Rarely do we make time to be tourists in our town. Los Angeles has no shortage of touristy attractions, but I prefer something off the beaten path. Enter Obscura Day! Atlas Obscura is a user generated site celebrating all the wonderful weird obscure places in the world. Saturday May 30th was Obscura Day. A day dedicated to organizing events made to get people out into the unknown or overlooked pockets of their own towns.
I signed up for a hike of Mount Hollywood in Griffith Park. Yes, the Hollywood sign & Griffith Park Observatory are very touristy destinations. But, this 6 mile trek promised to explore some unknown parts of these very well known places. It totally delivered. Our guide, Casey Schreiner of Modern Hiker was extremely informative. There is so much about Griffith I didn’t know. The hike started out with an intense incline. I definitely worked up a sweat. By the time we hit the bridge our entire group was ready for a water break. It was also the perfect place to view the iconic Hollywood sign.
- Obscura Fun Fact! The tiny little dark spot on the left most hilltop in the image above is The Wisdom Tree. So named because it was the only tree left standing after a major forest fire. At the base of the tree is an ammo box filled with pencils and notepads. People hike here and share their thoughts, wishes and words of wisdom.
With the steepest incline behind us we trek on up one of the fire roads. This is a very popular trail. On a Saturday morning it was bustling with runners and hikers. Plenty of people walking dogs and pushing strollers. If you are looking for a hike in the peace and quiet of nature, this is not the one to choose. The group continued on towards the summit. On our way up, Casey pointed out the first of three secret gardens in Griffith Park. Dante’s View. This garden is marked and clearly visible from the trail.
- Dante’s View was named for Dante Orgolini who moved to the US in the 1920s. Living in Los Feliz, he spent a lot of time exploring Griffith Park. He began carving out a small garden which he tended to for many years. Even carrying up water on his own. I can’t imagine doing this hike, while lugging around gallons of water.
The hike continues up the trail and we catch a glimpse of the second secret garden. Standing on the cliff side, looking out towards the old LA zoo you see a lush grove of trees. That is Amir’s garden. It’s larger than Dante’s and also tended to by volunteers. It also provides an important barrier from a section of the park notorious for wild fires.
A few more turns up the trail and we reach the summit of Mount Hollywood. Which is not as most people think the hill displaying the Hollywood Sign. Although you can definitely view it from up here. In fact, on a clear day you can view most of Los Angeles from up here. This day was hazy, and let’s face it smoggy, but the view is still beautiful. We begin our descent. Our guide takes a few new twists and turns on our way back down allowing us to explore more of Griffith Park. We stop briefly so he can point out something that makes the horror film fan side of me smile. Haunted Picnic Table #29.
- Obscura Fun Fact! On Halloween night 1976 a young couple was making out at this site when a large nearby tree fell on them and killed them both. Since then strange happenings have been reported for years. Even the man tasked with removing the downed tree told of unexplained sights and sounds. Come October I’m adding this hike to my Halloween to do list.
We continue down the fire road and even get the chance to scramble along some smaller rocky trails. Eventually we end up back at the first bridge. We continue on up to the third secret garden on our hike. The Berlin Forest. A small grove of pine trees dotted with picnic tables. It was one of the only shady spots on our hike and the heavy scent of pine in the air was delicious.
- Obscura Fun Fact! Berlin gifted the pine trees to Los Angeles in 1990 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of being sister cities.
The trail heads up to the Griffith Park Observatory and we learn a little bit more about Griffith J Griffith. Casey described him as, “LAs most generous, wife shooting, ostrich farmer.” Don’t worry his wife lived and he went to prison for a few years. But as Mr. Griffith’s reputation was tarnished the city of Los Angeles wouldn’t touch his donations until after his death.
Walking down the fire road away from the Observatory you can view all of downtown. The city looks so small from way up here. It’s an easy downhill stroll back to our starting point. I’m not usually one who enjoys group tours, but this one was different. I’ve been to Griffith Park a million times and never knew any of the things I learned on Saturday. It was nice to be with a like minded group of outdoorsy people seeking out the obscure.