It is hard to fathom how quickly “social distancing,” a term few of us had heard of a week ago, has upended all of our lives. My days are now filled with entirely too much time online. I alternate between seeking up-to-the-minute knowledge of the pandemic as if clicking on another link will give me some control over keeping my family safe, or connecting with friends via social media by posting reports on the most ridiculous aspects of being cooped up at home with a three & seven year-old.
When not hiding on-line, I am cajoling the seven year-old to complete his homework packet (as I pick up toys), potty-training the three year-old (as I pick up toys), offering a sympathetic ear to my wife who works at a public hospital (enthusiastic profanity after stepping on toys), installing Zoom meeting for PRESCHOOL (threatening to put all the toys in “Toy Jail!”), and, of course, constantly shoveling food into the bottomless pits that are their stomachs (before picking up more toys).
I don’t care that Newton & Shakespeare did great things during pandemics. Imprisoned Nigerian Princes have sent me fewer emails than the Los Angeles Unified School District. My sincerest goal, with a hat tip to Gwyneth, is to have a “conscious uncoupling” from productivity during our quarantine. And to teach the three year-old to pick up his effing toys.
The best medicine for my family during this unprecedented time has been nature. The stay-at-home order exempted outdoor play if we maintain social distancing. Unsurprisingly, many other Angelenos have had the same idea, so there has been a crush on the hiking trails thereby potentially negating all of the good work we’re putting in staying apart. However, our family has discovered a retreat into nature that also allows the distancing necessary to keep us all healthy & safe: Vista Del Valle.
Vista Del Valle is the paved road that runs along the north ridge of Griffith Park from Commonwealth Avenue in Los Feliz to Mt. Hollywood Drive. The advantage of the paved road is twofold: bikes are legal (unlike the dirt paths in Griffith Park) and the wide road provides much more room for staying away from fellow nature lovers than the dirt paths. Once you pass the gates entering Griffith Park from the south on Commonwealth Drive there is a challenging climb that leads up to the “helicopter pad” with panoramic views of the LA basin.
Following a quick break to take in the views, you cross onto the north side of Griffith Park where it feels much wilder and more isolated than the south side of the mountain range. Vista Del Valle helps you appreciate how P22, our resident mountain lion, could survive in the middle of the nation’s second largest city.
Furthermore, due to cars being blocked by gates from using the road, it just feels so incredibly safe to bike there…until it’s time to ride home that is. Once Vista Del Valle ends at Mt. Hollywood Drive, you can turn left to ride past the Hollywood sign and Observatory or turn right to ride downhill toward the zoo. If you turn left you must “take the lane” on VERMONT AVENUE. If you turn right you must take Crystal Springs Road where Damien, the founder of SAFE, was hit by a car, dragged onto the freeway onramp, and nearly killed.
The only safe choice is to retrace your path and return the way you came. The fact that it is difficult to safely, efficiently access one of the largest urban parks in North America without driving or taking your life into your hands underlines why the work SAFE does is so vital – even in these uncertain times. While our efforts to combat this pandemic should not be minimized, more people will die in traffic violence this year…and every year thereafter until something changes.
Keep up the good social distancing work – be kind to yourself – it is work. I look forward to waving at you on Vista Del Valle. I’ll be the guy lavishing praise on a bare-assed toddler peeing against a tree.