Wednesday, October 30, 2013

L.A. Basin Urban Thru-Hike: Intro

Sea to Mountains, City to Wilderness

I never suspected an urban thru-hike would be in my future, even as little as 3 weeks ago. I first heard of such an endeavor from 2 other thru-hikers, Snorkel and Bobcat. Snorkel embarked last April on a first ever recorded urban thru-hike of Los Angeles incorporating the Inman 300, series of historical stairways situated in the city to connect neighborhoods, pedestrians, and commuters with the pulse of the city. Then, in June, Bobcat tackled an urban thru-hike of San Francisco that incorporated historic stairways within the city, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and up into the Marin Highlands. A few weeks back, I met Snorkel in person at the ALDHA-West gathering where we chatted into the wee hours of the morning about speed hiking, record breaking attempts, and her urban hike of L.A.

Bobcat at Casa de Luna fresh off the PCT
To say I was intrigued is an understatement.  However, I could not fathom doing something of that nature. I marveled over her descriptions of how beautiful L.A. is, how special these secret stairways are, and how the culture of L.A. is blossoming . The L.A. Stair People are a hidden sub-culture of the city and I really dug how they loved a city that up until that point I had abhorred, and in fact, even snubbed and scoffed at as the place where I am from. They seem to explore the city with the same instincts as I do in the wilderness. Impressed by this I kept a spot in my head, an open space, where I could come back to the idea of an urban thru-hike.

Things seem to fall into place rather rapidly. After about 2 weeks of consecutive work I suddenly had about 2 1/2 weeks off. I was dying to hike somewhere but with the limited timeframe I had to find something of a moderate distance in an area with agreeable weather that would provide me with a challenge. I called up Snorkel telling her of my intentions. She responded back with enthusiasm for my ambitious endeavor. Within hours after our conversation she sent me maps of the Inman 300 and blasted out an email to some of the main characters involved in the stair community of L.A. I had less than a week to plan the route but I was determined to make it happen.

Right off the bat I received feedback and support from the stair community, however, after a 3 day hike in Utah, then piecing together a route, I had little contact with anybody. Scrutinizing a route together proved to be mind-boggling as the maps and the 100's of waypoints were extremely tough. Two days before the L.A. Basin Thru Hike I really did not know why I was doing this. I felt an extreme unknown factor creep up on me. I was more nervous for this than my 3,500m Vagabond Loop!

Again, I spoke with Snorkel who really eased my nerves. She spoke of 'rules' among the Inman 300 as to how they should be hiked. But it seemed the rules weren't followed by everybody. Just as in the thru-hiking world people followed the mantra of H.Y.O.H (Hike Your Own Hike). My biggest fear was where would I start at and sleep at the first night, especially since the environment I would be walking into seem to be so foreign to me even though I grew up in that city. Was I to sleep in some forest preserve in the Palos Verdes area (which I heard may have passwords to entry points to get into the preserves), would I find some park to sleep in or in some garden? Would I be surrounded by bums or scoffed at by the wealthy? I knew there would be a certain amount of stealthiness involved in this urban thru-hike but I couldn't really place it. I opened up to Snorkel a little bit, for as that week before my urban thru-hike I realized there were some personal issues I had to settle with in L.A.

One month prior, I left L.A. suddenly. I basically just ran away from the city. To me it represented a way once before in my life as to how I handled things. And at that time I was living in L.A. I feel my feelings of L.A. stopped when I escaped there 8 years ago. My 20's were a time of drunken debauchery and fear. I tussled between my gut that instinctively told me to go to the wilderness and my stifling fears that spoke to my insecurities. Combine my fleeing of LA. and my going through a tough relationship break-up, I truly needed a barometer to gauge where I stood at in my life. The 2 most influential things in my life have been the city of Los Angeles and the Pacific Crest Trail. And I needed to connect both of them, as if bridging the gap in some inner turmoil at odds with my selfsame ego.

I figured the Hell with it, I am going anyways, if just for the pure pleasure of walking. I would figure things out as I went along using my gut and head to navigate through a megalopolis all the way up to the wilderness of the Basin of L.A.

On the plane ride over from Denver I wrote my goals down for my L.A. urban thru-hike:


Route Goals:
*My Own
*City to Wilderness

And during that flight, knowing that I would commence to follow my goals, I felt a serene sense of calm. I now knew where I would start: I would just walk straight out of the damn Los Angeles International Airport!


  1. Thanks for the shout out! If folks are curious about my SF hike design they should check out: . Also, Dirtmonger, you need to get red visor so Snorkel, you and myself can match and form a delightfully nerdy hiker trash dork squad. Peace, Bobcat

  2. Gracias Bobcat! I'll link up your blog with your name above. Oh boy, I'm not sure if I could give up my lucky visor. but if it means we'll look pretty dorky and unified then I am all for it!

  3. Dirt Monger, My name is Michael, I met you this summer in Colorado. We shared a ride from between Silverton and Durango, Colorado. I lost the piece of paper you wrote your BlogSpot down on, but was able to find you through memory recall. Hope you're doing well.

    1. Hey Michael! I totally remember you! I think I recall you were driving back to Texas. Am I right in thinking you are a firefighter? That was a great ride we shared. Thanks for the lift. I hope we cross paths again!