My New Year’s Resolution: Hike Creatively
I didn’t plan on hiking a portion of the Pacific Crest Trail when I took my family to Vasquez Rocks at the north end of Los Angeles County earlier this month. But on the way to the parking lot, we passed a big sign for the famous Mexico-to-Canada trail and I couldn’t resist checking it out. I had read Cheryl Strayed’s memoir “Wild” (and seen the movie with Reese Witherspoon) but I had never crossed paths with its Los Angeles-area stretch despite 10 years of regular SoCal hiking.
By tweaking our plan a little, we ended up discovering a terrific 5-mile hike that combines the sagebrush-spiked barrenness of the PCT with the craggy outer-space landscape of Vasquez Rocks. Best of all, it was peaceful and uncrowded…even on a holiday weekend.
So on January 3, I made a late New Year’s resolution: go off the beaten path.
It’s easy to resolve to hike more in the new year and join the crowds that flood the most popular trails every weekend. But what about the lesser-known trails tucked into your city? Besides offering easier parking and quieter experiences, they may also yield new discoveries and views that you didn’t know existed.
My “creative hiking” resolution has taken root as I work on the third edition of my 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles Los Angeles guide for Menasha Ridge. As I choose a handful of new trails to include, I find myself leaning toward paths that don’t have their own Facebook pages or require a war strategy to find parking. So far, I’ve discovered an alternative, more rugged path to the Hollywood sign and a series of stairways that wind through the hills of Silverlake just below Sunset Boulevard. And when I tire of the dusty chaparral landscape that marks many Los Angeles hiking trails, I take the kids to Sand Dune Park in Manhattan Beach, where we hike up to the top and look east toward the urban sprawl that unfurls to the edges of the snow-capped San Gabriel mountains. It’s a stunning view of Los Angeles at its best and worst.
There will always be room for the well-traveled trails, but sometimes it’s worth leaving them behind to explore a new path or neighborhood with a friend. The fear of the unknown will most likely soon be trumped by the thrill of discovery and expanding your own hiking horizons.