Week 190: Lake View Terrace (Hansen Dam)

October 20, 2019

10,000 Steps a Day in L.A. #35: Well Hello, Hansen! 4.5 miles

Early in the 20th century, Dr. Homer Hansen, just over 30, suffered from acute inflammatory rheumatism and learned he had less than a year to live. He decided to live out his life in Tujunga Canyon, built a cabin, was cured!, and in 1909 filed a 93-acre homestead claim. In 1920, he married Marie, and they built a 2-story lodge with stables, a pool, and cabins on the property, a popular weekend retreat for US senators and people like Clarence Darrow. In 1926, a flood washed away the lodge; Homer and Marie rebuilt, only to be washed out AGAIN in 1938. The great L.A. flood of '38 wreaked havoc over L.A., Orange, and Riverside counties. 115 lives lost and, in today's dollars, $1.4 billion in damages. Something had to be done about flood control in the SF Valley. Enter the Army Corps of Engineers who seized Homer and Marie's horse ranch via eminent domain and built a dam. THAT'S why the dam Barbara and I hiked on and around this morning was named Hansen Dam. The first 2-miles of our hike were along the 97-ft. high rim of the dam. To our left, gorgeous views of the trails in the riparian flood basin below and the San Gabriel and Verdugo Mountains to the North. Below on our right, the lush, manicured, 18-hole Hansen Golf Course. (Which bears the question—who golfs on a windy day?) Ten to fourteen-mph gusts tilted Barbara and me high on the dam, adding resistance to an easy walk, but the high winds also created a stare-worthy phenomenon: a murder of crows, attempting to fly into the wind, couldn't. They'd take off and then literally flap at a standstill, floating mid-air in one spot or drifting back, wings spread, riding the wind. It was amazing. About a mile in we passed the dam's concrete sluice, built to mitigate water flow. Two miles in, the dam ridge ended and we descended a dirt path into the basin, joining equestrians and dog-walkers out for a morning stroll. The biggest challenge: crossing a fast flowing, 7-ft. wide river. Barbara, the balanced one, crossed the river on logs; I gave up on that, took off my shoes and socks, and waded across. (Pebbles, ouch.) The trail on the other side bordered the soccer and baseball fields of the Rec Center, then wound down to the centerpiece of the basin—a quiet, pristine, tree-lined lake. At its western shore we met a trail that led us past the ranger station and Aquatic Center, and back to the car. On a clear day, this hike is killer—views, challenges, clear air, a little up in the clouds, and a little elbowing with Mother Nature. Awesome. By the way, Homer Hansen lived to age 88. Fresh air will do that to you. 

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