Monday, February 8, 2010

#12 Runyon Canyon

#30 Hollywood Walk of Fame
#29 Yamashiro
#28 Hollywood Billiards
#27 Genghis Cohen
#26 Piano Bar
#25 Shmutzville
# 24 Loteria
# 23 The Griddle
# 22 Proximity
# 21 Hollywood Freeway
#20 Kitchen 24
# 19 The People
# 18 Sushi Eyaki
#17 Raymond Chandler
# 16 Jumbo's Clown Room
#15 Skooby's
#14 The Arclight
# 13 The Well

#12 Runyon Canyon

This one is going to be really hard. Runyon represents one of the worst things about LA to me, but it is also one of my favorite places. So, first, I'll get my snobbish, judgmental, and unlikable rant out, then get to the beauty.

I am by no means an accomplished backpacker, but I know the difference between "hiking" and "nature walking." Unfortunately, very few people in LA also do. To me, hiking is wild. You are venturing out into something foreign to you, there is the risk of potential danger, you have to work, you have to prepare, you have to expect the unexpected. But in this town, I feel like it's the exact opposite. This town is so wrapped up in their ideas of fitness and health, that anything that is tougher than sitting at a bar is considered hiking. I'm fine with people not wanting to go very far, not wanting to work very hard, and not wanting to stray from a trail littered with people, but please don't call it hiking. Don't suit up in your new REI gear, pack a lunch, and pretend like your John fucking Muir because you went for a three-mile walk on a fire road. Urban parks are NOT wilderness.

Ok, now that being said:

I LOVE urban parks. I love them. I love the fuck out of them. I am an urbanist. I live in cities, I study cities, I explore cities. I love the Jane Jacobs approach to a city as an organic being. I love Central Park, I love Prospect Park, I love Grant Park, I love the Cleveland metroparks. Runyon Canyon is the best urban park I have ever been to. The view from the top is fucking amazing. The walk up, any way you take, is breathtaking in itself: hordes of the best-looking people I've ever seen getting in shape and pretending they're "hiking," switchbacks giving you incredible views of this incredible city, and even the harder way up, the far west path that is actually pretty difficult. It creates this weird juxtaposition:

Because faux-fitness people in this town believe that this short, paved trail is "hiking," there's a resentment factor from the snobbish true hiker in me. (This is not unlike my feelings for when someone ordering a Budweiser, or a Heineken says "I don't drink light beer") How can I not naturally feel some resentment for them, when I have scaled mountains and slept in backcountries that make Runyon look like Beverly Hills?

But on the other side of the coin, Runyon serves as one of the most unique places in the city, and the payoff at the top is—for an urbanist—breathtaking. It is NOT a hike, it is a beautiful, kind-of-natural urban nature walk that LA cynacists loathe for the hip, young, dog-walkers chatting about their sides on the way up. I am not one of these people. I feel like a non-native anthropologist making the climb, studying the ways of the Hollywood good-looking set. "So this is what it's like to be rich and beautiful…"

Runyon is walking distance to my house. The west trail is a fairly good workout, and the people watching is just as good as the spectacular cityscapes. It really is a unique "hiking" experience, despite my feelings of resentment. There is an off chance I will never get to the top of Runyon again, and that's a little depressing. Even though it is ranked near the bottom of trails in all of my guidebooks, I have a special appreciation for Runyon because it is in the center of Hollywood. It is visible from all over the city, and it has been a major part of my life for the last eighteen months. As I climb mountains 8 times the size of Runyon's modest peak, I will look down on the paved road, beautiful people, and countless dogs and laugh at their idea of "hiking," but inside feel a little envy.

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