Burb's Eye View: One to check off the list

The relentless sunlight made the dirt ridge along the hill a ghostly white, a washed-out doppelganger of its former self. The once-inviting ochre causeway that led us up and away from the Griffith Park carousel now only served as a mirror of the sun’s rays — SPF 1,000 be damned.

We got what we needed, my friend and I. A few days prior we visited that same hill but we drove up its back — or front, if you’re in Los Angeles. From the top of the Griffith Observatory, on an unfortunately rushed whirlwind through its hallways and past its lightning-in-a-bottle Tesla coil, we spied the dirt path that leads from the observatory’s parking lot.

“We should come back here and see where that trail goes,” John said as we leaned on the roof edge.

“I think I already know,” I said, verbally inserting a Griffith Park trail hike into our already-packed week of touring Burbank.

That’s how we found ourselves trudging up the slight/steep/slight-again path in the hottest part of Friday afternoon, happy to be outside and making new discoveries of Griffith Park’s environs. I, a former Bostonian, find something new about that park every time I lace up my inadequate New Balances, which seem to be taking on an ochre tint of their own.

John, a current Bostonian, was as happy as I to spot the curiosities of a lizard doing pushups on a rock, and question the graffiti-laden metal ladder that leads up and away from the observer toward some peak we’re not meant to reach.

This wasn’t my first tour-guiding expedition. You don’t have to look hard to find things to do here, but there is something inviting about the sprawling, tree-dotted views of Burbank from the hilltops of Griffith Park. You likely won’t find a stop here on your guided bus tour of Hollywood hot spots. Making an afternoon (or morning, if you’re smart) trek up the hillside is a distinctly local thing to do.

Naturally, we had to do that kind of tour as well. I’ve avoided them so far while living here, as I’ve frankly found many more interesting places and people that stray from the stereotypes and hypes of Los Angeles. As a sort of compromise with myself, I suggested a tour of Universal Studios — a good deal, if you’re planning to come back within the year. I use the definition of “good” loosely here, as it’s an $87 ticket.

The back lot gave us that Hollywood fix, with a bonus of my wife adding in details that she knew from taking the tram tour in years past. Most of our tour highlights were held on a television screen in front of us, and the guide was more interested in talking about his “co-host” Jimmy Fallon than in detailing the many movies these sets have been used for.

We had fun as King Kong thrashed our tram around, but seeing a working film shoot would have been better. Some student filmmakers were working on the set that day; no celebrity sightings for us.

Later, as I ate my dry pulled pork Hard Rock sandwich, I found myself feeling underwhelmed with the Hollywood experience, but fulfilled by the Burbank one. I reflected on the week and felt some of the best parts of John’s visit involved the smaller-scale stuff — the trip to the House of Secrets and the private tours of a couple of animation studios gave us much to talk about afterward.

By Friday morning, a “low-key” walk up in the Griffith hills sounded like the perfect last hurrah. Some hours and Gatorades later, faces red, more from with exhaustion than from sunburn, we called it a day before we got to the top. It’s something we can save for next time.

We trotted back down the path, letting gravity both carry us and pound on us. Rounding a corner, we passed by actor Zachary Quinto and his dog, out for a hike themselves.

“Sylar from ‘Heroes?’” John asked me after we walked a bit. “Spock,” I replied.

Check “celebrity sighting” off the list.

BRYAN MAHONEY is a recent transplant from the East Coast. When he’s not playing tour guide, he can be reached at 818NewGuy@gmail.com and on Twitter @818NewGuy.

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