Wild and the Streets
Text and Photos by Richard Risemberg
June, 2010

After trying in vain to convince my LA cycling friends to get up early enough for an 0730 meetup, I decided to go on my bike 'n' hike alone. I'm an early bird anyway, so by 0800 I had had my latte at the corner coffeehouse, waited a bit in case anyone actually joined in, and then saddled up and pedaled Trevor Wong, my "Pseudobecane" of renown, westwards on a familiar and well-loved route.

Wilshire through the nasty drivers of Beverly Hills to Santa Monica Bouelvard, which has an uncharacteristically excellent bike lane between Century City and Sepulveda Boulevard; pass through the narrow and clangorous undercrossing of the 405 freeway, then right on Federal till it becomes San Vicente in Brentwood.

Right again on 26th to Sunset Boulevard, where distracted lawyers, directors, and real estate moguls careen around blind curves at freeway speeds till I came to a locked gate that has a handy gap for horses and cyclists, and which leads to the idyllic scene depicted in the first photo of the slideshow below: a quiet, narrow road lined by vines and eucalyptus winding upwards to the polo field at Will Rogers State Park.

Where, of course, the only bike parking is an ancient wheelbender rack probably discarded by some junior high school decades ago. I found one of the petite, very friendly, and heavily-armed lady rangers and asked if I might be allowed to lock to a signpost. She said that was fine, so I left Trevor to watch the pickup soccer match and headed up the hill.

The first part of the walk leads past paddocks where horses graze in the shade of shaggy trees, but once past the boundaries of Will Rogers itself and into the territory of Topanga State Park, you find two significant changes: the flora changes from imported (and irrigated) grass and eucalyptus to chaparral, comprising toyon, laurel, small-leaved oaks, wild mustard (actually a Spanish import), and numerous spindly flowering plants I can't name but which were al drunkenly taking advantage of the last bits of winter's moisture in the soil, blooming madly before drying up for the summer. It was a wonderful time to be on the Backbone Trail--where the second significant change is from easy fireroad to a narrow sandstone staircase leading up, up, and delightfully up, past the sign warning you of hungry mountain lions, over numerous narrow saddles, and finally to a generally level stroll through flowers and head-high wild grasses to the middle of peace and quiet....

Peace and quiet, and gentle perfumes of shy desert plants...birdsong here and there, the skittering hurry of a lizard, a scratching of branches in the breeze.

A place where just standing still and not saying or doing anything is entirely satisfying.

That's what I'd gone up for.

At a sunny small plateau I checked my watch, which confirmed that I should turn around...so I did. Walking lazily downhill now, watching the ocean heave wearily through the morning haze as the day warmed up.

The closer I got to Will Rogers, the more the people I occasionally met were inclined to chatter. And all that was fine. I'd found my quiet and breathed the deep desert perfume of the hills. Now it was time to get back on my bike and ride home

But not without a stop for coffee at Caffee Luxxe, where I also devoured a chocolate-almond croissant.

Not bad for a quick morning ride within the boundaries of a broad, busy city.

Next time, come along!

Richard Risemberg