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!

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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.

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

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

 

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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.

 

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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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Above Los Angeles from Mulholland Drive…quiet and peaceful!

This year Los Angeles commemorates the 100th anniversary of William Mulholland’s engineering marvel, the Los Angeles Aqueduct, which delivers about half of the city’s water supply traveling  more than 200 miles from the Owens Valley.

The Los Angeles region’s gain has never set well with Owens Valley residents, and controversy and discord is still a relevant topic.

But we’ll stay away from anger and bitterness, and take a little road trip.

References to the famous civil engineer are everywhere. But nothing is more iconic than the famed Mulholland Drive, nicknamed “Bad Boy Drive” because at one time famous residents, Jack Nicholson, Warren Beatty, and Marlon Brandon all lived along the route.

Mulholland Drive offers views of the Los Angeles Basin on one side, the San Fernando Valley on the other, and on clear days you can spy the Pacific Ocean. This 21-mile stretch of Santa Monica Mountain ridgeline is a hot spot for locals as well as tourists.

A large portion of the road isn’t paved, but is popular with mountain bikers and hikers.

From one Mulholland overlook it’s possible to see three well-known Los Angeles icons. The Hollywood Sign recently enjoyed a facelift and looks bright and shiny.

THe Hollywood Sign

And typically I’m seated at the  Hollywood Bowl, enjoying the evening view of the hills above, but from Mulholland Drive the Bowl sits empty waiting for June and a full summer music season.Hollywood Bowl

Sitting on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood is the Griffith Observatory. Three iconic Hollywood symbols all visible from one Mulholland Drive Lookouts!

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Some days you can see Catalina Island, but not today!

Downtown Los Angeles

No, that isn’t air pollution. Marine layers often linger long into the day and burn off by mid-afternoon. It might obstruct a perfectly clear view of downtown Los Angeles, but the weather is just about perfect.

Hollywood HillsThe Hollywood Hills are an amazingly beautiful and almost unexpected topographical feature that many Southern Californians never explore. They tend to be seen as anchors to hold up the famous sign, or house the Bowl, or divide coastal Los Angeles from inland San Fernando Valley.

The chaparral-covered hillsides provide hiking tails and unparalleled views.

Several thousand feet below one of the lookouts is a wonderful view of the 22-mile long San Fernando Valley with breathtaking views of the San Gabriel and Santa Susana Mountains.

It also offers an aerial view of Universal Studios.

Universal Studios

San Gabriel Mountains

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This 36-story office building is the tallest building in the San Fernando Valley, and home to NBCUniversal, owners of NBC, Telemundo, USA Network and SyFy.

Does the vicinity look a little crowded to you?

Approximately 10 million people live in Los Angeles County. That’s a lot of cars on the road! And there are times when I fantasize about living somewhere else, perhaps a little less congested–BUT…

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When we exited the Hollywood Hills we headed right for Santa Monica.

Ocean, sand, sun–February!

Santa Monica BeachDoesn’t this look inviting? If I get my way I’ll be returning soon, book in hand.

Santa Monica Palm TreesHollywood Hills and ocean breezes all before noon.

Oh, and over 300 days a year of sunshine. That’s reason enough for me to put up with  accept that we live in a very beautiful, but yes, congested, landscape.

I find it interesting that everywhere I go I seem to find postings with information connecting to my interest in learning about Southern California’s Native People.

Native Story

So I must share it with you!

And at my next opportunity to take advantage of a clear, sunny day, I’ll be back to take more pictures from the top of Mulholland Drive. There were more lookouts and trails I’d like to explore.

And I  am eager to explore the many beautiful canyons along the route–Laurel Canyon, Coldwater Canyon…there are so many!

I definitely need more weekends.