Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Wild in the City

by Kantanquer (writer), Los Angeles, January 22, 2007


Tucked away at the very top of Beachwood Drive is a box canyon. Nestled in among the rocks and plateaus is a small ranch called the Sunset Stables. It’s been there for years and hosted many a tourist and Angelino alike on a spectacular trail ride over the Hollywood hills into the flats of Burbank. Sunset Ranch as it is also known, is a working dude ranch. At any one time there are up to a dozen trail horses for rent. Their territory is exclusively the bridal paths of Griffith Park - which remains the largest urban park within the confines of any American city. It is a little touch of heaven that only ten minutes from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, there is a sliver of the old American west. The moment you arrive at the top of meandering upper Beachwood, you realize you have left twenty first century Hollywood behind and entered into a timeless place where horses, an occasional burro, chickens and dogs are the main inhabitants. It is a welcome respite from the trials of the city of angels.

Sunset Ranch is one of the few remaining outposts that provides a window into old Hollywood. One can imagine, once settled into the worn saddle of a horse for hire, what it might have been like for Fairbanks or Pickford or Chaplin to have ridden horses through the sage covered hills in the 1920s. Griffith Park which surrounds the Ranch, hosts a number of scenic bridal trails, the most popular of which heads north over the top of Lookout Mountain and down into the San Fernando Valley. Along the way are may stopping points where you can look back down onto the LA basin and get an idea of just how vast an area it represents. On a clear day you can see all the way south to Long Beach, and with good eyes or a pair of binoculars, you can spot the Terminal Island Bridge rising against the Pacific ocean. If you look east you can’t miss the newly renovated Griffith Park observatory - another landmark from the golden era worthy of at least one visit.

The Ranch offers several rides, trails and prices for each. By far the most popular is the midnight ride over to a Mexican restaurant in Burbank - best on the evening of the full moon. After winding through the hills on the Hollywood side of the park, you’ll start descending down into the Valley. You’ll get an unusual view of the semi-arid landscape in pale moonlight and undoubtedly hear the call of the coyotes which still roam the hills. At anytime day or night you can expect to see an astonishing variety of wildlife in Griffith Park. During the time I lived in the neighborhood I regularly spotted deer, rabbit, raccoons, opossum, squirrels, rattle snakes (rarely) and dozens of red-tailed hawks. It’s a wonder that so diverse a collection of animals can survive in the midst of a park situated in one of the nation’s largest cities. It is one of the charms of Ranch that provides a point of departure to observe all this wildlife.

Next time you’re feeling a little over-civilized, or road rage is threatening your hard-earned LA serenity - take a drive up to the hills. Check out the Sunset Ranch and the equestrian get-away through the trails of Griffith Park. It may not match the perfection of a holodeck theme park - but it is surprisingly real and rustic and great fun for two. And if you take the midnight ride and listen for the cry of the wild coyotes echoing across the canyons - you’ll forget where you are, where you have been and perhaps even where you are going.

About the Writer

Kantanquer is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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