I'm still not used to the fact that, unlike Manhattan, there are real hikes you can do out here in LA that are really centrally located. Although during my last trip I did get to hike up to the observatory in Griffith Park, it was really crowded and didn't provide the feeling of wilderness that I've been seeking since returning from Joshua Tree last summer. During this trip, as soon as I had a break in my meeting schedule, I took a detour into Wilacre Park, part of Fryman Canyon, on my way to the Valley.
The parking lot was full and I was greeted by an excited hiking group of well-toned, tanned men and their dogs getting ready to set off as I changed into my sneakers. I was worried that this popular park would also be too populated for my taste, but the steep climb dissipates the crowd from the get-go, everyone taking the wide, old paved road at their own (in my case, relatively leisurely) pace.
There were lots of signs of former habitation in the park, from the paved road to fences and other rusted, graffitied metal scraps. Wilacre reportedly housed the estate of a silent film star.
There was definitely a building here once.
But the winding road increasingly losing its pavement, takes you quickly out of the city, with gentle reminders along the way when a clearing reveals the skyline below.
The map made it look like there was a big loop that I could take though the park that would return me to the parking lot, but the only trail marker I ever saw was at the Betty B. Dearing trailhead, and never again. I did spot some diversions off the trail, including this steep climb to a scenic overlook, whose rope-assisted climb proved to be visited less, yet extremely gratifying.
On the way to the top, I passed by a giant beaver cactus that had been carved within an inch of its life by hikers before me.
Soon after returning from the diversion, Wilacre Park just ends, and leads into Coldwater Canyon and its pervasive propaganda from the Tree People. The color of the ground below actually changes to show the boundary between the two parks.
Having expected a loop, and not having a map with me, I retraced my steps through Wilacre to try to find a turn I may have missed. I only found unmarked, narrow clearings through thick brush that appeared to be more like washes than trails and, so, defeated, revised my hike into an out-and-back and went back the same way I came.
The wildflowers in Griffith Park had been stunning two months ago, but with the incipient summer and the rising temperatures, Wilacre Park was mostly just green (which, in LA, is better than the very flammable brown). There were a few splashes of color along the way...
Hiking Wilacre Park wasn't the most obvious choice, or the most difficult, but it was on the way to my afternoon pool party, just off Laurel Canyon (another one of my favorite drives), and so it fit the bill. Next time I'll explore some of the surrounding canyons...and will bring a map.
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