October 13, 2010

Photo Essay: Back on the Trail at Runyon Canyon

Boy am I out of practice.

I haven't done a hike since August, when John and I climbed up to a tower and got only slightly lost on the way back down, but enough to necessitate rescue from our fellow hikers who'd left us behind in their dust.

And now that I'm back in LA and decided to squeeze an afternoon hike in between meetings and events, I realized I'd become a total amateur again.

I brought the wrong sneakers.

I forgot to apply sunscreen.

I really needed insect repellent.

I didn't research how to get to Runyon Canyon and my GPS sent me on the craziest, most circuitous route through private roads and driveways in the hills to get there, depositing me into the parking lot and northernmost entrance on Mulholland Drive.

My legs felt weak.

And the sun was setting soon.

But, I managed to bring a big bottle of water, my camera, a backpack and my hiking clothes (into which I changed in the Greystone Park parking lot, true to form), certainly enough to put me back on the trail. I've seen LA locals hike in merely a bikini and flip flops carrying only an iPod.

Runyon Canyon is definitely an urban canyon hike, situated right in the middle of Los Angeles, basically right off of Hollywood Blvd. It's a popular place for locals to hike routinely, many with dogs in tow.

There are power lines everywhere.

It's also one of the worst places to try to hike improperly shod, because it's so popular that many of the paths have been tightly packed to the point of being slippery, and other paths are so eroded - from footsteps and water - that it felt like walking on a dry creek bed.

And this summer I established how unsuccessful I am at that.

In Runyon Canyon, hikers have to tiptoe through gravel, on rocks, down steps, and around gullies formed by running water, now so big and so deep they're practically ravines, only exacerbated by all of the foot traffic on them.

I was trepidatious with my own unsure footing, but I only turned back once, choosing to not climb a steep, narrow path to a lookout point. I've seen the city from above - practically that same view - plenty of times.

Because I entered from the north, I only did a loop around about half of the canyon park, leaving the more popular southernmost half for a future trip. After only about an hour or so on today's hike - not wanting to do more before having to change back into my nice clothes and go out to an event - the sun was at a very low angle in the sky and I was ready to go.

But I was glad to be back on the trail. I haven't hiked at all in New York City since returning from my last LA trip, partially out of not wanting to be alone, partially out of being otherwise occupied with life, work, lack of work, living, general crisis.

But my legs need to move, and now that they've started moving again, I hope they won't stop...

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