‘Local’s’ new guidebook to our enormous and wild park

| July 29, 2020 | 0 Comments

SIERRA CLUB leader Larry Guzin (third from left) and a group take a break at the intersection of Bill Eckert Trail and Ankle Breaker trail en route to Mount Hollywood. City of Glendale is in the background.

If you’re a local, you will learn a lot by reading Casey Schreiner’s “Griffith Park: A Local’s Guide.” Certainly not limited to “locals” however, this guidebook is a great read for an out-of-towner with even a vague interest in our city’s enormous and wild municipal park. Personally, I first learned about Griffith Park growing up a few blocks south in Los Feliz, where I played with neighbor pals as a boy, earned my Troop 20 Boy Scout “Nature” merit badge, and ran cross-country for John Marshall High School. The park was like my backyard, my hallowed ground, and still is. In adulthood, with 40 years of twice-weekly evening hikes and over 300 as a Sierra Club certified outings leader, my love for the park and the depth of my park knowledge has grown.

However, reading Schreiner’s outstanding guidebook has increased my knowledge of the park. This genteel Baedeker about all things Griffith Park is a fulsome trail guide and much more, chock full of substantive facts and practical hints to help the reader fully enjoy all that the park has to offer. The armchair adventurer, the would-be hiker, or the rugged mountaineer alike will be informed by detailed descriptions of 33 Griffith Park hikes. These descriptions are sure to whet a newbie trekker’s appetite to experience the “back country” of our city-adjacent wilderness and will no doubt amplify a greybeard trails devotee’s appreciation for the footpaths leading to the park’s mini-mountaintops and grand viewpoints.

Useful extras

In addition to turn-by-turn-type hiking route navigation, Schreiner’s apt descriptions provide objective measures of the distances to be traveled, elevations to be gained, and high points to be reached on each, enumerated route. Subjective (but quite accurate) assessments of the difficulty (ranging from “Easy” to “Very Challenging”) and the time required to complete each trek are also provided. This data is supplemented by uber-useful information about “amenities” available for each hike, including nearby restrooms, sources for drinking water, GPS location coordinates, driving directions, and nearest public transit to each trailhead.

By Casey Schreiner.

Example hikes

As an example of the hikes listed, “Hike 15” leads the rambler on a moderate hike to infrequently visited Glendale Peak, an actual mountain in Griffith Park with its very own U.S. Geodetic Survey benchmark showing a 1,184-foot elevation. The last few hundred feet to the summit traverse a narrow ridge with a sublime overlook of remarkable city and valley views, one of my favorites in the park. Another example, “Hike 23” (and what Schreiner calls “Mineral Wells Loop” but which I refer to as “Amir’s Circuit” on the Sierra Club hikes I lead) is a fantastic workout for someone seeking a strenuous hike. The guidebook pegs this as a hike of one-and-one-half hours duration, but my experiences inform me a fit hiker will require an extra half-hour and perhaps more to complete the splendid circuit, just a bit of a quibble. These are two of 33 adventures awaiting the Griffith Park visitor wishing to hit the trails.

Details described

The hiking route descriptions, however, are only half the content of Schreiner’s excellent guidebook. The other half is devoted to just about everything else you would want or need to know about the park, ranging from the obvious (Hollywood Sign, Observatory, Autry Museum, Greek Theater, Zoo, and Travel Town) to the nuanced (Joe Klass Water Stop, Griffith Park Tea House, and the long-gone beacon of Beacon Hill). If it is a feature of Griffith Park, big or small, this book describes it in detail, and well.

Sierra Club hikes

I only wish Schreiner paid a bit less attention to routes to the Hollywood Sign (which looks much better from the streets below the park and is, frankly, a nothing burger up close) and gave more than a passing reference to the iconic Sierra Club evening hikes, a half-century institution in Griffith Park. These Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday rambles start at 7 p.m. sharp from Lot 2 just past the Merry-Go-Round and are led by experienced Sierra Club leaders all year round. These sociable conditioning hikes divide participants into groups according to various, subjective degrees of strenuousness, from a plodding pace on relatively flat ground to all-out trail running, with various levels of moderate hikes in between. What better way to spend an evening than with good exercise and feeling a sense of accomplishment in reaching the summit of Mount Hollywood, to look out at twinkling lights of our vast city below? Before you join the fun, however, avail yourself of this excellent Griffith Park guidebook!

Larry Guzin is a longtime Sierra Club hike leader in Griffith Park as well as a Himalayan trekker. Guzin is president of the Windsor Square Association.

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