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Walk Up Flint Trail Stirs Ghosts of a Political Past

Does day hiking help in decision making?

Some hikers think so. Maybe it’s the blood rushing to our brains as we struggle up a steep slope. Perhaps it’s the becalming effect of nature. Whatever the reason, most day hikers would agree that there’s nothing like a good walk on the wild side to help sort things out.

This weekend, day hikers, like their more sedentary fellow citizens, are no doubt pondering political questions: Is Bush-Quayle the natural choice? Should we take a hike for Mike?

Historically, politicians have been known more often for campaign trails than hiking trails, but one turn-of-the-century California politician, Republican Sen. Frank Flint, left us a namesake town, peak and path. Sen. Flint Trail climbs Flint Peak above La Canada Flintridge. The short trail is not exactly a thrill a minute, but it does offer clear-day views of downtown Los Angeles and the Rose Bowl.

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Frank Putnam Flint was born in Massachusetts in 1862. His family moved to San Francisco, where Flint received most of his schooling. After moving to Los Angeles and becoming a successful attorney, he served as a Superior Court judge and U.S. district attorney. Flint was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1904 and served one term. As a senator, he was involved in some of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering to bring Owens Valley water to Los Angeles.

Flint’s small place in history comes not from his Realpolitik career but from his real estate ventures. He is remembered as one of the major builders of urban and suburban Los Angeles.

Flint was well aware that turn-of-the-century Los Angeles had a housing shortage and that immigrants from all over the United States, indeed from all over the world, were flocking west to take advantage of the city’s booming economy and Mediterranean climate. The well-connected Flint knew that good roads would soon be extended from downtown to the La Canada/Glendale area, so he began buying up hundreds of acres of foothill land, including a large piece of the old Rancho San Rafael.

Astride his horse, Flint rode over his property and designed the street plan for his new suburb. He envisioned a quiet community of luxury houses built on large lots, scattered seemingly at random on the wooded hills. The houses, which offered great arroyo and mountain views, had a country feel, yet were within commuting distance of the growing city. (Sounds like the modern suburbanite’s dream too, doesn’t it?)

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Flint’s development--dubbed Flintridge--was a huge success. An outdoors enthusiast, he designed his suburb with more than 20 miles of riding/hiking trails.

Flint became a wealthy man, though he suffered a serious financial setback--and a nervous breakdown--after the stock market crash of 1929. In an attempt to recover his health, he signed on for a world cruise but died aboard ship in the Philippines.

The path to Flint Peak, like politics, is not always pretty, but it does have its rewards. Hike it on a brisk fall or winter day. The 1,889-foot peak, one of the more noteworthy peaks of the San Rafael Hills, offers fine, clear-day city views.

Directions to trail head: From the Ventura Freeway in Glendale, exit on Glendale Avenue. Head south and turn left at the first light onto Lexington Drive. Proceed half a mile to Verdugo Road. Turn right, then make an immediate left onto Chevy Chase Drive, which you’ll follow on a winding ascent to Linda Vista Road. Turn right and drive a mile to Figueroa Street. Turn right again and follow Figueroa to its end. The unsigned trail, a fire road, begins at a locked gate.

The Hike: Follow the fire road, which ascends steeply for the first 50 yards, then proceed at a more moderate incline toward the peak. Ignore the sight of--and, if the wind is just right, the smell of--the Scholl Canyon Sanitary Landfill. Also ignore a few side roads that lead leftward and will leave you down in the dumps.

A more pleasant aroma comes from the sage that lines Sen. Flint Trail, and a more pleasant sight is the showy toyon, or Christmas berry, which is now in bloom on the shoulder of Flint Peak.

The top of the antennae-covered peak is fenced. If the gate at the end of the dirt road is locked, peer through the brush to get the best view of the metropolis.

Sen. Flint Trail

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1 mile round trip: 200-foot elevation gain


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