On a recent Saturday afternoon, I found myself at the bottom of the ugliest, meanest trail in Burbank: Wildwood Canyon.
Now, Donna, my wife, has done this trail on several occasions, coming back each time smiling and exhausted. I had always demurred, finding some reason to not peel myself away from the latest rerun of “Family Guy.” But not this time.
It was bad, friends. Bad. The trail is closer to mountain climbing than to a peaceful stroll amongst the scrub brush and coyotes. I was out of breath by the time we got to the first bend, too deprived of oxygen to even swear correctly.
Donna was at least as tired as me. But unlike me, she was not questioning our collective intelligence in taking on the feat. No. My dear wife is generally much more optimistic than me — she, perhaps alone on Earth, actually enjoyed junior high — and insisted we keep going.
And so we did, closer and closer to the satellite dishes that dot the tops of the Verdugos. The view was amazing: Burbank in front of us, Glendale and downtown Los Angeles to the east and — believe it or not — Catalina Island on the western horizon.
And we were only halfway up the mountain. Oy.
At this point, people started passing us with increasing regularity. As my manhood was now being threatened, I started to push faster, leaving Donna in a cloud of dust. That self-satisfaction was soon erased by a trio of bearded guys my own age running — running! — up the mountain.
“Are you guys firefighters? Marines?” Donna called out from behind me.
“Nope,” said one of the facial-hair freaks, passing my wheezing figure as if I had my feet on an ottoman.
“Are you nuts?” I asked.
The guy with the goatee just grinned.
Deflated, my energy began to lag, and Donna soon caught up and passed me. I think she was napping by the time I got to the top. But I got to the top. I’m very proud, but I may have to be drugged to do it again.
The way down was, well, better. The best part of a hike has got to be the part back. That is, unless you’re going to Runyon Canyon and you start at the top. Then, you have to hike back uphill to your car.
Still, Runyon is usually crowded, even at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday, and can feel a bit like a Los Angeles cliché. Sweating around people wearing $1,000 velour tracksuits and $800 sunglasses tends to make you feel as if you’re in the world’s largest soap opera callback.
Wildwood, despite the pain involved, is just better. A large part of the economy of Burbank and Glendale is based on the entertainment industry, but that feels fairly hidden. This is hardly a new observation, I realize, but it still seems weird that I’ve seen far more celebrities in West Hollywood — a part of town I’m in fairly infrequently — than I have in Burbank.
Well, check that, we did see a local luminary on the trail while we trudged back to our car: Rep. Adam Schiff, running up the trail.
Seriously, people. Stop it. You’re making me look bad.
DAN EVANS is the editor. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.