Posted by: GeekHiker | February 13, 2011

A Hiker Out-Of-Place

(I have yet to comment on last week’s post and, well, “whoa” effect.  Gotta get this out of my system tonight, though…)

Saturday in Los Angeles was absolutely gorgeous.  Clear blue skies, warm temperatures, and visibility from the sea to the snow-capped mountains.

I know this because I saw said snow-capped mountains from the freeway as the sun rose from the horizon.

Before I spent four hours in a windowless classroom.

Then another six at work, not emerging until… after sunset.


As someone who is, shall we say, a fan of getting outdoors, letting a day like that slip through my fingers feels like committing a crime.  I hate that feeling.  Especially since I usually need both days of my weekend: one for doing stuff (i.e. running errands, laundry, cleaning, etc.), the other for hiking or even just relaxing around the house (i.e. mental rest and rejuvenation).  One day weekends kinda blow that plan out of the water.

So, this morning, I faced a choice of how to spend my single day off: get outdoors, or be practical and vacuum?

Ah, well, screw the practical.  🙂

Today, Sunday, wasn’t quite as clear as yesterday.  A storm system is expected to move through at the end of the week, and the shifting winds laid down a layer of marine haze across the basin.  I’m Californian enough that I could sense the shift when I emerged from the front door this morning: warm sun, but the breeze had a slight bite to it, different from the normal cool breezes that come in from the Pacific.

The big problem I faced this morning wasn’t the weather, though, but where to go.  Having driven around so much on Saturday, I didn’t really feel like making a long trip out to the Santa Monicas or up into the Angeles.  As a result, I settled on a hike to someplace I don’t frequent much: Griffith Park.

I’ll admit it, I usually don’t find much appeal in a Griffith Park hike.  Most of the year, the park is too hot for my taste, too smoggy and, at least on the weekends, the trails way too crowded.  Still, I needed to get outdoors, I’m re-building my stamina after last year’s injuries, and the weather was nice, so I figured: why not?

I’ll try to do a trip write-up later (maybe over the three-day weekend, as I do have a mid-term this week), but I will say that it was a pretty good hike.  I planned a nice little four or five mile look (can’t say for sure as I haven’t looked at the GPS track yet), and my pace was good: a bit slower than I would have liked, but steady.  The weather was perfect for hiking, the views were good, and, when I returned to the car, a good book and a cooler filled with a tasty picnic lunch to eat at the picnic table near where I parked were waiting for me.  (Hiking: I make it awesome.)

Still, it was hard not to notice some striking differences between hiking in Griffith Park, near the center of the city proper, and the hiking I normally do on the outer edges of the city.  Not to say that the things I noticed were universal (I hate to generalize), but certainly some differences couldn’t be avoided.

Hiking through Griffith Park is kind of a strange cross-section of Los Angeles; I knew I wasn’t going to find much solitude, but as both a workout and an anthropological trip, it was rather fascinating.  Hikers in the park run the gamut: from trail runners to slow-and-steadiers to people for whom this was probably their first, and last, hike.  From “pros” with the latest packs to old guys with rucksacks from the 50’s.  From the clearly prepared (such as the one guy with the full one-gallon jug of water in his hand), to the completely unprepared (such as the overweight guy panting up a fire road with no water whatsoever). And everyone from broke college students to Hollywood power-players.

Interesting note on the latter set, i.e. those in “The Business”: I realized after a while that their conversations were always just a little bit louder than everyone elses.  I don’t know if this was because they’re generally “type a” personalities, or that they’ve spent too much time yelling into cell phones, or if (as I fear) they simply want the world to be aware that they’re in “The Business”.  If it’s the last option, I have news for them: the rest of us who don’t work in the biz don’t actually care about your studio deal.  No, really, we don’t.  No more than you’d care about the Cisco switch I configured the other day.  Yes, really.

For all the breadth of people though, relatively few seemed to notice the funny thing about Griffith Park: it’s actually a pretty wild place, if you take the time to notice it.  Lots of butterflies, ravens, lizards, rabbits, gophers, small birds, and hawks everywhere (the coyotes, being smart, stayed well hidden from view).  For all the life that I saw, though, few other people seemed to take the time to do so.  It didn’t take me long to realize as I hiked along that I was the only one who heard the call of the pair of nesting red-tails near the observatory and stopped to watch them soar overhead, or stand at the cliff edge and watch a pair of ravens play, flipping upside down and enjoying the art of flying.

Speaking of wildlife: the human capacity for fashion choices will never cease to amaze me.  Especially bad fashion choices.  From the neon shoe-laces right up to the absurdly over-sized sunglasses (to wit: really?  You want to look like an insect?).  It was rather strange: me in my poly wicking shirt, shorts, Camel-Bak and wide-brimmed hat, which would be perfectly normal on any Angeles High Country trail, feeling absurdly out-of-place in a world of fashionistas.

As for the women who apparently take the time to do full make-up before they go hiking, I have no words.

That out-of-place feeling was something I definitely felt by the end of the day.  The people who hike Griffith don’t hike the way I hike.  They hike for exercise, or as something to do with their mate, or just (I think) to show off how much time they have available to spend in the gym during the week.  I think the things I hike for are probably a little more ephemeral, and best found away from the crowds.  I suppose it’s just another way in which I don’t really “fit” in with this town.

One final thing that stood out to me, though, is this: there were an amazing number of really good-looking people on the trail.  I don’t know if it’s the movie business attracting stars and starlets, or the music business pulling in “Glee” hopefuls, or just the inevitable draw that Southern California seems to have, but I’ll admit that there are a lot of really good looking people in this town, and on the trails of Griffith Park.

Which left me feeling out-of-place in another way, besides my clothing choices: I’m just not good-looking enough for this town…



  1. First of all, I am jealous! A hike? I was wanting to go out for a trail run today, but it was windy and rainy and cold in my neck of the woods. Darn — how can move to the Central Coast of California (like, Monterey, etc.)?! 🙂

    What 3-day weekend? When?

    Oh, I totally get the “I don’t fit in here” feeling! I feel like that all the time, haha 🙂 I think you will be right at home in my town (at least, there is quite a “geeky outdoorsy” vibe), but you won’t like the rain (or the general lack of sun) here. Everyone feels “out of place” at one point or another, until they find their niche (or their “core group”). It might be a bit harder to find yours in the image-obsessed LA, but I am sure it’s there! With your new found fame, I can sense it’s very close!! 😀

    And for what it’s worth — you look fine! We are our worst enemy!

  2. I love this post. I can’t believe you were right up in my neighborhood – I totally would have met up with you. I was just on the other side of the hill, hiking amongst the Hollywoodsters yesterday. And you’re totally right about the loud talkers – it’s like they want everyone around them to hear how important they are in ‘the biz.’

    The trails in Griffith and Hollywood aren’t my favorites, but they do make for interesting people watching. And they’re convenient for me, so they seem to be the winning spots these days.

    If you ever venture into the area again, let me know. I promise not to show up on the trail with a face full of makeup. 🙂

  3. Around here I rarely see people out on the trails. Could be because I hike during the week or it could be that Nebraskans just don’t hike.

    I’m glad to hear that you’re recovering from your injuries. I was almost afraid you would have to change the name of your blog.

  4. It sounds very simular to a hike I had through the Fairmount park in Philadelphia last fall. Although people are probably not as good looking here as in CA. But I would say the fashion choices were a little crazy. I had fun despite feeling really out of place.

  5. I spent the weekend down in Bryce Canyon NP slogging through some snowy, icy and often muddy trails. Not a soul to be seen for hours other than the wildlife, so I get your drift there. Fortunately, this is off season, so the German tourists in their stilettos (no, really…I’ve seen women in stiletto heels on these trails in the summer) were absent. Just peace and quiet and a much needed break.

  6. You are a very handsome man! Why do you think I kept teasing you to move to where I live? 🙂 Confidence is sexy, never forget that.

    People often don’t appreciate what is around them, especially the environment. It’s a wonderful thing that you notice the world around you and appreciate it. I’m hoping that more people start to follow your example. You may not “fit in” but in this case, I would say that’s a good thing. 🙂

  7. first of all, stop putting yourself down. it makes me want to punch you in your face and then you won’t be any prettier, now will you. and if there are all these good looking ladies walking around, perhaps you should talk to them. (just maybe not the full-makeup ones.)

    i think the last animals i saw in the wild were rats in the subway – lol.

  8. Um, what Mirella said: confidence is sexy. And I have seen photos, you are very handsome! I think there really is something to LA’s proportion of glamour being MUCH higher than the rest of the country. I felt hideous last time I visited too. 🙂

    Glad you got out & hiked. It’s so tough to have only ONE day to get everything done. I bet you’re ready to have more of your time back.

  9. Yay, more hiking! I havent hit the trails at Griffith Park in quite some time, sounds like you had a good day. Have you tried exploring Descanso Gardens? I love that place, although the trail is more like a mini speed bump, the further you go out in the gardens, you’ll be far away from the kids, tourists, it’s so beautiful & peaceful there. I’m hoping to hit a trail this weekend if it dries up on Monday. I’d so go hiking with you unless wearing some shiny lip balm offends you! 🙂

  10. Coupla, hm, no, many, many years ago I was hiking out of the Grand Canyon with a friend. We had started down the South Kaibab (sp?) trail and came up Bright Angel. I was quite sick with an as-yet undiagnosed illness and having some trouble, but I was strangely cheered by what I saw on that asphalted bit at the top of Bright Angel:

    Women in heels.

    Yup. And I bet they were going to tell folks they “hiked” the Grand Canyon.

    Ahh, people are strange.

  11. This sounds like a great hike.
    Though I am not surprised you stumbled across so many women in full makeup down there. Seems a bit ridiculous to me.
    As for hiking in heels.
    That has got to be the most ridicilous thing I have heard in a long time!!
    Hiking in heels and full makeup = absurdity.
    See geekhiker, told you I’d be back. 🙂

  12. Hmm. Yes, there’s nothing quite like finishing up a hike to the feeling of makeup melting down your face…

  13. SkyBlueStateOfMind – I’d love to move to the Central Coast too, but the job market there is not so great. Um, President’s Day? So, you don’t fit in to Portland? Except for the rain, of course…

    Mel Heth – Yeah, as people watching, Griffith Park is pretty good. And glad to hear you don’t hike with makeup!

    Homer-Dog – I would guess it’s the weekday thing. And I’m glad I didn’t need to change the name of the blog; too much work.

    FinallyFast – Hmmmm… maybe I’m just not fashionable enough…

    HunnerWoof – That sounds like a pretty awesome hike. Heh – I think I saw hikers in Heels at Grand Canyon too!

    MissMcCracken – I think a lot of them don’t appreciate because they’re plugged in to their iPods. Hard to hear a hawks cry with earbuds in…

    BlakSpring – I dunno, everyone seems so focused on their workouts, not really easy to talk to any of ‘em.

    Spleeness – Hard to be confident when every other guy looks like a male model and you have a growing double-chin.

    Ruth – I’ve been to Descanso a couple of times. Not a hike exactly, but certainly a pleasant stroll.

    AbsurdBeats – I saw them there too! I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than the tourists who get off the bus, take one picture of the canyon, and get back on the bus and tell everyone that they’d “been there”.

    Wandering Menace – Glad you decided to stop back by! Don’t think I saw any heels that day, though… thank goodness!

    LeafProbably – LOL, I can only imagine!

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