No, I’m not talking about the famous and ubiquitous gym from a few years ago. I’m talking about actually traveling to the city of Los Angeles. It’s one of the biggest, most populous cities in the world, famous for star-studded neighborhoods like Beverly Hills and Bel Air, high-crime neighborhoods, such as Watts in East L.A, countless movie studios and that cliche Hollywood sign decorating the hills above the valley.
From the sweeping view of Malibu on Ocean Drive to an impressive panoramic of the whole city from the hills above Los Feliz, L.A. really is a fascinating city. It sounds like I’m writing a guidebook, but L.A. is so much more than you see in the popular media. Students may have seen New York, Paris, London and Rio de Janeiro, but until you’ve seen LA, you haven’t seen “urban.”
At first, I was sure I’d have to leave the city and go deep into the mountains or desert to find a place to run outdoors without getting run over by a car (in case a student wants to actually get hit by a car, get hit by a Ferrari–that student can sue the owner; or at least this seems to be the attitude among Angelenos).
That perception changed the minute I crossed Ocean Drive to check out the running path overlooking the beach. The path is a little winding for bikes, but unbelievable for running. To the east, there are beautiful gardens, hippies, street performers and an insane variety of 100-grand-plus sports cars. To the west, there are the green mountains sloping to a flat sandy beach lined with all sorts of houses, from modern to Thomas Kinkaid architecture.
The temperature hovers at a glorious 70 degrees during the day with zero humidity. Runners can trot down the winding path or veer off to the beach, where they can dodge surfers and make their way up to an amusement park pier as Jason Chang, a student in Orange County, Calif., suggests.
Chang also suggests skiing or snowboarding in Mammoth, a ski resort about five hours from L.A.
For those looking to get a wilderness fix without driving hundreds of miles away, there is hiking in the hills just ouside the city. In my journey, I headed to Griffith Park, located off of Los Feliz. At first it seemed like an L.A. version of Central Park, with bikes, horses and pedal-powered tuk-tuks available for rent, students playing Ultimate and an extremely large and loud drum circle. But once I headed past the first trailmarker, I found Griffith Park had more in common with Pikes Peak, Colo. than Central Park, NY. Hikers can still hear the constant drone of the highway below, but the air is clearer and smells of California pine, while the trail is wide and not too strenuous.
Of course, I decided to take the high road and scramble up a 45-degree incline pipeline trail that blazes directly up the mountain instead of following the sensible and safe switchback trail. (I don’t recommend you try this. California, like Florida, has several varieties of nasty venomous snakes. It also has vile desert critters like scorpions. The mountain rescue patrol has better things to do than pull foolish people off a near-vertical slope.)
To make a long story short, my little scrambling adventure ended at the same place as the regular, safe trail did. At the top of the hill, hikers can see the L.A. skyline and the urban sprawl climbing its way up the hills through the haze.
In L.A., fitness is an adventure. There are not too many places in the world where athletes can hike in the afternoon and take a picture with a Marilyn Monroe impersonator in the evening.
On a trip, students can also eat at one of countless restaurants, shop on Rodeo Drive or check out the clubs, but I will leave that to the guidebooks. Speaking of which, Irrevernet Guide to Los Angeles published by Frommers, is the only guidebook a visitor needs.
Sure, there’s smog, exorbitant taxes, and the entire city sits on a fault that could, at any time, cause an earthquake that could separate California from the mainland United States, but a city this big is a playground for any sports enthusiast, food enthusiasts(Try Rubios’ fresh fish tacos!) or anything enthusiast. Those itching to check it out can grab a discounted plane ticket from places such as www.expedia.com for about $250-$350. It’s a 5-6 hour flight, but there’s always a good excuse to make the trip.
For example, USF students can look at graduate programs, such as UCLA’s nationally-ranked law school. Just in case anyone decides to make the trip, here are some more super places for sports enthusiasts: (For more sports check out http://www.lasandf.com, L.A.’s fitness magazine).
Lake Hollywood: lots of pretty people running around a lake.
Santa Monica and Beverly Hills: Run in the residential areas, look at the cool mansions and the shops and avoid the traffic of thru-roads.
Visit La Jolla Canyon, an 11-mile hike starting at Point Mugu State Park. This is part of the 65-mile Backbone trail, so hardcore types can follow the trail from the Santa Monica mountains to the Pacific Pallisades.
Aside from the beautiful ocean and mountain views, the sound of Navy airplanes flying from Pt. Mugu Naval Air Station fills the air.
The super hardcore can pick up part or all of the PCT (Pacific Coast Trail), which is the West Coast version of the Appalachian trail. At 2,665 miles, it runs through the San Gabriel Mountains.
If an easy hike is the desired goal, try the three-mile Mount Lowe Trail in the San Gabriel Mountains. Call the Mount Lowe Arroyo Seco Ranger Station at 818-790-1151.Those wanting even easier hikes should try the flat, two-mile trail from Point Dume to Paradise Cove in Malibu. Since it is on the beach, there’s cool stuff there at low tide.
This may be considered blasphemy among some people, but I really don’t understand why surfing is such a popular sport in L.A. Yes, there are beaches, but they are polluted and cold. A surfer’s best bet is to move further north or south on the coast. But for those who insist on bringing their own board down to Malibu, Topanga Point, County Line and Leo Carrillo, the only one worth going to is Surfrider Beach. This historical surf beach is located off the Pacific Coast Hwy in Malibu. Otherwise, for great waves, take the two-hour trip to San Diego.
Calling all gym rats
It seems like everywhere you go there is a beautiful luxury fitness facility. In some of them, aspiring patrons literally need to be Madonna or Stephen Speilberg to gain entry. But in many others, the status as a visiting alien from the east coast can grant that person a guest pass to rows and rows of state-of-the-art machines, a built-in spa and juice bar and vistas of beautiful, fit people wearing spandex. Fitness class junkies should try Crunch gym at 8000 Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood. There are comedy spinning classes, live DJs for aerobics and a Sunday morning class called Gospel Moves.
If travelers are YMCA members, they can scan their cards at the Ketchum Y. This gym is not only well equipped, it also offers an opportunity to meet all sorts of people from different walks of life.
I fell in love with L.A, and if USF students visit, they might also. Students not hearing from me for a while may want to look for my column in the Daily Bruin — that’s the University of California, L.A. newspaper, http://www.dailybruin.ucla.edu.
USF Oracle Challenge Reminder
There are approximately seven weeks remaining in the challenge.
How’s it coming?
Tereza Zambrano is a junior majoring in international studies and is a triathlete. Students can ask her questions at TMZambrano@triathlete.com .