Week 157: Santa Monica Pier to Venice Boardwalk

December 23, 2018

Hiking the boardwalk and bike path south of the pier, 4.8 miles. 

Instinctively, Barbara and I head for the ocean the weekend before Christmas. We've hiked north of the pier, on the pier, along the Venice Canals, and on the streets of Venice and Santa Monica, but none of our hiking books mapped a route along the ocean south of the pier. Probably because who needs a map for a straight route down the boardwalk/bike path to Venice?  It was a perfect, foggy morning, and at 8am the only people on the 1909 Santa Monica Pier were workers setting up shop for the influx of tourists. As we walked south along the sand, the boardwalk was just beginning to yawn with hikers/joggers/bikers/dog walkers/baby carriage pushers. Every footpath in L.A. has history, and this stretch along the ocean is no exception. The gorgeous Shutters on the Beach Hotel (1993) stands on land once occupied by early 20th-century beach clubs. The historic marker at Bay Street and Ocean Front Walk commemorates the section of the beach where, from the early to mid-20th century, Jim Crow laws touched even the damn ocean. Racists called this segregated portion of beach "The Ink Well" as a slur, but black beachgoers turned the slur into a badge of pride, and celebrated the Ink Well as a place for fun without enduring ignorance and hostility. The volleyball players we passed foreshadow the 2028 Summer Olympics when Santa Monica Beach will host the volleyball competition. Two miles down, Barbara and I reached the Venice Boardwalk and its shops, restaurants, murals, sidewalk artists, fortunetellers, tattoo artists, hucksters, and musicians interspersed with curious tourists and homeless in sleeping bags. We reached our 2-mile turnaround goal at Muscle Beach Venice—established in 1952 and reconfigured to its present state in 1990. A quick stop to "say hey" to a muscled shark at a storefront; slowed for a peek at the 1912 Venice Beach Suites and Hotel (allegedly the oldest hotel on the Venice Boardwalk), and hiked back to SM on a now-jammed boardwalk. Rejuvenated and ready to face the Christmas homestretch, we hit the 3rd Street Promenade for a mocha and some last minute shopping. Merry Christmas everyone!

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