Friday, July 26, 2013

Photo Essay: Climbing Mount Washington to Self-Realization

I find myself constantly and repeatedly drawn to Mt. Washington - perhaps because it's where I first learned how to live in LA, or perhaps because of it simply being a bit of a mountain, or perhaps because of its interesting cultural history. In the last year alone, I've visited the Lummis House, Judson Studios, Heritage Square Museum, Southwestern Museum, and Occidental College (twice), all of which are more or less in or around Mt. Washington and neighboring Highland Park.

But I recently discovered there was more to see: the path of the old, lost, decommissioned and dismantled incline railway that once connected Yellow Car passengers up Mt. Washington, to its vacant real estate lots, and to the Mt. Washington Hotel at the top.

I'd seen lots of photos of what it used to look like (which you can see here and here), but what did it look like now? Would it be more or less unrecognizable (like Corralitas Red Car Property)? Or would there be something still there to delight my inner urban explorer and industrial archaeologist?

I ventured to the corner of Marmion Way and Ave 43 and was greeted by the faint chug of a distant train - not the ghost of an old Yellow Car, but the current and active Metro Gold Line, which runs along more or less the same path (though now behind Marmion Way instead of down it).



Looking up from the tracks, I spotted the original terminus of the railway at the bottom of the mount, where patrons in 1909 would by their ticket for a ride up on either Florence or Virginia, the two funicular cars that ran up and down. The front fa├žade has changed a bit, the signage removed, large front entrance covered up, but it's the same building, with Spanish tile roof and front-facing balcony.



The entire trip up the 3000 feet would take about eight minutes by train. At first, the road that has been built in its path doesn't seem so steep...



...though it does seem old, not having been repaved at least since 1930 (when the tracks were removed and the right of way was first paved, succumbing to the automobile)...



...but once you pass Glenalbyn Drive on foot, heading upwards...



...you reach a section that was deemed too steep for cars to pass, where Avenue 43 has turned into Glenmuir Ave, and it shifts sharply to the right...



...making a public staircase the only way to go straight up.



Glancing quickly behind me to look back down the hill, I climbed the stairs...



...and met up with a broken, disconnected section of Glenmuir Ave on the left, and Canyon Vista Drive straight ahead.



If I'd been feeling more ambitious, I could've walked all the way up Canyon Vista to the top of Mt. Washington, but instead I turned around, went back to my car, and made a crazy drive up narrow, winding roads to get to the peak...



...which was touted at the time as six times higher than the 12-story Union Trust Building. For reference.



The hotel is still there, though now it is the headquarters and administration office for the Self-Realization Fellowship...



...and these yogis do not take too kindly to a camera-wielding stranger poking around their backyard. I was kindly kicked out and pointed towards the gardens...



...which were an attraction of the original hotel in the early 1900s as well...



...though now they are far more meditative. Walking through the Temple of Leaves...



...along manicured pathways...



...the view eventually opened up, revealing the skyline of Downtown LA and beyond, which was most certainly not the original view.



Just in front of the fountain, tennis courts that are still viewable on Google satellite view have been covered with turf. It's kind of hard to believe people would take a train up here, but the grounds are still incredible, and worth a quiet visit if you're in the area.

Which, of course, I have been frequently.

And probably will be again soon.

Related Posts:
Up and Down Bunker Hill on Angels Flight
Photo Essay: Heartpounding Hike to a Lost City
Photo Essay: Mt. Lowe Railway's Rubio Canyon
Photo Essay: Lake Shrine