk in the Park

I'm falling behind on my posting about our explorations of the historic staircases of Los Angeles. We're following Charles Fleming's book "Secret Stairs," which offers guided tours through some of the most interesting neighborhoods of L.A.

Walk number 29, the Griffith Park Loop goes through the park and the hills of Los Feliz. The walk started at the entrance of the park, near Roosevelt Golf course. We parked beneath the trees, and then took the route out of the park, south onto Vermont Boulevard.

Here, Vermont is a stately drive, with a grassy median, lined with magnificent old houses.

Like this beautiful Spanish revival

Or this English manor.

We turn onto a side street beside this gated estate - you can see the half-timbered facade over the top of the formidable iron gate.

The road gently climbs, past this great hummingbird mailbox.

Then we come to a beautiful flight of steps, anchored by a curved entry lined with sturdy benches. Halfway up, there's a landing with more benches.

It's a LONG CLIMB to the top, even though the walk is lined with beautiful houses.

But finally we make it, and there is another rest area with comfy, graceful benches. Jack and I take a little break.

The streets in this neighborhood are extremely steep, but lined with graceful old Spanish style homes. Between the homes, you get a glimpse of an amazing view of downtown.

Just after we've caught our breath, the next stair case rises to our left. Steep and challenging!

At the top, the street starts to wind around to the west, and the houses are newer. Some are stark modern architecture, and others are kind of goofy nouveau-classic.

Like this one, with a bizarre creature guarding the carport.

Just past the house with the strange gryphen, the street curves into a pinhook and you can see the rear of the houses we've passed, and see at the same time the incredible view the residents have of the city.

As the road curves around again, we now face northwest toward the park, and there on the horizon is the Griffith Observatory. That's where this path ultimately leads us. It looks like more climbing.

But before we get there, we take a roller coaster up-and-down route through the neighborhood. There are Spanish haciendas rambling over the hillsides, like this one.

And we find another funny mailbox.

The change in elevation is so steep that not only does the road climb at a ham-string-straining angle,

but it's also cut into the hillside leaving sheer cliffs on one side. And as we climb past the modest house above, in the shadow of a looming white modern edifice, we find a strange artifact:

A cast iron painted octopus, smiling away. Is this a trophy from a long-vanished amusement ride at the fabled Pacific Ocean Park? Now it's a garden sculpture in Los Feliz.

It curves impossibly up and around, and then we find a stairway down. But first we pause at the top, for a look at the city below.

Then down we go, steeply. As we go, we can see the next hill we'll be climbing - up winding Glendower Street. We've been here before, and today we'll revisit an incredible Los Angeles landmark, the Ennis House, built by Frank Lloyd Wright.

But first, we take a curved staircase embellished prettily by a tile mosaic, part of the City's arts education projects.

The climb up to the Ennis house takes us past a perfect contrast to its Mayan-esque magnificence - an odd twee little story-book cottage with a witch on the windvane.

It was a long, curving climb uphill on Glendower Avenue, first below the Ennis house, and then around its property to the front gate. We've visited the Ennis house before, but each time I see it, I am struck with amazement at the view from its inner courtyard.

To read about this amazing architectural landmark - and its troubles - go here. We linger a while, enjoying the views, and then continue up Glendower Avenue, to where it splits and we turn on a small spur called Glendower Road.

This little road ends at a gate, and a narrow crumbling road back into Griffith Park.

This road runs along the crest of a ridge, and eventually gets you up to the Griffith Park Observatory. The view of the Observatory is fantastic.

But as you turn and look at the city, the view is even more amazing.

When you step through the gate into the park, you are suddenly into the wild, and out of the residential landscape. As we walked up the road, we watched a coyote trotting ahead of us. He turned and looked over his shoulder - no doubt seeing Jack - and then ducked off into the brush.

Here the path forked, and we were faced with a choice. We could continue climbing up to the Observatory, then loop all the way around the park back to our car. Or we could take the path branching off to the right, for a shortcut back down to the entrance. We had been walking an hour and a half, and were very tired, so we opted for the shortcut.

As we were walking down, a group of kids were riding their bikes up the hill. Full of energy despite the steep haul uphill, they shouted and called one another. They exclaimed about Jack - "is that a wolf? is that a husky? can we pet him?" - and then pedaled past us, climbing.

The path curved round and gently down, and I turned to catch the kids on their bikes cresting the ridge we had come from. "Wow! Hey look at this!" they shouted as they encountered the view, calling the stragglers to hurry up.

The path continued, providing a beautiful view of the park, and also a view of the ridge we had left behind, where all the houses were. It made me think what an amazing place those streets would be to live. Of course, I also remembered how Griffith Park had burned in 2007, threatening the Observatory itself.

The path took some hairpin turns, and at one point this met our eyes. For a moment, I thought my eyes were fooling me. Were we expected to walk down this incredibly steep drop? Surely this was a shortcut and the real path curved off to the left - yes?

As we got closer to the steep drop, I realized it was something of an illusion - it wasn't as steep as it appeared.

But it was still pretty steep - here's a shot up hill after we'd made it down. Wow!

This walk was 3.8 miles, but we took the short-cut, which probably saved us at least a mile. Even so, the climb and the descent were pretty serious! We'll save the Griffith Observatory for another day.


Alexia said...

I really enjoyed the walk - and your lovely photos.

JCK said...

I think this is my favorite series of yours. It feels like I am on the walk with you.


Karen S. said...

Oh my gosh it almost felt like walking along with you! great photos and stories with them all. I would love to have one of those mailboxes, especially the hummingbird one, although living out in the country someone would probably decide to use it for target pratice so probably not a great idea...and that witch weather/wind vane so very cool! Thanks for sharing your day!


Flippin' fantastic tour. Thanks. My knees would be killing me.

cactus petunia said...

Thanks for the tour!

Another Kiwi said...

Yeah really cool. The coyote is a bit apprehensive of Jack.
The letterboxes are very cool. I wondered if the octopus might be a bicycle rack?

Anonymous said...

Except for the stairs (I know, I know, the whole point of the walk... but I can't imagine how sore you must be!) this is just the walk I'd love to take.
Thank you for taking all of those photographs!

Life with Kaishon said...

That just looks incredible. The hike! The view. WOW!

Lloyd said...

Beautiful community you have there.
Seems a very peaceful place to live.
I love it.

Thanks for sharing this.

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Jen Odell said...

My sister-in-law noticed your blog and that's my porch with the pirate flag! We're so excited that you liked it ;) Happy Mardi Gras!