Hiking to the Hollywood Sign

This past week I travelled to LA to meet my favorite author Morgan Matson (read all about that here).

Upon arriving in LA, I headed immediately to my hotel. Apple Maps helpfully informed me of the “things to do” nearby. I scrolled through the options. I was in town only for a day and I wanted to make the most of it.

A zoo…a dine-in theatre…the Hollywood sign…hiking–wait! the Hollywood sign?

The zoo…trails…The Hollywood Sign…Bowling…The decision was easy.

I’d travelled to LA twice before, but never to this iconic landmark. Reaching for the shoes I’d kicked across the hotel room, I typed “Hollywood sign” into Uber. Turns out, reaching the Hollywood sign is not as easy as driving up and taking a picture. The closest a car can get you is…well, far. I didn’t want to take a picture from a distance, I wanted to stand right by the letters!

After some very intensive research that consisted of one singular, but very informative blog post (this one), I knew exactly what to do. I backspaced Hollywood Sign and inputted Lake Hollywood Park. Uber beat Lyft on the price this round. Happy with the two dollars I had saved, I summoned my Uber and off I went. Off to a hike in jeans that were slightly too big for me, slip-on shoes with no traction, and a tote bag that was probably going to mess up my shoulders.

In jeans, shoes with no traction, and a tote bag that would probably mess up my shoulders off I went on a surprise hike!

Ok, I’ll admit that I tend to be an overly light packer, but in my defense I hadn’t expected to go on a hike. As the paved road became a dirt road and the elevation gradient became steeper and steeper, I suddenly thought to my brand new hiking boots (I highly recommend the Merrel brand if you’re in the market) sitting in the closet back home, right next to my daypack and large water bottle.

But more intimidating than my lack of supplies were the grumpy residents. To get to the trail that takes you to the Hollywood sign, you first have to traverse a sidewalk-less neighborhood. Purposefully misleading signs had me worrying that I had accidentally trespassed on some rich person’s property. I wanted to double check the map on the blog post, but I was met with another surprise: there was no reception.

Um, how was I going to get an Uber after my hike?

To get to the trail that takes you to the Hollywood sign, you first have to traverse a sidewalk-less neighborhood. Purposefully misleading signs had me worrying that I had accidentally trespassed on some rich person’s property.

I shrugged to myself and continued up the road. I’d worry about the Uber later. As for the menacing signs, well I figured the likelihood of getting shot for trespassing was lower than back home (Texas). Onward!

When I reached a closed gate, I got a little more concerned. It had been a while since I’d seen any fellow hikers. But I quickly realized there was an open walkway through the gate and I was preeeetty sure I remembered that from the blog. I pushed on.

When I reached yet another gate, this one with a door and keypad, I was a little more dissuaded. A helpful sign–right next to an aggressive sign that warned against trespassing–told me the door should be open sunrise to sunset. I tried the handle. The door swung open without so much as a squeak.

I was in.

I accidentally followed an incorrect trail that dead-ended, but was worth it for this view:

The Hollywood sign was definitely closer than it had been earlier, but I had been promised a distance less than 10 feet. Confused, I tried to go around a radio antenna, but there was no path. Finally, I noticed the trail I was supposed to be on. 30 feet below me. Was I supposed to clamber down this cliff?

Common sense led me back to the fork at the road and I was back on track.

I’d like to consider myself pretty in shape. Not more than a month ago, I was hiking 6-8 miles a day as an ecological technician and for the past year I’ve trained capoeira martial arts. A small bicep bulge is proof that I am at a higher physical fitness than ever before. So, it was with confidence that I approached this hike. And it was the steepness that rattled that confidence.

Central Texas calls itself the hill country…California laughs at the moniker. I found myself panting, my back slumping under the weight of gravity. Though a girl jogged casually up the mountain, I maintain that most everyone else felt the strain of elevation.

I was glad for the challenge. And the view made it all worth it. If there’s one thing I love, it’s looking out at the world from a tall place.

My inner ecologist revelled in the songs of the Spotted Towhee’s and Bushtits. And the ravens!

After finally reaching the summit of the hike, I was as close as I could get to the Hollywood sign. But far more awing than the sign you can only see from behind were the ravens. Soaring all around the mountain, they boasted complete control over their flight, the sun shining off their iridescent wings.

On my way back down the mountain, my attention drifted towards my fellow tourists. Various different languages jumped off the mountainside. I found myself lurking creepily behind people, trying to identify their language. More importantly, trying to find someone speaking Korean. Had I succeeded in learning the language? I think I heard some Korean, but if that’s the case then I still have a long way to go.

Luckily, my 1-on-1 conversation practice with native French speakers on Italki seems to have paid off. I happily eavesdropped on some French tourists. (Want to practice a language? Find a language tutor on Italki!)

By the way, Portuguese is not the same as Spanish. A mother and daughter duo stopped me to ask for a picture. As I took their picture, I racked my brain for “your welcome.” All I could come up with was obrigada, the word for “thank you.”

I’m heading to Brazil in a couple months for a capoeira trip. Clearly, I need to dedicate more time to my 5 Favorite Language Learning Apps!

All in all, I can finally cross off visiting the Hollywood Sign from my bucket list. Next time I’m in LA, it’ll be surfing!

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