Late for Nowhere

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Posts Tagged ‘Cycling Los Angeles

Adventures in the US: Cycling the high point of Los Angeles

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The lower slopes of the climb to the peak of Mt Lukens.

When I lived in Los Angeles in the 1990s, one of my favorite mountain bike rides was the climb to the peak of Mt Lukens, which at 1,547 meters (5,075 feet) is the highest point within the LA city limits.

The 15-mile ride is elegant in its simplicity: A tough 7.5-mile ascent on a winding dirt road, followed by a screaming downhill run back to the parking lot along the same route.

With fond memories of these rides, Mt Lukens was where I headed for the first real mountain bike excursion of my recent trip to the US.

Back in the 1990s, I could finish the climb in less than 1 hour and 10 minutes (my record time was somewhere around 1:07), and then make the return descent in about 20 minutes. Now I’m older, fatter and (as a resident of Yangon in Myanmar) primarily a flatland cyclist, so I knew the mountain would pose a greater challenge than it used to.


The dirt road to the peak.

I’m also apparently quite a bit stupider than when I was younger: After pedaling about half a mile up the hill, I realized I had left my water bottles in the car – so I had to ride back down to retrieve them, and then start the climb all over again.

Still, the ride wasn’t as devastating as I had feared: I made it to the top in about 1 hour and 30 minutes, including three or four brief stops to take photos.


Around the midway point.

The cool morning air helped prevent the ride from becoming a death march. The natural scenery of Angeles National Forest, along with the smell of sage along the track, supplied additional inspiration.

At one point a family of three mule deer trotted across the path in front of me, and then paused in a meadow to watch me ride by. Toward the top, there were even a few small patches of snow on the north side of the mountain, something I didn’t expect in Southern California in mid-May.


Looking northeast from just below the peak.

The air was reasonably clear when I reached the peak, allowing me to see across the Verdugo Hills, Glendale, downtown Los Angeles, and well beyond. It was an odd but familiar feeling, looking down on a city of nearly 4 million people but having the mountain peak all to myself.

I enjoyed the view, the solitude, and the frigid mountaintop wind for about 15 minutes, and then remounted my bike to ride back down the path and rejoin the teeming masses below.


The view of Los Angeles from the peak of Mt Lukens.

Written by latefornowhere

June 18, 2014 at 4:26 am

Adventures in the US: Urban wildlife and haunted picnic tables

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Sunset in Los Angeles, as seen from the apartment where I stayed during my recent visit.

Last month I took a trip to the United States for the first time in more than three years. Among my goals during my three-week visit – aside from hanging out with family and friends, and eating as many burritos as possible – was spending a substantial amount of time on my mountain bike, which I brought with me from Myanmar.

I started my trip in Los Angeles, where I had lived for 10 years before moving to Myanmar in 2003. I stayed in the Silverlake apartment of my friend Robert, who was on holiday in Hawaii during the start of my visit, so I had the place all to myself – all I had to do was take care of his grumpy Siamese cat, a creature of odd habits such as hissing at invisible threats and loudly rummaging through kitchen cabinets in the middle of the night.

The apartment is only a few miles from Griffith Park, a place where I had spent many, many hours cycling during my time in LA, and that’s where I went for the first ride of my holiday. The park’s dirt roads are closed to mountain bikes, so the main attraction is a network of paved roads (closed to motor vehicles) that wind through the wooded hills.

Although it had been more than 10 years since my last ride in Griffith Park, all the same pavement cracks and potholes still seemed to be there. It’s an urban park, but still fairly wild (an automatic camera even captured an image of an adult mountain lion in the park in 2013), and during my 30-mile ride I managed to spot several forms of wildlife: one coyote, one mule deer, three circling hawks, and one Hollywood film crew grazing at the catering truck.

Along the way I stopped at the infamous Haunted Picnic Table 29, located in a quiet corner of the park just off Mount Hollywood Drive. The area is supposedly guarded by the angry spirits of musician Rand Garrett and aspiring actress Nancy Jeanson, who were crushed to death by a falling tree while indulging in some nocturnal fornication on the picnic table on the night of October 31, 1976.


Wooden post marking the location of Picnic Table 29 in Griffith Park.

Sound unlikely? The story actually seems to date back to a hoax story that appeared on the Los Angeles Times website on October 30, 2006, but some park visitors insist they have encountered the ghosts.


The “haunted” picnic table, complete with the miraculously preserved tree that supposedly crushed two lovers to death in 1976.

Disappointingly, no angry specters chased me from the picnic table. But the fallen tree was still there (a friend pointed out that dead wood from nearly 40 years ago would have rotted away long ago, but what does he know about phantom plant life?), and someone had used green paint to scrawl “RIP 10/31/1976 Rand + Nancy” on the top of the picnic table.


Tribute to Rand and Nancy.

The legend lives on.


Another Hollywood sunset.