March 3, 2017: Trolley Trail Branford, CT

How do you like the new logo? Thought it was about time I jazzed it up a bit, as it hasn’t been touched in 2 years.

One thing that I miss  about my LA life is doing fun activities and blogging about them, which I stopped doing due to lack of time now that I’m on the east coast. I also noticed that I have a hard time finding important details about hikes on the east coast. I’m channeling my inner MODERN HIKER and sharing a post about a fun outdoor walk in Branford, CT called the Trolley Trail.

The Trolley Trail is a very easy, flat outdoor trail along the water in Branford, CT… specifically the Thimble Island area. The views are excellent and this one-way-out, one-way-back trail is pretty short so you can add on laps in the neighborhoods on either side of the walk (obeying privacy signs) to make it a full workout. Super easy, super pretty, so bring a camera and a picnic lunch 🙂

The Map:

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There are two areas to park (“P”). One lot is by W Point Rd & Thimble Island Rd (by a baseball field) and the other is at the end of Tilcon Rd. The walk stretches between these two lots. In my images I start by the baseball field, walk out to Tilcon Rd, and back (adding on an extra walking loop down Thimble Island Rd for more exercise). I imagine on a really nice summer day, parking would be harder to come by, but I was surprised at how generous both lots were.

Check out the RULES:

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The walk begins by taking you over a bridge (fun photo op!)

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There are excellent views throughout the walk, so be sure to look up while you stroll. See the Thimble Islands off in the distance? Bring binoculars for birding/gawking at gorgeous homes.

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A chunk of this path is even PAVED (and there are benches to rest!). I should note that there are some additional trails that go off into the woods from this trail. We didn’t explore this, but families with children were heading off to snack on the rocks overlooking the trail.

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This was a surprisingly sunny (but chilly) Sunday in February at low tide, so it wasn’t the most colorful time for plants and trees (dullsville) but there’s still something beautiful about dried muted plants.

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At one point we went under a bridge and there was a well dressed graffiti artist working his magic. I’m not sure what he was adding to these walls, but it had to be Banksy. I’m sure of it 😉

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After looping back, this is the view heading back over the bridge to the parking lot.

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On our way back to the car (just beyond the bridge) is a little trail with a tree swing and a spot to get closer to the water.

TRAIL EXTENSION:

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So to make this a longer walk (although I guess you could just do laps back and forth along the Trolley Trail if you wanted) I suggest leaving your parked car in the lot and walking into town along Thimble Island Rd. This above is a view from a little sandy beach front. If it’s warm, put your feet in!

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Above is the view from the dock where you can take a ferry boat around the Islands (in the summer). I will 100% be doing this in the summer, and I’ll share the deets with you when I do. I suggest walking down the little side streets, stop at the deli by the water for lunch (or pack a picnic and eat it on the beach) and enjoy the pretty views and gorgeous houses.

 

Secret Stair Walk #42: Pacific Palisades – Giant Steps

— My goal was to finish all the walks in the book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I only had about 10 walks left when I pushed it to the back burner. One of my 2014 resolutions is to finally share those last walks with you. —

Time for the LAST Secret Stair Walk!! I’ve been wanting to share this will you for weeks, but between weekend activities and work/mid week adventures I’ve not been able to fully focus on writing this post. For the last secret stair walk my good friend Grace joined me and we were warned by my book that this was a monster step walk.

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The walk begins high up in the hills about Sunset in Pacific Palisades. On our way to the trek we pass giant homes in a beautiful neighborhood. Once we find street parking we loop through a few small streets until we reach a dead end and the road becomes a trail.

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The views in this canyon are incredible. Once we pass through the neighborhood it becomes more of a hiking path with cliffs and incredible views.

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Up we go!

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This path leads to the Rustic Canyon entrance of Topanga State Park.

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Higher and higher! I know what you’re thinking- how is this a secret stair walk? It’s more of a hike! You’ll see….

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Eventually on your left youll pass this break in the fence. This is where our stair climb will end, but it gives you a view into the canyon and the estate built by Winona Stephens in the 1930’s. Folklore says that Stephens was convinced by a Nazi-sypathizer named Schmidt into investing her fortune and land into creating a self-sustaining compound so that they would be ready in the event of Hitler taking over America. At one point all the land in the photos below were part of this compound which included water tanks, diesel fuel tanks, generators and living quarters. This compound fell into disarray when Schmidt was arrested for being a Nazi Spy during World War II. Eventually the property was deeded to the state and is now a frequently visited spot by urban explorers, stair lovers, and graffiti artists.

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Stair Time!!!

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This stair climb begins by dropping down to the bottom of the canyon. Looming in our minds is the eventual climb back up the canyon walls.

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This climb s covered in graffiti and littered with trash, so be careful with each step.

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This empty water tower is after the first big descent, but then lower you must go!

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Down…

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Down…

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At last we make it to the canyon floor.

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This is where we really see the compound remains… and all the graffiti.

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Every inch of this structure is covered in graffiti and the floors are covered in empty paint cans.

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Bath tub!

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There are many trails and loops at the bottom of the canyon, and after we’ve had our fill we head to the last set of stairs that take you from the canyon floor back to the top of the trail. This is the largest known staircase in Los Angeles with 531 steps.

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Time for the monster!

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We had to snap a photo to celebrate the last staircase. And yes, it is one continuous staircase with only a few larger steps that act as landings. You’ll probably have to rest a few times going up, and the higher you go the more impressive the canyon views.

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We did it! Celebrating at the top of the climb!

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That’s all folks! That’s the end of my Secret Stair book. It’s a relief to have it completed as it is an accomplishment, but Im sad to know I’ve completed all the walks. It’s been an amazing challenge that’s gotten me to explore neighborhoods I otherwise would have no reason to see. It’s opened my eyes to LA, gotten me outside on a sunny Sunday, and it’s given me countless hours of free fun. I also want to thank everyone who’s joined me on the walks. And to those of you who’ve told me you bought the book, do the walks. You’ll have a good time, I promise.

Secret Stair Walk #11: Downtown Los Angeles

— My goal was to finish all the walks in the book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I only had about 10 walks left when I pushed it to the back burner. One of my 2014 resolutions is to finally share those last walks with you. —

Time for another Secret Stair walk and we are getting close to the end of the book. This downtown LA walk was a really fun way to spend a Sunday. My friend Jamie and I carpooled downtown on this beautiful weekend morning.

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We started at Grand Central Market, but didn’t grab breakfast. We decided a celebratory meal was in order at the end of the walk instead of the beginning.

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Since I was last downtown the Market has had some upgrades done. For example there’s a craft bar for kids, a cool coffee shop, and of course…

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The EGGSLUT stall! It’s no longer just a food truck, and it’s worth the wait in the long line. Trust me.

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After a walk through the market we continued on the stair walk. Angels Flight is currently being fixed, but that’s no worries since we were in it for the exercise.

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At the top of Angels Flight is Grand Plaza with shops and outdoor seating. In the summer this is where Grand Performances holds it’s free events. I HIGHLY recommend visiting this plaza and also seeing one of the free shows. Bring some grapes, cheese and a blanket to sit under the stars and enjoy a free show.

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Downtown murals.

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Downtown LA has amazing sculptures all over the place.

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This is taken by the public Library at the top of the steps.

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This is the front of the library entrance.

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Sculptures, sculptures, sculptures…

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There are so many bridges and walkways downtown with incredible views. Also I had no idea Los Angeles had it’s own World Trade Center.

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The Westin.

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I’m afraid of heights, so taking this photo scared the beets outta’ me.

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Indoor stairs count as stairs on this urban stair walk.

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I told Jamie to pose like I was taking an action shot of her running. I think this is hilarious. Also, this hotel has a running track as one whole level of this attrium. That’s pretty cool. The whole floor is dedicated to work out spaces.

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Back outside we explored more urban oasis’s hidden in the city.

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We went down to to the Walt Disney Hall and looped around the back of the building.

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This art piece is behind the buidling. It’s made of broken porcelain plates.

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We looped back to Grand Plaza by the Moca. We had to stop in and browse the gift shop.

We made our way back to Grand Central Market where we ate at the Egg Slut stall. It was amazing. So delicious. Jamie and I agreed this was such a great day. The weather was perfect for playing outside and it’s always fun finding new little gems downtown. I highly recommend it!

Secret Stair Walk #10: Happy Valley and Montecito Heights

— My goal was to finish all the walks in the book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I only had about 10 walks left when I pushed it to the back burner. One of my 2014 resolutions is to finally share those last walks with you. —

It’s FINALLY Saturday, and I’m in weekend zen mode while trying to fight off the start of a cold. I’ve got a candle lit, Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is on my tv (I’ve never seen it!), I’ve just slept in a little and now I’ve got the pleasure of sharing a Secret Stair walk with you.

This next walk is #10 in my book, and was extremely unique. It took me to the neighborhood of Montecito Heights, which I’ve never explored before.

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It begins in an area with a mixture of low income housing and apartment buildings.

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Tiny motorcycle with sidecar…  Amazing.

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These short steps lead to a little park just off the main road. This private area was also a midday love nest for teens, so I adjusted my route to avoid catching people in compromising positions.

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Back along the trek we started to head up into the hills. This walk had many adorable yapping dogs like this cutie above.

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… Higher and higher up and down rolling hills.

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High up on the hillside, the views were smoggy. It’s crazy to think how close to downtown this neighborhood is and yet there were times the homes became spread out and very rural. In fact at time the roads became dirt and only wide enough for 1 car.

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This loop is a 3.7 mile trek with lots of staircases. It was a great workout.

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At the top of the next big hill, the views were incredible.

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And at the top of that hill the road became dirt again. There were actually houses off this road. Here we are just a few miles from downtown LA and there are dirt roads and…

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TUMBLEWEEDS! Actual tumbleweeds (and many of them at that) were rolling all around me.

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The road was so bumpy it was hard to walk on it so I imagine cars have difficulty on this steep hillside.

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Another cute white fluffy doggie.

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The houses were very sparse up on this hillside, and several looked more like squatters using the land. I saw so many old dumped cars that looked like they were rehabbed to be like a room for tenants. It was a really strange place to be. Especially given the amazing views, you would think this land would be worth millions, and yet the properties looked like sheds with outdoor fire pits as kitchens, and cars used as bedrooms.

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As I looped back down the hillside, more signs of traditional living popped up.

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I turned a corner and got this view of a relatively bare hillside with odd looking massive concrete homes lining the edge of the hill. All of the homes have fallen into disrepair and yet the incredible views these homes have… I just don’t get it?

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After looping back to the main road, I was met with signs of life other than doggies. This mural is near a local school.

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As I was crossing to end the loop and get back to my car, this lovely bird sat for a while on the crosswalk button I needed to hit. Also, don’t you love the texture on that wall?

Well, that’s the end of this loop. I hope you’re all enjoying your Saturday. Why not get out there this weekend and do some Secret Stair walks?

Secret Stair Walk#5: Mt. Washington

— My goal was to finish all the walks in the book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I only had about 10 walks left when I pushed it to the back burner. One of my 2014 resolutions is to finally share those last walks with you. —

Sadly, Im no longer in the funemployment game, so my Secret Stair walking days are now reserved for weekends only. Thankfully I have a handful that I still need to tell you about. This next walk is Secret Stair Walk #5: Mt. Washington.

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The walk begins by the busy intersection of Figueroa and Avenue 45. It starts with congestion but then quickly becomes a quiet neighborhood trek.

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I love finding little neighborhood details.

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After a steep hill, comes steep staircases. Thankfully, what goes up must come down.

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This walk was “pre-rain” so the sky still has a cloudy (cough* smoggy) haze to it.

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This old ranch had some fun colorful lighting to jazz it up.

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It’s rare you see tile work like this along the driveway.

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Reaching the top of the hill, I could barely see the faint outline of the downtown skyline. Grrr smog.

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This residential neighborhood opens up at the top of the hill to be a quiet valley without many signs of life.

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After the short dusty loop, it becomes a plush neighborhood again. In fact, it leads right to the Self-Relization Center on Mt. Washington which has super pretty gardens open to the public. It’s so relaxing there.

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They keep the gardens so well manicured.

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This is some tile fun on a bridge just past the meditation center.

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I passed a few local schools up on Mt. Washington. I imagine the neighbors walking their children here. It must feel so far from LA, because it’s all so peaceful up on the hilltop.

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Thankfully, I was not attacked by a dog here.

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Stairs, stairs, stairs…

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The faux broken turtle trying to climb the stairs…

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I love doors and gate doors are no exception.

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Back down to the hustle and bustle of Figueroa.

Happy Friday everyone! I hope you have a busy weekend full of Secret Stair walks!

Here Comes The Rain

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LA, the rain is coming! Are you ready? I’m looking forward to it. Los Angeles needs the water. This week seems to be my last week of daytime freedom before I start up on a project, and it’s jam packed with fun. Yesterday I reached a big goal of finishing all of the Secret Stair walks from Charles Fleming’s book (a big goal of mine). I’ll be finishing up a table today, and also visiting the Reagan Presidential Library this afternoon. When the rain rolls in, I’m looking forward to deep cleaning the house, reading my book and working on some blog posts for you. February is over at the end of the week, so expect a resolutions check-in. Lots to do, lots to do!

UPDATE:

The Reagan Presidential Library is a lot of fun! Expect a write-up on my visit soon.

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Secret Stair Walk#9: El Sereno Circles

— My goal was to finish all the walks in the book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I only had about 10 walks left when I pushed it to the back burner. One of my 2014 resolutions is to finally share those last walks with you. —

I’m excited to say that today I’m completing my last Secret Stair walk from my book! It was one of my goals for February and I’ll finish today, just as the month is winding down. Since I’m still back-logged with walks to share with you, I won’t be able telling you about today’s walk until sometime next week. In the meantime, here’s my walk #9: El Sereno Circles.

This walk was pretty short (1.8 miles) and I completed it on February 14 (Valentine’s Day).

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This walk starts along a busy street. Seeing a pay-phone (minus the phone), I had to take a photo.

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It’s a short walk, but it’s got stairs! Up I go!

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The views are great, unfortunately it was a bit smoggy (classic LA).

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A cat joined me for a stretch of the loop.

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For some reason this Valentine’s Day was filled with so much sky writing. Constant skywriting. I took this photo above to try to line the stairs up as if to say “I heart the secret stairs”.

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Texture fun.

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This walk has a ton of barking dogs along it, so be prepared for that. As I took this photo of a decorative gate, the dogs on the other side of it went from silent to loudly barking at me.

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This staircase is not part of the walk, but it’s funny that the stairs sort of lead to nowhere.

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Patterns and texture.

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In honor of Valentine’s Day.

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I’ll leave you with this photo above. As I was looping back to my car and waiting at a stoplight, I saw this ad taped to a pole. It seems to be some kind of event where morbidly obese people in scooters slam into cars?? It made me sad, but I felt I should share it, since I am documenting the walk and this was along it. Also, who knew this was a thing?? More importantly, why is this a thing??

Secret Stair Walk#7: Highland Park- Southwest Museum

— My goal was to finish all the walks in the book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I only had about 10 walks left when I pushed it to the back burner. One of my 2014 resolutions is to finally share those last walks with you. —

Most of the walks that I have left to complete are in the Highland Park area, so this next walk is #7: Highland Park-Southwest Museum. It’s a 3.2 mile loop with a fair amount of hills. 

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You can see the sky was a bit overcast so the photos aren’t as bright and cheery as they could be on a typical LA day.

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This walk had lots of lawn statues which were fun to find. Some were tiny so it was like Where’s Waldo. 

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Home-made signs and a lion statue. 

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More religious statues… this one is mounted to a log. 

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From far back down the hill you could see these steps. I knew there were what was next, so with heavy breathing I climbed up higher and higher. 

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Yes, this is a huge super steep hill with many flights of super steep stairs even higher up beyond it. 

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But the views from the top of the hill make all the climbing worth while. 

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This was a nice quiet mid-week walk. 

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The book points out this shrine in an old garage that’s now open-air. 

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This above is the Southwest Museum. It’s barely ever open to the public (one Saturday a month??) but it does have a library open to people with an appointment. The book made it sound like I could walk through the space, even though it was closed to the public, so I walked through. They were repairing the trail, so I was forced to walk in the way cars would drive in, which had me in a different place from the book. I saw the library had people in it so I tried the door- locked. I knocked, seeing someone at a desk right in front of the glass door. He didn’t acknowledge me. Really? For all they knew I was injured and needed medical attention, but nope- I didn’t have an appointment. Then an older man (security guard?) who didn’t speak english very well insisted that the book was wrong and that I wasn’t even allowed to walk through the public spaces. I find this hard to believe, given that I wasn’t asking to go into the museum but instead walk outside on the public grounds. I have to say- shame on you Southwest Museum. I expected more from this institution and was really let down. So I made my way back down to the road, having to cut out a section of the walk from the book, frustrated. 

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I found a way to loop back with the walk and found this upper walkway along Figueroa across from Sycamore Grove Park. It was an oasis of a walkway which separated me from the busy rush of cars speeding by on Figueroa. 

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There were apartment buildings and some large old victorians along the path, as well as this second shrine. 

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The book recommends checking out this quirky home toward the end of the walk. As I was reading the plaque and taking pictures a man comes out of the house, sees my walking book and offers a great history of the neighborhood. He was very sweet, and renewed my sense of humanity, after my frustrations with the unhelpful people at the Southwest Museum. Thankfully this walk ended on a positive note. 

Secret Stair Walk#8: Highland Park- Highlands

— My goal was to finish all the walks in the book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I only had about 10 walks left when I pushed it to the back burner. One of my 2014 resolutions is to finally share those last walks with you. —

After finishing walk #6, Biz and I drove over to the other side of the neighborhood to do walk #8.

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This was also a pretty quick loop that started flat (see above) and then took us up into the hills.

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Creepy ghost head fountain.

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Several of the yards we passed had fun lawn items. Many houses had left over Christmas decorations. The house in the photo below  had these freaky looking robots out in the front yard.

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Time for stairs- up, up, up!

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The top of the hill offers views of the west.

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House number fun.

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We saw this sign at the end of the walk. How cute is that? It’s sad the cat’s lost, but still the drawing is adorable.

This walk was largely residential, which is why this walk book is great. I otherwise wouldn’t have a reason to be trekking through these hills and seeing these views.

Secret Stair Walk#6: Hermon and Highland Park

— My goal was to finish all the walks in the book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I only had about 10 walks left when I pushed it to the back burner. One of my 2014 resolutions is to finally share those last walks with you. —

It’s time for walk #6: Hermon and Highland Park. My good friend Biz joined me for the loop. This was a pretty quick loop, but it was nice to see another side of town.

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I just love these old store fronts and signs. As someone who works in the art department, we often “age” new sets to look old on camera. I think it has me hyperaware of rust and the qualities of aging.

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Along one of the roads were a ton of old vintage cars. That’s not something you see every day.

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There’s a snake themed public space along this road. It had a Gaudi-esque flare to it with stone mosaic pathways. It also had a snake theme which made me uncomfortable (I hate snakes).

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After the park we walked over the highway and a “roaring-river”.

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We ran into this Wildflowering LA spot.

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This was a fast loop, so we combined it with walk#8. That’ll be up next!