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Hiking for Us City Folks
I am a city kid. I spent most of my childhood riding the subway, slipping into movie theaters unnoticed, and scoping out the best pizza parlors. That was my idea of a great Saturday. It came to my surprise when I was taken to Runyon Canyon Park one Saturday by my parents (both out-of-town transplants, as well) for "hiking." Where I'm from, if you want nature, you go to the park in the middle of the island and look at "nature" while gazing upon skyscrapers and multilevel apartment buildings. Hiking is not something I thought I would ever do...until I came to EL-A.
The entrance I chose to Runyon Canyon is located off of Laurel Canyon and Ventura, down a street named Fryman, where the entrance is marked by a dirt driveway (there is actually an alternate southern entrance that I’ve never taken, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runyon_Canyon_Park for details). If you're not careful, you'll wander farther down Laurel Canyon to a totally different street named Fryman which will lead you to a series of one way residential streets leading to "no outlet" cul-de-sacs. Despite this secret entrance, you know you're there once you approach a hill that might as well have a sign stating "at your own risk." Not because it's particularly dangerous with slippery rocks and hidden crevices, but God help you if you're on any heart medication or not in particularly great shape (which despite media images does exist in LA). It's definitely a challenge.
Okay, so you make your way to the top. And what's awaiting you? Spectacular views of the San Fernando Valley to the North and views of homes of the moderately-wealthy to extremely-wealthy to the South. I sometimes wonder what would make someone want to live on a mountain in an earthquake zone, but I digress...
The golden-hued brush, the steep drop over the sides of the trail, and the feeling that you're in a Road Runner cartoon come to life is worth the initial ascent. Walking along the trail can definitely make you feel as though you're an intrepid explorer wandering the unspoiled wilderness with your trusty sidekick(s). That is, until you notice how many other fellow Angelenos love to intrepidly explore with you. This is entirely dependent on the time of day, so if you want more solitude, go early.
In my opinion, the best part of the hike along Runyon Canyon is venturing right once you come to a fork almost near the end of the trail: go left and you will continue with southern canyon views of homes which terminates abruptly right at someone's backyard fence complete with barking dog, go right and you will wander down more trail under a forested canopy that has been kept up by the Tree People. Choosing to go right will reward you with shade (yay!) and restrooms (yay!!) which you will surely be needing by now after you sucked down all that water after making it this far. Walk a little farther and you will come upon the yurt village of the Tree People at the end of the trail who keep the most meticulous public restrooms along a trail I have ever seen (the women's bathroom even has hand lotion!).
By now, you realize that two hours have likely gone by, and it's time to intrepidly make your way back to your car. The walk back won't take as long, and there will be lots of restaurants awaiting you in Studio City and the surrounding area. Just remember to leave $1.50 in the envelope slot for parking if you park in the lot.