Exploring the open spaces in Los Angeles–always a surprise!

No surprise to anyone living in Los Angeles, I’m certain, but  a Traffic Index report released by GPS manufacturer TomTom,  has declared L.A. the most congested city in the United States. I didn’t bother to investigate the exact boundaries they researched, since as far as I’m concerned, they may as well be speaking about all of Southern California.

Last weekend we bravely faced a 3 1/2 hour 90-mile journey to visit with friends in North San Diego County, and perhaps odd to hear, we were ebullient when the return trip only took two hours–woo-hoo! But you do the math! 5 1/2 hours!

I won’t pretend it doesn’t frustrate me, but complaining about “life in the fast lane going slow” doesn’t help me breathe lighter.

But this does!


A familiar theme in my life revolves around finding ways to ameliorate the stress that comes from living in a high population density region, so for my birthday in March I bought a pair of high quality hiking boots and latched on to patient friends with hiking experience.


Destination? Parker Mesa Overlook on the west side of Topanga State Park, the world’s largest wildland within the boundaries of a major city.


The cliffs and canyons of the Santa Monica Mountains offer spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean.



The morning fog shrouded the view a bit, but kept the approximately 5 mile hike a little more comfortable.

In addition to views of the Pacific Ocean, Topanga State Park features 36 miles of trails through open grassland, with oak groves, native shrub and flowers and an opportunity to leave the stress of city chaos for a quiet bit of solitude.



I huffed and puffed up the very steep incline towards the Parker Mesa Overlook thrilled to enjoy the natural beauty.

I encouraged my more experienced (and in better shape) hiking partners to go on ahead and let me  do my best.  At a certain point my only focus was on breathing, so I am sure I missed many of the numerous geologic formations, including earthquake faults, marine fossils, and volcanic intrusions. Maybe next time!


Parker Mesa Overlook

From an elevation of 1,525 feet, Parker Mesa Overlook offers a great view of the Pacific Ocean, but the coastal fog had not lifted much and was still quite dense. I didn’t care. I was just so happy that I made it to the top!

My small group of hiking friends waited for me and greeted me with a round of applause. Good thing it wasn’t a timed race!

I do believe the best antidote to the stress of traffic congestion is getting out in the open air–and well above it.

I wonder where my new hiking boots will take me next time! Any suggestions?



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65 thoughts on “Exploring the open spaces in Los Angeles–always a surprise!

  1. I gotta hand it to you, Debra! What a hiker!! Have you ever ventured into that open area off Jeffrey and the 405?? And a nice pictorial once again to help us visually-oriented (males) encompass what you are writing about!

    1. I’m a good sport and I’m a little stubborn–i don’t like to think there’s something I can’t do, Koji! 🙂 There were a few moments on this hike when I was not at all sure I could–or SHOULD–keep going, but I have goals to do a lot more. Slow and steady, like Darwin! I have not investigated the area off of Jeffrey and I will! I think there must be many places in Orange County that would give me some lovely trails. I will look into this area specifically. Thank you for the nudge! 🙂

  2. I’m sure your hiking boots and your venturesome spirit will take you someplace wonderfully scenic and interesting, Debra. Good for you, my friend, for lacing up and venturing out. The views are spectacular; I’m breathing lighter just looking at them, and will eagerly anticipate more.

    1. I came close to biting off more than I could chew with this hike, Penny, but it was so beautiful I’m sure I will keep at it, as long as there are nice wide, well-traveled paths. I don’t see myself rock climbing. LOL! The area literally pops up out of the middle of a large city area. I do see why some people spend their whole lives investigating these areas. It might have been nice if the curiosity had hit me a couple of decades ago, but oh well! Patient friends look after me. 🙂

  3. How nice to just get away from it all and take a hike. It looks fairly green up there too. I bet you felt good when you reached the top, after catching your breath, that is! Yes, I wonder where your boots will take you next… 🙂 Have a lovely weekend Debra!

    1. It was surprisingly green up there, Cathy! I was very surprised. I think the coastal fog must really help maintain some of the moisture levels. It was very lovely, and I’m encouraged to try again and get a little more adventurous–if my friends don’t mind a slow poke! 🙂

  4. Well, you could try Hampstead Heath Debra 😉 You certainly have a great place to walk in Topanga State Park – could take years to explore it thoroughly! Thanks for sharing the photos and the tale of your climb to the Overlook 🙂

    1. Martin, any place with the word “heath” in it is going to be appealing to me! I am very fortunate to know there are so many open spaces yet for me to explore if I can just be patient with myself. This particular hike was at my “outer edge” for my capabilities, but I was quite proud of myself for finishing up! It was indeed beautiful. Thank you for the encouragement!

    1. The most surprising thing about this hike, to me anyway, was the location of this park. I have driven by one of the roads leading to the beginning of the trail on many occasions and had no idea! There are so many beautiful places to just get out and move! I wish you could have come along. 🙂

    1. Great suggestion, Deborah. I have family in the South Bay and I do get down there at times! I love Palos Verdes and haven’t previously done any hiking–I just like sitting at the Starbucks that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. LOL! I will definitely look up hiking trails and see what I can identify as a good place to take my new hiking boots. Thank you!

  5. I agree, hiking in the woods has always been the greatest stress reliever for me. The clean, cool air and all the unusual plant discoveries can really bring things back into a calmer perspective. I used to go every weekend. Once on a random drive in another state, we discovered a rock valley and when we explored it, we discovered the walls of the canyon were loaded with fossils. I collected a bunch of them and took them to a local university with a strong geology department, and they said some of the fossil beds were extremely rare. Who’d have thought? I thought of you when I put up my blog post this week – I know how you enjoy scenery and architecture as much as I do!

    1. I’m so behind in my reading this week that I haven’t yet visited your blog! Thank you for pointing me to it! Your story about the fossil beds is just amazing. I can imagine how thrilled you’d be to make such a discovery. I like the way you mentioned you were on a “random drive.” Isn’t that just the best way to explore…something so unexpected. I hope I can get at least one good hike in a month. That’s my goal at this point! We’ll see if my friends will continue to accommodate me. 🙂 I hope you have a great weekend, my friend.

  6. Hi Debra
    I love that hike to Parker Mesa. Congratulations on tackling it for your first hike.
    There’s a most beautiful view from that bench at the top – what a shame it was foggy. You’ll have to go again 😀

    1. Thank you, Rosie. Because I had no idea on those twists and turns when I’d arrive at the top, there were a few times when I wondered if I was going to finish. I may be slow, but I’m also determined, so it worked out. 🙂 I would love to go again and yes, hopefully on a clearer morning. I do think it was good for me, though, that it wasn’t so sunny as to be hot. I had enough trouble keeping up. 🙂 I have another hike planned in a couple of weeks. I’m not yet sure where we’re going, but my niece has “volunteered” for this one! I’ll let you know!

  7. Debra, that’s outstanding! I’m just now beginning to think about hiking season, although friends have told me the early wildflowers are already blooming. Thanks for the inspiration to take a day off from running or cycling and hit the trails. And I look forward to hearing lots more about your hiking adventures!

    1. Lori, you always inspire me with your wonderful outdoor adventures. I can only imagine how gorgeous your hiking trails are. It must just now be getting warm enough and I’m sure you’ll be doing some serious hiking. I will keep this up and see if I can improve my stamina. It was the elevation that gave me a little trouble, but as I said, as long as I went about it slowly I was fine. I’d love to increase my capacity, however, so I don’t have to worry about the intensity of the trail. It was just great fun to be outdoors and to see this beautiful wild spot right in the middle of Pacific Palisades! ox

    1. I was quite surprised at what this trail had to offer, Nancy! I want to go back before too long and take my good camera. I am sure each time I would go there’d be a different view depending on the fog. Very nice way to spend a Saturday. 🙂

    1. There were many bikes on these trails, Lily! I was in awe of the way the experienced bikers would travel such steep elevations. It looked a little dangerous to me, but they weren’t having any trouble at all! I hope you do get the chance to get out with your bike this weekend! You must feel very invigorated and free on a bike! Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing. 🙂

  8. It’s such a shame about the traffic in LA although, it’s almost not that much better here! And it does seem to be getting worse rather than better. I’m glad you had some time away in a beautiful and serene setting – something to calm you after negotiating the traffic. Happy Easter to you and your family xx

    1. The traffic is just a result of entirely too many people living here, Charlie, and like you’re mentioning in Sydney, it is not getting any better–but worse! I try not to let it keep me from doing the things I want to do, but sometimes I do wonder if there will come a time I will lose heart! I am may not be an experienced hiker, but I’m at least interested. 🙂 Thank you for the Easter wish, Charlie. I hope you, too, have a lovely family time. and blessed Easter! xo

  9. I haven’t been to Topanga State Park for years. I dread that traffic. Is there an entrance fee?
    Recently, I was appalled that Malibu State Park requires an entry fee. Glenn and I just turned around.

    1. No, Robert, there wasn’t an entry fee! The only issue was finding parking on the street–which takes us back to the traffic problem. I do know that a lot of the state parks have an entry fee, but I would imagine at this point those fees help keep them open. I tell myself that anyway. 🙂 I don’t know where I’ll hike net but I do love the Malibu area….I’ll have to explore a bit more.

  10. How terrific, Debra ! I realize that if only I had friends here who liked walking, they could drive me to lovely places (we do have many, out of the city) and I could get the exercise I need.
    I have grown sick unto death of pounding pavement.

    1. You may need to find some new friends, M-R. To be honest, I had to really search to find some who enjoy hiking. Many more of my friends do not! It’s worth keeping your antennae on alert and in meeting new people you might be surprised! Don’t give up. And I’ve missed you. Have I just lost your blog with some of the changes you’ve made? I have actually been looking for you and figured I was on the wrong link! I hope you’re doing well. 🙂

      1. I did change blogsites; but I did leave a forward on the original. Here I am, my beautiful friend: click on my gravatar to come visit me. 😀

  11. What a beautiful view! I can relate to the stress of congested cities as I used to live in NY. I want to visit again because my life long friend live there, but I admit I am little nervous in having to deal with crowds and congested subways. Semi-rural living in Oregon has spoiled me. 🙂

  12. It’s so good to hear from you, Marie! I hope you’re doing well. I think I’d be very reluctant to leave Oregon, too! 🙂 The traffic in major cities is becoming somewhat unmanageable but I think if you tell yourself it’s just for the adventure of being back in NY to see your friend, you’ll be fine! You can enjoy and then escape home again. And you must have some wonderful hiking trails near you! 🙂 I hope you enjoy your weekend, my friend. ox

  13. How wonderful that you have such wild and empty beauty so close to you, Debra. I can well imagine that a day there helps a lot to defuse the stress of city living. You know how DH and I love the wild emptiness of the north-west Highlands of Scotland and they have the same effect on us.

    1. I can only imagine what it would be to roam in the Scottish highlands, Perpetua. I don’t think anything I’ve experienced comes close, but I have learned to be very excited about substitutes! 🙂 I hope you had a wonderful Easter. ox

  14. In the 70s, my then boyfriend and I would get up early on Sundays and hike this area. We would meet up with coyotes, rattlesnakes and other critters. Sometimes we would drive up there at nightfall and watch the owls hunt. There were so many owls in that particular area. Memories ~ I will never forget.

    As for traffic. In 1973, it took me 17 minutes to drive to work. In 2005, when I retired from UCLA, it took me 45 minutes. And now it takes me 3 hours on weekdays to get to UCLA hospital. Today, I will try to find this canyon, Woodcliff Road, that I discovered a long time ago. It could be a help to get over the hill when traffic is impossible.

    Love your LA stories. It is a lovely city, problems, traffic, smog, and all.

    1. Inger, your comment about how long it is taking you to make the trip to UCLA is chilling! I totally believe it, of course, but I cringe thinking of you and what energy this would require. I hope hubby is continuing to stay strong enough for that hoped-for transplant. I’m sure you don’t have any time for recreational hikes, but I know you have some beautiful open space where you I’ve, and that must provide peace and quiet upon your return from UCLA–and those dreaded hikes! I love your memories from the 70s and have to chuckle. I think if I ran into coyotes and rattle snakes it might be the end of my hiking ambitions! LOL! I am so glad to hear form you, Inger. ox

    1. I will have to see what other places are a challenge but not more challenge than I can safely tackle! LOL! I will surely share wherever I go, Colleen, if just to prove to my children where I’ve been. Ha! They didn’t grow up with a mom who did any hiking.

  15. Catherine Wade

    You inspire me. My niece started hiking a year ago and you can’t believe the difference hiking has made in her life. Time for me to get up and moving.

    1. You definitely noticed the difference in the shoreline from what we have in California, Janine. The photo was in Hanalei Bay, Kauai. Our son was married there in January and we were fortunate to spend a week there as a family. 🙂

  16. I go crazy whenever I have to drive in any congestion. So I guess I would never survive LA – not for long periods at least. This much said, it wouldn’t come as a surprise that I understand you need for finding places to get away from it all, such as Topanga State Park which looks like a wonderful place.

  17. I have always lived in Los Angeles, and in some ways I grew up in traffic and congestion, but I think it is getting much more intense, Otto, and my tolerance for the traffic and noise is not growing with it! At this point all I know to do is minimize my exposure as much as I can, and I do feel I’m fortunate to have access to a great many places that still allow me at least a visit to peace and quiet. 🙂

  18. I love Topanga…it’s the best of both worlds, since I am a city girl but thoroughly enjoy the great outdoors! Congrats on hiking to the top…enjoy your new kicks and wishing you many long trails to hike.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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