by Bob Sparrow
Whoever said getting there is half the fun, never had to drive from Orange County to Griffith Park in Los Angeles during commute hours. Griffith Park, where my hike to the HOLLYWOOD sign would begin, is only 42 miles away, but it took me exactly two hours to get there. Yes, that’s an average speed of 21 miles per hour . . . for two hours!!! I arrived with little time to spare before the hike began and with a little bit of road rage. It was a harbinger of things to come.
Our small hiking group was made up of a couple in their 60s, we’ll call them Jim and Wanda, because I can’t remember their names, who just arrived the night before from England and planned to ‘do’ LA, Disneyland and San Diego in the next 10 days. Another younger English lady, Leanne, a videographer, who didn’t know Jim & Wanda, also arrived from England the day before and was headed to Vegas in a couple of days to video a wedding. Nice blokes all. Our hiking guide, from the company of Hikes & Bikes, was Ryan, a 20-something aspiring actor from New York, who expressed his disappointment that Bernie Sanders isn’t our president. Not a good start.
The hike started at 10:00 a.m. outside the box office of the Greek Theater; it was already beginning to get warm and the first part of the hike was all up hill. So it made it harder to realize that the tour itself was already rapidly going downhill. We observed a humming bird close by and Ryan told us that its wings were flapping at a rate of 70 times per minute. Not wanting to embarrass him, yet, as we continued up the trail, I sauntered up next to him and whispered that the hummingbird’s wings flapped closer to 70 time per second. He was amazed! As the trail meandered up the hill, the L.A. skyline came into clear view. OK, not clear view, this is L.A. but the air was not quite something you could sink your teeth into yet. I took a few photos of the L.A. skyline and as you can see, it looked a bit . . . hazy (the word ‘smog’ is not allowed within the L.A. city limits). I went on Google Images to get a clear picture of the L.A. skyline for a comparison, but soon realized that there are no photos of a clear L.A. skyline!
The group was actually very fun, other than the fact that they were mildly interested in ‘Hollywood things’, (why else would they fly all the way from England to go on this hike?) so, once Ryan told them that he was in ‘the business’ the narration of the hike turn into the history of actors in Hollywood. Ryan was happy to field their questions as he handed out his business card with his ‘head shot’ on it and talked about his auditions and the encounters he’d had with famous actors and actresses, as well as how agents of actors source their talent and what certain movie stars were really like. This is stuff you typically won’t find when you search information about the HOLLYWOOD sign, and stuff that I wasn’t really interested in, but the Brits were, so I pretended to be amused that one of them told a story about seeing Tom Cruise get into a car.
The hike continued to the Griffith Observatory where we learned about the eccentric Colonel Griffith J. Griffith. Yes his parents obviously had little imagination giving their son a first name the same as his last, and later he gave himself the title of Colonel as he was never in the military, much less earning the rank of Colonel. To say the least Griffith was a ‘bubble off plumb’ as his history included a small incident of attempted murder of his wife. One night while drunk, he shot her in the head. She lived, although lost one eye, and after he served two years in prison (yes, that’s it, but don’t get any ideas about shooting your spouse, the laws have changed), she was there waiting for him when he got out and remained with him until his death 16 years later. So her elevator didn’t exactly go all the way to the top. But he made a fortune in the mining industry and gave the land for the park away with the condition that a bronze statue of him would be erected on the grounds – a small price to pay for the nearly 4,000 acres that now include the Griffith Observatory, Greek Theater and the HOLLYWOOD sign.
During our brief walk through the Griffith Observatory we came upon a map of the LA area, where Waldo, er Ryan indicated some points of interest. Unfortunately being from New York and not really familiar with the territory, he moved Newport Beach somewhere between L.A. and Santa Barbara. I was going to correct him, but he was on a roll, and the Brits didn’t really care where Newport Beach was.
The entire hike took a little less than 3 hours and covered about 6 miles and if you were asking me for a recommendation, I’d say, do a little research – if you read Monday’s blog you already know as much as the guide – and do the hike on your own. The main reason is that this hike never really got very close to the actual sign. I thought it would be interesting to get a little scale of just how big the letters are. The picture of our group above (not the one with no clothes on!) shows us at our closest point to the sign – if you squint and look closely into the upper right hand corner of that photo, you’ll see the sign.
At the end of the hike the English couple needed a ride back to their hotel, which I was happy to provide and even happier to turn the car towards Orange County and head home albeit through commute traffic. The things I do for you readers!
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