Nestled between its congested highways, strip malls, and high-rises, Los Angeles has amazing parks and scenic trails. The Eastsiders usually favor hotspots like Griffith Park and Runyon Canyon, while Westsiders typically frequent Topanga and the Santa Monica steps. I live somewhere in the middle, which means one thing: I never go to any of these places.
Well, that’s not entirely true. A few weeks ago, my boyfriend and I headed to Griffith at about 8 a.m. on a Sunday. It still took over a half-hour to get there. Because it had been more than a year since my last time to the park, it took even longer to find the trail that I kept promising him I knew by heart.
That’s why we tend to stick around my neighborhood. “Zero commute time” is one of my favorite phrases in the English language, so more often than not we just walk through my own neck of the woods. Though my ‘hood isn’t exactly swimmin’ pools and movie stars, I do distinctly recall once walking past a house that had an entire zoo of animals in its front yard. They were fake, of course, but I was so shocked and impressed by the homeowner’s no holds barred tackiness that I was determined to find this abode once more. For several weeks, I dragged my boyfriend up and down and back again throughout a three-mile radius of my apartment. Needless to say, we never found the house again, and I’m pretty sure my boyfriend thinks I just hallucinated the whole thing.
That’s also about the time he suggested we find somewhere else to walk.
I wasn’t willing to waste gallons of $4 gas just to sit in weekend traffic, so I racked my brain to find anything that resembled a hiking trail near my home. And that’s when the epiphany struck – Baldwin Hills!
Technically, I had never been to this park, but driven past it many a time. Given the dozens of weekend warriors that I would see upon each drive-by, I figured the place was legit. However, I had overlooked one crucial aspect of Baldwin Hills… its 282 steps to the top.
As soon as we spied the steps during our first outing, my boyfriend was super excited about them. Me, not so much. It wasn’t the physical challenge of climbing the stairs that bothered me. It was the prospect of tripping and falling down all 282 of them. Which can theoretically happen.
But we climbed them, and I didn’t die. So we came back the following week and climbed them again. I still didn’t die. In fact, I felt kind of good once I made it to the top and viewed the beautiful smog of downtown LA. When we reached the top of the stairs again last week, I was feeling pretty dang awesome until my boyfriend said, “I think I want to do it again.”
To buy some time – hopefully enough for him to forget his insanity – I asked if we could take the long way back down the hill. You know, so I could properly loosen up for the next stair challenge. However, once we finally made it to the bottom, he looked at me with eager eyes and a wide smile. We were doing this.
As I prepared myself once more for the stairway of pain, I got distracted by a father and son duo also making the climb. Cute, right? I thought so, too… until I heard the dad yell, “Come on! Let’s go! It’s a f*cking piece of cake!” after which he promptly dashed up the stairs, all the while berating his young son for his lame-ass climbing abilities.
The poor kid offered up a few weak moans of protest, yet he continued putting one foot in front of the other. In fact, he was going faster than me. By the time I made it to the top, I quickly scanned the area for Commando Dad and kid. While the dad was doing that weird jogging in place thing, his kid looked like he was about to pass out. He was leaning heavily on the railing for support, but his respite was short-lived. His father again began to chastise him: “Come on, let’s go! You don’t need that much time to rest!” The kid staunchly refused to move, and for about 30 more seconds, Commando Dad acquiesced. In the meantime, my boyfriend and I decided to make our final journey down the hill. A few moments later, Commando Dad walked past us with kid in tow.
“You ready? You ready? Let’s go!”
His kid was clearly not ready, but that made little difference to Commando Dad. He started running anyway. Dejected and defeated, his kid finally picked up the pace to catch up with his father. This made everyone nearby, including my boyfriend and me, laugh lightheartedly at this poor kid’s relentless misery.
We still were smiling from Commando Dad’s wacky antics when we passed yet another father and son sharing some bonding time at Baldwin Hills. That’s when we heard the dad solemnly inform his young son, “He’s coming up here right now, and he’s gonna kick your ass.”
Hiking is very different than what I remember it to be.
Image courtesy of smarnad / FreeDigitalPhotos.net