January 12, 2012

Photo Essay: Brand Park Trails

What draws me to any trail?

I talk to so many people - so many strangers - in LA, all of whom have advice about where to eat, drink, hike, explore, that I generally take their advice and just put it in the coffer. I don't remember who told me what, where I read what, why I bookmarked what, but I have a good running list of spots to hit within a day trip's distance of Beverly Hills.

Brand Park was one of those places.

I wasn't sure what was there, but I saw a Meetup posting about a climb up Mt. Thom, and it seemed easy enough to tackle on my own on a Saturday, within close driving distance, so I headed there by myself, without aid of a group.

Upon my first attempt at climbing the mount behind Brand Library in Brand Park, I considered that a mistake.

Of course I arrived too late in the day to spend much time tackling the hike, and as usual, my impatience got the best of me.

I started the hike at the American Green Cross statue...

...partially because it seemed easy enough with the well-maintained trail...

...which was easily navigable with plenty of landmarks to guide the way, like the nearby water tank and fire road.

But the trail quickly becomes harrowing.

The trail becomes slippery, steep, and harrowing.

It keeps getting steeper and steeper, requiring a scramble on all fours...

...until the hike became so scary that I became frozen in place, unable to go up, unable to go back down.

I was alone on the trail, so I couldn't follow in the footsteps of fellow hikers, learning from their footholds. The thought of going any farther up freaked me out, mostly because it seemed like I would have to return the same way back down. Which, as we know, is always worse for me.

I looked down, and couldn't imagine descending.

So I sat down for a while.

Eventually, I decided to go down instead of up, but I felt like a failure.

So when I got back down to the bottom, I decided to go back up.

I decided to go back up a different way.

I reapproached the mountain from a different trailhead, this time the Boy Scout's nature trail from directly behind the library.

As the sun began to set, I ascended a hill until I could see that the two trails met at the peak, creating a loop trail. One of the women who passed me on the way up the first time now passed me on the way down on my second try, meaning it was all connected. But with the disappearing sun, I didn't have enough time to complete the loop, so I headed back down, retracing my steps once again.

When I returned to LA after spending the holidays back east, the first thing I wanted to do (besides take a tour of the JPL) was revisit Brand Park. I had to conquer that hike.

So I went up the other way again - up the Boy Scout Nature Trail behind the library, otherwise known as the Library Trail - which I would soon come to find out was "the easy way" but by no means easy.

And although its steep grade was far less scary than the American Green Cross Trail way, I was terrified on this trail by something else: a rustling in the bushes, and the backside of something which I can only guess was a baby bobcat. After having witnessed coyotes and giant teddy bear-sized raccoons in Beverly Hills, and rattlesnakes throughout LA, I thought I'd had my fill of southern California wildlife, but I always knew in the back of my mind that there was a chance I'd seen a mountain lion (common in Griffith Park) or a bobcat (especially since two babies had recently been discovered under a car in Burbank).

I was too terrified to pause for long, or to snap a photo. I heard loud purring. I could've turned around, but I decided to move on.

Like the American Green Cross Trail, the path behind the library was steep, slippery, and eroded.

Its elevation revealed panoramic views of the city of Glendale - and beyond - below.

And although I was once again alone on the trail, this one seemed achievable. This was surmountable.

And it was placid at the top, at a small plateau with several benches from which to enjoy the view, but I knew I couldn't pause there for long...

After all, it was a loop trail, and I would have to go back down the American Green Cross trail, which originally freaked me out so much.

In the end, I took an easy way out. I saw the path that led straight to my turnaround point from last time, and I bypassed it, choosing instead to take an easier trail that would meet up with the American Green Cross Trail farther down, past the really harrowing point.

But, of course, even when I met back up with the original trail - the one that had defeated me - I still had to scoot on my rear at a certain point to descend the mountain, preferring to crab-walk on all-fours rather than risk tumbling head-first down a rocky demise because of the inevitable effects of inertia and gravity.

Were the trails in Brand Park part of just any ol' hike, I might not have been so proud of my accomplishment. But, it turns out, Brand Park is full of many mysteries - both on the trails and beyond - that were worth my double exploration, and further exploration in the future....

Stay tuned.

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  1. If you don't want to go up/down either of the steeper ways, there's a much easier trail that winds down the back of the canyon to the fire road. I run up the AGCT nearly every day and down the Library Trail. Stared down a bobcat 5ft away today.

  2. well easy is no fun! But thanks. I've made a mental note to try the fire road which has been recommended to me before...