Week 159: Lower Arroyo Seco

January 06, 2019

10,000 Steps a Day in L.A. #25, Phantom Bikers and Paradise Lost, 5 mi.

Taking to sidewalks instead of rain-soaked trails, Barbara and I headed to Pasadena for a hike back in time. In 1874, Pasadena founders—the Indiana Colony—purchased property and built homes in the area east of Arroyo Seco Canyon and south of Colorado Blvd. around Orange Grove Blvd. We were attracted by the history, much of which required imagination instead of actual sight-seeing. Driving west through low hanging clouds on the 210, we arrived in blue-sky, sun-shiny Pasadena and parked at Arbor Street and Arroyo Boulevard. Walking uphill on Arbor to the 1906 Italian-Renaissance Wrigley Mansion, now the permanent base of the Tournament of Roses, we crisscrossed a block north to Del Mar Blvd. and continued east to the century-old Central Park on Fair Oaks and our first historic destination: Edmundson Alley. At the end of the 19th century, the fastest route between Pasadena and Los Angeles was dependent on unreliable train schedules. But bicycles were the BIG thing for independent transport, and Pasadena mayor Horace Dobbins had an innovative plan: the California Cycleway—a 9-mile, elevated wood structure with a flat-planked surface, for bicyclists to speed from Pasadena's Green Hotel to Olvera Street in downtown Los Angeles. The city bought in, and between 1900-1901, the first 1.5 miles of the cycleway were constructed down Edmundson Alley. Unfortunately, by 1901, gasoline-powered automobiles had replaced bicycles as the vehicle of choice and Dobbins' cycleway was never completed.  Adding insult to injury, the historic Union Garage Company building—the largest auto and carriage trade garage in the SW—was built in 1907 at the entrance to Edmundson Alley, and by 1910 the cycleway was torn down. So, instead of walking under the remains of an elevated cycleway, Barbara and I hiked down an alley, imagining the "phantoms" of what might have been. For a mile and a half. (We go where the maps lead us—that's the fun of discovery.) The alley ended at Glenarm St., and we crossed Fair Oaks to head west on Arlington to the delightful Arlington Gardens, a 3-acre, "hidden" refuge created in 2005 for native fauna. Paths of plants and benches, a 7-circle labyrinth, and a really cool Wish Tree Garden inspired by Yoko Ono—a welcome rest stop before the second half of our hike. I left a wish attached to a tree branch, and we continued west through a neighborhood filled with the Pasadena-unique homes built by its bohemian settlers, with fences, walls, and paths of stone from the arroyo. On Madeline Drive, we walked along the site of the original Busch Gardens, built in 1907 by brewery magnate Adolphus Busch who wintered in Pasadena with his wife. The Buschs fashioned gardens of rolling, stone masonry terraces, aviaries, waterfalls, and footpaths that overlooked Arroyo Seco Canyon, and opened the property to the public in 1909. After Busch died, Pasadena refused his gift of the gardens, and subdivided the land in the '30s. Memories of the gardens are evident in portions of the original terraces fronting homes on Busch Garden Drive. We slipped through a secret gate and completed our hike with a trek north along the Arroyo Seco—under the La Loma Bridge, past a hiker's labyrinth, the archery range and fly-fishing pool—in the company of horses, dogs, joggers, and fellow hikers taking advantage of a gorgeous, rain-cleared day. 

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