Los Angeles is not a great hiking city. A mesh of sprawling, strangling freeways that cross a vast, concrete-laden, urban area, it’s hardly known as a spot for a hearty outdoors ramble.
This was my attitude before I first travelled to the city. On that initial visit I scratched off the idea that I’d get outdoors at all, given the daytime temps in the 90s.
This was despite the imposing presence of the San Gabriel Mountains, which overlooked my wife’s hometown of Temple City. From a distance though, they appeared smog-choked and dusty.
But luckily my wife’s family know LA, and know where to hike. Slowly but surely, subsequent visits introduced me to hill and mountain paths, most of which were within 30 minutes of Downtown (presuming traffic’s light, which is always a risky presumption in the City of Angels).
And so I’ve hiked up through Eaton Canyon to the falls at its head, spent an early morning walking the Los Liones trail in Topanga State Park, and filled the best part of a day traversing the trails above Millard Canyon in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Last weekend saw me add another route. Waking early, we travelled to Ernest E Debs Regional Park, a set of small hills and paths overlooking central northeast Los Angeles.
Unlike previous hiking spots I’d been to in the city, Debs Park is surrounded – or so it seems – by urban LA. The 110 freeway skirts the park’s northern edge; LA’s Eastside sprawls in one direction, with a view towards Downtown in the other. There’s graffiti on the tree trunks, and desolate, burned brush on parts of the hills.
But 20 minutes, and a steep tarmac roadway, later saw us perched on a dusty trail above the city. A slight breeze kept LA’s yellow smog haze at bay, and – despite the fact that it was a weekend morning – there was no-one else around.
For a few moments we had our scrubby, green-brown, hilly oasis. A city of four million people lay at our feet, but the only movement was the sparrows flying over our heads.