Week 297: Griffith Park NE

November 12, 2023

 AllTrails Griffith Park Old Zoo Loop, 2.88 miles.

The fun part about hiking Griffith Park is that there's always a new trail to explore, or a new route to a familiar destination. Today Barbara and I chose this multi-personality hike above, around, and through an old favorite via a new route linked by six different trails, each with a different perspective. We parked in the Merry-Go-Round lot off Crystal Springs Drive and walked to our starting point south of the lot. Fern Canyon Nature Trail led us up a pretty, shaded path with random railroad tie staircases, and the old amphitheater. At the top of two sets of railroad tie stairs, we turned right onto Fern Canyon Trail with its eucalyptus trees and killer views of the NE Valley, a popular trail for hikers and their dogs and riders on their horses. Upper Old Zoo Trail twists and turns up the mountainside to a stunning view of hive-shaped Bee Rock, a peak we're determined to conquer one of these days. We've been foiled twice. Mineral Wells Trail took us across the halfway(ish) mark and led us down to the Lower Zoo Trail and Zoo Trail at the site of the old Griffith Park Zoo. The Old Zoo, a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument, dates back to 1912 when the first 15 animals arrived at the site of Griffith J. Griffith's defunct ostrich farm. Eventually bears, lions, monkeys, goats, elephants, reptiles, and more populated the grottos and enclosures built by County Relief and WPA workers. During the mid-1920s, motion picture pioneer William Seling donated many animals from his studios. The Old Zoo had its own celebrities in its day including Ivan the Terrible—a 900 lb. polar bear, and Topsy, a 70-year-old camel who was a soldier in the pre-Civil War US Camel Corps, a coal mine worker, a Ringling Bros. circus star, and a four-legged film star before Selig retired Topsy to the zoo. Walt Disney would send his animators to the Old Zoo to sketch animal anatomy and movement, adding realism to his animated features. Abandoned now, today the Old Zoo plays a role in Griffith Park's annual Halloween Haunted Hayride—which is how Barbara and I ended up pictured in a cage with a giant spider web behind us. Who could resist? After we toured the enclosures and picnic area, we reconnected with the Lower Old Zoo Trail for a half-mile hike back to the car. Fun hike for a warm and clear November morning. Good one.




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