Week 220: Elysian Park West

November 01, 2020

 10,000 Steps a Day in L.A. #7, Elysian Park West—Treasures Lost and Found, 2.24 miles.

Still in a celebratory mood from the Dodgers’ World Series Win—Barbara and I headed for their home base, Elysian Park, the oldest park in Los Angeles. In 1769, while the first seeds of the American Revolution were germinating back east, Gaspar de Portola was leading an expedition through this area to claim California for Spain. Today, Elysian Park’s 575 acres are the last remaining piece of the Royal Grant by Carlos III of Spain that established the civilian Pueblo de Los Angeles in 1781. In 1886, L.A. Mayor E. F. Spence dedicated Rock Quarry Hills (as the park was known then) as a “forever” city park, renaming it Elysian Park from the Greek word for “paradise.” The small, northwest sliver of the park that we hiked today started on Elysian Park Drive at an eerie, almost hidden trailhead left of the Grace E. Simon Lodge entrance, drawing us back in time to the 1893 founding of the Elysian Park Arboretum. In a labor of love, members of the Los Angeles Horticultural Society had spent decades collecting exotic seeding and cuttings from around the world to populate the city’s first arboretum. They planted 140 species of trees, lined trail sides with log benches, and carefully identified each species on stone placards. But today’s trailhead guided us into a forgotten land of barren trees, graffiti-littered benches, and paint-blotted signs. Neglected, overlooked, under-watered, it was an interesting place to visit on Día de los Muertos, though sad to see the “wrong-side-of-the-lodge-fence” plants, once cherished, now left to wither. Mysteriously, I found no account online of WHY this section of the arboretum was left to die. Water is always a problem in LA, but this was just sad. Across Stadium Way on Academy Road, the Chavez Ravine Arboretum stands as a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument. We read the obliterated signs as best we could, then trekked back to Elysian Park Drive and followed it south, a solid road for hiking, jogging, and dog-walking, with plenty of happy dogs to greet us, and plenty of parallel trails for diversion. To our left, small groups gathered under the trees below for picnics and exercise. High in the distance, views of downtown and Angel’s Point. At Scott Ave., we walked east to Stadium Way and followed it back to the car, halving Haddad’s full 5-mile hike to suit our mood. However, if you have the energy and interest, the second half is loaded with history, including the L.A. Police Academy and the Barlow Respiratory Hospital. Elysian Park may be Griffith Park’s little sister, but it’s filled with personality and surprises. Always one of our favorite spots to hike. 






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