This Secret Stairs of LA Walk #4 is brought to you by Powdermilk Biscuits. Has your family tried em? Heavens they’re tasty!
This walk takes you through Mt. Washington, a neighborhood that sits high above Los Angeles. If you pay attention to the “delightfully” offensive (and fairly spot-on) hoodmaps…
you’ll find that the area sits right in the middle of LA’s most “gentrified war-zone,” rife with hipsters, pricey coffee shops, people who haven’t taken down their Feel the Bern signs, and steep-ass fucking streets.
Pro-tip: So, a lot of these walks that meander about these well-to-do neighborhoods often have garage sales on the weekends. I scored a new set of dishes (https://www.crateandbarrel.com/jars-tourron-black-16-piece-dinnerware-set/s345156) for $22 smacks to the urethra. Granted there is a missing mug and plate, but I’ll take it. Your mileage will vary, but that’s a good incentive to do these walks on the weekends as opposed to mid-week. Each time I’ve made purchases at a garage sale I scored something good and the sellers accepted Venmo. So be prepared with the cash or the Venmo.
You can take the Metro Gold Line and get off at the Southwest Museum station and walk a bit south down to Avenue 45.
There’s only a couple sets of stairs on this route, but it still clocks in at a distance of 3.2ish miles, so you’re still “putting in work.” Bring your water bottle and airy clothing. There are a lot of pretty views once you get up to Kemper and Kilbourn.
The walk ends up taking you through Elyria Canyon park as you round your way back to your starting point. It’s a dirt road right in the middle of your walk. It’s hard to get lost unless your’re the “try hard” type who gets lost a lot. Take the time to take in the views and a few deep breaths while you’re at it. Also take a moment to think about what you’re thankful for.
Photos from walk
Secret Stairs of LA Walk #9 – Circles of El Sereno
Today’s walk is brought to you by the number pink and the color threeve. Also, you may have noticed that these walks are not in order. You get no prizes for making this discovery. Now move along!!
In my continuing conquest of kicking asphalt and mastering so many stairs across LA’s vast metropolis, I’ll tell you all about the “Circles of El Sereno.” I should note that I’m writing this from Dry River Brewingnear the LA River in Downtown LA. If you like sour beers then you absolutely must go to there!
Much of El Sereno is a working-class town with a large Hispanic population, speckled with shops and tiny eateries so it’s usually bustling pretty well most times during the day.
The walk has you starting at Gambier St. and Eastern, where El Sereno Middle School sits. Fleming writes in his book that this is one of the “doggiest walks” he completed during the course of putting his routes together. I didn’t notice an overbearing volume of barking dogs, which I was worried could mar my walk so that was a good thing.
The Circles of El Sereno are interesting and the walk itself is pretty easy. The first incline is a bit of a doozy, on par with the steps over in Mt. Washington. As you cross Eastern and jaunt over to Lynnfield you catch the white noise of the neighborhood with cars constantly hurdling down the street, muddled with the chatter of children at play and other folks yelling hello to one another from opposite sides of the street. This neighborhood reminds me of where my Great Grandmother lived in Upland, where I spent many Summers as a child—it seemed like the neighborhood was close-knit, people knew one another well. Phelps reveals your first set of stairs as you turn onto Lynnfield, which slice into the side of a large hill and through two sets of circular streets for which this walk is named. The first set of stairs are split in two, divided by Chadwick Cir. When you get to the top, on a sunny day, you’re able to catch sweeping panoramas of the San Gabriel Mountains, Downtown LA, with a lot of peoples’ backyards and abandoned cars.
The stairs are described, in the Secret Stairs of Los Angeles, as painted green. Most of the color has faded from sight leaving only the concrete beneath the paint, which lends to the staircase’s imposing stature.
Making a half-circle around Chadwick will lead you to your next set of steps which descend to Ballard. The streets are fairly tight, so make sure you’re paying attention to oncoming traffic and especially cars coming from behind (I’m looking at you people who listen to music while out and about).
Take Ballard to the left, then left on Chester, and finally another left back to Lynnfield. You’ll end up back at Phelps where you’re on your way to your last set of steps. Turn right on Templeton and left at Castalia, which is a dead-end street. Where the street ends is where you’ll find your final set of steps, which are pretty insignificant honestly but, hey, if you’re reading this then you’re a completionist asshole just like me—so you do your fucking stairs and you like it.
What a weekend it’s been! NFL players taking knees, political meltdowns, war, the threat of war, disasters, humanitarian crises the world over… Just typing words onto a screen is a chore when the mind is chock-full of so much stuff. Fuck it! We’re talking about some stairs, kiddos!!
Secret Stairs of LA Walk #2 — Eagle Rock
Welp, I didn’t get murdered on my first walk, which made me super eager to do walk number two!
I love this part of LA. I once heard someone say that “Los Angeles is basically nineteen neighborhoods looking for a city.” Doing my own research, however, it’s more like forty neighborhoods. Each has its own flavor if you will.
This walk clocks in pretty close to four miles according to my Garmin. So you’ll want to eat your Wheaties before embarking on this bit of Urban Hikery. The walk starts on the corner of Colorado Boulevard and Townsend, in Eagle Rock. Fun fact: You can take Townsend south and it will take you into Highland Park and deposit you onto York—if you park, you can treat yourself to some mighty fine donuts at Donut Friend. Thank me later.
Before I get too far into this, I’d like to apologize to Charles Fleming. I said, in the words of Senator Clay Davis (a personal hero), from The Wire, some shameful shit about him in my first post in this series. I take it back, Fleming is not a turd burger and I love this book for the fact it indulges my love of aimless wandering without getting murdered—but now with seventy-two percent more purpose! Thanks, Chuck! If you haven’t done so, buy his book!
The first set of stairs you encounter is a bit curved and takes you up a good bit before depositing you out onto Neola Place. It’s a quiet and pretty street. The houses were colorful, with a mix of old craftsman and more modern structures. The wind was doing its thing, making the leaves dance and blowing someone’s awesome bbq into my suddenly hungry and jealous face.
At the end of Neola, is another staircase which descends into a dead-end street, with a school as the backdrop. Lots of fun artwork is installed on the fence grating surrounding the school (I took a couple photos).
The sound of children at play and people living their lives is what I notice—everyone seems to have a place to belong if that makes sense. The sun, by that point, was waiting to be relieved by the moon, I could still smell the residual of rain from earlier that day, as if the trees, bushes, grass, and assorted plants were taking a collective deep breath.
Yosemite is the next street you come up to, it’s a busy street that runs from Figueroa to Eagle Rock Blvd and beyond. There’s a tiny set of stairs connecting the split-level Oak Grove Dr. As I make my way over to Fig, I have to take the crosswalk and wait for a light, I’m just not that fast to run across the street. Not only is that a bad idea, it’s against the law! The next staircase, is built right into the side of a hill and it has a fancy mural painted on it, the Zen Mural I think it’s called. It’s a bit of a climb and a bit of a descent—what goes up must come down after all (I swear, I’m just as insufferable in person).
If you’re lucky, you can cross back over Fig, to the west side of the street and not get hit by a car. Real life Frogger is fucking terrifying! There was a taco stand setting up when I walked by, which was neat, however, they weren’t open for business just yet. They posted up next to another set of steps leading up to Eucalyptus and Buena Vista Dr. It’s a narrow road with a lot of old houses that have a wonderful view over parts of Eagle Rock and Occidental College. A lady, who was walking her dog, said, “Sir, I like your mustache very much!” So friendly! I twirled stache in appreciation like the savage villain that I am.
There’s another set of stairs as you descend from Buena Vista on Nolden. It was getting dark, so they are easy to miss if you’re heading down. There’s a railing there, too, if you’re the sort who tries to end their lives by falling on their face a lot. I’m that sort of person, fyi.
The last set of stairs is on Linda Rosa. They’re steep, as is the hill they’re built into. If this walk was a video game, then these stairs would be this level’s boss. Fear not, you made it this far so unless you want me to call you names and leave you garbage email, you better eat your steps and get to the top!
Then on your way back, you can hit up Trader Joe’s or walk another couple of blocks down to Casa Bianca, which Jonathan Gold said was one of his “99 places” he recommended you ought to eat at. It’s one of the better slices in the city, I think.
Last weekend I went to Vroman’s in Pasadena to buy a book. I didn’t have anything in mind so I figured I’d just purchase the first thing of interest. On the recommended books wall I saw ‘Secret Stairs’ by Charles Fleming. It’s an LA Times bestseller about the various urban stairways throughout greater Los Angeles.
I haven’t read the book in its entirety but I’m pretty sure Fleming and I wouldn’t be friends—the guy seems like a judgemental turd burger or Debbie Downer’s more annoying and obnoxious cousin from the South. I base that judgment purely on his writing style and talking shit about peoples’ homes and noisy pets. Eff you, Chuck!
I’ve walked up a few of these historic staircases throughout Los Angeles—Echo Park and Silverlake are a couple that comes to mind. I’ve also walked a couple in Highland Park and in Mt. Washington. But I wanted to go through these walks in their entirety. As someone who likes to wander neighborhoods like a fucking madman that you tell your children not to take candy from, you can bet that I am going to be all over these walks!
Secret Stairs of LA Walk #1 — La Loma Road.
This is my first official walk from this book. I have to say, it’s a pretty neat walk. This particular walk apparently goes through Pasadena, just like Charles Fleming said! I also confirmed it on Google Maps.
The maps in the Secret Stairs book are decent and accurate from what I’ve seen. Google Maps on mobile (and desktop) seem to know about these staircases, too. And if you know what to look for their not too hard to spot, although it is somewhat vague. See screenshot:
The walk isn’t too long and I’d wager you could finish it in less than an hour; it clocks in just shy of 1.5 miles. There’s plenty of steps (oh and if you think I’m so OCD that I’m going to give you a step count on this you can instantly forget that notion!) and it’s a pretty and well-shaded walk. Given the suburban nature of the walk and how it starts out, it seems like you’re not going to see all that much but I was proven wrong. There are a lot of interesting homes to look at; it’s a pretty neighborhood and that there are so many stairs is surprising—I love how they just seem to pop out from nowhere.
I would advise bringing water or some other beverage with you.
Pro Tip 2:
Don’t be that asshole who wears jeans and a shirt on this thing. It’s rigorous enough that you’ll work-up a sweat. Don’t be like me—I looked like a goddamned hooligan who lost his clown suit en route to scaring the living shit out of every child in a two-mile radius! Wear breathable, moisture-wicking, material aka athletic wear.
Oh, here’s a Gmap Pedometer of the route. I’m pretty fucking cool, right?
I don’t really have any recommendations for places walkable from this walk’s starting point.
I’m a big fan of Little Flower cafe—it’s the kind of place you’d expect every grandmother to sit down and have her soup and sandwich (at least that’s what my Nana liked to do). Little Flower is east on Colorado blvd. and up the hill.
Eagle Rock Kitchen is the other direction on Colorado, a few miles down. They serve Filipino Comfort foods. The place is run by a Mother and Son combo. Get the ERK fries and Adobo chicken for fucks sake! Also, they use the .kitchen domain on their website. Strong!
If you’re feeling extra fancy and give zero fucks about how rank you smell after your rigorous walk then make a reservation at Little Beast. In all honesty, it’s pretty gross how many awesome places there are to eat through that particular corridor of Colorado Blvd. as it runs through Eagle Rock. You can’t really go wrong. Oh, if you’re feeling extra shitty about life and want to serious damage your arteries there’s Oinkster. I’m not going to link to it. I won’t be responsible for your rage shits or spontaneous heart explosion.