What is Urban Hiking?

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A down-and-dirty guide to the recession-friendly pseudo-sport that’s sweeping 1-2 apartments in Santa Monica, California the nation.

In the city of Los Angeles, driving is king. If you work more than 5 minutes from home, it’s an absolute necessity. It’s also the primary way you’ll experience the city. You drive through Beverly Hills. Navigate Century City. Even the most famous sites, like Hollywood Blvd., most of us only see through a car window. (Unless your friend is taking classes at Improv Olympics, in which case you’ve been there twice.)

Walking is a crime. No to the point where you’d go to jail, maybe, but certainly of the “fashion crime” variety: it’s tacky and you DON’T DO IT, because your parents taught you better than that. What, can you not afford a Prius? Even taking the bus, to many a great sin, holds more appeal to Los Angelenos than extended pavement time.

So it’s topsy-turvy out here, an inversion of the natural order. Yet only out of these ashes could something like the Urban Hike take shape.

Friend and blogging frenemy Tim Goessling came up with the idea, and can explain it more colorfully than any twelve  meth heads I know:

We noticed that we seemed to see a lot of hipsters with road bikes, u know the kind with the super small handlebars who used bikes because cars were bad for the environment/weren’t Win Butler sanctioned. We though the ultimate hipsters would shun all types of transportation in general and would just walk. So it would be like “how did you get to the party mon” …. “I fucking walked here, how did you get here, on the back of the dead creatures on the Gulf you oil using fuck.” This rapidbly [sic] escalated into a conversation about the values we place on transportation, if the journey is longer, is the destination sweeter and how back in the day to travel had meaning and purpose, aka if you were walking your ass from Hadonfield [sic] to NYC you better be coming back with some cows/beans/eggs/fabrics. So with the joke about hipsters walking distances in LA and the conversation about old tyme travel we then thought about if we could do it. We put our route into google maps and well, shit the rest is history.

Now, succinctly: Urban Hiking is a walking movement (for those without access to woods or nature or whatever) that aims to personalize a place you typically only see in utilitarian terms. Even more succinctly: it is exercise for hipster clowns.

Like us! (Photo by Baily Hancock)

Led by Tim, our group of friends walked 18 or so miles over 9 hours, from Burbank down the 101 (pro-tip: avoid freeways!) to Hollywood, where we regrouped, and onward to the Pacific Ocean. Along the way, we saw Los Angeles in a way we’d never before seen her — sidewalk-side. No longer as a palm-tree’d blur, traveling from Point A to Point B; but as a series of small neighborhoods that each occupy their own rung on the Experience LA ladder. Opening our eyes to the beauty and/or stuff all around us, we learned a lot that day.

  • No one’s ever accused Hollywood Blvd. of being anything less than a bizarre place, but it’s truly driven home when you walk it. Whereas before you had reinforced glass separating you from the guy in the Elmo costume, now you’re brushing past him (and 5’4″ Darth Vader, and Asian Marilyn Monroe) amid a throng of tourists. NO HOLDS BARRED HUMAN INTERACTION. People accuse the movie Crash of oversimplifying race issues and not having enough gay cowboys and blah blah, but they nailed LA’s “you stay in your car and I’ll stay in mine” culture.
  • Century City. Who walks Century City? No one, and the Urban Hike confirmed for us why: because there’s absolutely no reason to! Apart from a few gas stations that sell bottled water, which is great, there’s not much to see or do in the area. Eye-opening experiences are to be desired, but sometimes…you just want your preconceived notions reinforced.
  • Other neighborhoods held more interesting moments. We passed the bar Rage in West Hollywood, which at night hosts what looks from the car like pretty vigorous pole dancing. During the day it’s a just sleepy shell, waiting for night and its sweaty, shirtless children to return. Ever seen Oprah without makeup? That’s WeHo before dark.
  • The only thing that can improve a sunset is believing you may have had something to do with it, or that you earned it. When you get tired toward the end of the trek, it’s the thought of that user-generated sunset that keeps you going.

We hiked Los Angeles, but the Urban Hike can be done anywhere! Try it in Atlanta, or Phoenix — wherever. So long as there’s pavement and a healthy detachment from the concerns of country-folk, you have the makings of a great Urban Hike. Consider the positive impact you’re making on yourselves and your community. Step-by-sanctimonious-step, you’re combatting urban apathy. Maybe it started out with a different goal, as Tim points out–

…actually doing something you bullshit about…the fact we did something we dreamed about is more of an accomplishment than walking across LA, cause you know that shit was pretty damn easy

–but this this thing’s bigger than all of us at this point. It belongs to everyone now.

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