I moved to Beachwood Canyon from my hometown of San Diego 13 years ago. Honestly, if I’d had my way back then, I would have moved straight to the beach and never looked back. But my boyfriend at the time wanted to be near both nature and his work, so we landed here. It was a rough adjustment for me at first being so far from the ocean – it felt landlocked, and for a couple of years I felt adrift.
Griffith Park became my anchor when I adopted a Great Pyrenees named Isabel who needed to hike. Leaving our car parked in the lower lot (near West Observatory Trail), we discovered new trails, new trees (California redwood! Scrub oak! Mission olive!) and new peace. We saw and learned more about local animals like woodpeckers, the Western gray squirrel, mule deer, Red-tailed hawk, California quail, tarantulas and tarantula hawks. Once we witnessed a struggle between a tarantula and tarantula hawk on a hike at sunset up the West Observatory Trail. And of course, P-22 whom we never did see, but did come across evidence of a few of his meals.
We also began to regularly meet the same people on the trail – people who lived in different neighborhoods than ours, but who became part of one sweet Griffith Park community. They knew Isabel, and greeted her with knowing smiles and pets (and often snacks) every morning.
Since then, Griffith Park – with its vast network of trees and trails – has become my ocean. The trails are the place to breathe deeply and take in nature and the vast vistas the mountains provide. It’s soothed sadness, enhanced joy, fostered creativity, and renewed spirit. The perfume of native sage, the lemony scent of eucalyptus, the rustle of wind in leaves, the whisper in the pines, the music of birdsong, the typewriter staccato of the woodpecker, the magic of soft morning and evening light, and a moment to just breathe … all working together, like waves on the ocean, to renew our spirits with each hike.
Truthfully, it is difficult to choose just one trail I love more than the rest. Isabel never liked to walk the same path twice, so we got to know many of them – and all were our favorites: Fern Dell – a cool respite on hot summer days; the chaparral-lined gentle slope of the West Trail leading you up and through the cool, shady pines of the Berlin Forest and horse troughs; the quick and quiet solitude of the Loop Trail; the wide open peace of the Western Canyon Trail with its perfect view of the Observatory; and even the long, curvy Western Canyon Road (to make our walks stretch, Isabel demanded many walks the long way down to the lower parking lot from the Observatory). And of course, Isabel’s top pick – the picnic area (near the playground and East
Observatory Trailhead) leading to the Trails Café – all which promised her favorite: snacks.
The morning after Isabel passed away, Griffith Park and its trails held my heart as I took a long, slow, intentional walk through the trees, up the Eastern Observatory Trail, and back down West Observatory Trail – remembering our countless hikes there together through the years.
Two and a half years later after Isabel’s passing, I adopted another Pyrenees and we have discovered new favorite trails, including the Lower Old Zoo Trail and Upper Old Zoo Trail with vistas of Los Angeles, leading us down to the cool grassy park paradise below – complete with shady trees for shaggy pals needing to cool off after a long hike. We’ve also discovered the springtime explosion of wildflowers along Hogback Trail, and after this past rainy season also joyfully stumbled upon a series of waterfalls at the base of the Upper Old Zoo Trail.
Thirteen years into living here, Griffith Park and its myriad trails are my ocean. It’s beauty never ceases to amaze, and we continue to find new trails, new beauty. I am so thankful to have landed here to enjoy this vast natural wonderland in the midst of Los Angeles’ urban jungle.
Go. Hike. Explore. Be restored in Griffith Park.
~Rebecca Waer, FoGP Member
Photo: left – right: Alice (Great Pyrenees) and Amos (Golden Pyrenees-mix), courtesy Rebecca Waer