Week 247: Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, Baldwin Hills

August 15, 2021

Hike Los Angeles Baldwin Hills (North) "Walk for Health Trail," 2.6 miles.

This was Barbara's and my second trip to the Kenneth Hahn State Recreation Area, a South Los Angeles urban treasure in the heart of the L.A. basin. The land was home to the Tongva Indians for 8,000 years, purchased by Lucky Baldwin in 1875, and in 1932 was the site of the first Olympic Village, built for the male athletes of the X Olympiad. Today we tackled the "Walk for Health Trail," easy to find but unmarked along the way. We entered the park off La Cienega Blvd. about a half-mile-ish south of Obama Blvd. Past the entrance look for the "Olympic Forest" sign on the left and park in the small lot adjacent. A short walk SW from the lot took us to the Walk For Health trailhead on the Park to Playa trail where we started up the trail past the Olympic Forest. At the end of the 1984 Olympic Games in L.A., (a year after the park opened) each of the 140 participating nations planted at least one tree in this forest. I wish I could say we identified the paper mulberry from Tonga or the date palm from Egypt, but we're not THAT good. Regardless, the forest made a pretty frame as we climbed up the hillside along Diane's Trail to the top of the ridge. And voila! Our first stunning sight of the northern view across the basin from the coast to DTLA, with the Santa Monica Mtns. in the background. A short side trip up to Christine's Point for a broader view that included nearby oil fields first discovered by Standard Oil in 1924. Back to Diane's Trail and Autumn's Peak—another viewpoint SW, and then to Michael & Eliana's Inspiration Point where we had a clear view of a plane coming in for a landing at LAX. A short right off Diane's Trail put us on the Western Ridge Trail heading east. To our left, a concrete reminder of the Baldwin Hills Dam containing the Baldwin Hills Reservoir, infamous in LA history. The dam and reservoir were both built between 1947 and 1951 despite concerns of some of the engineers about the location. Twelve years later, on a Saturday afternoon in 1963, the dam sprung a crack and ruptured. In less than 90 minutes, the contents of the reservoir—292 million gallons of water—flooded the hillside and residences below, killing 5 and damaging hundreds of homes. Decades later engineers still debate why. Our trail descended along slopes dotted with sage scrub,  coastal prickly pear cacti, and wildflowers until we reached the Bowl Loop Trail circling Janice's Green Valley (former site of the reservoir now landscaped with grass, trees, and a 9-hole disc-golf course.) Following the Bowl Loop clockwise, we stopped at the obelisk centerpiece of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Grove constructed in 2018 at the highest point in the park. We left the Loop at the Part to Playa Trail and followed it back to the car. The LA County Dept. of Parks and Recreation does an incredible job of maintaining this park—clean trails, picnic areas, playgrounds, and a well-stocked lake—it's a beautiful escape we plan to return to.







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