A few years ago, I lived in Hollywood — close to the base of a hike in the Hollywood Hills called Runyon Canyon. The trails are insanely busy, perpetually crowded with LA-strivers, tourists, and celebs. Also, dogs. So many dogs. The park gets about 1.8 million human visitors a year and three-hundred-thousand canine ones.
Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time hiking through Runyon Canyon. There was a phase of my life in which I would go there every day. I love hiking as an exercise, and while Runyon is not the place you go to feel like you’re by yourself in the wilderness, it does have beautiful sweeping views of Los Angeles. On clear days, you can see from the Hollywood sign/Griffith Park all the way downtown and then out to the ocean.
It’s is a special place, is my point. One that has meant a lot to me. I’ve had dozens of great conversations on the trail, brought every family member and out of town guest to hike it with me, and listened to about 12 billion This American Life’s while sweating my way up to the Hollywood sign. And since I’ve been thinking about the little ways we can give back to the world while also enjoying fun experiences, I decided to head there over the weekend for a hike while picking up trash.
Here’s what I learned and observed along the way.
1. Okay, I’ve parked in the neighborhood south of the park. And you know, I have some grievances. Why did that old man just scream at me so forcefully? I mean look, parallel parking isn’t always easy, sir. I’m doing my best. WE LIVE IN A SOCIETY.
I need this hike now, to clear my head.
2. I’m walking uphill, passing several tired dogs. Ugh. The part before you even get to the hike might just be the hardest part. I can’t breathe at all. I am out of shape. I’ve wasted my life. More dogs.
Dogs aside, I find myself moving slowly. Watching everything. Eyes peeled for… peels. Wrappers. Plastic.
3. At the gate. I drain about half my water bottle and consider my options, do I go the easy route up or the hard one? Well, if I’m here to pick up trash, shouldn’t I go the more trafficked way which JUST SO HAPPENS TO BE EASIER?
I mean… I’m not picking the easy way out — I am trying to pick up trash, guys. Guess, I’ll sacrifice all those burned calories and not breathing for an hour. I am a hero.