May 24, 2012

Photo Essay: The Big Parade Day Two (Silverlake)

When I embarked on the longest walk of my life last weekend by joining the annual Big Parade urban hike, I was worried about the distance. If I was able to complete my ideal route from Silverlake to Griffith Observatory, the distance would clock in certainly over my previous record, nine miles in Anza-Borrego.

But even after hiking nine miles a couple months ago, I could've kept going.

The thing is, it's actually only 4.5 miles from where I parked my car in Silverlake to the Griffith Observatory - not even as the crow flies, but by normal driving directions - but that doesn't account for all the public stairways that are compulsory to climb on The Big Parade.

And Silverlake has plenty of them.

Fortunately after climbing most stairs, we took brief rests in the shade to learn about the route, the local history, and architecture.

At a nice moderate pace on mostly wide streets, there was plenty of time and room to stop and photograph the wildflowers and landscaping without holding up the (quite enormous) group.

As much as Silverlake is characterized by its pubic staircases, it's also a land of many hills...

...which we would seemingly climb both up and down just for the heck of it.

Our circuitous route took us past any number of dead ends, private streets...

...and roads whose only outlet was, in fact, a set of stairs leading up or down one of those hills to cut over to another winding street above or below.

Some of the stairs are well-known, like the Music Box steps made famous by Laurel and Hardy...

...but many of our pathways on Sunday were part of the secret life of Silverlake, that only bold residents who set out to explore ever actually discover.

The thing is, if you actually look into the distance, up into those hills, you can often see the stairs cutting into the hillside like a ski trail or fire break, like a manmade scar in a mountain, like the Antenna Trail across the street from the old Corralitas Red Car Property, the other side of the historic viaduct where trains no longer run, but you can climb your way up to Waverly.

We meandered throughout Silverlake, adding miles to our trek, up and down staircases at every turn, up and down hills only to return back to our starting point...

...and took a well-deserved lunch break at Silverlake Rec Center by the reservoir...

...which is bordered by several architecturally significant modernist structures, namely by Richard and Dion Neutra, the father-son architect team of the mid-20th century.

And unfortunately, though many of its stairways are still open to the public, Silverlake has plenty of closed and decommissioned staircases in perfectly good condition...

...waiting to be climbed.

Stay tuned for Franklin Hills, Los Feliz, and Griffith Park.

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