Like many Angelenos, journalist Charles Fleming did not always see the City of Angels as a hiker's paradise.

"I was a car type and a motorcycle type – not a walking type, especially when I was in LA – until I was excluded from back problems and back surgery," Fleming recalls. "The only thing that relieved the pain was easy walking, so I started running. As I got stronger and went on, I decided to examine the forgotten public stairs in my Silver Lake neighborhood. I was addicted and fell in love with one City I had mostly known as a series of off-ramps. "

Through his books Secret stairs and Secret walks, its L.A. Walks Column in the Los Angeles times Fleming introduced thousands of locals to some of the city's best places to stroll on public tours. With COVID-19 quarantine restrictions restricting many of our social services, more and more angelenos are exploring the city on foot.

"I know from direct personal experience that the quarantine period caused people to" stay at home "to investigate walking and hiking because I received so many letters from them saying this," Fleming says.

You are hardly the first. Angelenos have always loved a good hike, be it a walk through the well-tended gardens or a strenuous hike with a picturesque view.

The Silver Lake Stairs, circa 2010. (Spot Us / Flickr Creative Commons)

Since the beginning of the American period in Los Angeles, city of Booster sold Southern California to the rest of the world as an outdoor paradise waiting to be discovered.

"& # 39; Ah, there! & # 39; See, three young ladies of fashion, resolutely, though carefully, hiked up Mt. Lowe Trail in 1902. Mountaineering was just the thing in those halcyon times, but if someone had something like a hiking outfit with "shorts" on girls, they would probably have hidden their blush in the Shubbery. "(Herald Examiner Collection / Collection of the Public Library of Los Angeles)

"For our careless critics in the Eastern press who assume that everything has been lost in a so-called collapsing boom … can a man with health or a man without health ask for a better home?" the Los Angeles times asked 1889. "The fact remains that outdoor life here is possible and pleasant 300 days a year."

Hiking would become an early expression of this SoCal spirit.

"Already in the late 19th century, the mountains of Los Angeles hiked trails across the communities of Pasadena, Altadena and Sierra Madre – many of which were left by the indigenous people Gabrielino and Tongva and later by (naturalist and author) John Muir," says Fleming .

This enthusiasm for nature led to "Great hiking time, "which ran roughly from the 1880s to the 1930s, according to historian Mark Landis.

""Hundreds and maybe even thousands of hikers paced these trails every weekend, "wrote Arthur N. Carter in a 1937 issue of Trails Magazine. "The procession of laughing and singing hikers began in the early Saturday afternoon and continued until dusk, or on Sunday afternoon the hikers came down, many of whom had foot pains and were muffled and climbed onto the special Pacific Electric cars waiting to take them take back to Los Angeles and neighboring cities. "

These hordes of hikers were encouraged by an enthusiastic local press who gave doctors opinions on the health benefits of walking.

1938: Two women, possibly mother and daughter, wander through Hollywoodland, in this view that captures a little of the San Fernando Valley. (Herman J. Schultheis Collection / Los Angeles Photographers Collection / Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

"The joy is great to spend all the time in the open air between trees and birds, where everything is harmonious, on the coast, at the lake or on the mountain, where new strength and health are found after fishing. Rowing, driving, riding , Hiking, mountaineering or mountaineering Los Angeles times reported in 1904.

It was also an acceptable form of exercise for women and children. "Any woman who has no active job should walk three to five miles a day," said a local doctor Los Angeles times in 1893.

The "free nature", especially the areas owned and operated by the government, were technically open to all, regardless of race. P.People with color could use public paths, parks, and promenades, though According to the historian, they were exposed to prejudice and were sometimes rejected by private providers Alison Rose Jefferson, Author of Live the California Dream, African American Leisure Centers during the Jim Crow era. "Civil rights laws said these places were open to everyone, but sometimes there were incidents of discrimination," Jefferson LAist said via email.

Charles Lummis in "Frontier" dress with a sarape over his shoulder sits for his portrait. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection / Los Angeles Photographers Collection / Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

Some of LA's early taste and trendsetters were amazing hikers and hikers.

"One of the leading citizens of the early metropolis of Los Angeles was an amazing hiker," says Fleming. "Charles Lummis worked as a newspaper man in Cincinnati when in 1884 from the Los Angeles times. Lummis accepted and went to work – literally walking over 3,500 miles over a four-month period. When he arrived he was commissioned by a city editor. He later worked as a city librarian and founded the Southwest Museum. "

According to historian Mark Landis, the first popular trail of the Great Wandering Season was in Arroyo Seco Canyon. It was built in the 1880s by Commodore Perry Switzer, who also built a rustic warehouse about 15 miles along the way. It became known as Switzer Camp or Switzer-Land.

"It was a little difficult … with about 60 river crossings, either on foot or with a pack mule twice a week." The historian Paul R. Spitzzeri writes about the trail. "However, the reward was the opportunity to camp in a beautiful location, including a nearby waterfall, not far from & # 39; civilization & # 39 ;."

Other popular rest areas would soon open along the southern California mountain trails.

"Nearby, a gold prospector named Charley Chanley built tents and hired donkeys for hikers, and Chantry Flats, named after Charley, still offers donkey rentals at Adams & Pack Station," Fleming says. "You can hike Charley Chantry's path past the site of his original campsites today. In Sierra Madre, you can still visit Lizzie & # 39; s Trail Inn, which has been outfitting hikers on the Mt. Wilson Trail for 100 years. Lizzie has stopped selling meals, but people are still climbing the path. "

The view from Chantry Flat Road on February 9, 2020. (jingke888 / Flickr Creative Commons)

Hiking on Mount Wilson, the summit of the San Gabriel Mountains, would also become a popular trip. "Pilgrims come in … khaki shorts, skirts, follow Puttee Legging's guidance … Some & # 39; hike & # 39; go up without looking back," said the los Angeles The Times reported in 1909. "A large square of cardboard attached to a tree naively announced that a couple was making the climb on their wedding day. The boulders are covered with messages such as & # 39; Hello, Bill & # 39; (and ) & # 39; Keep moving, smeared. "In large capitals and red paint."

Exterior view of the mountain. Wilson Toll House. The sign on the left reads: "Private road to the entrance to the toll road to Mount Wilson …" (Security Pacific National Bank Collection / Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

The payout was at its peak, according to Mount Wilson Times Columnist Lee Shippey:

"A rousing hike includes a start on the Mount Wilson Trail at around 11pm, which takes hikers to the summit at sunrise – the night view is one that you should never forget. Here and there through the dark, 6000 feet below us, the little ones Star cities are flourishing and large cities lie in the background like seas of light. "

Panoramic views of the lights of Los Angeles and neighboring cities, up to 60 miles away, seen from Mount Lowe. Photo taken by Prof. Ferdinand Ellerman, an astronomer at the Mount Wilson Observatory. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection / Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

Not everyone wanted to get so close to nature. For those who preferred more "civilized" forays, there were the affluent and mostly white Victorian enclaves of Hollywood and Pasadena. The flourishing grounds of the painter Paul De Longpre's Hollywood estate, located on today's Hollywood and Cahuenga boulevards, would become one of LA's earliest walking meccas. It was opened to the public in 1901 and was full of day trippers and tourists who often saw De Longpre walking or painting in his garden.

Paul De Longpre's house was on the west side of Cahuenga Blvd. on Hollywood Blvd. He received on the property from Ms. Daeda Wilcox Beveridge after moving to Los Angeles in 1889. The artist, who was born in Lyon, France, wanted plots of land 65 feet deep on which he could develop an extensive flower garden. At one time he had 4,000 roses, which he masterfully depicted in his paintings. Many tourists have visited his garden and art gallery over the years. The house was demolished in 1927. (R. & E. Co. Photo / Security Pacific National Bank Collection / Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

In 1907 the Los Angeles times reported a group of Shriners who came to visit the gardens:

"In and out of the radiant gardens, such groups of red-faced nobles and their wives and loved ones wandered so that every walk was full and every arbor filled … In the pretty summer houses in various places on the site, refreshments were served by young ladies, the baskets with the best flowers to distribute when boutonnieres wore them and issued them with a winning smile that hit the Shriners instantly. "

De Longpre died in the house in 1911 and the property with its beautiful gardens was demolished in the 1920s.

A boat trip to the amusement park in the Busch Gardens next to the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Van Nuys in the San Fernando Valley. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection / Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

In 1909 the beer baron Adolphus Busch and his wife Lily opened the gardens of their Pasadena estate to the public and produced the original Bush gardens.

With a 14 hectare, formally planted "upper garden" and a 16 hectare, informal "lower garden", the Busch Estate, whose ruins can still be seen today, attracted visitors from all over the world.

"Sometimes it seemed that every walk in both gardens was crowded with tourists. In addition, each seat was occupied most of the time. The day was wonderful and almost everyone was outdoors," said the Come on Angeles Times reported in 1910.

The Great Wandering Period was also a time of expansion for L.A. County's public parking system.

A boat on Echo Park Lake, circa 1937. (Herman J. Schultheis Collection / Los Angeles Photographers Collection /)

"I am attracted to the water, so I love going around Lake Hollywood or to the lesser known Peanut Lake and around Lake Echo Park, Lake MacArthur Park and the former Eastlake, now known as Lincoln Park, and to walk the Hollenbeck Park, "says Fleming. "The last four were built by the leaders of a new city that was determined to create safe and attractive spaces where people could enjoy the California sunshine they had found in Los Angeles. They do so more than a hundred years later still . "

MacArthur Park, founded in the 1880s under the name Westlake Park, was later renamed General Douglas MacArthur. This 1937 picture shows an aerial view of the park from the top of the Elks Club building to the east. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection / Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

In the years before World War I, there was no better place for promenades and peacocks than MacArthur Park (then known as Westlake Park), which was surrounded by one of LA's fanciest neighborhoods.

In 1896 the Come on Angeles Times reports on a day full of social swellings:

"The walks were crowded all day … two well-dressed young men with sticks, gloves, stiff hats and all the wonderful utensils of the youth of the century wandered around the driveway in majestic splendor as a gust of wind lifted their hats from both of them Headed and gently placed them under the wheels of a passing car … another man who accompanied two women and descended fluently from them to the glories of the universe in general and southern California. In particular, he wandered near the edge of the boathouse platform and calmly trod over the edge in eight feet of water. "

Even like cemeteries Evergreen cemetery (which was always open to people of all races and religions, both for burials and visits) and Hollywood forever (which hadn't done so) were created as walk-in parks to be enjoyed in various ways – hiking, carriage rides, picnics, commemorative events.

Bathers swim in the water or sit on the beach in front of the bath house, also known as Plunge, at The Long Beach Pike. When the Pacific Electric line to Long Beach was built, this beach bathhouse was built near the end of the tram line. The Pike, opened in 1902, ran until 1979. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection / Los Angeles Public Library) Collection)

If a walk among the dead was not your thing, there were coastal promenades and pillars. One of the most popular was the Long Beach Pike. The concrete path opened in 1902 was 35 feet wide and illuminated by sparkling Edison lightbulbs at night, hence the nickname "Walk of a Thousand Lights".

While all Southern Californians were technically allowed to pike, some of them were exposed to racism and discrimination. In 1910 Charles Looff built a hippodrome on the pike and prohibited black patrons except at certain times. In a (n Articles for KCET, Historian D.J. According to Waldie, Looff has a sign that says:

"& # 39; Colored people and their friends are welcome after 9:00 p.m. Saturday evening. & # 39; When African-American visitors protested, Looff told the Los Angeles Times that" his entertainment is for women and children and he does not agree to any change in his rules becomes".

The pike was closed in 1979, but in its heyday it was a place "where fully dressed holidaymakers could walk, visit the shops and other attractions on the land side of the walk and walk on the sand and water on the other side" Historian Joan Mickelson. In the 1920s and 1930s, the number of public and private parks in Los Angeles boomed, which increased the popularity of walking and hiking as a pastime.

Exposition Park, circa 1937: Originally referred to as an Agricultural Park in 1876, the 160-hectare site was developed and served as an agricultural and horticultural exhibition center until around 1910, when it was renamed Exposition Park. It was officially inaugurated in 1913 and became the home of the County Museum of History, Science and Art. Senator John Works dedicated the fountain in memory of the Owens River Aqueduct, the opening of which coincided with the opening of the park. (Herman J. Schultheis Collection / Los Angeles Photographers Collection /)

In 1927, the city-financed Exposition Park became a fashionable stroll transforms into a magnificent rose garden With a central pond, pergolas and a fountain that changed color at night. Rachel Robinson, widow of baseball legend Jackie Robinson, remembered that when she was a child she loved the garden, the only place where her mother would let her go alone.

One year later, Huntington Gardens, with its magnificent museum and formal gardens, opened in San Marino. Susan Turner-Lower, vice president of communication at Huntington, says her research suggests that the gardens are open to people of all races from the start (except for young children).

1941: Fern Dell, part of Griffith Park, is so named because it is covered with ferns and other lush tropical growth. This photo shows the vegetation on both sides of a hiking trail that leads over a probably small stream. (Security Pacific National Bank Collection / Los Angeles Public Library Collection)

By doing Early 1930s, the strange and rustic Fern Dell opened in Griffith Park. According to the Come on Angeles Times, A "sidewalk with rustic seats lines the side of the gorge and occasionally crosses the babbling brook on picturesque bridges made of stone and tree trunks." The valley proved popular with photographers and tourists who came in buckets to drink the water from the stream, which they believed was magically blessed by Indians who once called the area home.


Although colored people were technically welcome to camp and hike in state-owned parks and conservation areas (such as Griffith Park and Catalina Island) and did so when they felt safe, they were often excluded from beaches and beaches Swimming pool. So Black Southern Californians founded their own resort centers. in the Live the California dream Jefferson describes Val Verde, known as "the black Palm Springs", and Lake Elsinore, both of which provided ample opportunities for swimming, camping and hiking in the great outdoors.

The great wandering period of LA came to an end in the late 1930s. The Second World War was just around the corner and the rise of the motorways and car culture made walking seem like a boring, old-fashioned pastime. But Southern California has always thrilled us with its trails, parks, trails, and outdoor wonders – and maybe the coronavirus pandemic will inspire people to go there.

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