Griffith Park turns 125. Here’s where to go to celebrate

An illustration of a cat peaking out from behind hills
(Antoine Doré / For The Times)

I always think of Griffith Park as L.A.’s wild heart, a place close enough and wild enough for a quick escape from living life at freeway speeds. But there’s also cultural heft to this 4,211-acre swath of land that turns 125 this year, and the L.A. Conservancy and the City of L.A. have crafted a free daylong celebration on Nov. 13 to teach visitors more about the park.

“Historic green space is as much a part of something that deserves preservation as great architecture or a great urban center,” said Sarah Lann, the conservancy’s director of education. [Griffith Park is] the city’s largest historic cultural monument and protects many more monuments within, not to mention native flora, fauna, culture, history. It’s just such a rich, rich place.”

The park has so many things I know about — an observatory, the Greek Theatre, 70 miles of hiking and equestrian trails, the L.A. Zoo, the Autry Museum — and some things I didn’t know about. It was the setting for “gay-in” protests, starting in 1968 (before the Stonewall rebellion in New York City), and the state’s first gay rodeo in 1985; L.A.’s first hippie be-in in 1967; and an equality walk organized by the local chapter of the National Organization for Women in 1984.


There’s more history there too. During the 125th anniversary event, visitors can seek out 29 curated spots to learn about the park, including its ties to the Tongva people, the history of the Old Zoo and Greek Theatre, which they can tour. Plan what you want to see (hitting all 29 points would be ambitious) by downloading the map from the L.A. Conservancy’s website. Then check out additional activities such as a 5-mile hike from Fern Dell to Mt. Hollywood with Casey Schreiner, author of “Discovering Griffith Park” and the Modern Hiker website (sign up here; limited space), or a 4-mile hike led by the local Sierra Club chapter to Amir’s Garden and the site of a memorial to firefighters who perished in a 1933 fire. Play and book readings as well as birthday cake round out the activities centered around the vintage merry-go-round at 4730 Crystal Springs Drive. You’ll find community organizations and groups invested in the park’s welfare (and learn about how you can play a role).

Insider tip: Check out the exhibition “Investigating Griffith Park” at the Autry Museum, which will fill you in on the park’s history too. The museum will be free during the Nov. 13 event. Learn more about scheduled history spots and activities at the L.A. Conservancy’s website.

5 things to do this week

An illustration of someone at a podium in front of a large Christmas tree, with the U.S. Capitol in the background
(Susan Walsh / Associated Press)

1. The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree is going on a 3,300-mile tour. It arrives in SoCal on Nov. 6. Get ready to greet an 84-foot white fir tree nicknamed Sugar Bear at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena on Nov. 6. The tree, on its way to the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol building, is making 25 stops around California before heading east. It was cut down Oct. 24 in Six Rivers National Forest northwest of Redding and will arrive in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 19, according to the U.S. Forest Service. The tree won’t be decorated with ornaments and 10,000 lights while on tour; that comes later for the official lighting ceremony in December. Visitors can get a glimpse of the massive fir being transported in a flatbed truck (horizontal) at a drive-through event from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Nov. 6 at the Rose Bowl. The Capitol tree has been a tradition since 1964.

A boy holds a fish, next to a smaller boy and two adults
Guppies Fishing Adventures offers intro classes for kids and adults.
(Lorenzo Sandoval / Guppies Fishing Adventures)

2. Want to learn to fish but don’t know where to start? Here’s a guide who can help. Sometimes you don’t want to invest a lot of money on gear for a sport you are trying out for the first time. Fishing is one of those sports where you need more than a pair of boots to get started. Enter Lorenzo Sandoval, a licensed Southern California fishing guide who runs Guppies Fishing Adventures for kids and adults. Start with an intro class (the next one is 8 to 10 a.m. Dec. 4 at Lake Balboa in Van Nuys, $80 per person), which comes with gear, bait and tackle — everything you need to get started. Custom fishing trips also are available. More info about reservations and fishing on the website.

A flier for Art Exposition has a Joshua tree on it
(Joshua Tree National Park Council for the Arts)

3. Check out the artists who love Joshua Tree at an annual art expo. It’s easy to fall in love with beautiful places. What’s harder is to capture the essence of the place on paper or canvas, in photos or sculptures. Check out the 61 artworks inspired by Joshua Tree’s dramatic landscape at the ninth Joshua Tree National Park Art Expo from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Nov. 6 and 7. You can learn to build your own desert-style assemblage or wire sculpture in workshops led by artists on Nov. 6 and attend a drawing and sketching workshop on Nov. 7. More art activities, music and food options round out the weekend. The show continues through Nov. 28 at 29 Palms Art Gallery (open 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays), 74055 Cottonwood Drive, Twentynine Palms. More details here.

Three panels, each with a photo of a different woman smiling
Yoga instructor Jessica Rihal, left, zumba and Latinx dance instructor Lux LaCroix and Allison Behringer, host of KCRW’s “Bodies” podcast.
(A Park Hang for Every Body / KCRW)

4. Take your moves outside with dancing and yoga at a free park hang. Take a breath and spend an afternoon clearing your mind and moving your body at free wellness sessions Nov. 7 at Rio de Los Angeles State Park. Allison Behringer, host of KCRW’s “Bodies” feminist documentary podcast that focuses on medical issues, will kick off the event that’s part workout, part health tips — and all fun. “It’s been such a hard year. We just want people to have a good time,” she said. The lineup: Use the grass as a dance floor during a ballroom-style dance workout with performer Lux LaCroix, a Latinx dance music and zumba workout with Camila Camaleón, and a yoga class with plus-size yoga instructor Jessica Rihal. No experience necessary. Just show up (in person or online). A Park Hang for Every Body, sponsored by KCRW and Everybody Gym, takes place noon to 4 p.m. Nov. 7 at the park (1900 N. San Fernando Road, Los Angeles). Find out more here.

Fall leaves in a reddish background.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

5. What’s farm life really like? Take a Farm Day tour. Maybe you want to see an apiary (where honey comes from) and gain a better understanding of organic farms. Head to Ventura County where Farm Day points the way to self-guided tours of more than a dozen farms in Ventura, Oxnard, Camarillo and other parts of the county. The event, organized by the nonprofit Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture, runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Nov. 6. Look for details on this and other November events here.

The must-read

A woman rock-climbing
Dierdre Wolownick on her 10-hour climb to the top of El Capitan in the Yosemite Valley in September.
(Jake Myhre)

Alex Honnold is no longer the only record-holding Yosemite climber in his family. Honnold wowed the word in a free solo ascent of El Capitan in 2017. Last month, his mother, Dierdre Wolownick, ascended into the record books as the oldest woman to scale the face of El Capitan. It was her 70th birthday. Wolownick was not a climber; she started training a little more than a decade ago as a way to connect with her son. “I wanted to be part of his life, to share his triumphs as well as his disasters,” she wrote in her 2019 memoir. “Getting outdoors with my son filled in so many gaps in my education. I learned how little I knew about the mountains. About my own possibilities. About him.” L.A. Times staff writer James Rainey tells the story of how Wolownick completed the remarkable feat.

Wild things

A mourning dove on an illustrated background with an "Air Mail" stamp
(Ernie Cowan)

Have you recently heard mourning doves singing? I hope so. L.A. Times writer Daniel Miller suddenly misses the birds he once heard while walking in his central L.A. neighborhood earlier in the pandemic. “It is an eerie loss too, made all the more unsettling because it is not exactly provable,” he wrote in this story. “There are no reliable data on Los Angeles’ mourning dove population.” Even without numbers, Kimball Garrett, ornithology collections manager of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, understood his lament. “The fact that abundant birds decline in a certain area so that you can’t hear them is pretty important,” Garrett told him. After the story was published, readers from Norwalk and Upland invited Miller to their neighborhoods where mourning doves still thrive.

By the numbers

A woman in sneakers and spandex jumps up in the air
Erika Lilley conquered the California Ironman on her own terms.
(Erika Lilley)

I love finding the extraordinary in the everyday, like the feat Erika Lilley of Santa Barbara pulled off on Oct. 23. tells the story of what Lilley did after outrageously bad weather canceled the Ironman California triathlon in Sacramento an hour before the start time: she took it inside. Instead of swimming 2.4 miles in the Sacramento River, biking 112 miles in farm and wine country and running 26.2 miles around California’s capital, the volleyball coach and trainer racked up the miles in a 24 Hour Fitness gym.

The weather: 5.44 inches of rain in a single day
The swim: 152 laps in a 25-meter lap pool
The bike ride: 5 ½ hours on a spin bike
The run: 3 hours, 47 minutes on a treadmill
Total time: 11 hours and 9 minutes
Number of others who went the indoor distance with her: 1 (J.D. Rios of Canada)
Number of medals: 0

Source: “The Indoor Ironman” by Sharon McNary on



A photo of runners.
(Patrick T. Fallon / For The Times)

L.A. Marathon runner, treasure these 26 tips while you’re running from Dodger Stadium to Century City on Nov. 7. One of my favorites: “Refrain from punching the clown at Mile 20 yelling, ‘Only six more miles to go!’” No one needs to hear that.

Also, if you still want to join the more than 13,000 runners but haven’t signed up, online registration has closed. However, race organizers say a limited number of on-site registrations will be offered Friday and Saturday at the Health & Fitness Expo outside Dodger Stadium. A reminder for those ready to go: Face masks are required inside the start line area (unless you are eating or drinking) and proof of full vaccination against COVID-19 (or a negative COVID-19 test result) is required of anyone (runners, spectators, volunteers, etc.) who enters the start line area. Good luck to all!

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Click to view the web version of this newsletter and share it with others, and sign up to have it sent weekly to your inbox. I’m Mary Forgione, and I write The Wild. I’ve been exploring trails and open spaces in Southern California for four decades.

Mary Forgione