Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Trail Running in the Middle of Los Angeles

Los Angeles, it goes without saying, is a large city, and while it is not known for the dense urbanism of Manhattan, Los Angeles is a very urban place. Much of Los Angeles is covered with block after block of three to four level condos and apartment buildings, so it is an urban landscape after all. But surprisingly enough in the middle of all this development there are some pretty good running trails.

One of these wilderness spots is the Kenneth Hahn State Recreational Area, a park owned by the State of California but operated by the County of Los Angeles. I have been tired of the treadmill lately and loving my weekend trail runs, so I have been trying to figure out how to incorporate trail runs into the middle of the week, and I thought I would check this park out. The park is a large swath of land atop some rather tall and steep hills. I believe they are called the Baldwin Hills which also refers to the greater surrounding area. The ruggedness of the terrain is part of the reason the area has not yet been developed. The other reason is the longstanding oil development. I ran by several operating oil wells.

At the top of the hill is a really spectacular view of the entire city of Los Angeles from Downtown high rises to Hollywood and even to Santa Monica. The view was especially beautiful this morning as the sun had just risen and the recent winter rain has cleared the sky of all the smog. It was truly a great way to start the day.

The park has about seven miles of trails, some of them paved with concrete or asphalt and others are plain earth. All the trails curve and intersect with each other in a rather complicated maze so I never really knew where I was going. I really like this feature because it means it will take me a while to learn all the ins and outs of the place which keeps things interesting. The trails are rather short, but because they all connect you can do loops and combine them in all different ways. Most of the terrain is shrubs and there are few trees in the "natural" part of the park, but there is also a waterfall, lotus pond and green lawns in the "artificial" portion of the park, so there really is something for everyone.

As I have said in previous posts I am always coming across Olympic history here in Los Angeles, and the Kenneth Hahn SRA is no different. Apparently it was the site of the Olympic Village for the 10th Olympiad in 1932, and in 1984 140 trees where planted here in remembrance of the 140 countries that participated in the 1984 games. The park also happens to be the site of the ill fated Baldwin Hills reservoir that collapsed in 1963 destroying many homes and killing 5 people. The former reservoir is now a lush glen of trees with a walking path around it.

So now I have my new Tuesday morning trail run spot. If you live in LA, check it out!

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