While driving home from Colorado we veered slightly off the 15 and stumbled upon the adventure wonderland that is Zion National Park. I had driven through the area several times a decade before and thought for certain I’d been to Zion when I visited nearby Bryce Canyon, but once we descended into the roping waves of sandstone at the park’s eastern entrance, I realized I had never been to this magical place.
We booked a place to stay completely last-minute and were lucky enough to nab one of the adorable cabins built in 1927 at the Zion Lodge, which I highly recommend as it’s inside the park so you can start hikes right outside your front door (aided with the help of a free shuttle service up and down the canyon). One of those hikes, Angels Landing, was perhaps the most incredible five miles I’ve ever walked in my life.
The hike starts innocently enough, switchbacking up a canyon wall and through a notch in the pink-and-white checkerboard rock. After a few more switchbacks you start to realize that those are people you’re seeing scrambling up that orange monolith before you. Yep, you’re climbing that. The hike goes all the way to the top, on a trail that is often nothing more than chain ropes and abstract stairs carved into the sheer rock face.
There’s a virtual experience online but it really doesn’t compare to the dizzying sensation of ambling atop the summit and looking back at where you’ve just hike-climbed (not for anyone who is afraid of heights). The best part? We finished the hike at noon and were back in LA for dinner. Angels Landing is just a hop, skip, and a (very surefooted) jump from Los Angeles.
We get the New York Times delivered to our doorstep every Sunday, but it was not so easy to track down a copy in Crested Butte, Colorado earlier this week. Around 9:00 a.m. I went to the place where they sell it, only to learn that it hadn’t yet made its way up the Gunnison Valley. “It’s usually here by now,” said the woman at the grocery store. ”I haven’t seen the guy who brings it.” Which in a mountain town means there was a REALLY good party the night before.
Two hours later the stacks of papers rumbled up Elk Street, and you know what? All that waiting was totally worth it. When I finally had it in my hands, I got butterflies. I’ve seen my name in print plenty of times, of course, but nothing matches the feeling of seeing myself referred to as Ms. Walker.
I was so flattered to be interviewed as one of “Hollywood’s New Stars: Pedestrians” in this excellent story about walking in LA by David Hochman. As you know I’m just a TEENSY BIT sensitive to the way LA is portrayed by certain media outlets. But what I really appreciated about David’s article was the way that he was able to touch upon some fresh ideas with original reporting that didn’t just recant the same-old silly stereotypes. The people he picked to interview talk about walking in ways that move beyond the obvious health aspects; as a form of therapy, a creative outlet, a place to find new ideas and the fastest way to turn your life around when, inexplicably, you’ve found yourself feeling lonely in a city of millions. I’m proud to count myself in that group. And I’ve gotten so many great emails from people who have shared their stories about walking, from all around the world. We have a lot of work to do in LA, but seeing this article and the response from it locally has made me feel more optimistic than ever about the power of feet. Preferably wearing neon coral sandals. (David’s eye for detail is unmatched.)
Enough excitement for one Sunday, right? Unbelievably, it got better. On the very next page, there was a story I wrote about the adorable Ellen Bennett, who makes stylish and durable aprons for chefs and other creatives like potters, barbers and tattoo artists right here in LA. That story was shot by the awesome Laure Joliet. I have a feeling someone in layout at the Style section has a great sense of humor. Or they just can’t resist all the sweet vibes from people making things happen out here in Los Angeles.
I’m heading off on a few adventures—judging the Sappi Ideas That Matter awards, catching up with family, and road-tripping through the western third of the country—so posting will be slow or nonexistent for a spell. Enjoy your summer!
I mentioned this walk a few weeks back when I was writing about my experience at CAMP, but I’m so excited about it that I wanted to post it again with an update of all the cool people and places we’re visiting along the way! As a reminder, my friend Sonja asked me to contribute a reward to their Kickstarter for an exciting new coworking community that’s coming to the Arts District, The Unique Space. Of course I was excited to help Sonja in her quest to support the local creative economy, but I’ve also had a new walk itinerary brewing in my head and I was so excited to make it happen for such a great cause.
So, on Saturday, October 19 at 10:00 a.m., join me and Sonja as we lead a tour of Silver Lake. Some of the highlights include…
- Secret, hidden stairways (OF COURSE)
- Architectural gems by famous architects like Neutra and Schindler as well as some interesting buildings by not-so-famous architects
- The Corralitas Red Car property, a wilderness-like path through the heart of Silver Lake where a trolley used to run (and which will hopefully soon be a park)
- A foraging primer by the amazing Emily Ho of Roots & Marvel who will help us identify plants and show us some urban edibles
- A stop at the home of Deborah Murphy, urban designer and Los Angeles Walks founder, who lives in a gorgeous midcentury home by JD Davidson and RM Schindler
- A tour with Kathleen Johnson of the new Silver Lake Meadow Native Garden, a volunteer-run drought tolerant garden adjacent to the reservoir
- And many more surprises along the way!
How to sign up? Head over to the Kickstarter page and look for this reward–>
You’ll find it along the column on the right hand side of the page. When you pledge, you’ll need to pay $55 (your card will only be charged when the campaign ends) and be sure to pick that specific reward. Everyone who backs the campaign also gets a free two-day pass to experience The Unique Space once it opens!
Also, if you’re up for exploring another neighborhood, you can pledge at the $100 level and get TWO walks: mine, plus a special tour of the Arts District that Sonja’s leading with some friends.
You’ll get all the details about where to meet and what to bring in an email closer to the time of the event. And yes, we will be providing some special treats… you know me so well.
Update: If you want to come and haven’t paid, you can bring $55 cash or a check made out to “Unique, Inc.” Meet at the Silver Lake Library at 10:00 a.m.!
I moved to LA 12 years ago today, which makes today my LAnniversary. Another notable milestone: My time here as a car-free Angeleno is now longer than I’ve lived here as a driver. Six years, baby!
Have a great weekend!
City Walk is a new show on KCET all about how a renewed focus on walking is transforming cities across the country. It’s kind of like a skate video—beautiful footage, urban locations, trippy music—but instead of people doing kickflips in public plazas they’re just… walking.
I know, it sounds so, like, pedestrian, but it’s actually pretty fascinating—I love geeking out learning about different people, groups and ideas that are making life better for walkers. Los Angeles Walks was featured on the show a few episodes ago, and this week the filmmakers turned their cameras on the Big Parade, that 35-mile, 100+ stairway walk I’ve done for the last five years from Angels Flight downtown to the Hollywood sign. (Proof: 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009).
I was thrilled to be interviewed for the show in Vista Hermosa Park (a place I discovered during the first Big Parade) and I talked about all the great friends I’ve met through stairwalking as well as my obsession with taking photos along the way. At 4:48 they even feature a series of images from my Instagram feed that I took during the last Big Parade, which is truly exciting! Thanks to KCET for giving the Big Parade some awesome press. Watch the episode here.
The question I probably get asked the most by people is where and when to find exciting stairwalks in LA, so I compiled this list:
- The Big Parade takes place every year on the third weekend in May. Dan also runs practice walks for the Big Parade throughout the year, like this “mash-up” coming up on August 10. Join The Big Parade on Facebook for updates.
- Then head to the Facebook page of the incredible Robert Inman, who wrote The Guide to the Stairways of Los Angeles (buy it!) and who leads some of the best stairwalks in the entire city, like this one coming up Wednesday night. Bob is the creator of the “Inman 300,” a hike that hits 300 public stairways in the city of LA, which has been completed by several people including Liz Thomas, a famous thru-hiker. There’s also a Blurb book about it you can preview online and buy.
- You can join the Los Angeles Stairstreet Advocates to stay on top of the latest walks and also to get involved in some of the issues around maintaining, opening and mapping stairways around the city.
- The Stairstreets group is run by the great Dave Ptach, who lives on one of the most unique stairways in the city (part of it is made from wood!). Every Tuesday he leads the Tomato Pie Walk, details are always on the Facebook page: “Join us Tuesday @ 6:30pm for the Tomato Pie Walk. Meet @ the corner of Hyperion & Tracy in Silver Lake. 90 minutes of stairs followed by dinner. Join for the walk, the pizza, or both!”
- Charles Fleming wrote the book Secret Stairs and pens the LA Walks column in the Los Angeles Times. He leads extremely popular monthly stairwalks which you can find on his Facebook page.
- The first stairwalking book I ever bought was Adah Bakalinsky’s Stairway Walks of Los Angeles. She lives in San Francisco now, where she wrote a guide to their many stairs. Now she’s almost 90 and is still leading stairwalks!
- There’s a Hidden Stairs of LA Meetup group that plans regular walks, some of them in partnership with the Sierra Club. Here’s one in Eagle Rock this Saturday.
- Here’s a map by Doug Beyerlein of all the public staircases in the LA area with 100+ stairs.
- I found a Stairways LA app (Android only) that I wish I could try out but I have an iPhone.
- If you’d rather listen to people climbing stairs, there’s an excellent stairwalking episode of 99% Invisible, Roman Mars’ the fantastic radio show.
- And of course I have to give a plug to Los Angeles Walks, the awesome pedestrian advocacy organization. We’re working on a master list of walking events (that will include more than just stairways) and this is also a great place to get involved if you want to improve walking conditions in your neighborhood.
Outside of LA, there are public stairways in many cities, and these are some of the resources I’ve found for discovering and celebrating stairwalking around the world: PublicStairs.com, Friends of Public Stairs Facebook group, and a list of the longest public stairways in U.S. cities.
Feel free to share your favorite stairs near you in the comments!