Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Pacific Design Center, in West Hollywood, a few miles into my ride

From Wooded Hills to Woodland Hills

(Note: click on any photo for larger-sized image.)

Continuing my quest to ride 500kms in eight days, I rode from my home, in flatlands of the Los Angeles Basin, over the Santa Monica Mountains, to Woodland Hills, in the San Fernando Valley, where I met my family (and had a shower) for dinner with friends.

Rather than take the easiest – i.e. most level – route, I opted to double the amount of climbing, by riding up through the Franklin Canyon National Recreation Area, above Beverly Hills and then east, into Cahuenga Pass. While the slow climbing probably cost me some miles, it was a beautiful ride.

Looking southwest, down Franklin Canyon

This gem of a little park, like an amnesiac's tucked-away afterthought, is virtually unknown to the residents of Los Angeles, quiet enough, devoid of people enough, that on a ride with my brother, we spotted Paul McCartney with his then wife, Heather, and his child, feeding ducks; we were the only people near the Sir Paul.

There are miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, too. The narrow, old, steep paved road leading up through the park is a challenge for cyclists.

A steep section - 10%+

A grand swath of the canyon was owned by Edward L. Doheny, who made his fortune drilling for oil in Los Angeles. He was also indicted – and acquitted – in the great Teapot Dome Scandal, accused of offering a bribe to the Secretary of the Interior.

A duck floats in a flooded part of Franklin Canyon

Long ago, the canyon became the site for one the reservoirs serving Los Angeles that dot the Santa Monica Mountains; except for a couple of caretaker houses for water department employees , a rough road and the Doheny "ranch house," the canyon was a wilderness area, it's bottom filled with massive sycamore trees. The park is also home to rattlesnakes, possums, raccoons, deer, raptors, coyotes, and bobcats; no doubt the park is also visited on occasion by mountain lions. In the 1970s, the Doheny family wanted to sell the canyon to developers, who planned to build homes. Environmental activists were able to secure the land and turn it into a park.

In Franklin Canyon, in late December, autumn, spring and winter come together. Some trees. refusing to turn colors, are cloaked in green, some trees have turned to gold, and some trees proudly bare naked limbs. The rains have turned the grass Emerald Isle-green, and a few adventurous wildflowers have pushed blooms skyward.

When I reached Mulholland Drive, I could have dropped down Coldwater Canyon, into the San Fernando Valley, to make my way west to our friend's home for our dinner party. Instead, I turned east, and made my way, like a self-powered roller coaster car, over the rolling ridge top to Cahuenga Pass. Along the way I passed a pocket parking lot at an overlook that offers a vertiginous view of downtown Los Angeles. This is a favored stopping point for the many tour companies the take vistors from around the world to explore Hollywood and the Hollywood Hills, which is what the Santa Monica Mountains north of Hollywood are called. Although I know the tours are enjoyable (which is not apparent from this photograph), I think I have more fun riding my bike up to places like this viewpoint than the tourists who are dragged up in vans and buses.

Looking out over Hollywood (Capitol Records building in the lower center of the photo) and Los Angeles

I had another hour or so, half of it in the dark, along busy Ventura Blvd., waiting at about half the 100 stop lights that must line the route. Having grown up in Los Angeles, I'm not only inured to cycling in traffic, I enjoy it.

My favorite part of the ride, though, had come earlier, in Franklin Canyon, when I followed golden path of rainwater runoff, reflecting the gold light of afternoon off the old sycamore trees.

Note: click on any photo for larger-sized image.

Follow my Monday ride here.

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