Day 27: Los Angeles, CA / by Wookie Kim

The weather in southern California has been incredibly hot recently. I was planning to attempt the Rim-to-Rim Run in the Grand Canyon on Tuesday, so I decided I'd take today as easy as possible, and maybe even forego running altogether.

In the morning, Molly took me to a delicious breakfast spot, where I nommed on a huge breakfast sandwich and we sipped our refreshing Vietnamese iced coffees. I couldn't keep her all day, so she went her way and I went mine.

And my way today would be the Hollywood sign. I mean, why not, right? I'd looked up the various routes up to the sign and determined that I wanted to do the shortest distance, even if that meant the steepest climb. Given that the temps were hovering in the mid-90s, I simply wanted to reduce the time I spent outside baking in the sun. I opted for the trail to the Wisdom Tree and Cahuenga Peak.

I drove up into a posh hillside neighborhood in search of the trailhead. I got lost and had to ask a group of babysitters where I was supposed to go. They redirected me. Interestingly, this route has been known to disappoint. The trail goes up and above the Hollywood sign, but it only lets you see it from behind. There was ample warning of this at the trailhead (and ample graffiti).

As I was getting ready to start, I noticed another runner getting ready to go, too. I decided to ask her for advice on the trail. I learned that Maria was recovering from a hip injury, and that the incline of this hike was good for that. At this point, it was scorching, and I hadn't properly rehydrated from the day before (beer generally doesn't help). I made the decision not to run today. I'd just hike. It was fun chatting with Maria, so we hiked together.

The hike was surprisingly rugged and steep. The first 3/4 of a mile had the majority of the ascent. I think it was somewhere close to 800 vertical feet in that span. A mile or so in, we made it to the Wisdom Tree, which has become somewhat of an icon in the region for being the only tree to survive a 2007 wildfire. Hikers leave all kinds of cairns and notes with wishes and hopes and dreams. There is also a geocaching box in which people write messages as well. And, of course, there's free wifi at the top.

After a brief water break, Maria and I continued. Maria hadn't made it to the Hollywood sign since her injury, and she was determined to make it today. I gave her my trekking poles, telling her that they were tremendously helpful in maintaining balance and redistributing weight as needed. Ahead was Cahuenga Peak and, slightly below the communications tower, the back-side of the Hollywood sign.

On the final half-mile along the ridgeline, Maria pointed out a few landmarks. To our left, there was a cemetery where a lot of celebrities were buried.

The hike had started out really hot. But up here, the wind kept us cool. We finally reached the top and got our first close-up of the sign--from behind.

The day was hazy, so you couldn't really see that far. But it was still great to see the scale of L.A.--this is a huge city!

Hikers can't really get any closer to the sign than this. There's a fence and excessive signage that makes this clear. There are security cameras all over the mountain, and even on the letters. Trespassing is an easy way to send a police helicopter your way. As much as I wanted to go see the sign up close, I wasn't about to tick anyone off.

We turned around and carefully descended back to the trailhead and our cars. I'd enjoyed having Maria for company, and I learned more about what she did in the area. Turns out she was an actress, comedian, and improv artist.

It was now late afternoon, and I had a couple hours to kill before meeting my next friend for dinner. I decided I'd drive around in the hills and see if I could catch a glimpse of the sign from the front. I drove slowly through Hollywoodland and finally caught it through some palm trees.

I continued and eventually found myself in Lake Hollywood Park. There were a ton of tourists here, and I looked behind and immediately knew why. There was a great unobstructed view of the sign.

It was now almost 5 p.m., and I didn't want to take any chances with rush-hour traffic, so I headed towards Mohawk Bend, the evening's dinner spot. I met Caitlin H., a great friend from law school who was out here for the year clerking for a judge, and caught up with her. After dinner, we decided to head up towards Griffith Observatory, which is known for its panoramic views of the city.

The views were great. I love seeing cityscapes at night. You really get a sense not only of a city's scale, but also its activity (measured by the intensity of light in various regions).

It was a clear night, and the moon was particularly easy to see. I managed to hold my camera steady (it helps to have a built-in image stabilizer) and capture a few clear shots.

We didn't realize that the observatory itself was much more like a museum. There were exhibits on the universe, space, the solar system, and everything else related to astronomy. By the way, it was 9:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night and it was absolutely packed.

The best views were on the viewing terrace. Everyone was taking photos there. Caitlin and I asked a tourist with less-than-steady hands to take a photo of us before we headed back to her place in Burbank.

My first full day in Los Angeles involved no running, but it was a refreshing break--one sorely needed especially as I head into what I believe will be my most epic 10-day block yet.